Tag Archives: private currencies

Private Currency Vouchers: an Answer to the Money Problem

Unlike, government and central bank fiat currencies which promise nothing but their acceptance as tax payments, private currency vouchers promise to be redeemed for real valuable goods and services. If the issuer is trustworthy and can be counted on to honor their pledge of redemption, their currency vouchers can provide traders with an exchange and payment medium that is superior to government and central bank fiat monies. Such honest currencies are neither novel nor odd, but have a long history and are an absolute necessity for the decentralization of economic and political power and the emergence of a peaceful and equitable social order.  

So what sorts of entities can be trusted to keep their promises, how do they put their currencies into circulation, are such currencies legal, have such currencies ever been issued before? In brief, a currency voucher is spent into circulation when the issuer offers it as payment to a supplier, employee or a creditor, who accepts it as such. In the United States and most other “free” countries, private currency vouchers are entirely legal and there are numerous historical instances of their issuance and circulation. These questions and many other details have been fully answered over the years in my various writings and presentations, most of which have been posted or linked on my website, https://beyondmoney.net/.  Particularly relevant are my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization, as well as my 2021 presentation, Transcending the present political money system–the urgent need and the way to do it, and my 2021 webinar series, Our Money System – What’s Wrong with it and How to Fix it.

A few years ago I wrote up a proposal for a private currency voucher that I call the Solar Dollar which attracted some significant interest. My intention was twofold, one, to provide an independent payment medium for a local community, i.e., a currency that can be created outside of the banking system and thus empower participants in a local economy by compensating for shortages and mal-distribution of government fiat money, and two, to incentivize the shift of energy production, sales and usage toward solar and other renewable sources of electric power. My hope was that some electric utility company somewhere would implement the plan and become a model for others utilities to follow. That, unfortunately, has not yet happened but I am confident that it, or something like it, eventually will. In the meantime, I’ve continued to publicize it, and in 2021 I was invited to give a presentation titled, Solar Dollars–Empowering Communities While Powering Communities With Renewable Energy, for a virtual conference that was sponsored by the Zero Carbon Lab at the University of Hertfordshire (UK). Later that year, under the good auspices of Professor Ljubomir Jankovic, my original white paper was revised and published with the title, Solar Dollars: A Complementary Currency that Incentivizes Renewable Energy, in the academic journal, Frontiers in Built Environment.

Overall, the primary objective of my work has been, and remains, the decentralization of financial, economic, and political power. The most promising strategy for achieving that is the design and deployment of private credit currencies that are spent into circulation by trusted issuers that are ready, willing, and able to redeem their currencies promptly for the real goods and services that are their normal stock in trade. By breaking the credit monopoly that the banking cartel presently holds, and empowering producers and sellers of real value, it then becomes possible to reverse the longstanding trend toward ever greater power and wealth in the hands of the global elite who have captured the machinery of finance, economics, and government.

The Solar Dollar is a special case and example of a private credit currency issued by a trusted producer and provider of real value, but similar objectives could be achieved by companies in other lines of business, for example, by:

  • The issuance of local Farm Produce Dollars that would be spent into circulation by a single local farmer or jointly by a cooperating group of local farmers and ranchers, or by
  • The issuance of local Shelter Certificates that are spent into circulation by a single local owner of rental property or jointly by a cooperating group of local owners of rental property, or by
  • The issuance of Service Certificates by a local provider of some sort of professional or household services, or jointly by a cooperating group of such service providers, or by
  • The issuance of currency vouchers by all of the above producers/providers and others  who band together to cooperatively issue a sound complementary currency under a common “brand.” Such a currency would provide a means of payment that is not only independent of the banking system but solidly backed by the combined production and distribution capacity of all participating businesses. (Many “community currencies” have been created over the years in many places around the world but virtually all of them are  “sold” for government fiat currencies which defeats the main objective of creating a currency that is independent of government and the banking system).

All of these currency vouchers or credits are able to circulate as payment media throughout their local communities to enable trading despite any scarcity or unavailability of official money. There are many historical and contemporary examples of such private credit instruments, so most of what I’m suggesting has already been shown to be workable. The main problem I have observed is getting producers of real value to recognize the power they already have and to exercise it on their own behalf and that of their communities.

