LETS: Another Economy
Video by Robin Johannsen,
Farnborough College of Technology,
Rough Cuts Productions, May 1997.
     There are no captions to identify the speakers so I've described 
them by nicknames based mainly by their setting and dress. 
     It opens with the picture of a British note with a hole being 
sawed from the back around the picture of the Queen to a clickety drum 
solo. In front of the note are some four block letters. Her picture 
falls away and a little wire man looks out to check if everything's 
okay. Then out out roll four train-like cars made up of the letters 
little trains roll around the block letters. 
     Out comes the wire man, then another until four wire men have 
come out and picked up the block letters. As they do a little dance 
with the letters, the printing on the background bank note gets erased 
and replaced by "Another Economy" with the little men finally getting 
in position with the letters L E T S with the block trains of words 
parking themselves beneath each letter. 
     There's a little ditty I couldn't quite discern 
     Mr. Greenpeace: (wearing a Greenpeace t-shirt): Years ago, I got 
involved in a movement called the Rainbow movement which is primarily 
political movement dedicated to change. And a book came out at the 
same time called "After the Crash" which was subtitled "Emergence of 
the Rainbow Economy." This caught my eye, I read it and in there was a 
chapter dedicated to LETSystems. And these seemed like a very very 
good idea.
     Picture of a check and stub with large LETS. 
     Lady User: Since I became a member, I've spent about one thousand 
Beacs or more, more than a thousand beacs. 
     Picture of a LETS check with large LOCAL hand to hand.
     Sofa Couple Lady: Occasionally when you want something that is 
difficult to find in the Yellow Pages, you turn to it and you're 
surprised at just what is offered, really. 
     Picture of a LETS check with large EXCHANGE hand to hand.
     Lady Alone: There was a time when I needed a service I couldn't 
afford to pay for. And I was wondering how to do this without 
upsetting anybody.
     Picture of a LETS check with large TRADING hand to hand.
     Chaired couple lady: I suppose it changes your perception in that 
it makes you think more about how that kind of society can work which 
isn't always based on whether or not you've got money.
     Picture of a LETS check with large SYSTEM hand to hand. 
     Moonfleet Lady on boat: People who can see beyond the normal economic 
monetary system, I think it appeals to as well in saying, well, you 
know, barter is one thing, circular barter is something else and we're 
quite willing to try it out and see if it works for me. 
     Picture of LETS check with large LETS hand to hand. 
     Mr. Greenpeace: LETS is an alternative economy. It works much the 
same way as a check-book and a Directory like the Yellow Pages. 
Members join our scheme, they're given a check book and they enter 
their names and services they offer into the Directory and that gets 
distributed amongst the other members and trading takes place by 
exchanging checks and their accounts are recorded on a simple computer 
program that works much the same as a bank would with an ordinary bank 
     KUTLETS Office lady: We've got 220 members of K.U.T.L.E.T.S. 
which is Kingston-Upon-Thames Local Exchange Trading System. Once 
you're a member of our LETSystem, you can telephone anyone up for any 
goods and services. Of course, it doesn't have to be a direct barter 
because you'll be paying with a local currency. 
     Plumber: That will be 20 Beacs, Francoise. 
     KUTLETS Office lady: We use the currency Beacs because we're 
based at the Beacon in Kingston. It's a local environmental centre and 
the LETSystem is housed at the Beacon. In order words, we have our 
computer here. 
     Picture of pound notes being pulled away to reveal the LETS check 
with a subtitle: Money Issued by The People. 
     Customer enters shop. 
     Dress-maker: Hi, my name's Bea and I offer mostly dress-making, 
designing, pattern-making, repairs on LETS.
     With customer: I've taken about an inch out of the arm here which 
is what you said it needed, I've cut back the arm-hole a bit because 
that was cutting into your arm.
     Customer: How long did all that take, please?
     Dress-maker: It took about two house in the end but it was quite 
easy. So, two hours, I would guess that works out to 15 Beacs. Is that 
about right with you? 
     Customer. Yes. That's fine. I'll write you out a check. 
     Dress-maker. Yes, thanks. 
     Bearded man with glasses: People slowly come to understand that 
they are creating their own money. There's no equivalent to the Bank 
of England. No one is printing money. It's even more democratic than a 
baby-sitting circle. In a baby-sitting circle, one person tends to cut 
out the corn-flakes packets to create the tokens which are the 
currency. In the case of LETS, no one does that. No one decides how 
much money will be in circulation. Anyone can write a check to pay 
somebody to do something for them and in doing so, create their own 
     Picture: Park bench: 
     Subtitle: What is money?
