Problems veiled in LETS-ideology
>Date: Tue Dec 15 15:35:59 1998
>From: (Ingerid Straume)
>about some very basic features of LETS, as my experience has showed 
>me its shortcomings. In my opinion, if one does NOT discuss these 
>hidden weaknesses of the system, we might be promoting a system 
>which is not be able to live up to its expectations. It might even 
>create more unequality than was before. At least as long as the 
>promoters are not interested in discussing these basic features.  
>In my opinion there are in fact a lot of drawbacks about the way LETS 
>is being promoted at least here in Scandinavia. In fact I think there 
>is a tendency to speak of LETS as if it can solve all kinds of 
>problems, whereas my experience is that it takes a lot of discussion 
>and measures to keep it going. 
     JCT: Any such problems are due to the fact that most LETS are 
operating at a velocity of 1 and aim at staying small under the 
assumption that large LETS would somehow lose their nice and cozy 
     I have always pointed out that the moment a government joins and 
accepts LETS in taxes, not only everyone but every business in town 
would not accept Greendollars thereby offering a saturated market and 
making Greendollars are useful and used as regular money. 
>One salient problem is getting some 
>"over-rich" members who don't really need to spend their local 
>currency because all their needs are met. Then on the other hand you 
>get a lot of "poor" members who are not able to trade and forever in 
     JCT: Getting the richer members to spend is no problem if there's 
a LETS store or other groups who hold the large negatives. It's only 
a problem in LETS which force half the members to be negative before 
the other half can be positive. 
>This has to do, of course, with the way we set the prices - 
>counselling work etc. pays traditionally more than housework, child 
>care etc. But adjusting and levelling the prices is still not enough, 
>according to my experience. The traditional "LETS"-answer to this has 
>been that it all levels out in the long run. This is illusory, and 
>even dangerous rethoric with very little basis in the empirical 
     JCT: As soon as you achieve market saturation or even a large 
database of members, these kinds of problems disappear. And further, I 
have pointed out that the problems associated with people with large 
positives should not be a problem. In my last UK tour, I proposed four 
different recommendations to actually promote LETS savings and higher 
velocity. Check: and l980613.htm
>In my view it is naive to think that all people have equal 
>resources. Some DO have more than others, and some will always be on 
>the weaker side. It will not do to encourage them to use the system 
>and go into minus on their accounts, saying "your time will surely 
>come", and that maybe they have a lot of time when they are turning 
>old (or permanently ill), and then they can devote themselves to the 
>LETS-system for the rest of their lives...  
     JCT: I see no problem with the weaker members building up and 
even dying with large negative balances. Of course, once LETS is 
operated as I suggest, there is no need for half of the members to be 
in negative so that the other half may be in the positive. I've 
suggested allowing LETS retirees to use their homes as collateral or 
LETS consignment stores to build up large negative balances. 
>I think we have to face it that in order to make the system go around 
>one needs to do an active redistribution of resources (the currency). 
>In fact, LETS, by being a local activity, make it very obvious and 
>clear that there are permanent differences in peoples needs and 
>amount of resources. Has anybody had experiences of, and thoughts 
>about this? It may be that these weaknesses apply especially to 
>Scandinavian LETS. 
     JCT: No, the problems you mention are inherent in all small LETS 
which do not allow stores of large negative balances. 
>Date: Tue Dec 15 17:49:18 1998
>From: ("Nigel")
>I have also been developing a LETSystem over the last five or so 
>years. I don't know if it is simply a cultural difference but I did 
>not encounter any of the difficulties you itemise. We simply left 
>individuals free to charge and pay as they chose. The system 
>currently has over 450 accounts and trades something like 6,000 
>every two months.  
>Nobody in the system mentioned "organises" any redistribution, people
>trade as they wish. It would ,in my view, be an imposition on other
>individuals freedom to remove (& anyway who would have the authority 
>to do so & where could that come from) their right to trade as they 
     JCT: That's the way to do it. Don't even worry about who has what 
balances and just keep promoting trade. Of course, this trading has 
been achieved even with all the detriments that I've pointed out. 
>Date: Wed Dec 16 08:29:10 1998
>From: ("David Williams")
>Most people can't see how they should use LETS. Quite often it is 
>difficult to access and often the particular good or service we 
>require is not available at a time convenient to ourselves. I think 
>people often use the LETS when they would have used a credit card. 
>When they are looking to buy something with luxury value or when the 
>item is not in their usual range of goods. 
     JCT: But when LETS has a large database or even a saturated 
market, Greendollars are no less difficult to grasp than regular cash. 
>Nigel Leach states that the LETS he has set up and run for five years 
>is still doing less that #7 per member per month in trading. (#6000 
>over two months is #3000 per month. 450 members x #7 = #3150). This 
>is one of the more active LETS and Nigel works very hard. In reality 
>probably a few of the members make up most of the trading. This is 
>the case in HiLETS where I am a member.
     JCT: And yet, the moment government or even a large store were to 
join, trading would explode. 
>Date: Wed Dec 16 07:39:55 1998
>From: (Sally E Brewer)
>The issues you're raising are very relevant to the action research 
>work I'm doing as a member of my local LETS (membership 220 and 
>rising). We had problems earlier in the year around 'commitment' and 
>'debt'. The first task of my research - trying to find a way of 
>protecting the scheme from possible abuse without adversely impacting 
>the trading and trust of the majority of genuine members - revealed 
>how this 'debt' issue can divide LETS members and activists at the 
>micro and macro level. There are several ideologies - economic, 
>political - that are implicated here, and that feed into related 
>issues of whether (or to what extent) we see LETS as aletrnative 
>currencies or complementary currencies. There are also (unavoidably) 
>people's fixed ideas about 'human nature' to contend with. 
>In my scheme, the people who were most concerned about the 'debts' of
>others were also those with able bodies, skills in high demand, time, 
>and materially comfortable lifestyles. They were also mostly male. 
>Those who protested against an imposition of a commitment limit were 
>almost exclusively female, all with children, several lone parents. 
