Category Archives: Exchange Design

Local Currencies—what works; what doesn’t?

Local Currencies—what works; what doesn’t?
By Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

Community  currencies, and mutual credit clearing exchanges are key elements in the emergence of a new economic paradigm. These approaches to enabling the exchange of value are not entirely new, they have a long and varied history, but their enormous potential and possibilities have become widely recognized only within the past three or four decades. This is largely the result of increasing disillusionment with conventional money and banking systems, the emergence of Bitcoin and other non-governmental, non-bank currencies, and the growing interest in decentralized, peer-to-peer approaches in all realms of human activity.

The latest wave of exchange alternatives has seen the emergence over the past few decades of scores of commercial trade or “barter” exchanges, and hundreds, if not thousands of local currencies. The scores of commercial trade exchanges that have  been operating in many countries around the world for the past four or five decades enable moneyless trading among their business members, and collectively “clear” tens of billions of dollars’ worth of trades annually. Their success provides the strongest proof of the viability of decentralized, non-governmental, non-bank, moneyless exchange options.[i]

On the other hand, the plethora of local and community currencies that have popped-up all over the world have not been so encouraging. The avowed purpose of local currencies has generally been to keep money circulating locally instead of “leaking out” of the community. It is hoped that by keeping exchange media circulating within the local community, the vitality of the local economy will be enhanced and local businesses will be better able to compete with large global corporations and merchandising chains.

That is well and good, but it misses the main point of what ails our communities, and our world. It is the very nature of the dominant political money system that is problematic. So, localization is not the end in itself, but the necessary means to an end, which is personal re-empowerment and freedom; community resilience, sustainability, and self-determination; and the revitalization of democratic governance. Community currencies and exchange systems provide an essential tool kit for achieving those goals but they need to be designed in such a way as to make people less dependent upon political money and banks. So long as we remain harnessed to the dominant money and banking regime, there will be little chance of significant improvement in the human condition, in fact, the trend has been exactly opposite. ….  Read the full article or download the full PDF.

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Escape from prison and oppression

In this video below, Professor Jem Bendell of Cumbria University (UK) interviews South African Tim Jenkin about his anti-apartheid work in the 1970s and his more recent alternative exchange activities. Jenkin briefly recounts how he assisted the African National Congress (ANC) in their struggle to end apartheid, work that resulted in his 1978 imprisonment and subsequent remarkable escape. The escape story is soon to be made into a major motion picture, “Escape From Pretoria,” that will star  Daniel Radcliffe in the role of Tim Jenkin. The film is scheduled to begin production on location in South Africa in early 2018, but you need not wait to get a detailed account of the escape, you can read Jenkin’s autobiography, Inside Out: Escape from Pretoria Central Prison, or view the existing documentary film, also titled, Escape from Pretoria.

Later in the interview, Jenkin describes his more recent efforts to demonstrate how people can make a similar escape from the bondage of political money and the global debt-money regime by means of a simple ledger system that records the value of what people give and receive from one another. His Community Exchange platform  currently hosts 921 local exchanges in 86 countries.

Thomas Greco’s 2017 Summer Workshop in Greece

Following last summer’s exciting and successful workshop in Greece, Thomas Greco will again this summer be conducting a workshop in Monetary and Financial Innovation for the New Economy at the Alexandros campus of the Kalikalos Holistic Summer School on the beautiful Pelion peninsula in Greece.

[Edit:During the 2017  workshop Tom will again have the assistance of Matthew Slater and the benefit of a guest appearance by Prof. Jem Bendell of Cumbria University (UK).]

View southward from Alexandros

In this week-long workshop we will examine the problems and deficiencies of both conventional money and local currencies and exchange systems, and delve into the principles and practices of innovative exchange and finance.

Over the past three decades, a great many complementary currencies and exchange schemes have sprung up, gained some degree of acceptance and notoriety, then faded away. This workshop will focus in on the reasons why none of them has become a significant factor in their community economies, and uncover the principles of design and implementation that need to be applied to make exchange alternatives more effective, robust, and scalable. It will also cover new ways of providing entrepreneurs with the resources needed to bring their ideas to fruition and achieve success in the marketplace.

