Date: Sun Sep 28 07:19:02 1997
TOES 97: Creating Community Currencies Panel
TRANSCRIPT DRAFT BY JOHN TURMEL
JCT: xxxx represent undecipherable portions of the tape. I would
appreciate any information of necessary corrections before I post it
to the Usenet newsgroups later this week.
Enabling Sustainability and Re-embedding Money
1) David Boyle, New Economics
2) Jhym Phoenix, free-lance community activist,
3) Thomas Greco, Jr., Director, Community Information Resource Center,
4) Carol Brouillet, Panel-Moderator,
5) John C. Turmel, B. Eng. LETS Ottawa, Canada,
6) Michael Linton, LETS, Vancouver, Canada
Welcome the panel on Local Currencies and the first speaker is
David Boyle, the Jhym Phoenix, Tom Greco, myself, John Turmel and
Michael Linton. David.
Boyle, New Economics Foundation, UK:
Thank you Carol. I've got an apology to make because I've come
four thousands miles or so to do two meetings here and they're both
going on at the same time. So, I'm going to have to, which is really
annoying because I really wanted to hear what everybody got to say and
I'm hoping I can come back into the workshop stage and listen to what
people are saying there. But let me quickly just say what I have to
The debate about money in Europe has a completely different
flavor than it does in England at the moment. And it's because we're
about to take what seems to me to be an extraordinary backward step
and abolish all our national currencies that is and hand it over and
have a Euro instead, a single European currency.
I mean we all know the problems of having one single dollar in
the States has, it means some places get poorer and some places get
very rich. And I think we can expect to find very similar things
happening in Europe.
But ironically, it's happening at at time when suddenly,
everybody is creating their own money. I don't mean the local
currencies we're talking about here but the kind of revolution in
corporate money that's going on simultaneously.
And "Reward Points" from your local supermarket, for instance, I
know in the States, you have, I don't know what you call them here,
but we call the Reward Points,
Audience member: Green Stamps,
Green stamps. You can even have a credit card with which you can
pay for purchases with "Reward" Points which you haven't yet already
earned in your supermarket. So this is a new kind of money. AMR's is a
new kind of money. Milquest Airlines, for instance, has a world-wide
public relations account for the British Public Relations Company
which is paid for entirely in Air Miles.
And there is a multi-currency world which is suddenly appearing.
And that, I think if we're going to talk about cyber-currencies. So, I
think it's very exciting a time to be involved in these kinds of
things and I think it's very exciting that at the same time as you've
all this sort of "raft" of corporate currencies appearing, there are
these local currencies that we've come to discuss today of various
And I've spent two months in the States last year meeting people
involved in lots of these kinds of things and I'm very excited by the
diversity of the kind of local currencies that are offered. They are
trying to do very different kinds of things. I don't know if you know
about Time Dollars. There it is. Trying to create sustainability but
it's a kind of sort of moral community sustainability there.
I think Hours are trying to create a sort of local economic
sustainability. Women's Share in New York, for instance, and that's a
sort of psychological sustainability they're doing.
What I'm trying to say by this is that we need all of these
experiments. They, all of them, have different things to teach us.
They all of them underpin different aspects of our lives.
I have a theory which I was just talking to Michael about which
is that there are two great money-innovative nations on Earth. One of
them is the Scots, and I don't know why that is but I'm open for
suggestions, and one of them is the Americans. And you can see why the
US is a great money-innovator. Because, when they arrived with the
Mayflower with a couple of chickens and some sheep, somehow, they had
to cozier up enough money to build this whole continent. And they did
that as we know partly by bartering the Indians $26 dollars for
Manhattan Island and partly by making money very available.
So, there is the other side of the American experience of money
which we haven 't really had in Europe which is every generation, a
massive series of bank crashes. And that's the other side of the coin
really. So you have a kind of debate and I think you see that debate
in every kind of local currency experiment there is between making
money very available, like Time Dollars, and making money real, like
the Birkshare people are doing in Massachusetts to make sure it's got
a definite standard of value which we can all rely upon.
