Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Community currency

In my earlier post on a sustainable Ester, I mentioned local currency as one way to concentrate wealth within our community. Coincidentally, there was a little news article on the radio today, on NPR, all about community currencies, talking about Ithaca Hours and BerkShares.

So, what would we call something for a local currency here? Republic Rubles? Tanana Tokens? Interior Hours? Ester Hours? Goldstream Nuggets? Goldstream Gold? Dome Dollars? North Star Notes? Flagstaff had Flagstaff Neighborly Notes.

Many of the currencies out there are beautifully done, with reproductions of works by local artists, often with the motto "in each other we trust". I like that.

4 comments:

Coldfoot said...

one way to concentrate wealth within our community.

If by "wealth" you mean "poverty" then perhaps.

Simiolus Rex said...

Ah..."wealth is poverty..."
"war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.." et cetera ad nauseam.
I think the editor is sparking a debate on the distribution of wealth within our own community. Do you really believe that the mega box stores in Wasilla-North are paying their fair share of taxes? Personally, this 'community currency' smells unconstitutional in that the feds have the power to print money. A civil war was fought over this and other onerous rights of the states.
I prefer to keep to the pledge of trying to keep my money as local as possible, even though it is getting to be a difficult endeavor.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

To the Monkey King: Local currencies are perfectly legal. (Check out this PDF on the legal questions.)There's nothing that denies the sovereignty of the federal government in a local, paper currency (coinage might be another matter). Greenbacks are legal tender, but that doesn't mean they are the ONLY legal tender. US dollars have the advantage of being a medium of exchange throughout the country, and as a national currency in a large and productive economy are great for enabling the advantages of economies of scale--but they're not so good at keeping local value local.

Which brings me to Coldfoot's comment:
Wealth is measured in more than dollars; national currencies don't actually make as good a use of local resources as local currencies do. Here's an explanation from the E.F. Schumacher Society:

"A well-developed regional economy which produces for its own needs is possible only when control of its resources and finances lies within the region itself. At present, the ownership of land, natural resources, and industry and the determination of conditions for receiving credit have become increasingly centralized at the national level. Now all but a few large urban areas find that their economic resources are controlled from outside the area....A national currency facilitated the industrialization of the United States, which in turn created many jobs; however, the centralization of the monetary system has served to centralize the benefits of the system as well."

It's not about paying taxes; it's about taking control over one's wealth (the value of an area's or a person's ecconomic resources--ALL a region's resources, from unused skills and time of people out of work to local raw materials to local value-added products). Poverty is what happens when that control is taken from a person or an area, when the region or the person can't get the basic income they need, or cannot get their basic material needs met.

When money gets drained from a region, the wealth goes away. Alaska is in a colonial, economically dependent status with regard to the rest of the country. Community currencies might be one way to change that. Right now, we can't even feed ourselves, for example, because the competition from Outside is such that our local food production infrastructure can't even develop to the point of viable self-reliance. We'd be up the proverbial creek without a paddle if commercial air and road traffic had to be shut down for, say, a few weeks due to some calamity.

Simiolus Rex said...

Ahhh...very good. I just read your link and counterfeiting jumps out at me. With all the hill billy transplants we have in the area, I certainly think this would be an issue. But I do like the idea of local everything!