In his 1944 book, Private Enterprise Money, E. C. Riegel made that point very clear, saying:

The stream of political monies from the beginning to the present day runs deep and dirty, yet to suggest that money can spring from any other source is to surprise if not even to dismay. So has tradition dulled men’s senses. No matter how often the state fails to supply a virtuous money system, men rush back to it in desperation and beg it to try again. Indeed, until we learn that the money power resides in us, we must abjectly beg the state to give us an exploitative system because we cannot return to a moneyless civilization. Yet, no matter how often and earnestly the state tries to provide a true money system, it must fail because of an inherent antipathy between the money issuing power and the taxing power. A money issuer must be a seller who bids for money, not a taxer who requisitions it in whole or in part, as politically expedient and without a quid pro quid.” — pp. 25-26.

Political democracy cannot work without economic democracy; and the money power is the franchise of the latter. — p. 35

It is the false concept of political money power that converts citizens into petitioners, and makes government a dispenser of patronage instead of a public servant. This power of patronage utterly destroys the democratic system of government – since the people cannot be both petitioners and rulers.” — pp. 78-79

Throughout my career as a monetary theorist, educator, and advisor, taking up where Riegel and others have left off, I have tried to influence producers, entrepreneurs, and social organizers toward effective action based on sound principles of credit allocation and management. But superstitious myths die hard and old habits are difficult to break. The great majority of people remain in thrall to official currencies. That is what the oligarchs depend upon to keep us in debt and under their control. I have learned to be patient and await the changes in financial, economic, and political conditions that will open people’s minds to adopting self-help and cooperative approaches to getting our needs met, specifically, the need for free and fair exchange of value in the marketplace.

Surely, the day will come, and is rapidly approaching, when the failures and demands of the dominant global central banking, political, interest-based, debt-money regime will become so clearly evident and abysmal that the only peaceful option will be for we-the-people to implement our own systems of exchange and finance grounded in our own initiative and judgment in allocating credit based on productive capacity and trustworthiness.

Diagram of the reciprocity circuit.
Issuance, circulation and redemption of Private Currency Vouchers
Issuance, circulation and redemption of Private Currency Vouchers

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A Conversation About the Dysfunctions of Money, and the Need for Decentralized Exchange Alternatives

This conversation, sponsored by the Praxis Peace Institute, is Episode 8 in our podcast series. It was recorded on April 10, 2020 and covers such critical questions as:

  • What is the essence of money?
  • What are the functions of money?
  • Where does money come from?
  • How does money enter the economy?
  • Who controls the issuance and flow of money?
  • Why does total debt in the world keep growing?
  • Is the system of money, banking, and finance stable, fair, sustainable?
  • Are there better ways to “do” money?
  • Why have local currencies not been more successful?
  • Are there any success stories?
  • Is there a “magic formula” for making an alternative money system work?

It continues with a discussion of the history of local currency efforts in Sonoma County, California and a description of straight forward approaches to creating local liquidity that is independent of banks and conventional money.

My latest article: Confronting the power elite

Confronting the power elite
Thomas H. Greco, Jr.
[PDF version]

The world today is controlled by a small elite group that has been increasingly concentrating power and wealth in their own hands. There are many observable facets to this power structure, including the military security complex that president Eisenhower warned against, the fossil fuel interests, and the neocons that are promoting U.S.  hegemony around the world, but the most powerful and overarching force is “the money power” that controls money, banking, and finance worldwide. It is clear that those who control the creation and allocation of money through the banking system are able to control virtually every other aspect of global society.

Having taken control of the political leadership in North America and western Europe, they are determined to use military force, if necessary, to create a unipolar world order in which the power elite enjoy “full spectrum dominance.” Based on a long established pattern of covert and overt interventions, it is evident that they are willing to employ, either directly or through proxies, a wide range of tactics, including propaganda, bribery, cooptation, deception, assassinations, false-flag attacks and war. Large segments of the media and entertainment industries, education, and the military power have been captured to help manufacture public consent.