     JCT: And yet, in only a decade or so, all those children would be 
able to start trading and pay off mom's debt. Again, I'd bet that 
most of the worrying is about having few places to spend their 
earnings now. Once there are many places to spend, this question would 
probably not arise. 
>How many of the errors of national currencies do we transfer into 
>the operation of LETS? (The myth of scarcity, boundary anxieties, 
>etc.) Also, are people thinking in terms of circulation of 'gifts', 
>or in terms of reciprocity? 
     JCT: The only error in the national currency is the automated 
scarcity caused by the interest. If that were corrected, there would 
be need for LETS to fill in the gap. 
>In my scheme, it became clear that key figures in the scheme hold
>a template of 'homo economicus' - the maximising, able-bodied agent - 
>as the epitome of LETS membership and participation. When issues 
>about members not fitting this category were raised, the comment 
>'it's not a charity' was made. This wasn't what I had joined LETS to 
     JCT: But it isn't charity. It's helping out your neighbor with 
your abundance in the expectation to later get it back. To the 
recipient of the credit, it's as good as charity but it isn't. 
>I joined because LETS seemed to offer a humane means of meeting
>human needs, as did many other members. A currency system that takes
>account of the differences that you talked about - in time 
>availability, in health, etc., and works creatively to accomodate 
>these in a spirit of co-operation while also nurturing people's sense 
>of having something valuable to offer.
     JCT: And that's what it does. It just doesn't do it enough 
because they are kept so small. 
>In my scheme, I'm trying (with other members) to achieve 
>a more pragmatic (rather than ideological) operation. Ultimately, 
>it's the trading that constitutes the scheme, so we're concentrating 
>on building the social networks and trading events that facilitate 
>more trading. For those members with concerns that they have nowhere 
>to spend their anchors (for which they often blame those with 
>commitments, no matter how transient), we're working on recruitment 
>of more members offering goods and services that members need - like 
>food from local alottment growers. 
     JCT: That's very useful but cannot jump start massive trading 
like getting government or a large enterprise to join. 
>Date: Wed Dec 16 03:35:17 1998
>From: (Martin Strube)
>My understanding of the innovatory nature of LETS is that the old 
>values of "being in debt" and "being in surplus" don't apply.
     JCT: Sure they do though it doesn't feel that way simply because 
the debts and surpluses to not grow. 
>Because the currency in a LETS isn't limited in supply, it can't be
>"cornered" in the way most capitalist commodities can (eg "corner the
>market in diamonds"). And if it can't be cornered, it's value can't 
>be manipulated by the people who might have cornered it.
     JCT: And because national currencies are artificially kept in 
short supply, they can be cornered. 
>The problem may arise with LETS members' attitudes to "debt". They
>shouldn't really have one. There is no harm in trading at a level 
>well below break even, as long as everybody keeps trading. 
     JCT: Good point. I like to use the example of a large store such 
as Simpsons Sears which would allow its members who are ALL in the 
negative to write checks to each other and change their indebtedness. 
This would be a perfectly suitable "debt money" which would facilitate 
trading in exactly the same way as LETS does. 
>The value is more in the trading itself than in the state of 
>individual accounts. Even someone trading well below zero is paying 
>in units which still hold value for everyone else.
     JCT: That's the whole point. It shouldn't matter what anyone's 
balance is since debits always equal credits. 
>I think it may also be residual economic attitude which hopes or 
>expects that "your time will surely come". Strictly speaking, it has 
>come as you join the system. 
     JCT: Actually, allowing single mothers to go deeply in the 
negative is anticipation that the potential of the children's "time 
will surely come." 
>Date: Wed Dec 16 06:07:59 1998
>From: (Ingerid Straume)
>Martin Strube wrote:
>>My understanding of the innovatory nature of LETS is that the old 
>>values of "being in debt" and "being in surplus" don't apply.
>A appreciate your reply. Your point is correct, and we have kept 
>saying the same things to our members ever since the beginning. But 
>the fact remains that a lot of people feel more comfortable, in 
>general, when they can move up and down on a scale instead of 
>spiralling downwards, and it feels more comfortable to have say "2000 
>plus" than "2000 minus." 
     JCT: That's the whole purpose of having a LETS store be in the 
negative while holding the collateral on consignment or allowing 
retirees to be in the negative while pledging their homes to allow a 
far larger number of other members to be in the positive. 
>We can keep insisting that there is no "up'" and "down", but for a 
>lot of people that will only remain a phrase. And that's why I am 
>saying that there is an ideological element in LETS. 
     JCT: But in systems where asset holders or LETS consignment 
stores aren't available to hold the negative balances, it makes it 
essential that half the members must be negative so that the other 
half may be positive. And no one likes being in the negative which 
does inhibit their trading. 
>But the second problem I have mentioned will remain even if the 
>impetus of the psychological associations conserning "debit" and 
>"credit" was overcome, namely that some people have more resources 
>and some have less. As long as the members are fairly homogenous 
>this will not be visible. But as soon as you get members that are 
>for instance ill, loaded with responsibilities already (have no 
>time), and generally less equipped with skills, membership and "debt" 
>might become a burden. I certainly know a couple of persons to whom 
>it is. I use the term "debt" to illustrate my point: the way it's 
>being experienced by people on a low level of systemic abstraction.
     JCT: That's the sad part about the weaker producers being in the 
negative. I wouldn't worry about them dying in the negative since it 
could later be shared by the whole database. 
>As to another comment that was sent out (sorry I don't have your name 
>- I accidentally deleted the message) the sender said something like 
>that organized distribution is an imposition on the freedom and 
>responsibility of the members/traders, and that no one has the right 
>to subtract from other's account and redistribute the currency.
>To that I want to say that: yes, any redistribution should be 
>voluntary. In our LETS we made it so that there is a "welfare 
>account" which is for the purpose of helping members to even out 
>their accounts if it gets too tough over a long period of time. 
     JCT: This "welfare account" would only have to accessed in the 
event of death if we weren't to worry about their negative balances 
>This would be a place to put one's surplus of currency, and that 
>would stimulate the trade. The only drawback is that no body have 
>been donating for that account, except the initiator of the idea 
>of the welfare account. 
