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Maybe We Could Just . . . Print Our Own Money?

by Jan Christensen Ten Riverwest Hours

No, you can’t just print your own money. That’s not how local currency works. It starts with some people who have an idea. They might design a prototype currency, and agree on certain ground rules, something like this: • One unit of currency equals one hour of labor equals ten dollars. • Loans made with local currency cannot command interest. • Local currency cannot be counterfeited. • Each piece of local currency will receive a serial number. • A certain amount of currency will be issued to those who agree to accept it for goods or services. • Our local currency can be freely traded within certain geographical boundaries. • Currency can be exchanged for dollars. There might be a few more considerations. Those who agree to accept the local currency can be listed in a publication and agree to keep their phone numbers up-to-date. They will renew their agreement at certain intervals, and can withdraw from the agreement at any time. There are lots of refinements that can be made, and some boiler-plate bylaws that can get the group incorporated for everyone’s protection. But basically, that’s it. You just print up some money and go. And see what happens next. What’s happened next in places like Ithaca, New York, and Madison, Wisconsin is pretty interesting. Since 1991, more that $95,000 in Ithaca HOURS has been issued. Their directory of participating merchants and individuals has some 1,500 entries. As of June, 2002, more than $45,000 in Madison HOURS has been issued; the project was started in 1996. The latest update on their website shows about 250 offers of goods and services that accept Madison HOURS, and about 200 requests. Once upon a time, in the halls of a big university, two professors were having a conversation. One said to the other, “You’ve got to understand, money is actually a matter of faith. Scratch an economist, you’ll find a theologian. Or at the very least, a True Believer.” So the question is, what do we believe about money? What we are told by accountants and bankers? Or what our own energy can create, things that we can see and hear and feel? Paul Glover, who started Ithaca HOURS, recounts his experience in the beginning of the project when he first explained it to people: “Had these folks said ‘that’s a dumb idea’ or ‘you could get in trouble,’ or had they just laughed, then maybe there’d be no HOUR money.” What will we do? If you want to do something, call Jan Christensen at 263-1380.

Local Currency web sites:

Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 7 – August 2002
Ten Riverwest Hours