From Tom Greco
Author of The End of Money and the Future of Civilization
May 12, 2009 Ukiah, Mendocino County, North California
Because of legal tender laws, the “dollar” has come to have two meanings — (1) as a medium of exchange or payment (a currency), and (2) as the standard of value measurement or pricing unit.
An alternative currency must eventually decouple from both “dollars” but the more urgent need by far is decoupling from the dollar as a means of payment.
As I’ve pointed out in my books, an alternative currency that is issued on the basis of a national currency paid in (e.g., sold for dollars), amounts to a “gift certificate” or localized “traveler’s check.” (See Money Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender, Chapter 14, pp 145-163). It essentially amounts to prepayment for the goods or services offered by the accepting merchants. As such, it substitutes a local, limited use currency for a national, universal currency.
That approach provides some limited utility in encouraging the holder of the currency to buy locally, but the option of redeeming the currency back into dollars without penalty raises the question of how many times it will mediate local trades before being redeemed and leaking back to the outside world.
To truly empower a local community, a currency should be issued on the basis of goods and services changing hands, i.e., it should be “spent into circulation” by local business entities and/or individuals who are able to redeem it by providing goods or services that are in everyday demand by local consumers. Such a currency amounts to an i.o.u. of the issuer, an i.o.u. that is voluntarily accepted by some other provider of goods and services (like an employee or supplier), then circulated, then eventually redeemed, not in cash, but “in kind.” In this way, community members “monetize” the value of their own production, just as banks monetize the value of collateral assets when they make a loan, except in this case, it is done by the community members themselves based on their own values and criteria, without the “help” or involvement of any government, bank, or ordinary financial institution, and without the need to have any official money to begin with.
This is what I mean when I talk about liberating the exchange process and restoring (some part of) the “credit commons” and bringing it under local control. In this way, the community gains a measure of independence from the supply of official money (dollars) and the policies and decisions of the central bank (which in the US is the Federal Reserve) and the banking cartel. That is the primary mission that needs to be accomplished if we are to transcend the destructive effects of the global monetary and banking regime, devolve power to the local level, and build sustainable, economic democracy.
See also Mendo Moola→
… and Mendo Time Bank→