     JCT: Another good reason to just let people go into the negative 
and share the burden of non-payment if and when they die. After all, 
what if they were to win a lottery a few years down the road, then all 
the worry would have been for nothing. 
>If redistribution was to occur, even on a level that was less 
>voluntary than this, let's say like a taxation system or devaluation 
>system, then membership and thus accepting the terms is of course 
>still volutnary. Such measures of taxation, or one might call it 
>contributing to the common good, is not so unusual in society and 
>might facilitate the charity aspect. Of course, it would only be 
>brought about after long discussions where all the members of the 
>LETS were heard on an equal basis. I don't think it is unethical in 
>any way, and if it can help the circulation it is also economical. 
     JCT: That's my point. But it need only be raised if and when 
someone were to die in the negative and not before. 
>I wonder if there are differences between smaller and larger LETS in 
>respect to what is being traded, and in what way. That was just a 
>thought after reading that a large LETS of 450 members had no 
>problems with unequal resources between the members, and of 
>accumulation of local currency. Or are there other reasons why this 
>is not a salient problem to some of the LETS. Yours, Ingerid Straume
     JCT: There is certainly a large difference between mall power 
LETS and large or saturation LETS in that the large LETS exhibit none 
of the above problems.   
>Date: Wed Dec 16 11:32:58 1998
>From: (Mary Mattos)
>This is interesting. In our societies we collect taxes (as you 
>mention below) and redistribute currency via welfare, social 
>assistance etc. I would think or like to think that the creation of 
>LETS is a way to avoid that "stigma". At present I'm drawing a blank 
>re ideas/alternatives, I guess it's some of that residual stuff from 
>the capitalist economy. we keep bringing "that" way of looking at 
>things, and doing things into LETS. 
     JCT: The best way is not to tax it to give to the weak but simply 
allow the weak to go into the negative and only use the common tax 
when they are absolutely incapable of repayment, i.e. when they're 
dead and can't buy lottery tickets anymore. Of course, those with 
children shouldn't have to worry at all since I'd bet most children 
will do their best to honor their parents' debt incurred in their own 
>So how do we help out those who are ill, mentally ill, etc? If the 
>admin fee was set aside as a pension fund it could be used to 
>supplement the accounts of those who don't have goods or services to 
>sell. What it comes down to is members of a community looking after 
>each other... regards
     JCT: Just let them go in the negative and don't even worry about 
it until the end. 
>Date: Wed Dec 16 11:21:12 1998
>From: (Mary Mattos)
>>Because the currency in a LETS isn't limited in supply, it can't be
>>"cornered" in the way most capitalist commodities can (eg "corner 
>>the market in diamonds"). And if it can't be cornered, it's value 
>>can't be manipulated by the people who might have cornered it.
>The cash in the economy isn't actually limited in supply either. 
     JCT: My whole point is that there is an automatic limit in the 
supply necessary to pay both the principal of the loan received and 
the interest which was never created or received.
>people are "free" to borrow (if the banks will grant the loans) or 
>use credit cards and that increases the supply. 
     JCT: Yes, it's possible to borrow new money into circulation but 
never enough to pay back both the principal created and the interest 
>LETS is only an advantage if there is no interest, tax or percentage 
>fee charged.
     JCT: Actually, there's nothing wrong with tax or percentage fee 
charged. The only problem is the usury.
>and speaking of diamonds, isn't it time that humans "grew up" and 
>stopped attaching such ridiculous value to glittery things such as 
>gold and gems? 
     JCT: A free market will always value scarce resources more 
greatly and there's nothing wrong with that. 
>can't eat them, can't burn them to heat your home or cook your food, 
>can't build your house with them, so lucky old King Cole can sit in 
>his room full of treasures and starve to death. ( I do have the 
>right nursery rhyme don't I?) 
     JCT: But once there's enough food, shelter and fuel, there won't 
be any problem with wanting baubles and toys too. 
>but people can and do corner markets in LETS, albeit unintentionally, 
>eg carpenters, auto mechanics, etc. maybe not in the same sense you 
>meant though! and they don't manipulate the market...
     JCT: It's not possible to corner the market when any other 
carpenters may join. 
>Date: Wed Dec 16 13:39:34 1998
>From: (Fraser How)
>Why are the "poor" members unable to trade? What is stopping them? A
>percieved lack of skills, or a lack of demand for what they are 
>offering? Or is it that they are trading, but are not getting paid 
>enough to balance out what they are spending?
     JCT: Either way, who cares but those systems which do not allow 
large negatives. 
>Perhaps the "poor" members need to learn to ask a higher price - and 
>if the "rich" people don't want to pay for it then they don't get 
>it. No one should ever feel obliged to trade under LETS - that is 
>not the point of getting involved, it's a fundamental groundrule of 
>the LETS process. 
     JCT: There's no problem with some members earning less than 
others and asking them to charge more will only cut back on the demand 
for their services. 
>Maybe the "over-rich" need to realise that there is NO POINT 
>whatsoever in having lots and lots of credits and never spending 
>them! There is no interest! The LETS is there to make trading 
     JCT: But there is a point in building up savings for their 
retirement. Why should that be a problem? 
>Perhaps they could simply charge less and offer more for the 
>goods and services that they purchase! After all - if they do not 
>really need to spend, then they certainly do not really need to earn 
>- they do not "really need" to be involved at-all! So if they are 
>involved, presumably it's because they recognise some value in doing 
     JCT: There's no reason that they should earn less than their time 
is worth. It's only the lack of negative stores that forces this to be 
an issue. 
>Even if they participate only to gain economic benefits for 
>themselves then they are only depriving themselves of those benefits 
>by not spending their credits. 
     JCT: But they're only depriving themselves now and I'd bet most 
hope to collect some day. 
>And if they are involved because they want to support others in 
>their community then even more reason to just pay more and charge 
>less - start building the community by recognising the value of the 
>people in it. 
     JCT: But what if they get into an accident and can't work 
anymore. Then they will find that they will regret the decision to 
have charged less and paid more. This goes against human nature and is 
purposeless unless you're stuck with a system that allows no large 
negative stores and deters large positive savings balances. 
