"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Occupy Wall Street and St Paul's - Again

The Occupy Wall Street and St Paul's Demonstrations both have a very good point. We do have a fundamentally flawed current economic system. I've written much on this both on this blog and elsewhere.
Yes we may feel impotent in the face of bureaucracy and the power of the banks and the seeming lack of any progress in addressing the flaws.But there are things we can all do, that will not necessarily change the world's economy in any immediate significant way, but will certainly help at a local level and nibble away at creating more sustainable and responsible living.
There are millions of citizens worldwide who are already making their own practical contributions using local money systems, barter schemes for goods and services, for example. Perhaps you are already involved in some way. Well Done! But none of us can be complacent in the amount we do. Suppose that we all start just one more ripple? The global effect could be profound.
Just as one example, I have in mind the Complementary and Community Currencies.
These flourished in the United States in the Great Depression but did not survive World War II and the post war economic boom. They have been successfully resurrected and now there are thousands of schemes in the United States alone and many more worldwide.
LETS (The Local Exchange Trading System) is probably the most widely available and best-known system and is well established globally. This system trades in Green Dollars, a unit invented and designed by Michael Linton and David Weston in British Colombia Canada in the 1980s.
The principle of these schemes is simple. Units issued by individuals as part of a transaction between provider and recipient of services create an instant and simultaneous debit and credit. No debt is built up with an outside agency, but there is a commitment on the part of the recipient to give service to someone else in the community. Likewise those who have accumulated credits have a commitment to give the opportunity to others in the community to balance their accounts by requesting services from them.
Some of these systems allow for both national and community money to be used, so while they do not have value outside of the particular community where they operate, they allow members to conserve national currency. In this sense they complement national currency.
At community level these schemes are proving to be extremely successful in their various forms and act as cohesive forces to bring communities together in a true spirit of trust and cooperation. They can give a sense of self worth to the poor and marginalized, the unemployed or unemployable. They recognize that everyone has an intrinsic value, has unique and individual gifts. We can all offer something of ourselves to others in such a barter arrangement.
Time Dollars represent another simple system for the provision of labor. With this, one hour is represented by one credit. Everyone is valued for their own contribution regardless of skills. This appropriates equal value to the previously unvalued non-monetary economy, including traditionally unpaid caring skills for example. As a result such systems have a profound and positive effect on a person’s self value.
There are many other variations on the basic idea of the complementary currency, such as Ithaca Hours, Philadelphia- Eastern Neighborhood Exchange (The PEN Exchange) and the WIR in Switzerland that celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2009.(1)

No one solution is ever going to be the right one or the best one to the exclusion of all others. We must see any of these initiatives within the overall big picture and we should celebrate and build upon common features rather than dwell on differences that can stifle progress. Whatever we do should be within the spirit of community and cooperation.

I'd love to hear readers' own experiences of any of these schemes.

(1)See for example: Bernard Lietaer, The Future of Money – Creating New Wealth, Work and a Wiser World, and Thomas H. Greco, Money: 2001.

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