Be that as it may, I believe that the natural course of human evolution tends toward a multi-polar world order based on honesty, openness, compassion, cooperation, and fairness, but that requires a well-educated and informed populace and “broad spectrum” participation in the political process. Fortunately, the internet and world wide web have enabled people to be better informed than ever before and to engage with one another directly, bypassing intermediaries that control and limit what people can share. On the other hand, the political machinery has been so thoroughly taken over by the power elite that the will of the people has thus far been of little consequence in deciding the course of world affairs.

So what can be done to turn the tide? How can we the people empower ourselves to effectively assert our desires for a more fair, humane and peaceful world order? Is it possible to influence the behavior of those in power? Or is it possible to install new leaders who will act more responsibly and in accordance with the popular will? Or is necessary, or even possible, to reinvent and deploy political and economic structures by which people can more directly assert themselves?

It seems reasonable to assert that action must be taken on all levels, but I am inclined to believe that the greatest possibility of bringing about the desired changes lies in economic and political innovation and restructuring.

The monopolization of credit

I came to realize many years ago that the primary mechanism by which people can be, and are controlled, is the system of money, banking, and finance. The power elite have long known this and have used it to enrich themselves and consolidate their grip on power. Though we take it for granted, money has become an utter necessity for surviving in the modern world. But unlike water, air, food, and energy, money is not a natural substance—it is a human contrivance, and it has been contrived in such a way as to centralize power and concentrate wealth.

Money today is essentially credit, and the control of our collective credit has been monopolized in the hands of a cartel comprised of huge private banks with the complicity of politicians who control central governments. This collusive arrangement between bankers and politicians disempowers people, businesses, and communities and enables the elite super-class to use the present centralized control mechanisms to their own advantage and purpose. It misallocates credit, making it both scarce and expensive for the productive private sector while enabling central governments to circumvent, by deficit spending, the natural limits imposed by its revenue streams of taxes and fees. Thus, there is virtually no limit to the amounts of resources that are lavished on the machinery of war and domination.[i]

In today’s world, banks get to lend our collective credit back to us and charge interest for it while central governments get to spend more than they earn in overt tax revenues, relying on the banking system to monetize government debts as needed. These two parasitic drains on the economy, interest and inflationary monetization of government debts, create a growth imperative that is destroying the environment, shredding the social fabric, and creating ever greater disparities of income and wealth. At the same time, this scarcity and misallocation of money, which belies the abundance that exists in the real economy, leads to violent conflicts and provides the power elite with the means to pursue policies of domination, even at the risk of global nuclear war.

What most people still fail to recognize is that regardless of the nominal form of their government, their political power has been neutralized and exhausted by the political money and banking system. Democratic government in today’s world is more an illusion and a hope than a reality. As Prof. Carrol Quigley wrote in his book, Tragedy and Hope (1966), “… the powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences.”[ii]

In the succeeding decades since Quigley’s revelation, their control mechanisms have been refined and extended to include the intelligence services and military power, political think tanks, the media, and virtually every segment of society. The U.S. agenda of regime change over the past several years[iii] is not so much about taking mineral and petroleum resources, that is a side benefit. By examining the pattern of interventions by the U.S. and NATO powers, it is clear that the primary objective is to force every country of the world into a single global interest-based, debt-money regime. No exceptions will be tolerated. Thus, Saddam Hussein had to go, Gaddafi had to go, Assad has to go, and Putin has to go (but deposing Putin will not be so easy). The war against Islam is also related because a significant proportion of Islamists are serious about eliminating riba (usury) which is an essential feature in the creation of all political money throughout the world today. The United States military is the enforcer that is used when threats, bribes, cooptation and covert operations prove insufficient. Thus, the United States, Britain and their NATO allies have become the greatest perpetrators of state-sponsored terror in the post-World war II era.

How can such a power be confronted?