>Have you considered making your LETS an hour-based system? In this
>arrangement everybody's time is given equal value and this unbalanced 
>spread of units would probably not occur. 
     JCT: Actually, in Hour systems, some people charge 1 Hour per 
hour while others may charge two, three or even half and Hour per 
hour. Timedollar systems have everyone's time given equal value and 
though I applaud the thought, I prefer the capitalistic notion where a 
better producer may claim more Hours in exchange for his time as long 
as the weaker producers are not denied the credit to pay for it even 
if they do go into the negative and never get out. 
>If the traders are primarily into the social benefits of LETS then 
>this is worth considering. However, this method makes it more 
>difficult for businesses to be involved - what do they say to the 
     JCT: Actually, the US Internal Revenue Service has decided that 
Timedollars earned are not taxable. The reasons are explained in Parry 
Walker's and Edward Goldsmith's article on local currencies at:
>>In my view it is naive to think that all people have equal resources. 
>Certainly at the moment some people are vastly more able to produce 
>and contribute than others. Perhaps it does not have to be that way 
>though - all children are full of magic and life and given the right 
>conditions maybe we could all grow up to be empowered individuals.
     JCT: And so should be accorded credit or their parent's accorded 
the credit necessary for their development. 
>We could study and analyse the causes of this imbalance forever - 
>many people are busy doing just that right now. LETS is about finding 
>solutions through personal and community empowerment. If we can use 
>LETS to build our economies, then there will be more thriving 
>businesses, more jobs, and more money that can be spent on an endless 
>number of things that will improve our situation - that will really 
>help the "poor" people, or even result in them becoming a part of 
>history that we have moved beyond. Those who are disempowered can 
>certainly benefit from being involved in LETS as it is now - but lets 
>face it, if you haven't got enough money to eat, keep warm and 
>sheltered comfortably then that is what you need first - not 
>councelling, massage and guitar lessons - valuable though those 
>things are (and I need all three ;-) So if you can't buy food, 
>utilities, rent on your LETS and you havn't got much cash, then it's 
>a help, for some even a big help - but it's not the answer, and we 
>are being irresponsible if we act like it is. 
     JCT: That's why it's so important to achieve saturation by 
getting members like government to join so that Greendollars can have 
a use such as tax-payment desired by everyone. 
>It is for those who are in a LETS community to decide if they want 
>to sieze tho opportunity to learn to value each other in a more 
>human way, or not. 
     JCT: And LETS members manage to do that even if they charge 
different amounts for their time. The end result is always that 
someone's abundance is at the present time a supply for the want of 
others in the hope that the others' abundance may later be a supply 
for their want. 
>If someone is sitting there in a LETS with a huge positive balance 
>not wishing to spend it, while others are spiraling down and down, 
>perhaps they have not understood what LETS is about at all and maybe 
>they could ask themselves "why am I in this LETS?". 
     JCT: This is only a problem where large positives are 
deterred because it forces the others into the negative. Where large 
negatives are not deterred, this problem disappears. 
>Why not just do whatever they are doing to earn this huge balance 
>for free? 
     JCT: Unnecessary and detrimental if he later gets sick.
>Or better, imo, go on a huge spending spree! 
     JCT: Why force people to spend it now? Only because of the 
failure to set up allowable large negative balances. 
>Pay a "poor" old lady 20 credits to tell your children a story! 
     JCT: And regret it later when you get sick and could really use 
it to pay her 1 credit per hour for the same purpose. 
>Pay the young man 30 credits instead of 10 for cleaning your car! 
     JCT: Same reason applies.
>LETS is about bringing our communities to life, the numbers are 
>there to serve us, not us to serve the numbers! Perhaps somebody 
>else does not have the skills and resources that you do - the 
>question is, do you want to value what they do have and thus 
>encourage it to grow and develop, or what?    
     JCT: Communities can still come to life without forcing the 
positives to spend their savings in order to allow the negatives to 
earn now. 
>Date: Wed Dec 16 13:39:36 1998
>From: (Fraser How)
>When promoting LETS we perhaps need to remember that the potential of 
>LETS to solve all kinds of problems is not yet being fulfilled by the 
>LETS that we currently see around us. Why this is the case and how to 
>do something about it is really what it's all about, imho.
     JCT: And I've mentioned how to up the power of LETS by several 
necessary improvements. Paper tokens for high velocity, large 
collateral-based negative balances values to permit large savings 
>This is in no way a denigration of what we do have - LETS does help 
>people, right now, today, in many places in many ways - I am saying 
>only that with it we can do so much more - a view shared by many 
>LETS-types the world over. To someone new to LETS, we must be careful 
>not to sell them a dream in such a way that they are under the 
>impression that it will be realised just by signing the agreements 
>and starting trading - whilst at the same time not selling the LETS 
>short as it is, now. 
     JCT: It's not unreasonable to promise Heaven once city hall joins 
and starts accepting Green in taxes. 
>We need to be realistic about what people can expect from getting 
>involved today 
     JCT: Which isn't very much as yet. 
>- and at the same time we are free to share our visions of how it 
>could/will be as it evolves ever-onward - after all, hopes and 
>dreams are the stuff of inspiration! 
     JCT: And the vision of what a saturation LETS market can deliver. 
>15 years ago you could have sold somebody a modem and 
>said "this will enable you to talk to people all over the world!" - 
>and I bet they would have been disappointed at the results, though 
>what you said was potentially true. But a few years down the line 
>and - here we are, doing just that!  Best Wishes Fraser How
     JCT: You bet. Once LETS achieves its full municipal, national or 
global potential, we'll have done just that. 
>Date: Wed Dec 16 18:29:08 1998
>From: ("Nigel")
>>Nigel Leach states that the LETS he has set up and run for five 
>>years is still doing less that #7 per member per month in trading. 