     Girl on park bench: It's something that.. it's a token that's a 
reward for work or labor in some way but in itself, it doesn't have 
any value. It's just a token that says that some kind of transaction 
has taken place. 
     KUTLETS Office lady: When you have an individual's services, you 
pay the person with the transfer note and then you post the transfer 
note into the box at the Beacon and that's opened once a week, and 
that person's account will be debited with the amount that they've 
paid and the person who they've paid will be credited. 
     Turmel: A member who spending may go negative at will. 
A positive goes to the one who made use of his skill. 
And though we've used no money, we have found a way to trade,
A giant step in the reform of money has been made. 
     Girl in street: Money is the source of life. 
     Blond teacher with class of tots: What else have we got? What 
else have you got? We know you have money and Richard's got lots of 
metal. And he owes Sebastian money over here. Paul here's got some 
shells used as money. 
     Teacher: I think we just wanted to get the children to 
understand, not so much to understand as touch on a couple of key 
concepts. One of those concepts was the idea that money can be almost 
anything. It just depends how people lay value on something. That if 
somebody puts value on something, they it can operate as a medium of 
     With class showing eggs: This was money in Guatemala in Central 
America. These beads are one of the oldest things used as money 
thousands of years ago. That was money in the Far East and in China. 
     Man at computer: People do denigrate the LETS currencies, I 
suppose, but I don't quite understand why they should do so. They're 
not mickey mouse currencies. They are in fact practical currencies. 
They work within their Local LETS so they function in just the same 
way that formal money functions. But at that the same time, they 
symbolize the whole range of very very profound issues, that is to 
say, they symbolize the possibility of alternate value systems and 
practicing those alternative value systems in a way which contributes 
to the making of a living. And which does so in an inclusive way and 
which is not simply judged by the very narrow systems evaluations 
apparent in the formal economy. 
     Moonfleet lady: It's 25 Beacs a week to hire the boat. When I go 
away in the summer to do various events and festivals and the boat's 
free, you can have it for 25 Beacs on the LETSystem and it can go up 
and down the river and you can have a lovely holiday. 
     KUTLETS Office lady: A Beac is 1 pound sterling or 10 minutes 
work. The reason we do this on our LETSystem  is to give people a 
guide for their work if they've never really charged before. If 
they've done baby-sitting for free or they've cleaned their friend's 
house as a favor, this is valuing their work and they can spend their 
Beacs on luxuries they otherwise could not afford.
     Old lady in street: Money is essential. It's the something that 
keeps us alive, keeps us going and we all need it. But we can't get 
enough of it.
     Old british film on the Royal Mint: Britain's greatest treasure 
house, the Royal Mint. Everybody needs dough and here's the dough 
before it's kneaded. The first and most important process is to reduce 
the bars of metal to a proper size. And here are the blanks being 
stamped out. The first stage to looking like real coins. And the money 
pours out like a slot machine gone wrong. So far, there's been no head 
or tails of the whole story. But that's soon put right. 
     LETS Office Couple Man: The main difference between LETS and the 
conventional way of organizing money, they do lots of things 
similarly, but the main difference is that a central authority creates 
the money which is in circulation and decides whether the interest 
rate's going to go up or not and how much is going to be circulated 
and all the rest. And with that power, they can force or buy other 
people to do certain things that they want to do. Whereas with LETS, 
you actually have to get cooperation.  
     Man at computer: In LETS, the legitimacy of the currency is 
defined very much and sustained by participants in the LETS. And one 
of the difficulties I think for many participants in LETS is that they 
think of the LETS currency very much as a version of the formal 
currency yet in many ways, it's just the opposite. So to get into to 
debt in a LETS seems to be a good thing rather than a bad thing. And 
indeed, it's necessary for a LETS to have people in debt in order to 
increase the volume of economic activity going on. 
     Moonfleet lady: I think it first of all probably takes a leap of 
faith because they're not quite sure why they can start to trade on it 
without having any money or having to give stuff before you get stuff. 
     Man at computer: I think the basic idea of LETS is very simple. 
It's a kind of inversion of the formal economy, that's a very nice and 
simple idea. The problem is that it's so simple that people have 
difficulty getting their heads around it on occasion. They can't quite 
understand, for example, the idea that spending money is a good thing. 
Saving it is a bad thing in context of LETS. 
     Song: Hey big spender..
