Friday, October 23, 2009

Create Your Own Economy Part II: Making Money...Literally

Why does money have value? Why, because we say it does.

What if I were to print up certificates with the word "money" on them, would they be money? If you accepted them in exchange for something else, sure.

Local scrip is legal. Since we no longer back up money with gold, notes only have to be declared to be money by an authority and a community has to agree to accept it.

The U.S. dollar is backed by the U.S. government, but they're not the only authority that can declare something "money." A New York local currency, The Ithaca Hour, for example, is backed up by the Circulation Committee of Ithaca HOURS, Inc. Madison, Wisconsin also has a local currency called the Hour.

The Berkshire region of Western Massachusetts (where I lived for about eight years) has had an experimental local currency called the Berkshare since 2006.

In August NPR reported on a group of Brooklyn artists who were trying to launch their own local currency. Three local businesses in Detroit this past summer launched their own currency and, of course the Disney corporation created its own world and Disney Dollars to spend in it.

The BBC in September had a story on a local currency created as a barter tool in the south London neighborhood of Brixton, which includes a brief history of local currencies. (Before 1700 all currencies were local.)

Berkshare co-founder Susan Witt told the BBC, " difficult times, businesses are looking at ways to make their business work. It relies on people's sense of wanting to shape their own economic future."

(Photo: Shira Golding / Flickr/Creative Commons)