>Not simply from modesty but from an interest in what makes LETS tick 
>I would say that what I understand to be the current level of trading 
>has in fact happened with minimal intervention - It's the users wot 
>done it (also for most of the last three years my involvement has 
>been pretty minimal and much valuable work has been done during that 
>time by Jonathan Simms). This lack of intervention and "rule setting" 
>contrasts interestingly with the many LETS that take it on themselves 
>to organise things. The point David makes about the number of users 
>actually using the LETS will be familiar to many of us and I will ask 
>those currently involved in Calderdale LETS admin if any figures for 
>this have been collected and report back. By way of contrast, in 
>Worcester where I have contributed to setting up another LETSystem 
>growth has been much slower than in Calderdale. So perhaps cultural 
>values do indeed have a siginficant influence? Regards Nigel Leach
>Director - LETS Solutions
     JCT: A great example. The Bishop of Worcester, Peter Selby, 
is a great advocate of money reform. If he were to announce to his 
congregation that al the members on their database now had a LETS 
account joined to the local LETS and that they were accepting Green in 
the collection plate and then use those collections to finance good 
works, the size of the LETS database would explode and with it, the 
amount of trading. 
     As I keep repeating, all takes is one large database to jump 
start massive trading. 
>Date: Wed Dec 16 19:37:09 1998
>From: (Ingerid Straume)
>>Why are the "poor" members unable to trade? What is stopping them? 
>One member considers herself in debt, unable to trade as she has a 
>large commitment of twenty-some hours. 
     JCT: Twenty hours, half a week's work, is inhibiting her trading? 
>Our LETS-system has a recommended hour-by-hour yardstick (as was one 
>of your questions). She is a single mother, chronically ill. She has 
>no energy to spare. She also has no spare time, no space nor much 
>else (like a car etc.) Her commitment came as a surprise to her (she 
>hadn't fully realized the terms of the principles of LETS, nor was 
>the deal between her and the seller totally clear to her.
     JCT: She may not have time now but not only will she have the 
time when her children are grown but the children may even pay back 
the half-week's work she owes. 
>This situation brings up a few important points, I think. First and 
>most salient to your point: the commitment that she has is at this 
>time experienced as a debt. I think it is more down to earth to talk 
>about how things are being experienced by members, regular people and 
>not the most visionary of us, and not talk so much about how one 
>"should" and "ought to" think. We are not yet living in a new world 
>although I agree that the longing for utopia is a good thing to drive 
>us "forward".  
     JCT: Yes, it is a debt but the debt isn't growing so that it will 
easily be repaid years down the line by the whole family who 
benefitted today. 
>My main concern for this member is that her membership is now a 
>source of worry more than a help. For some people it might never 
>feel just fine to trade at a level below zero.
     JCT: Just pointing out how she or her children will be able to 
repay it years down the line should allay those concerns. 
>Another problem of the poor letsers is like you mentioned, that their 
>kind of services require more resources in the first place. The 
>spiraling down effect becomes clear if you are a woman with few tools 
>etc, offering your services along with resourceful men. Hour-by-hour 
>principles is not enough to empower both categories sufficeintly so 
>that both have the same balance og plus and minus. So I guess I can 
>simplify my point into something like this: It doesn't matter to a 
>single mother with few resources and too much work in the first 
>place, that she is being told that it is just her old-fashioned mode 
>of thinking that tells her that there is a difference between her 
>-2000.- and somebody elses +2000.- There seems to be a lot of 
>different motivations involved in the "LETS-movement", as Sally 
>Brewer pointed out.
     JCT: And all this worry is unnecessary once she realizes that no 
one is going to resent or chase her for her debt to those who have 
helped her. Her future willingness is all that is required. 
>I received another response, in Swedish though, from Marcus Helendahl 
>(bank of good will) saying I think that maybe LETS shoul be more like
>market-orientated. I agree that it should be easy to trade, without 
>having to change one's psychological structure first. Having an 
>employee, a helper, certainly would help elderly people to join and 
>use LETS.
     JCT: But most LETS would frown on elderly people going negative 
when they can't earn it back even though they may eventually leave 
quite substantial estates. Failing to include the elderly with such  
large estates because they can't work anymore is one of the major 
weaknesses of current LETS. 
>>Maybe the "over-rich" need to realise that there is NO POINT 
>>whatsoever in having lots and lots of credits and never spending 
>>them! There is no interest! The LETS is there to make trading easier. 
>The problem is not so much greed, but rather that they have abundant
>resources in the first place. They join LETS, and help out people 
>when asked. These members are typically male, they have tools, cars, 
>TIME, and they are skilled in lots of odd-job things that are always 
>in demand. Typically, they help out single mothers with heavy work, 
>carpentery, driving etc. They get lots of "points", "green dollars" 
>or whatever it's called. It's not that they don't want to spend it. 
>It's simply that they have no needs. Maybe they try to a couple of 
>times, and maybe they are turned down when a need for once does 
     JCT: So letting them save their Green until they are older and 
eventually have those needs is the solution which is not available to 
LETSystems which frown on large positive balances. 
>Using LETS might be a little awkward if you have an alternative (that 
>is: money). After a while they realize they have loads of points. And 
>this in itself might actually be de-motivating. In this case, it 
>might have been better without the points! 
     JCT: It's not demotivating unless people keep complaining about  
it. Saving up for the future is never demotivating and helping those 
who need it now is quite motivating. 
>We have a few members in this category. You might say that they 
>SHOULD think differently. But can the economic system be based on an 
>assumption that all its members have to change their thinking to 
>accomodate the system??
     JCT: I think it's up to LETSystem organizers to start to think 
differently about deterring large savings balances. Then the problem 
disappears and trading is maximized. 
>In our LETS, we have people thinking of LETS as circulation of gifts,
>reciprocity, saving the environment etc. But LETS as an alternative 
>economic system is not a realistic discussion at this moment because 
>that would involve the idea of profit. That in my opinion is another 
>under-discussed theme in the LETS-promotion. It touches into what we 
>are now discussing but is maybe too complex to move into at this time.
     JCT: I see no reason to deter the profit motive at all. It's not 
natural. Properly run, LETS could actually encourage the profit 
motive. Christ's mentions this right after stating the LETS 
differential equation in Paul Corr II 8:14.
>Your abundance should at the present time be a supply for their want 
>so that later their abundance may be a supply for your want and in 
>that way, he who gathers much won't have too much and he who gathers
>little won't have too little, that they may be equality. 
