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Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

August 2, 2009

TIME DISCOVERED ALTERNATIVE CURRENCIES

This is not news to Progressive Review readers as we've been writing about alternative currencies for decades; but it is news when conventional media like Time finally notice it.

Time Magazine - With local economies flailing communities across the U.S. are trying to drum up more action on Main Street. "Buy Local" campaigns are one way to go. But many towns--from Ojai, Calif., to Greensboro, N.C.--are considering going a step further and printing money that can only be spent locally.

Issuing an alternative currency is perfectly legal, as long as it is treated as taxable income and consists of paper bills rather than coins. In the U.S., where local currencies were popular during the Depression, the biggest alterna-cash system is in Massachusetts' Berkshire County. Go to one of several banks there, hand a teller $95 and get back $100 worth of BerkShares, a nice little discount designed to reel in users. BerkShares are printed on special paper (by a local business, naturally--a subsidiary of Crane Paper Co., which has been printing U.S. greenbacks since 1879). And since the program's inception in 2006, more than $2.5 million in BerkShares have circulated through bakeries, vets' offices and some 400 other businesses that choose to accept the colorful bills, which feature famous former Berkshire residents, including W.E.B. Du Bois and Norman Rockwell.

What's the point of all this pretty, community-printed currency? Money spent at locally owned companies tends to create more business for local suppliers, accountants, etc. The New Economics Foundation, a London think tank, compared the effects of purchasing produce at a supermarket and at a farmer's market and found that twice the money stayed in a community when folks bought locally. A study of Grand Rapids, Mich., released last fall by consulting firm Civic Economics, concluded that a 10% shift in market share from chain stores to independents would yield 1,600 new jobs and pump $137 million into the area. "Money is like blood," says NEF researcher David Boyle. Local purchases recirculate it, but patronize mega-chains or online retailers, he says, and "it flows out like a wound."

Interest in cash alternatives has skyrocketed in recent months BerkShares.org logged nearly 42,000 hits a day in April) as the recession has encouraged more innovation. For example, a Vermont business association is getting ready to launch a statewide cashless trading network. Ithaca, N.Y., which has the nation's longest-running independent currency, agreed in June to let people start using the 18-year-old bills to buy transit passes.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Boffin said...

These local currencies look to me like an invitation to fraud, counterfeiting, and tax evasion. This isn't going to end well.

August 2, 2009 10:12 PM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

I think you're maybe not remembering what they are. Most counterfeiters are looking for a big score - introducing hundreds of thousands into the legitimate economy. But these local currencies are for local goods and services - it's pretty hard to make a killing off of produce, haircuts, home repair, or bus passes.

August 3, 2009 7:00 AM  
Blogger King of the Paupers said...

Best of all, when the local currencies are pegged to the Time Standard of Money (how many dollars per unskilled hour child labor) Hours earned locally can be intertraded with other timebanks globally! In 1999, I paid for 39/40 nights in Europe with an IOU for a night back in Canada worth 5 Hours.
U.N. Millennium Declaration UNILETS Resolution C6 to governments is for a time-based currency to restructure the global financial architecture.
See http://youtube.com/kingofthepauperson growth of the international time-trading network.

August 3, 2009 2:21 PM  
Blogger King of the Paupers said...

Best of all, when the local currencies are pegged to the Time Standard of Money (how many dollars per unskilled hour child labor) Hours earned locally can be intertraded with other timebanks globally! In 1999, I paid for 39/40 nights in Europe with an IOU for a night back in Canada worth 5 Hours.
U.N. Millennium Declaration UNILETS Resolution C6 to governments is for a time-based currency to restructure the global financial architecture.
See http://youtube.com/kingofthepauperson growth of the international time-trading network.

August 3, 2009 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Mairead said...

Why should it be based on child labor? That seems counterintuitive at least.

August 3, 2009 3:03 PM  

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