Fortunately, we the people have in our hands the means of our own liberation. It is the power to allocate our credit directly without the use of banks or political money. How to effectively assert that power is the main theme of my most recent book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

Over the years there has been a long parade of “reformers” who wish to take the power to create money away from the banks. This is an admirable objective that I wholeheartedly endorse. But the alternatives that they propose have been either to revert to commodity money, like gold, which has proven to be inadequate, or to transfer the money-issuing power to the central government—what I call the “greenback solution.” The latter harks back to Abraham Lincoln’s scheme for financing the Civil War. That proposal calls for the federal government to bypass the Federal Reserve and the banks by issuing a national currency directly into circulation from the Treasury. At first glance that may seem like a good idea, but there are many flies in that ointment. First of all, the greenback solution does not propose to end the money monopoly but merely to put it under new management. But it is a gross delusion to think that the Treasury is, or might become, independent of the interests that now control the Federal Reserve and the major banks. Consider the fact that most of the recent Treasury secretaries have been former executives of Goldman Sachs, the most powerful financial establishment in the country. It is naïve to expect that they will serve the common good rather than the money power that has spawned them.

Second, central planning of complex economic factors has been shown to be unworkable. That is especially true with regard to money. Neither the Fed nor the treasury is qualified to decide what kind of money and how much of it is necessary for the economy to function smoothly. The issuance and control of credit money should be decentralized in the hands of producers of needed and desired goods and services. Thus the supply of money (credit) must automatically rise and fall in accordance with the quantity of goods and services that are available to be bought and sold. If private currencies and credit clearing exchanges are allowed to develop and grow without interference from the vested interests in political money, their superiority will quickly become apparent.

Third, the greenback solution does nothing to eliminate deficit spending and inflation which are enabled by legal tender laws. As long as political currencies are legally forced to circulate at face value, the abusive issuance of money, the debasement of national currency value, and the centralization of power will continue. All government programs, including social programs and the military budget, ought to be funded by legitimate government revenues, not by the underhanded means of monetary debasement. Centralized control of credit money and the imposition of legal tender laws enable the hidden tax that is called inflation. Salmon P. Chase, who as Lincoln’s Treasury Secretary presided over the issuance of greenbacks, argued later as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court that the issuance of greenback currency was unconstitutional and exceeded the powers of the federal government. He said, “the legal tender quality is only valuable for the purposes of dishonesty.” Finally, the political process has been so thoroughly corrupted and taken over by the power elite that political approaches to solving the money problem have virtually no chance of passage anyway.

Toward effective means of empowerment

Business people, farmers, professionals, and others who are engaged in productive enterprise are clamoring to gain access to credit, credit which they fail to recognize is already in their collective hands. Under the present arrangements, we give our credit to the banks, then beg them to lend some of it back to us, and pay them interest for the “privilege.” But there is no good reason for credit to be monopolized. Business routinely offer credit to one another when they deliver goods and services then allow some period of time for payment to be made. This practice can be extended and organized on a multilateral basis.

The real solution to the problem lies in creating new structures for allocating credit based on the legitimate needs and the resources of businesses, workers, and state and local governments. Competition in currency can transcend the dysfunctions that are inherent in the present centralized system and ensure that there will be sufficient amounts of exchange media to enable all desirable trades. Competing currencies will also ensure that political currencies (like the dollar, euro, pound, etc.) cannot be abused without losing patronage in the market. Rather than establishing the state as the money power, we need to promote the separation of money and state by deploying exchange mechanisms that decentralize and democratize the control of credit.

Money is first and foremost a medium for facilitating the exchange of goods and services and other forms of real value, but the exchange function can be effectively and efficiently provided outside the banking system and without the use of conventional political money.[iv] This is already being done through credit clearing exchanges and through the issuance of private currencies or vouchers by businesses that produce real valuable goods and services. Both approaches have the capacity to provide exchange media that can be also be used by general public to mediate all manner of transactions.