     Mr. Greenpeace: You're not paying interest and you're not 
receiving interest so therefore storing money is of no benefit 
whatsoever. Here, you're rewarded for storing money, I mean, in a 
bank, you're rewarded for storing money and that reward isn't there 
with the LETSystem. 
     Caption: No interest  
     Turmel: Interest takes from the negatives to give to the 
positives, right? If you're positive at the bank, they give you 
interest. If you're negative, they take it away. So, to those who have 
abundance will more be given and from those who have no abundance, 
even what they have will be taken away. I call that Reverse Robin 
Hood. Taking from the poor to give to the rich. 
     Song: Money, get away..... Money, it's a gas...
     Picture Turmel picketing the Bank of England with the Abolish 
Interest Rates and Bankers are crooks sign. Thumbs up from passing bus 
     LETS Office couple man: You know, the whole business of compound 
interest which is in-built into the existing money system is a 
nightmare. I mean, we're all working harder and harder and harder and 
harder and faster and faster trying to keep up with paying these 
billionaires to have another 15 palaces, here, there, and everywhere. 
It's an absurdity. 

     Turmel: Rothschild, Rockefeller, all the big money-lenders, the 
millionaire billionaire families who have their own plates and get to 
loanshark to us, they're not going to like it but guess what, there's 
nothing they can do because we can start our own little private 
lifeboats and get off their currency and say: Screw you, we're on our 
own now. 
     LETS Office couple man: When we begin to look at the reality of 
it, we begin to see that the chances of getting the money away from 
that group of people are very very slim. So you begin to see the 
necessity for developing something like LETS. It's not just the little 
peripheral, it's actually something which is central to creating some 
kind of balance and harmony in the world. 
     Scot: The spirit of the institution, it's what determines how 
well it functions in terms of the way that human beings relate to one 
another. And if goodwill is at the heart of that institution, it will 
function well. And the relations will function well. And it may serve, 
and hopefully, it will serve to foster positive right human relations 
and provide that is at the the heart of that organization or 
institution, I don't think there's a problem. 
     Sofa couple man: You leave Beacs out of it if you like to the 
Directory is a listing of people willing to do things. 
     Mid-East Instrument Musical Teacher: I'm offering these lessons, 
teaching kids and adults alike the basics of a pretty unusual musical 
instrument. I'm charging between 5 and 6 Beacs an hour. 
     Scot: It doesn't matter how good the form of institution is if it 
isn't the right kind of quality or consciousness at its heart, then it 
won't work to the benefit of humanity. 
     Man on bench: Education is not really about learning for 
learning's sake. It seems to be about learning to get a career and a 
career is there to get money so that you can live. So life is money in 
many ways and I think it's a very sad commentary on humans. 
     Turmel: At end of 1994, 600 LETS around.
At end of 1995, twelve hundred LETS abound.
Two thousand and five hundred at the end of ninety six,
It's doubling yearly exponentially the world to fix. 
     Subtitle: Money stays in the community
     David Williams: Well, the LETS is helping to regenerate local 
communities in a variety of ways. One is that.. my background is in 
community development and one of the concepts that you have in 
community development is that people are a solution. People are not a 
problem. And community development workers have a problem that though 
that's part of their rules of play, they end up setting up projects 
like Youth Clubs or Drop-In Centres for people and the individuals 
still look to that community worker as being the person who holds all 
the solutions to my problems. 
     LETS Office couple lady: All these economic development 
strategies have been imposed from outside. They haven't taken root 
whether they're from government or business because they're not 
actually listening to local people and working with their needs and 
what they're looking for so that's very much our approach, it's a sort 
of appropriate to a people's development approach. 
     LETS Auctioneer: The computer dot matrix printer. Do I hear 5? 
Yes. 5 for the dot-matrix printer. Do I hear 6? No. Sold for 5 pounds 
for the dot-matrix printer. 
     Buyer: I got a washing machine for 15. Can you imagine that? So, 
yes, I'm a student working for my degree and you know what it's like 
being a student, trying to pay your bills, and I've got a daughter. So 
I'd have to set back all my high priorities and getting a washing 
machine.... it's fantastic. 
