Activism Discussion: Local Currencies Really Can Buy Happiness

Local Currencies Really Can Buy Happiness
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Dan Clore
2009-05-30 17:46:56 EST
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47042
DEVELOPMENT:
Local Currencies Really Can Buy Happiness
by Matthew Cardinale* - IPS/IFEJ

ATLANTA, Georgia, May 30 (IPS) - In the face of an economic system which
seems to be premised on environmental harm and profit-driven growth, a
handful of communities across the U.S. and the globe have begun
experimenting with alternative forms of local currency as a pathway to
sustainability.

Local currencies existing today in the U.S. include the Humboldt
Community Currency in Eureka, California; Berkshares in the
Massachusetts Berkshire region; Bay Bucks in Traverse City, Michigan;
Ithaca Hours in Ithaca, New York; Cascadia Hours, Corvalis Hours, and
RiverHours in Oregon; Equal Dollars in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and
Madison Hours in Madison, Wisconsin, according to the E. F. Schumacher
Society, which runs Berkshares.

Canadian community currencies are located in Calgary, Alberta; Salt
Spring Island, British Columbia; Tamworth, Toronto and the Madawaska
Valley, both in Ontario, which is promoting a "usury-free dollar".

There are also community currencies in Tlaxpana, Mexico; and East Sussex
and Devon, England; as well as a regional currency based in Basel,
Switzerland, which can also be exchanged in parts of Germany and France.

What these currencies have in common is that they represent an effort to
respond to the pressures of globalisation, like the advent of massive
chain stores competing with local merchants.

People in Berkshire can go to one of five participating local banks to
trade 95 cents for one Berkshare, at a five percent discount to the
dollar. Then, they can spend Berkshares at over 400 participating local
stores as a direct replacement for dollars, and thus save 5 cents with
every Berkshare they spend.

Even though store owners lose the 5 cents whenever they trade Berkshares
back for dollars at a bank - which they have to do to buy something that
can't be produced locally - they are still typically happy with the
loyal, local customers they keep instead of losing them to chains like
Wal-Mart, Starbucks, and Barnes & Noble.

"Local currencies are part of what educate people about the importance
of their small, independent businesses. It's bringing people off the
Internet, back to Main Street, for the face-to-face exchanges. Once
they're there, they like it," Susan Witt, founder of Berkshares, told IPS.

There are many ways having a local currency can help create a more
sustainable economy, say leaders in the local currency movement.

First, because using a community currency forces people to buy locally,
fewer goods have to be imported.

"By having economic transactions be so focused locally, that's
definitely, for one thing, reducing use of fossil fuel. If it's a local
farmer's market... food [is] produced 30 miles away instead of 3,000
miles away," said Steve Burke, executive director of Ithaca Hours, said.

Trade theorists might object that it is less efficient, or less
productive, for diverse goods to be produced in many communities than it
is for each community to specialise in producing one product for export,
even factoring in transportation costs.

"Is it the real cost of transportation?" asked Susan Witt, founder of
Berkshares. "Is the real cost and consequences of our dependence on
fossil fuels to transport goods really factored into the cost? Is
climate deterioration factored in? Is engaging in conflicts for limited
supplies of fossil fuels?"

"Nor all the costs of unemployment in our local communities? Nor the
hollowness of our life experiences? Nor the human costs in [other
countries]... for maybe manufacturing practices that we would not
ourselves allow in this country?" she wondered.

A second way in which community currencies support environmental
sustainability is that they can lead to reduced consumption, Witt
argues. Witt believes that people purchase more and more "stuff", not
because they need it, but to fill a void that community currency can
satisfy.

"You know the full story about the goods you purchase. You know how they
were produced. You know the carpenter who made the table. You know who
her children are. You realise buying the table is supporting that
family," Witt said.

The products bought with local currency "link you to your neighbourhood,
your place, the people of your place. They're not just stuff... they
enrich your life the way that stuff would not. So you need less."

"One hand-knit wool sweater, coming from wool from sheep that graze on
the hillside on the way to work, that satisfies you in a way four
sweaters from unknown sources fails to do. You care for it in a
different way," Witt said.

A third way in which community currency can lead to sustainable economy
is communities can print the currency they need to issue interest-free,
or non-profit loans. Allowing credit to be issued interest-free
eliminates the need to service growing debts. High-interest debt owed by
individuals, businesses, and governments to private banks is one of the
main factors pushing economies to constantly grow at an exponential
rate. As these entities struggle to service the interest on their debts
with a total money supply that was mostly created through issuance of
credit, more and more new debt must be created in order for the system
to be stable.