     JCT: So there's nothing wrong with gathering much as long as your 
abundance is available for borrowing by the poor. So, LETS not only 
achieves equality of a kind but also allows the profit motive as 
incentive to maximizing harvest.
>Date: Thu Dec 17 07:14:22 1998
>From: (Fraser How)
>>She is a single mother, chronically ill. She has no energy to spare. 
>With someone in that position, it is especially important that they 
>DO realise the terms and principles of LETS. When she joined, did she 
>have some idea of what she was going to do in order to earn hours? 
     JCT: She shouldn't have to until the kids are grown and gone. 
Even if she has zero skills at the moment, she could then acquire some 
or find things to do which people want. But forcing her to find a way 
to repay now or as soon as possible is an unnecessary headache. 
>Did she realise that the LETS works on a give and take basis?
     JCT: Did she realise that it works on a give and take basis while 
she didn't have the time to give? Being willing to wait eliminates 
this concern. 
>If she cannot see how she can earn hours at-all, then she is in need 
>of more support, I agree. As you say, if she is ill, no energy, 
>little resources then she is someone who needs to be supported by 
>the community.
     JCT: The community supports her just by letting her go positive 
in the hopes that she will in the future be able to repay either by  
having children who wish to honor her commitment or by winning a 
>If she, with assistance, finds something that she would like to 
>contribute and feels able to do so comfortably, then perhaps if she 
>did that then people could pay her way above the "going rate" in 
>recognition that she need extra support. 
     JCT: But the only reason to warp the free market is because we 
are demanding she find some way of earning Green now. Waiting for 
later eliminates this problem and the stigma of being considered in 
need of charitable support. 
>For instance she could be paid 5 "hours" for one half an hour doing 
     JCT: Which means someone else's time earned gets valued less. 
>If there is nothing that she can do without causing herself distress, 
>then somebody needs to give her "hours" - and this is so easy! 
>It's not like cash, it's not hard to get. Anyone who knows her could 
>donate some of their hours to her. Or, as you are suggesting already 
>there could be some system where everybody contributes a little to 
>support people in her position.  
     JCT: But it again carries to the stigma of charity. And should 
she eventually acquire skills or lottery monies, then those go gave 
lost value they earned for nothing. Let's leave the charity until 
we're sure she's dead and she or her children can't repay the support 
they were loaned. 
>Yes, and the lady you are talking about is a special case, just as 
>the "most visionary" is a special case. "Regular people" on a LETS 
>usually have something to offer and therefore will not feel as this 
>lady feels. No-one is talking about how people "should" think - I am 
>making suggestions about what they "could" do/think to improve the 
     JCT: But we shouldn't worry about it even if they, at the present  
time, have no way to repay. 
>>My main concern for this member is that her membership is now a 
>>source of worry more than a help. For some people it might never 
>>feel just fine to trade at a level below zero.
>Fine as long as your trading is both ways, up and down, that's the 
>important thing, not so much your "score". If you only spend and 
>never earn, or only earn and never spend, then this is where we find 
>these problems.  
     JCT: But you don't need to find these problems at all if you 
think long term and eliminate the necessity that half the members be 
negative so that the other half be negative. 
>Why don't you and some friends get together and give her a gift of 20 
>hours today so she no longer has to worry - and then look at how you 
>can address this in the long term?
     JCT: Christ said that's the nice thing to do but he also said 
that lending it with no interest and no expectation of payment is 
almost as good. And since we are willing to write it off when she 
dies, are not such interest free loans a deferred form of charity 
>I do not believe that it is her "way of thinking" that causes the 
>problem either. The problem is that she is not earning credits, and 
>she feels bad, perhaps because she does not want to take and take and 
>take without putting back anything - most of us would not like that 
     JCT: And isn't the fact that with no rush to pay it back and only 
our hope that she does someday pay it back while never insisting that 
she pay it back just as reassuring?
>Then why do they join LETS, if that is their attitude? You say they 
>join LETS to help others - so why will they not realise that paying 
>more to those who need it will help them? 
     JCT: Giving away your hard-earned savings is not necessary and 
would certainly deter many people from participating. 
>What do they think about the idea of giving some away then, to people 
>that really need it like the woman who feels she is in "debt"? I know 
>you have said you have tried this - do you have an idea why these 
>people are not wanting to do it? Why do the "over-rich" join in the 
>first place?  
     JCT: Certainly to help but not to give it away. Again, I don't 
mind charity but lending and only giving it in charity only when the 
debtor dies eliminates the feeling of low-self-worth that many who 
receive charity often feel. 
>You have to change your thinking a little bit to learn anything new. 
>If you treat LETS as if it is exactly the same as normal money then 
>it will not work well at all. It is not the same. 
     JCT: Actually, I urge people to treat LETS exactly the same. It 
is the same but better. 
>Date: Thu Dec 17 14:10:05 1998
>From: (Sally E Brewer)
>on the subject of LETS and mental health, the stigma of welfare, etc. 
>- there is in Brent, London a LETS affiliated to the local group which
>is run by a group of mental health service users. Its open to anyone 
>to join, but the group is administered by the users. People can trade 
>services like escorting to social events for those feeling vulnerable 
>and isolated, and the usual goods and services, allowing access to the 
>'meaningful occupation' that many of us join LETS to enjoy. Sally
     JCT: You will find that Timedollars work this way in the States 
and are very successful at not only bringing happiness to the 
recipients but also to the givers of such care. 
>Date: Thu Dec 17 06:43:21 1998
>From: (Kevin Donnelly)
>>In our LETS, we have people thinking of LETS as circulation of gifts,
>I wasn't going to get into this thread, but what Ingerid is saying 
>here is not far from the doctrine of grace about which a certain 
>Aramaic-speaking Galilean had much to say without using the word 
>(sorry whoever, which is why I wasn't going to write).
     JCT: Of course, since Aramaic-speaking Galilean tekton was the 
first to state the LETS differential equation, it makes sense that 
LETS provides the grace promised by his doctrine. 
>LETS is self-evidently a system of exchange and very useful too, but
>those who have nothing to exchange feel they do not belong. An 
>economy of pure gift is some way off, but most decent societies 
>recognise the right to exist and be supported, as do most decent 
>families. Very few people keep strict accounts within families. 