Is there any practical possibility of organizing producers on a sufficiently large scale to achieve this? I strongly maintain that there is. This approach, based on private initiative, is far more practical and empowering than any political approach to reform of money and banking that is currently on offer. Improvement in the human condition have always stemmed from the creativity, industriousness, and goodwill of people. A cooperative, compassionate, society can emerge from the creation of exchange alternatives based on voluntary, free-market, and community-based initiatives that enable people to transcend the money monopoly and the “war machine.”[v]

This is begun at the local level by utilizing the credit of local producers to mediate the exchange of goods and services that are locally produced or sold. There are many historical examples of successful private currencies that have been circulated in various times and places. Call them vouchers, scrip, credits, certificates, or coupons—sound private and community currencies can be SPENT (issued) into circulation by any trusted producer or reseller who is ready, willing, and able to reciprocate by accepting it back (redeem it) as payment for real value, i.e., the goods or services that are their normal stock in trade and are in regular demand. There is nothing mysterious or complicated about this process.[vi]

The exchange of goods and services is also enabled on a moneyless basis by using a process of direct credit clearing among buyers and sellers. This is already being done by the scores of commercial trade exchanges (sometimes called “barter” exchanges) that have been operating successfully around the world for more than 40 years. These commercial credit circles, comprised of thousands of businesses of all kinds, presently mediate an estimated 20 to 30 billion dollars’ worth of trades annually, and these numbers continue to grow. As operational improvements are made and credit management procedures become standardized, these exchanges will be networked together to more fully realize the vast potential of moneyless credit clearing arrangements.[vii] In this emerging worldwide web of exchange, members of each local circle or node are known to one another and allocate credit to one another based on their reputation and ability to provide valuable goods and services. Thus we can eventually have an independent system of non-monetary payment in which credit is locally controlled but globally useful.

In conclusion, I maintain that it is essential and entirely feasible that we reduce our dependence upon the banking system and conventional political monies. Through the deployment of innovative mechanisms of exchange, like private currencies and credit clearing networks, individuals, businesses and communities can empower themselves economically and politically to build a society that is free, fair, prosperous and peaceful.  The way forward is clear. The blueprints have been drawn. What remains is for entrepreneurs, business leaders, and community activists to act boldly to implement these exchange mechanisms in ways that are sound, credible, effective, and scalable.

Thomas H. Greco, Jr. is an educator, author, and consultant dedicated to economic equity, social justice, and community empowerment. He specializes in the design and implementation of private and community currencies and mutual credit clearing networks. His latest book is The End of Money and the Future of Civilization. His main website is https://beyondmoney.net/. He can be reached at thgreco@mindspring.com.
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[i] As E.C. Riegel put it in his book, A New Approach to Freedom, “…as long as our governments are vast counterfeiting machines, Mars can laugh at peace projects.”

[ii] This and other works of Carroll Quigley can be downloaded at the Quigley website, http://www.carrollquigley.net/ .

[iii] View General Wesley Clark’s two minute revelation at https://youtu.be/9RC1Mepk_Sw.

[iv] An animated video that makes clear the credit nature of money and its sound basis is The Essence of Money, https://youtu.be/uO7uwCpcau8.

[v] My 15 minute video, Disruptive Technologies Making Money Obsolete, https://youtu.be/ty7APADAa8g, describes how communities and businesses can escape the debt trap and become more resilient and self-reliant.

[vi] These arguments are more fully developed in my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization. My Solar Dollar white paper at https://beyondmoney.net/2016/08/26/solar-dollars-a-private-currency-with-multiple-benefits/ provides the basic framework for the design and issuance of a private currency.

[vii] Some details on how to do this are outlined in chapter 15 of my book, an excerpt of which can be found at https://beyondmoney.net/excerpts/limiting-factors-in-the-operation-of-commercial-trade-exchanges/.

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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.

Transcendence instead of reform: taking a fresh look at money and its function

Here is  my comment on a recent article titled Krugman’s Craziness that appeared in the New York Sun. –t.h.g.

Very few people today, including prize-winning economists, possess a deep knowledge of the fundamental principles of reciprocal exchange, and most of those who do are committed to maintaining the global interest-based, debt-money regime that enables an elite few to control economies and governments worldwide.

In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown and the ongoing economic crisis, more and more people are waking up to the fact that there is something seriously wrong with our systems of money, banking, and finance, but remain mystified by it and have no idea what to do about it.