Thus, because high-interest debt pushes the economy to constantly grow,
it also pushes industrialisation into new markets, new products, and new
technologies, which often lead to deforestation, air pollution, and the
like.

By communities printing and issuing their own currency, in part through
productive non-profit loans, the economy can function without the
constant growth that is imperiling the environment.

There are at least two different models for how to organise and operate
a local currency that local communities are using. One is used by
Berkshares; the other was pioneered by the Ithaca Hour.

Founded in 1991, the Ithaca Hour is the oldest local currency to exist
in the U.S. since local currencies disappeared in the 1900s. Numerous
local currencies have since based their model on the Ithaca Hour.

Businesses become members in Ithaca Hours by purchasing a listing in the
Ithaca Hours directory, and they receive two "hours" every year as part
of their membership fee. Employees at these businesses then can accept
hours instead of dollars for some of their wages. People can accept
hours instead of dollars for services, like mowing a lawn, that they
provide.

This, in addition to low-cost loans, is the primary way Ithaca Hours
enter Ithaca's economy.

"There's a pretty fundamental difference between our model and the
Berkshares model," Burke said. "They sell them. With ours, you can't buy
them; you can only earn them."

They are called hours "to make a statement", Burke said. The founders
"wanted to emphasise the relationship between time and money".

*This story is part of a series of features on sustainable development
by IPS and IFEJ - International Federation of Environmental Journalists
-­ for Communicators for Sustainable Development
(http://www.complusalliance.org ).

(END/2009)

--
Dan Clore

My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
(Wait for the new edition: http://hplmythos.com/ )
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://tinyurl.com/292yz9
News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
in charge on this island?
Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"





























Kevin Alfred Strom
2009-05-30 17:58:18 EST
Dan Clore wrote:
[...]
> http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47042
> DEVELOPMENT:
> Local Currencies Really Can Buy Happiness
> by Matthew Cardinale* - IPS/IFEJ
>
> ATLANTA, Georgia, May 30 (IPS) - In the face of an economic system which
> seems to be premised on environmental harm and profit-driven growth, a
> handful of communities across the U.S. and the globe have begun
> experimenting with alternative forms of local currency as a pathway to
> sustainability.
[...]



Thank you, Dan -- this local-currency movement displays a
fascinating set of trends: away from globalisation, away from
corporate control, away from central government control, away from
homogenization, away from commercial banking control over wealth and
credit, and away from the appalling unsustainability of credit-money
at compound interest.

These trends are all good things; all things that could ultimately
tend to the preservation of local values, and diverse human cultures
and types, across the planet.

I wish them well!


With every good wish,



Kevin Alfred Strom.
--
http://kevinalfredstrom.com/

Fred
2009-05-31 08:38:22 EST
Kevin Alfred Strom wrote:

> Dan Clore wrote:
> [...]
>> http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47042
>> DEVELOPMENT:
>> Local Currencies Really Can Buy Happiness
>> by Matthew Cardinale* - IPS/IFEJ
>>
>> ATLANTA, Georgia, May 30 (IPS) - In the face of an economic system
>> which seems to be premised on environmental harm and profit-driven
>> growth, a handful of communities across the U.S. and the globe have
>> begun experimenting with alternative forms of local currency as a
>> pathway to sustainability.
> [...]
>
>
>
> Thank you, Dan -- this local-currency movement displays a
> fascinating set of trends: away from globalisation, away from
> corporate control, away from central government control, away from
> homogenization, away from commercial banking control over wealth and
> credit, and away from the appalling unsustainability of credit-money
> at compound interest.
>
> These trends are all good things; all things that could ultimately
> tend to the preservation of local values, and diverse human cultures
> and types, across the planet.
>
> I wish them well!
>
>
> With every good wish,
>
>
>
> Kevin Alfred Strom.

Yes local economic efforts are a more humanising force in the
economy, but I believe we can go further. It's not so much about
whether we are local but rather it's the nature of money that
dictates how we conduct our transactions. I am convinced
that "plentiful money" is a much better choice, and the systems like
the LETSystem operate on that basis. It shifts the decision making
process into the real economy instead of the artificial economy that
we create with scarce money. That is a big difference that goes a
long way to address problems of pollution and the environment.
See:
<http://www.fredwilliams.ca/thesecretofmoney.html>


--
Peace,
Fred
(Remove FFFf from my email address to reply by email).