Every new kind of currency, it seems to me, needs to have both of
those elements in it. They've got to be both available enough to be
useful and real enough and reliable enough for people to be able to
use it. If you give money away on the street, it loses it's value. You
need both sides of these same things it seems to me.
But what they've all taught is the psychological roots of the
whole international money system which we depend on. When the pound
dropped out of the European monetary system in 1992 very suddenly
which is not probably something which shook us a lot, the British
Chancellor of the Exchequer described himself as being overwhelmed by
a whirlwind. He didn't resign. He was sacked a year or so later.
But this week, they spent about a third of the British gold
reserve trying to prop up the pound and in the same way in the 1987
crash, American business was worth 25% less than it was worth the day
before the crash. Nothing had changed in that. They still had those
same buildings, they still all employed the same kind of people, they
still had the same assets. And yet, it is the belief in their value
had changed. Suddenly, the whole thing was different.
We have an international monetary system that depends on this
belief, it seems to me. That's why it depends on people's impressions
of weather patterns, their belief system, what they feel like, their
mood, or what the traders are that morning. And this great
interlocking group psychology is what provides us with the value for
our economic system at the moment.
And local currencies make that clear in a way that it wasn't
before. In England, we still believe that everything's based on the
gold standard even though it hasn't been for years and years. We don't
really understand this credit monster which hits us once in a
generation as it did on Black Wednesday.
And so we see it as a kind of weather system. Politicians talk
about it as if, you know, the recession is coming and it's like a cold
front coming in from the East, they're powerless to stop it.
And yet at the heart of this there is this kind of belief system.
If any of you have read Peter Pan or seen Peter Pan on stage, when
Tinkerbell comes in, she's dying, she's drunk the poison, you have to
clap your hands because, unless you believe in the fairies, they die.
And it's the same kind of thing. If you believe they're valuable,
they're valuable. And that's another insight that the local currency
system has given us.
Another one, and I think this is particularly and insight which
LETS had given us is that the money is created here by people simply
going into debt to their neighbors and they go into debt to their
neighbors because they need something. This is a kind of money, local
currencies and LETS in particular, is a kind of money which is created
simply because people need something in the same way that money, in
the mythical days when it was just shells picked up from a beach. It's
created by people's needs.
And I understand, I'm not a psychologist or anything, that when
babies suck at their mother's breasts, the milk is created simply by
the sucking. It's created simply by the baby needing it. And we're
creating with these local currencies a kind of system which is created
simply by the fact that people need it. And I think that's
I think it has a problem which comes with it because, if we
provide enough money for us all to leave all of our every want, it
means that we then have to decide what really is the difference
between people's need and people's greed, which is a great slogan but
almost impossible to find out in practice what the difference between
the two is. And that's a problem which faces down the line.
It seems to me that we're not going to throw away the old money
system, the international money system, overnight, if ever. At the
moment, it's a system which has enormous power. I can build cities, it
builds roads if we want them, it looks after people with their health
or doesn't. But it doesn't build communities, it doesn't build
psychological health, it doesn't built families and local currencies I
think do so. And for that reason, no matter what the political
background, I'm romantic enough to think that they are inevitable and
will inevitably continue to grow. That's all I've got to say. Thanks
very much and I'm sorry I've got to go in a minute.
Phoenix: free-lance community activist:
Hi. My name is Jhym Phoenix and I've got a number of things to
say. As far as the monetary system, what I find is, having been
involved with politics for about 30 years on a lot of different levels
but primarily as a community organizer since 1967, I keep my eyes open
for things, systems in our society, that make us feel powerless. And
one of the overwhelming systems that I find that make me feel
powerless is the monetary system. And I find that it makes a lot of
people feel powerless.