Many are calling for reform of the system via the political process, and most reformers want a return to the gold standard and favor a government monopoly over the issuance of money. Clearly, new legislation is needed to reverse the trend toward ever greater centralization of power and concentration of wealth, but such measures have no hope of passing into law so long as the “money power” is able to buy politicians wholesale. Further, since money is a human contrivance that is supposed to facilitate the exchange of value (like goods, services, and various financial claims), people should be free to use whatever payment media they find mutually agreeable. Rather than monopoly of money, either bank-controlled or government-controlled, we need competition in currency. Let us have more freedom, not less.

There are solid precedents that prove the effectiveness of private and community currencies, as well as direct clearing of credits among buyers and sellers, a process that has the potential to make money as we’ve known it obsolete. Private initiative is presently bringing to market new and creative mechanisms of exchange and finance that have the power to bring about economic and financial stability, social harmony and a dignified life for all.

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An open letter to the Financial Times

Dear Martin Wolf,
Your article, Strip private banks of their power to create money, highlights some of the problems of the global money and banking system, but falls short in the proposed solution.

The problem is not private money creation, per se, but the monopolization of credit (money creation) in the hands of a private banking cartel and the collusive arrangement between bankers and politicians.

In today’s world, banks get to lend our collective credit back to us and charge interest for it while central governments get to spend more than they earn in overt tax revenues, relying on the banking system to monetize government debts. These two parasitic drains on the economy, interest and inflationary government debt monetization, create a growth imperative that is destroying the environment, shredding the social fabric, and creating ever greater disparities of income and wealth.

Turning over the money monopoly to politicians (what I call the “Greenback solution”) will not change things very much. It will be the same people wearing different hats. The political process has been so thoroughly corrupted and taken over by this small elite class that political approaches to solving the money problem have no chance of passage anyway. I articulated that argument a few years ago in my Alternet article, The End of Money: Take Power Back From the Money and Banking Monopoly.

True solutions must emerge, and are emerging, from society and from associations of small and medium-sized businesses. Money is first and foremost a medium for facilitating the exchange of goods and services and other forms of real value, but the exchange function can be effectively and efficiently provided outside the banking system and without the use of conventional political money. This is being done for associated businesses through credit clearing exchanges and through the issuance of private currencies or vouchers by businesses that produce real value. Both approaches have the capacity to provide exchange media that can be used by general public as well.

So, rather than ban private issuance of currencies, such private issuance needs to be proliferated and encouraged. There needs to be competition in currency so that there will be a sufficient amount of exchange media, and so that political currencies cannot be abused without losing patronage in the market. Rather than establishing the state as the money power, we need to have a separation of money and state. That argument is more fully developed in my latest book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.

Best wishes,

Thomas H. Greco, Jr.

Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative

My latest article, Money, debt and the end of the growth imperative, was published today (March 3) in the online journal, Transformation. Read it here. –t.h.g.

Excitement mounts over upcoming IRTA Convention!

The International Reciprocal Exchange Association (IRTA), the premier association of the commercial “barter” industry, has been for more than forty years promoting the interests of small and medium sized enterprises by assisting its member trade exchanges to provide them with liquidity and effective opportunities for moneyless trading.

Since 2005, IRTA has been reaching out to the wider grassroots community of researchers, developers, and organizers of private currencies and complementary exchange mechanisms and has broadened its advocacy to include them.

The upcoming 34th Annual International Convention of the IRTA in Las Vegas will provide a unique opportunity for social entrepreneurs and monetary activists to further consolidate programs of cooperation with the well-established commercial “barter” sector of the moneyless exchange movement. The Convention will be held from Sept. 19 thru 21 at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas.

Along with IRTA President and experienced trade exchange operator Annette Riggs, and Rob van Hilten, Executive Director of QOIN, a consultancy for community currencies, I will be a panelist in a Saturday session (September 21) titled Understanding Diverse Exchange System Models: From Bitcoin and Berkshares, to Transparent Credit Clearing Networks. This session will consider three basic topics of discussion:

Bitcoin, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The benefits and limitations of cash-based local currencies.

The emerging global exchange network.

There is still time to register for this important event. You can get details about the convention program and secure your place by visiting the IRTA website at http://www.irta.com/.

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