Kevin Alfred Strom
2009-06-06 08:58:26 EST
Fred wrote:
> Kevin Alfred Strom wrote:
>
>> Dan Clore wrote:
>> [...]
>>> http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=47042
>>> DEVELOPMENT:
>>> Local Currencies Really Can Buy Happiness
>>> by Matthew Cardinale* - IPS/IFEJ
>>>
>>> ATLANTA, Georgia, May 30 (IPS) - In the face of an economic system
>>> which seems to be premised on environmental harm and profit-driven
>>> growth, a handful of communities across the U.S. and the globe have
>>> begun experimenting with alternative forms of local currency as a
>>> pathway to sustainability.
>> [...]
>>
>>
>>
>> Thank you, Dan -- this local-currency movement displays a
>> fascinating set of trends: away from globalisation, away from
>> corporate control, away from central government control, away from
>> homogenization, away from commercial banking control over wealth and
>> credit, and away from the appalling unsustainability of credit-money
>> at compound interest.
>>
>> These trends are all good things; all things that could ultimately
>> tend to the preservation of local values, and diverse human cultures
>> and types, across the planet.
>>
>> I wish them well!
>>
>>
>> With every good wish,
>>
>>
>>
>> Kevin Alfred Strom.
>
> Yes local economic efforts are a more humanising force in the
> economy, but I believe we can go further. It's not so much about
> whether we are local but rather it's the nature of money that
> dictates how we conduct our transactions. I am convinced
> that "plentiful money" is a much better choice, and the systems like
> the LETSystem operate on that basis. It shifts the decision making
> process into the real economy instead of the artificial economy that
> we create with scarce money. That is a big difference that goes a
> long way to address problems of pollution and the environment.
> See:
> <http://www.fredwilliams.ca/thesecretofmoney.html>
>
>


Thanks for the link, Dan. I read your essay with interest. You make
some excellent points, particularly about the artificiality of
modern money -- it's really all psychological.

I do think that a rational money system should not be egalitarian,
though, since "equality" doesn't exist in Nature, nor should it
exist among humans -- we're simply too different for that to be
practical or beneficial, and attempts to enforce it end up being
tyrannical.

But I do support the people (instead of the banks or the government)
directly getting the benefit of _all_ credit creation through a
National Dividend. Clifford Hugh Douglas wrote of the idea in his
_Social Credit_.

Here's a sad note on local and private currency:

Yesterday I learned that the creators of the Hawaiian Dala, the
California Bear, the Chambersburg Dollar, the Evansville Dollar, the
Peace Dollar, and the Ron Paul Dollar have been arrested by the
criminals at the FBI (for totally bogus charges under statutes
intended to stop counterfeiting). They are Kevin Innes, Bernard von
NotHaus, Sarah Bledsoe, and Rachelle Moseley.

http://www.libertydollar.org/ld/information/private-liberty-dollar.htm

http://www.libertydollar.org/ld/pr_nl/

http://www.libertydollar.org/legal/pdf/05192009_indictment.pdf

For the "crime" of trying to create honest money to give people an
alternative to the colossal confidence rackets called the Federal
Reserve and the commercial banking system, these good people now
find themselves facing the very real possibility of living the rest
of their lives in a hellhole federal prison.



With every good wish,


Kevin Alfred Strom.
--
http://kevinalfredstrom.com/

Kevin Alfred Strom
2009-06-06 10:34:36 EST
Kevin Alfred Strom wrote:
> Fred wrote:
[...]


Sorry for the typo, Fred -- I called you Dan by mistake, referring
to an earlier poster in the thread!

With every good wish,

Kevin Alfred Strom.
--
http://kevinalfredstrom.com/

Fred
2009-06-07 06:49:23 EST
Kevin Alfred Strom wrote:

> Kevin Alfred Strom wrote:
>> Fred wrote:
> [...]
>
>
> Sorry for the typo, Fred -- I called you Dan by mistake, referring
> to an earlier poster in the thread!
>
> With every good wish,
>
> Kevin Alfred Strom.

No problem Kevin. I know that not all people are equal in their
abilities and the degree of effort they want to put into whatever
work they do, but general equality among people in the legal sense is
the cornerstone of democracy. We have struggled for centuries to
gain that equality and that is in the political sphere of power.
Some want much more than their fair share and they are in the process
of trying to switch the basis of power from the political sphere to
the economic sphere where such things as democracy and equality don't
exist, and rights mean nothing. Society would loose everything it
fought for centuries to gain and we would descend into slavery and
another dark ages.
It's also important to remember that there is even more than equality
at stake. There's the question of stability. The instability of
scarce money is well demonstrated by the economic decline which we
are now witnessing. As long as money can make more money there will
be inequality and instability. Scarce money is also a great
mechanism for people making money *without* putting that extra effort
into their work and without acknowledging the equality among people
which makes us a decent and loving society. We could do better in
that but our scarce money keeps rewarding our greed and not our
generosity. We have to ask ourselves what sort of a society that
will make us.

--
Peace,
Fred
(Remove FFFf from my email address to reply by email).
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