First off, you have the minimum wage which an awful lot of people
work for or near and it's not a sustainable wage. It's a sub-standard
wage really and yet a lot of people are stuck with it because that's
what the federal government dictates. Because the federal government
dictates it, we feel powerless to change it. And so when I came across
Ithaca Hours a few years ago and I said "Whoa, wait a minute. We can
produce our own currency. We can set our own minimum wage. We can
control the economy within our own communities, this really sparked my
interest and the more I looked into it, the more I realized this is a
really good thing.
I'm just going to speak briefly about the money that has come to
be called Hours although I really think of it as dollars and I agree
with David that there are a lot of different systems out there, the
LETSystems, the Time Dollars and so on, and I think that they all are
really really valuable. I don't think any of them should be scrapped.
I don't think that there is necessarily one superior system and
actually, I think our strength is in the diversity of monetary systems
that we have.
But the strengths that I find with the community currency, aside
from being able to raise the minimum wage which we have now in 30
cities to $10 an hour, that's one great advantage. Another advantage
is that the currency does not go to multi-national corporations which
are obviously the biggest structures on the planet now. Banks don't
accept this money and I don't want them to accept this money. This
money cannot go to MacDonalds or Taco Bell or any other multi-national
corporation. Personally, I don't want it spent with those companies.
This money is for the community. It's really a paper representation of
our time, our skills, our muscle, our creativity and our money should
stay in our communities. We generate this. It should not be siphoned
up to some corporate heads. It should not be siphoned away to stock-
holders in other states or other countries and it shouldn't be really
squandered, in my mind, by giving the corporations the ability to go
to other countries to take advantage of other people at even lesser
substandard wages than they try to pay us.
Staying in the community, the paper currency actually increases
our wealth because we work every day and as we work, we convert it to
paper. The paper stays in the community, it's a representation of our
wealth, we get to spend it over and over again, we become wealthier.
I did this system in Boulder County here in Colorado for two years
and I learned a lot by doing it. One of the big things I learned was
not to do it by yourself. I did it by myself. I did not have a
collective group of people and so, when I was unable to keep it going,
the system failed. And there was $25,000 worth of currency out there
and that money became worthless unless people continued to trade it
which I doubt that they did.
What I do have to say is that at the time, we had 175 members
including many businesses and I called each and every one and said "I
need to opt out. There's personal stuff going on with me where I can't
continue this. Would you please take it over? I'll give you
everything. The computer program, everything. And nobody wanted to do
the work and so when you have a situation like that and people are
willing to lose a collective $25,000 in order to not to do the work,
then that's what happens. But it was really a community decision to do
that and so that's what they decided to do.
I've since helped two other groups start their own currencies and
in both cases, these were strong collectives of people of about 20
people each and that's what I would encourage if anybody were to
attempt another currency system like this. And I do expect in the next
6 months to be working with at least 6 or 7 different groups to start
A couple of things that have to do with the quality of living and
the quality of community when you print your own money are two things.
One is you get to design your own money. And that's really important.
I don't know about you all but I just don't connect that well with
Jefferson and Washington. I didn't know these guys so when I sat down
to try to design this money, I started thinking "what are my values?"
and "what to I love?" and "what do I want to represent to the people
in this community?" Well, the first is, for any of you from this area,
you know Flat Irons, the area right outside of Boulder, the mountains
and so, this is on our $10 bill. And anybody in Boulder County
recognizes these mountains so this instills a sense of local place, of
community. That's why I did this.
On the backs of these sets of bills which I invite you take, on
the back of the bills on the the four corners, there are some values
for the community. Now our currency, Federal Reserve notes say "In God
We Trust" and there aren't really any other values. Our value is "In
Each Other We Trust" because that is what building community is all
about. On the back in the four corners, I've used that as an
opportunity to expand the values and what I have for our local bill is
"shop locally, eat local produce, support the self-employed, and
actively participate." These are values that really help the local
Secondly, I thought about the $5 bill and I thought well, here's
something we all share, the planet Earth. So I was able to get a photo
of Earth from space and I had a friend with a really good computer
program who scanned it in. Thinking about the Earth, our four values
at the back are "drive less, walk more," "save one tree per person per
year," "consume less," "use it up, wear it out, use it again, and do
without." Values that we should he sharing in our community help
build our community.