>Repent and believe the gospel, which probably annoys whoever, at 
>heart means change your mind and be released from the debt-slavery 
>system. Love is this, isn't it?   Kevin Donnelly
     JCT: Yes it is. LETS banking is loving your neighbor as you'd 
have your neighbor love you while usury banking is enslaving your 
neighbor with debt as you'd not have your neighbor enslave you. 
>Date: Thu Dec 17 17:28:53 1998
>From: (Ingerid Straume)
>I had in mind that if the concept of profit is viewed as an in itself 
>bad and unwanted thing in LETS, that means LETS will not have much of 
>a chance to evolve beyond being basically an idealistic organisation. 
>It will not be able to compete with, or replace the interest-based 
>national/global economy. 
     JCT: And since my goal is to not only compete with but eventually 
displace the interest-based debt slavery system, it explains why I am 
so in favor or profit with the charitable aspect only taking place at 
the end of the game. 
>LETS-participation will require idealistic commitment and will 
>continue to be heavily dependent on psychological rearrangements in 
>the thinking of its members.This seems to be one branch of 
>LETS-ideology. Another branch is a more pragmatic orientation. This 
>line of thinking regards circulation as so central that it wants to 
>draw ALL kinds of members, preferably a very blended group. That 
>would imply a lot of different thinking in basic matters. This 
>approach might use market orientation and incentives like profit 
>would not be shunned. Profit is an incentive! 
     JCT: That's me. 
>Who would want to do trade on any semi-large scale if there was no 
>profit in the buying and selling of goods? Is LETS to be a 
>leisure-time activity, or do we want members to offer their time and 
>services on an increasing basis?  
>I know a few people are working on this market orientating approach. 
>They are meeting massive resistance from other types of idealists.
>The system is still of course interest-free and locally based. The 
>systemic features are kept. What's all the resistance about? 
>Threatened ideological identity? Peter from Sweden said it seemed to 
>him that LETSers don't really want their group to grow (too much). 
>They want to keep it for those with the "right kind of mentality".
>Anybody have (self-experienced) views on this? Ingerid
     JCT: Your view says it very well. 
>Date: Fri Dec 18 05:40:09 1998
>From: ("Tom Holloway")
>Kevin Donnelly said....
>>is not far from the doctrine of grace about which a certain Aramaic-
>>speaking Galilean had much to say without using the word (sorry 
>>whoever, which is why I wasn't going to write).
>Speaking as a cast-iron, 22-carat, born-again atheist (no listowner, 
>this is NOT off the subject) I have always had a great regard for 
>that particular carpenter -- from all I've read he was clearly a 
>thoroughly decent chap, and I recognise and applaud his impulse to 
>forgiveness and generosity.
     JCT: Calling him a carpenter would be like calling me a 
carpenter. He was a banking systems tekton as I'm a banking systems 
engineer. His LETS and usury differential equations definitely place 
him at the top, not the bottom, of the technology totem pole. 
>That's interesting. For me, there are two themes here. ONE is 
>typified by the argument between those who believe in the 
>Internet-as-marketplace and those who believe in the 
>Internet-as-potlatch -- the 'gift-economy', the 'Moka', in which those 
>who give most have the greatest status. I fall very firmly on the 
>side of 'potlatch' and try to keep myself as poor as is consistent 
>with my retired life. No car, no telly, no microwave, I run a charity 
>and sit on committees etc......  
     JCT: And yet, with the resources to provide a car, a telly, a 
microwave and full life support, why should you settle for less 
especially when there won't be any charity committess left to sit on.
>But the _OTHER_ theme is the need for us to recognise that ALL human
>beings, including the dispossessed, have something to give. It's a 
>theme I most warm to when talking to local Councillors and Social 
>Service types - that their money support and voucher hand-outs don't 
>provide the feeling of self-worth that we all need.
     JCT: The reason that loans with no repayment schedule and 
forgiveness at the end of the game are better than self-worth-robbing 
>LETS, on the other hand, reaches the parts that the hand-out system 
>cannot reach. It encourages neighbors to be good neighbors, and 
>single parents that by putting on some stout shoes and joining a LETS 
>'garden gang' working on a pensioner's decaying garden for just one 
>hour, they too play a part in the economy -- and gain a sense of 
>self-worth in the process.  
>Giving to those that don't have is good. Persuading those that don't 
>have that -- actually they _DO_ have -- is, IMHO, better. In other 
>words, I would rather 'donate' a feeling of self-worth than donate a 
>LETS cheque or a fiver any day.
     JCT: Right you are. 
>Date: Mon Dec 21 14:25:10 1998
>From: (David Burman)
>The trouble with a gift economy is it can easily become a guilt 
>economy - who has given more, who owes whom, etc - that can be just 
>as oppressive in terms of power relationships as the cash economy. 
     JCT: Another good reason to keep good and fair books with 
forgiveness at the end of the game for the weaker producers in life. 
My final point is that I don't mind if my mentally-retarded cousin 
drives a nice car when there are enough cars, that he eats well when 
there is enough food, that he enjoys all the good things in life when 
there's plenty to go around, even if I know that he'll never be able 
to pay it back. 
>LETS allows a purchaser of whaterver means to issue his/her own 
>currency when and where it is needed, thus avoiding dependence on 
>gifts from others. This being said, our experience here in Toronto 
>indicates that there still remains a kind of class system in LETS, 
>at least at this stage of development - some find it very easy to 
>earn local, and have difficulty finding places to spend it, and 
>others have lots of things they need to spend local on, but have 
>difficulty finding ways to earn it. If anyone has solutions to the 
>latter problem, I'd be very interested in hearing about it. 
     JCT: Make sure that all your members accept Toronto Dollars and 
urge Mel Lastman to borrow a million, spend them into circulation in 
exchange for civic services provided, then tax them back and you'll 
find that everyone in town will start accepting Green in order to pay 
their taxes and you'll have solved the problem of not enough places to 
spend your Green. 
