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Hour Ideas

by Helmar Rudolph

It 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.

"The 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.

Following 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.

Annabel 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."