And then lastly, on the $20 bill, I'm very proud to say that I'm
the only person in the United States who has ever printed "Goddess
money." This is our Goddess bill. I use the Goddess bill as the
highest value bill. We all have mothers and grandmothers, in addition,
I have five sisters, two daughters and I very much respect the Goddess
and so, the by-line in all this is "honor the goddess in all women."
So I think it's really important that we simply honor.. we put
out our values as a community. What do we honor? What do we want to
share? What do we want to put out to each other? And where when I look
at a Federal Reserve note, I end up with a sort of blank stare, it
doesn't do much for me, these excite me. And actually, every local
currency I've ever seen from any location excites me.
Audience male: One says "carpe diem?"
"Carpe diem" is latin. It means "seize the day." Seize the day,
yes. The other value is.
One thing I notice which has disturbed me for many many years is
when I go to a grocery store or department store and you buy your
goods and you get into the check-out line, I generally don't know
about these goods. I don't know where the food was grown. I don't know
where the goods were produced. I don't know who the workers were. I
can't dicker on the price. I don't know the clerk's name. I'm probably
never going to have a relationship with them and so, you know, I'm
polite to them, say "hi, how are you, great day," you know, but I
don't know if I'm going to see them the next time I go to the store.
There are so many check-out lines and so on.
And it's so impersonal and I wonder, how could things be so
impersonal in my own community? Is this where I want to live? There
may as well not be people here at all for all the connections that I
have with these things. When you start working with community
currency, however, you really get to intimately know the people
you're working with. One of the reasons is.. What we do is we publish
an Alternative Directory, like an Alternative Yellow Pages which lists
all the goods and services that are offered in alphabetical order just
like the Yellow Pages, it lists everybody's first name and everybody's
Audience lady: There are examples of the Directory which we can
Jhym Phoenix: And when I sign people up to list their skills and
their goods that they want to trade, I tell them right up front
"please don't list what you don't like to do." Don't rely on what
you've always done to make money but if it bores you or you just stand
it only because you have to make money. No. This is about doing what
you love. What's your passion, what's your hobby, what's your dream? A
lot of things work in a community. We can make commerce out of a lot
of skills and things in the community that we can not make use of in a
In the capitalist larger society, if a whole pyramid chain of
people can't make profit from it, it's worthless. And we all see this
in human services. Human services is so important in our society, the
human service workers are paid so little because capitalism cannot
make money off of poor people. And so I tell people: list your
passion. What do you love to do? And this really excites people. And
so then, they do that and then you start calling people to provide
various services for yourself and you when you call them and they are
so excited, and they come over and they are just thrilled and they're
glowing and they're excited and they are doing the best quality work
for you, then you get excited because someone's actually excited that
they're doing work for you.
And even if it's a plumber, normally, you call a plumber, he says
"I'll be there at 2 o'clock. Don't bother me while I do my work." And
you get someone who just loves plumbing and there are people who love
it, they're excited: "what's the problem here? How can we fix it? Have
you ever thought of doing this?" You can hang out with them, they'll
talk with you and they'll show you all their stuff, you can pick up
skills, it changes the whole dynamic.
And after a while, you say: Hey, yeah, I can do this too. And so
you start putting that out and: Gee, I can do this. I had one young
guy come to me, I love this, and I explain the whole system to him and
he says "well, you know, it sounds really great but nobody's going to
pay me for what I love to do. I mean nobody." I said "I don't believe
that. What do you love to do?" He says "I live in Boulder and I live
to rock climb. I work this 40-hour week job, it's boring but after
work, every afternoon, I climb rocks. Every weekend, I climb rocks.