Alexandros Center

Alexandros Center

This course is designed especially for social entrepreneurs, government officials, enthusiastic agents of change, and serious students who are ready to co-create a new sustainable and convivial economy from the bottom up. In this highly participatory workshop, we will use a combination of presentations, discussion groups (some on the beach), videos, and simulation games, to dive deeply into the process of exploring and developing innovative methods of finance, exchange, and value measurement. Participants will have the opportunity to showcase their projects and ideas and receive feedback from the group.

Here is an opportunity to work with one of the world’s leading experts in innovative economics, finance, and exchange, and to collaborate with like-minded peers to create a new economy that works for everyone, while enjoying a delightful summer holiday on the magical Pelion peninsula. Come join us in a process of inquiry, discovery, sharing and collaboration.

The workshop will run from 16 to 23 June, 2017. Space is limited so register early at http://www.kalikalos.com/community/x/exchange-finance-new-economy-thomas-greco/.

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 All the perplexities, confusions and distresses in America arise not from defects in the Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, as much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation. –John Adams, second president of the United States.

Just as the political monetary system trends power toward the state, so the system based on true money will release the natural forces that trend society toward private initiative, enterprise and democracy. Pending this fundamental reversal, all resistance to statism is futile. As long as the only available monetary system is political, exchange, that process by which the social order functions, will never accomplish its natural purpose, the development of prosperity and freedom.– E.C. Riegel, Flight From Inflation

A World Without Money and Interest

During my October tour, I gave three presentations in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and another in Sardinia, Italy. Two of the Malaysia presentations were at the International Forum on Inclusive Wealth, but I do not yet have recordings of those. The third was an extended presentation and discussion (on October 10) at the Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies titled, A World Without Money and Interest: A pathway toward social justice and economic equity. Here below is the video of the proceedings, or you can watch it on YouTube at https://youtu.be/8BejigzDAVY. The audio only is here, and the slides that were used in that talk can be viewed here.

Final Workshop Announcement—Innovative Finance and Exchange

Society is Exchange! – Frederic Bastiat.

All the perplexities, confusions and distresses in America arise not from defects in the Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, as much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.
– President John Adams, from a letter to Thomas Jefferson (1787-08-25), in The Works of John Adams

As the time grows near I want to remind everyone that my workshop on innovative finance and exchange is set to begin in about 10 days time at Kalikalos Holistic Summer School in Greece (http://www.kalikalos.org/exchange-finance). It will start on the evening of 24 June and conclude on the morning of 1 July.

While it is described as a “course,” the format will be that of a workshop/colloquium in which everyone plays an active role in an intensive process of inquiry, discovery, sharing and collaboration aimed at:
1. achieving a deeper understanding of sound principles of credit, finance, and the exchange process, and,
2 developing action plans for the design and implementation of robust systems that can be widely proliferated and quickly scaled up to global dimensions.
3. assembling a knowledge base that can provide guidance to others on the same path toward achieving more equitable and sustainable economic structures.

There is still space available for those who feel moved to participate.
Details about the course, fees, and booking are at http://www.kalikalos.org/exchange-finance.
Some of the areas that we will explore include:

  • The essence, function, and forms of money
  • The concepts of currency, credit, credit clearing, liquidity, monetization, and basis of issue
  • Various models of private currencies and moneyless exchange
  • Value measurement and units of account
  • Exchange networks and inter-trading

Don’t let finances stop you as will be able to offer a limited amount of bursaries. Please write an application for that to our team at rachaeldavson@gmail.com.

We offer Greek participants who take part in the week-long workshop a discount of 30%.
The weekend Saturday, 25 and Sunday 26 is being offered to Greeks on a Gift Economy basis which means that you offer what you are able to give. If you want to participate on these terms please send a mail to: rachaeldavson@gmail.com.