>Date: Mon Dec 21 16:04:41 1998
>From: (David Burman)
>In our focus group research in Toronto, I asked specifically what 
>people's experience of a negative balance was, and almost everyone 
>said it was like debt, but less stressful. This can be taken as an 
>indorsement of people's commitment to LETS (as opposed to "being in 
>commitment") in that LETS currency is taken seriously. It's not from 
>a lack of understanding of how LETS works. They all knew about 
>negative balances and so on. It was more of an issue of commitment in 
>general - a negative balance means an obligation - and those I talked 
>to did not feel entirely comfortable with that.  
     JCT: But pointing out that it's a debt that no one is going to 
chase you for and which you can try to repay at your pleasure should 
help allay those feelings. 
>Is this an issue that matters? Is it a question of education and 
>getting used to negative balances? we didn't have enough participants 
>to say with certainty that those who participated more had fewer 
>concerns about negative balances.  I don't think it's a problem, but 
>it could be a barrier to trade for some people.
     JCT: People who are forced to live in debt which grows 
exponentially should have no difficulty in appreciating being allowed 
to get into debt which does not. 
>Date: Tue Dec 22 04:12:15 1998
>From: (Martin Strube)
>In my battles with standard accounting practices, I keep coming up 
>against "the bottom line". All of us are intimidated by this. What 
>we tend to forget is that commercial accounting is a closed system.  
>It only appears to make sense because it allows itself the luxuury of 
>ignoring so many non-costable variables. For example, it rarely 
>takes account of environmental damage, nor of long term energy 
>consumption, nor of health related costs, nor of social costs as 
>deprivation forces crime up and community cohesion down. Accountants 
>and company ("my duty is to the shareholders") directors revel in 
>this simplisticism and can afford to look down upon the rest of us 
>who struggle helplessly with wider concerns.  
     JCT: That's because repayment schedules and the threat of 
foreclosure forces all to earn as much as they can get and pay out as 
little as they can no matter how damaging to anyone else. When you're  
in an elimination game, a death-gamble like musical chairs with money, 
where there are never enough chairs for all to survive as there is 
never enough principal lent out to repay both the principal and the 
interest, it pays to only look out for number one. Balancing the debt 
to only the principal is having enough chairs for all to survive and 
causes a paradigm shift. A change of thinking. 
>Some people make the mistake of equating accounting with mathematics. 
>They say, "1 + 1 = 2. How can you dispute that?" 
     JCT: Actually, they're saying 1 = 1 + interest which it can never 
>But accounting is a very proscribed sub-set of mathematics and is, 
>ultimately, as inexact a science as, say, sociology.  
     JCT: Actually, accounting is a quite exact use of mathematics. 
It's trying to account for an irrational proposition with a rational 
tool that's the problem. 
>Nevertheless, we are drawn to its tidy simplicity. Even many of us 
>who should know better experience its allure and are baffled and 
>frustrated and intimidated by its dictats.
     JCT: It's not the dictats of accounting that are the problem. 
It's the dictats of coming up with 11 when they only printed 10 that's 
the irrational problem they try to account for. 
>So, have we come up against an insurmountable obstacle, or have we 
>simply identified one of the problems? As we discover that this 
>problem runs more deeply than we anticipated, should it follow that 
>we give up on trying to deal with it? Of course not, but it may mean 
>that we have to work at other ways of getting to core attitude.
     JCT: Getting a LETS account to everyone gets to the core 
>In my work as a co-operative development worker (I try to launch and
>support worker co-ops), I am forever looking for ways of 
>demonstrating what I call "pop economics".  One of my favourite tools 
>is the board game of monopoly. The game amply demonstrates how, run 
>traditionally,  the system will, with mechanical inevitability, lead 
>to the centralisation of the wealth. If you run it as a LETSystem, 
>the wealth won't centralise. 
     JCT: I blame the centralization of wealth on the banking function 
which takes from the rich to give to the poor. The centralizing 
function of the game of Monopoly seems due to wins and losses due to the 
roll of the a dice rather than an inherent banking malfunction. The 
dice sometimes land you in jail where you miss out on earnings when 
you pass Go, or they land you on hotels where you lose to your 
competitor but I don't quite see how running Monopoly as LETS would 
eliminate that centralization from wins and losses due to the dice. 
>If you run it as a combined cash and LETSystem, the cash will 
>centralise but the LETS won't, and various other tensions will 
>emerge depending on the additional ground rules you have set.  
     JCT: Though it's true that money centralises due to usury and 
Green money does not, I don't see how this would apply in a Monopoly 
game. Could you provide further details? 
>With varying degrees of success, I have been able to 
>demonstrate some of the conclusions one can draw from the game; some 
>of the links one can establish between the game and the host economic 
>system within which we function and interact.  It might be worth 
>trying it in your LETS group.  
     JCT: I'd sure appreciate some instructions. I use the example of 
Interest Island and Service Charge Island at the end of:
>In my view, another interesting route to the re-examination of the 
>closed system that is accounting (and the residual attitude it 
>creates), is via the reviled John Turmel's efforts at bringing 
>engineering rigour into accounting's mother ship - economics. Apart 
>from the occasional forays into one-up-personship, I applaud his 
>direction and welcome, as far as I can make it out, the substance of 
>what he is driving at. Accountants and various forms of economist 
>may have much to answer for, but so do we if we allow ourselves to 
>continue to be awed and mystified. 
     JCT: Thank you. We must not only not allow ourselves to be awed 
and mystified by economics texts, we will inevitably have to correct 
the misinformation taught therein. As the first Social Credit 
engineer, Major Clifford H. Douglas put so well in his book "The 
Monopoly of Credit:" 
>p109  Unemployment, if it is to be a release, it must not be 
>accompanied by economic penalization.  If it is to be a misfortune, 
>then every effort should be directed to restraining the abilities of 
>those engineers who will make not two but two hundred blades of grass 
>grow where one grew before. 
     JCT: Next year, such discussions of how large-scale or Global 
LETS do not exhibit the problems associated with small uni-powered 
LETS will be posted only to the listserv. I would 
hope that those who do not mind the extensive nature of these posts or 
their global nature would join me there by registering at:

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