     Picture of LETS check hand to hand
     David Williams: By bringing in a local currency, what you then 
have is a way of people exchanging those goods and services without a 
central person telling them what to do and what not do to and "yes, 
you've got to come to me if you want a grant," or "no, you've got to 
go over there if you want to borrow money from them." Within the LETS, 
everybody controls that themselves and so that starts the spark of 
people realizing they're part of the solution rather than being a 
     Sofa couple lady: I think, on a wider scale, it could make the 
community look at just what it had within itself that could be made 
more widely available to its members. It ought to be that because when 
you start to look at people you know, you realize just what a lot of 
experience and ability and dedication and imagination they've got. And 
you don't have to go out to a professional agency to do so many 
     KUTLETS Office lady: The only quality control we have is on the 
very individual basis. We have an arbitrator who can legally give us 
advice or give people advice if they're unhappy with work. But it's 
the same as in the outside world. It works the same way. And the only 
thing we can do is we can say that so-and-so has decorated so-and-so's 
house because we've seen the transaction, the transfer slip. And so we 
recommend you phone up that person and ask what the job was like or 
ask if you can see the job.
     Carpet business lady: We run a furnishing business and we are 
also personal members of the LETS scheme so it seemed a good idea to 
try and bring it into the business aspect of it. So if people ask us, 
we do try and supply part of our services on LETS. So, it if was, for 
example, making curtains, we would probably charge about 50% for the 
material plus the amount we're going to have to pay for the A.T. which 
is 17.5% and then they can pay the rest on LETS. 
     LETS Office couple lady: Where there are people running 
businesses and they're part of LETS, they need to look at what they're 
trading turnover is on LETS. And if it goes beyond their tax 
threshold, then they need to start accounting for that because the 
Inland Revenue want to know if they've gone above that threshold. They 
will want some tax in sterling. So they'd need to really ask for a 
certain proportion of that transaction in cash to cover any tax 
     Man on bench with 4 dogs on leashes: Money is money. All right. 
And what it means to me is that I can pay the rent every week, pay the 
the bills every week and have a little bit left over the bottle of 
     Mr. Greenpeace with run-down church in background: It's long been 
an argument that property falls into disrepair because of lack of 
funds, lack of money. We're standing in front of property that's owned 
by the Church. It will not be renovated by the Church because they 
don't have the money. 
     Song: "Money, Money, Money" starts in background. 
     Mr. Greenpeace with run-down post office in background: We are 
standing behind property that's owned by the Post Office. It won't be 
renovated by the Post Office because the Post Office say they haven't 
got the money. The argument is always about money. With LETS, we have 
the opportunity to be able to get property back into usage, to save 
the degradation of green areas and to stop urban sprawl by utilizing 
buildings right in the town centre that are dying and decaying. By 
using LETS, we can get unemployed people working, we can get buildings 
back in usage and not becoming homes for pigeons.
     Song: "Money, Money, Money" in background. 
     Turmel: A mayor faced with rising costs and shrinking revenues, 
To study any proposition, he would not refuse.
     Song: "Money, Money, Money" louder in background. 
"So many think the job of being mayor is a snap,
But the decisions that I'm faced with are an ugly trap. 
     Song: "Money, Money, Money" louder in background. 
With tools, material, and trades that cover total range,
Yet one ingredient is lacking, money to exchange.
     Song: Money, Money, Money. I'm talking about money, money. 
     Lady at desk: During the late seventeenth century, there just 
wasn't enough regal currency around of the type that the ordinary 
people needed to carry out their trading. There was a lot gold and 
silver coins but there wasn't really any copper coinage in common 
circulation. And so, the local people just found their own answer to 
this by producing their own tokens which were valued at a farthing or 
half-penny and they were just produced by local individuals. 
     Picture LETS check hand to hand
     LETS Office couple lady: I'd like to see lots of different kinds 
of local currencies. I'd like to see LETS essentially at the bottom as 
the sort of first line which is about creating community and about 
local economic development and then, like a sort of set of currencies 
like the layers of an onion. Say you have appropriate currencies for 
the different purposes. 
     Bearded man with glasses: It's possible that we're moving from a 
position where currencies are divided vertically, by national 
boundaries, towards the position where currencies are really divided 
horizontally so that there might be a European currency, possibly a 
world currency above that, below that a regional currency and below 
that a local currency. So, in such a world, LETS would take it's place 
that set of currencies. 
     Mr. Greenpeace: I'm a firm believer in anarchy. I think an 
anarchistic state is a beautiful state and if you look at the 
definition of the word anarchy, it means an harmonious state of 
existence whereby governments are deemed unnecessary. And that is what 
I would like to aim for and I think LETS is definitely a step towards 
     Picture of LETS check. 
Rough Cuts Production, May 1997
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