When the division of labor has been once thoroughly established, it is but a very small part of a man’s wants which the produce of his own labor can supply. – Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations.
We have become so accustomed to using money to get the things we want and need that most people find it nearly impossible to conceive of any other possible way. Whenever I tell people that my work is about exchanging goods and services without using money they invariably ask, “Oh, you mean barter?” Then I go on to explain that barter requires a coincidence of wants between two people — I must have something you want, and you must have something I want. No, we must think beyond barter.
Through intensive study of monetary history and exchange principles extending over a long period of time I’ve come to a deeper understanding of the exchange process and the possibilities for advancing beyond our present dysfunctional and destructive monetary system.
“Mutual credit clearing” is a process that enables producers to trade goods and services directly among themselves without the need to use money. The credit clearing process is not a new invention; banks have been using it for a long time to settle accounts among themselves. But businesses can also use it to trade with one another and settle accounts among themselves, and they have been doing so for the past several decades. There are now scores of commercial “trade exchanges” operating around the world to provide credit clearing services for their tens of thousands of member businesses. While these exchanges are often referred to as “barter exchanges,” they do not do barter in the conventional meaning of the word. Rather, they utilize the collective credit of the members themselves as the internal payment medium. Members earn “trade credit” when they sell goods or services to another member, and they spend trade credit when they buy goods or services from another member. It is a simple process of accounting for value given and value received. When a member sells something their account is credited (increased) and when the buy something their account is debited (decreased).
What enables the system to work is the fact that some trusted members who offer for sale goods and services that are in high demand are allowed to spend trade credits before they earn them. In other words, these trusted members are given a line of credit against their future sales; their account balances are allowed to be negative, up to some predetermined limit that is based mainly on the amount of value they are ready willing and able to sell to the other members.
Here, in a minute and a half, one of the major trade exchange operators explains the processes in its utter simplicity:
Note, this is not meant to be an endorsement of Bartercard or any other company. I refer to this video only as a good description of how credit clearing works to enable producers to trade among themselves without needing to make payment with conventional money, nor the need to borrow from banks.
And in this video a member of another trade exchange describes how credit clearing works for his business:
Properly organized and managed mutual credit clearing exchanges provide an effective, stable, and sustainable means of creating interest-free local liquidity and enabling companies and individuals to enhance their opportunities for success despite the adverse policies of banks and governments.
A more complete description of the credit clearing process can be found in my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, particularly Chapter 12, Credit Clearing, the UnMoney.
Addendum: This subject is further explicated in my recent conversation with Greg Magarshak, founder of Intercoin, in which we discuss the essence of money, reciprocal exchange, credit allocation and whether or not cryptocurrencies and/or blockchain have a role to play in the reciprocal exchange process. A particularly pertinent clip is here. The entire two hour conversation can be seen at https://community.intercoin.org/t/interview-with-thomas-h-greco-community-currency-economist/1341.
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