Most people don't think much about money beyond the fact that it
seems to leave their wallet quickly. This weekend, upwards of 300
top economic thinkers gathered to discuss how to make money into a
tool for social justice, community development, and economic and
environmental stability through the use of local currencies.
The Local Currencies in the 21st Century conference, put on by
the E. F. Schumacher Society, brought together 'a group of
extraordinary people who are re-inventing money,' said conference
organizer Chris Lindstrom. The reinvention is taking place in the
field of complimentary or local currencies that work at local and
regional scales to build sustainable communities.
As keynote speaker Margrit Kennedy -- who has written and
lectured extensively on the topic -- said, 'Money can be made to
serve rather than to rule, to be used -- rather than
profit-oriented -- and to create abundance, stability, and
sustainability.' She said that while 'money is one of the most
ingenious inventions of mankind' it has 'the potential to be the
most destructive or most creative.'
As speaker Christopher Bamford, editor in chief of SteinerBooks,
put it, money should 'empower people to care for each other and the
From Ithaca Hours to the Time Dollar to the Local Exchange
Trading System (LETS), dozens of local currency systems are already
being used throughout the world alongside a national currency. Many
attempts have been successful in changing the value and use of
money. Here are examples of some of the projects already
Ithaca Hours, Ithaca Health Fund, Whole Ithaca Stock
Paul Glover started Ithaca Hours -- denominated in hours of
labor -- in 1991, distributing the notes to local businesses
willing to accept them for goods and services. For instance, local
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms accept Hours for
produce, some doctors accept them for care, and some stores accept
Hours for goods.
Glover said, 'When I started Ithaca Hours I thought it would be
illegal but it wasn't. It's too bad, the supposed illegality was
part of the fun.'
The Ithaca Hours program continues to grow today. It now
includes a local credit union that provides an optional Hours
account and a health insurance program -- Ithaca Health Fund --
that relies on a simple $100 yearly payment. The Hours maintain a
strong value independent of federal dollars because they are backed
by future productivity in the community. Over 50 communities
throughout North America have adopted local currency programs using
the Hours framework.
Go there>>Ithaca HOURs Online
The Time Dollar -- conceived by Edgar Cahn during a long illness
during which he was dependant upon the services of others -- is
used to recognize the caring actions of others. The young, old,
handicapped, and disenfranchised may not be able to find work but
they can certainly contribute to the community and are therefore
worthy of earning Time Dollars. Cahn, speaking about his reasons
for creating the Time Dollar, said, 'We can create a way of valuing
those things that define us as human beings.'
Go there>>Time Dollar USA
One conference attendee, Per Almgren, designed the interest-free
savings and loan system used by the JAK Bank in Sweden since 1973.
Almgren notes, 'In the money economy there are only two types of
costs, labor costs and interest costs.' He believes that the
interest costs are part of what makes growth unsustainable. As
Margrit Kennedy said, 'The debt that has accumulated can't be paid
back.' The debt is an earth debt, an impossible pressure on natural
resources. Eliminating interest would alleviate pressure and put
more wealth into the hands of local economies.
The idea of interest-free loans is, perhaps, one of the most
revolutionary discussed at the conference. The bank starts with a
bulk of capital placed into non-interest earning savings accounts.
Eventually members can withdraw their money as the bank becomes
sustainable. This happens as people looking for loans build up
savings in their account, thereby earning points -- similar to a
credit rating. When enough points are earned the bank issues a
loan. Instead of paying interest to the bank for the loan the
borrower puts money into a savings account that cannot be accessed,
building capital for the bank to issue other loans. When the
borrower has paid back the entire loan they can then access a
significant amount of built-up savings. The bank does not earn
interest but does take a slightly above-average bank fee for the
Local Exchange Trading System -- LETS
Founded by Michael Linton on Vancouver Island in 1980 -- by far
the most popular debt-free currency system in the world -- LETS is
essentially a self-regulated debit and credit system coordinated
centrally. A consumer can call the central LETS coordinator to have
their account debited and the producer's account credited.
All of these examples, and there are many more, are as Bamford,
put it, 'ways for economic reality to embody our social and
David Boyle, jointly responsible for introducing Time Dollars to
Britain, said, 'We have to escape from the idea that money is a
semi-divine, golden truth.' He went on, 'We are taking the power to
create money back into our own hands.'
Go there>>Local Currencies in the