by Helmar Rudolph
is hard to imagine that one can live without or at least reduce the
dependency on one's country's federal notes. But it is indeed possible, as
this article will show. Thomas H. Greco, in his article on how to improve
local currencies (link below) wrote something that sums up the idea behind
local currencies rather nicely.
local currency and exchange movement may be the most important development
in human liberation since the Magna Carta. It evidences a move toward
economic freedom that is every bit as important as political and religious
freedom. The proliferation of mutual credit systems like LETS, and local
currencies like Ithaca HOURS, demonstrates the intensifying need which
people feel for satisfaction of basic human needs and greater control over
their own destiny. It provides a hopeful sign that we are not powerless in
the face of increasing concentration of money and power, and the rapid
globalization of capital and markets."
As mentioned briefly above, an inspiring and encouraging example is the
New York State town of Ithaca, where they have devised their own currency,
the Ithaca HOUR. There are currently more than 60 different HOUR systems
in operation, including the first one in Kyoto, Japan. All of them are
aimed at keeping money and skills within the community, and allowing
people to develop their entrepreneurial potential in a way unimaginable if
they had to rely on mainstream ways of financing their businesses or
paying for their goods.
are excerpts from the Ithaca HOURs home page (which I encourage you to
visit as much as the other links to information on local currencies),
specifically on how the local currency works in practice.
offers knitting lessons, menís' yogi underwear, and reflexology. She has
bought food, plumbing and "little luxuries." She took a Hometown
Money Starter Kit to Khabarovsk in Russia, near China. "I explained
HOURS to villagers. They were passing around the HOURS and looking at the
listings and nodding as my words were translated. They already do quite a
bit of barter, and need to provide for each other the services the
government used to, so they were interested. And they're looking at local
cooperatives as an alternative to both socialism and capitalism.
"HOURS are especially great with services, which
are inherently local, and they stimulate local production of goods. We
can't trust the dollar, now that it's so dependent on what happens in the
sinking world economy."
Elizabeth accepted 50 HOURS ($500) as part repayment of
a loan she had made to GreenStar. "I've used HOURS for groceries,
gifts, video rentals, movies, meals, books, pottery, chiropractic care,
shoe repair, Xerox copies, computer printer ribbons, a wrist rest, faxes,
haircuts, pizza, theatre tickets, dance lessons and yoga lessons. I repaid
a loan I owed with HOURS, too.
"HOURS are running along just fine," she says.
"We have a growing Ithaca HOUR community. We can see and feel that
we're part of doing this. I don't feel that way about the national
economy, which is so dependent on centralized, impersonal government and
business that we've become alienated. HOURS show us that we don't need
somebody far away to allow us to do things; we have the power here."
Ramsey has sold bagels for HOURS at Ithaca Bakery and bought landscaping,
meals, printing, air conditioning consulting, eco-goods, eyeglasses,
insulating window shades and groceries. "Right now I've spent all my
HOURS. To get them faster, I've decided to accept a Quarter HOUR on
weekdays for anything, as part purchase of $10 or more. And we'll take
them at CTB Appetizers, too." HOURS are a regular part of his
business income: "We count HOURS like taxable cash income and
expense. There's a separate HOUR account in the computer. HOURS we spend
personally we buy with dollars."
He adds, "HOURS keep people in our community
employed better than dollars that leave the community. Dollars that go to
large corporations do not really trickle back down, they concentrate
capital, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. We see America's
inner cities becoming Third World countries as a result. What's better
about HOURS is that since you can't bank them, you have to spend them to
benefit, so you don't get that concentration of capital."