I look forward to working with you.  –Thomas

Bitcoin, Blockchain Technology, and Crypto-Currency

There has been lots of chatter lately about bitcoin, blockchain technology, and crypto-currency. Everyone, including me, is trying to wrap their head around it all. This is what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. Bitcoin is a virtual commodity that is created by running some obscure algorithm. The people who get rewarded are the “miners” who burn up enormous amounts of computer time and electricity to create Bitcoin. That makes it akin to mining gold or silver—not a very useful pursuit, and like any commodity, people will prefer to use it as a savings medium or hedge against inflation rather than circulating it as a currency. Bitcoin is NOT the answer to the money problem.
  2. The important thing about blockchain technology is what it can do, what functions it can perform. You hear a lot about “smart contracts” and a secure trail of transactions. It seems to be something that is needed when using digital forms of contracts and transactions conducted over the internet, but provides no new functions compared to what has always been done with paper trails and records, but maybe I’m missing something.
  3. The term “crypto-currency” is ill defined and there is much confusion about the characteristics of such a currency and what it can achieve.
  4. The fundamental principles of reciprocal exchange still hold. The substance of a currency or payment medium is CREDIT. Claims still need to be authenticated and promises need to be guaranteed.

My grand, audacious vision is this:

TO ENABLE ANYONE, ANYWHERE TO USE WHAT THEY HAVE TO PAY FOR WHAT THEY WANT.

What they might have is skills, abilities, products, services and credit that is advanced by a circle of people who know them and trust that they are ready, willing, and able to deliver value on demand in the near term.

I have argued that the truly disruptive technology of exchange is a global network of small credit-clearing circles that provide “a means of payment that is locally based and controlled yet globally useful. It makes money and banks, as we’ve known them, obsolete.

My talk in Malaysia in October at the International Forum on Inclusive Wealth (http://ifiw.my/) will be on that topic and will build upon the framework that I laid out in my book chapter, https://beyondmoney.net/excerpts/chapter-17-complete-web-based-trading-platform/. –t.h.g.

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The Financial Times discovers mutual credit clearing

Journalist Edward Posnett, in an article that appears this weekend in the Financial Times magazine, describes the origins and operations of Sardex, a mutual credit clearing exchange that I visited last month and reported on here.

Posnett’s article, The Sardex factor, is fairly well written and begins with the subtitle: When the financial crisis hit Sardinia, a group of local friends decided that the best way to help the island was to set up a currency from scratch. You can read the full article here.

While I consider Sardex to be among “the best of the breed” and a trade exchange model worth replicating, it is by no means unique. Posnett’s article is well worth reading but I fault it on two counts, first for ignoring the scores of similar commercial trade exchanges that have been operating successfully around the world for the past several decades, and secondly for failing to emphasize the crucial importance of the value proposition that mutual credit clearing provides—the provision of liquidity to a local or domestic economy, independent of the banking system and without the disruptive and destabilizing imposition of interest.

There are several well run commercial trade exchanges but as I said in my interview at Sardex, most trade exchange operators are too complacent and satisfied with their modest levels of business success.

The ‘special sauce” that seems to make Sardex stand out is the underlying values and social mission of the founders. Their primary purpose in launching their credit clearing exchange was to help improve the local economy of their home island. I hope that will continue to inspire their operations and development in the years to come.

They have tried to assist entrepreneurs in six or seven other regions of Italy to replicate their design and operations, but told me that the results have been disappointing. I’m speculating that it may be for lack of that “special sauce.” If that’s the case, then successful replication will require that they work selectively with social entrepreneurs who share the same values and mission of serving the common good.

That seems to be quite a rare breed right now, so these people will need to be nurtured through a process of selection and education–perhaps somewhat akin to what the Jesuits have historically done. The need is for people who have the right values, strong motivation, and technical competencies to create the new socio-economic paradigm.

The interview that I gave at the Sardex offices during my visit focuses on The Changing Picture in Complementary Currencies and can be viewed in the post below or on YouTube at https://youtu.be/epOebHTQpDI. The pictures that I took are in my online photo gallery at, https://picasaweb.google.com/112258124863172998784/201508SardiniaItaly?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCILAwtjOyOetvAE&feat=directlink.

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