Every vacation, I go rock climbing. That's what I love to do. No one's
going to pay me to rock climb." I said "Here you are in Boulder, one
of the rock-climbing capitals of the country. There are so many people
here who see people rock climbing. Would be willing to teach one
person one-on-one just the basics, how to do the harness, how to climb
a little bit." He said "I'd love to." I said "List it. People will
call you, they will hire you. You're in business. You can start your
He's doing it. And you can do this. I've explained it to several
different women but mostly older women that said "You know, I just
want to stay home. I don't want to go outside the house but I love to
cook. I just want to cook home-cooked meals for people and I'm happy
to deliver them to their house or wherever. Well, you know, I started
getting two home-cooked meals a week for my family of four delivered
to my work site a half-hour before I'd go home from work on two nights
a week that my ex-wife and I were busy and I'd get the food, bring it
home, unwrap it, dinner for four. Hot, steaming, fresh, organically
grown good food. And the price was comparable to MacDonalds or Taco
Bell. I mean, you can't beat it.
So, the whole quality of community changes. This isn't another
Federal Reserve note system. It's a system to build real community, to
build real value, to begin to really live your life, to begin to
really have relationships with people and I'll end with one quick
story and I'll go into a lot in the workshop afterwards:
One day, I was at home working on this and I got a phone call
from a woman who had been part of the network for year or so and she
said" Gee, Jhym, I just wanted to call to thank you for doing this."
Well, okay, but "you've been in the network for more than a year, why
are you calling to thank me now?" She said "Well, I'm sitting down and
I'm planning my husband's birthday party, a kind of a big party with
more than 40 people here and I'm just realizing as I'm going down the
list of people, over half the people on this list are people I've met
through the network that I deal with now on a regular basis. They're
all our friends."
All right. That's community. That's building community. I don't
know about any of you but I've never had dinner with any of the clerks
at the supermarket or department store. We've never hung out together,
we've never toked together which you will once you start building
community through community currency.
So, I mean, my enthusiasm, it knows no bounds because it's the
quality of life, it's the quality of relationships that I want in
life. This is what I'm looking for and this is where I found it. And
it just cuts across all lines, all political lines, I've even had
patriot groups ask me to speak. Sometimes, they make them a little
nervous but, you know, it's okay. It's okay. It's really building
community on the level that I want to see it built. So, I hope you
call come to the work-shop afterwards. Thanks.
Greco, Jr., Director, Community Information Resource
Well, I got involved in this whole money business a few years ago
when I started trying to figure out why the world has so many
problems. I was working at the Peace and Justice Center back in
Rochester New York at that time and it seemed like we were always just
tilting at wind-mills and fighting brush-fires and trying to deal with
symptoms and, having an inquiring kind of mind, I decided I wanted to
investigate the root causes.
It didn't take long. Somehow, resources came to my attention that
pointed me in the right direction and I soon realized that one of the
major obstacles to human progress is our monetary and banking system.
So I started to do some independent research on that and at that time,
I was involved, still am, in a number of different movements like the
bio-regional movement, the decentralist movement, the Green movement,
the TOES movement and I'll go around and share what I learned and give
presentations and talks and communicate with a lot of people who were
also concerned about the same things that I was and doing research. We
started to develop these virtual think tanks which are becoming more
virtual now that we have the Internet and Email.
I realized that one of the basic flaws in our existing monetary
system is that number one, it is based on "usury" and number two, that
it is centrally-controlled in an undemocratic way, number three, it
allocates credit in an undemocratic way. And it's purposely kept
So if you want to order those in priority, I'd say probably the
usury problem is the top priority, secondly is the scarcity problem
and this is intentional although I don't think the people who do it
are necessarily evil- or bad-spirited. It's just that they're pursuing
their own interests and we can delude ourselves a lot when we pursue
our own interests and not acknowledge what it is that's motivating us.
So, we're all like dogs fighting over scraps of meat and this
money system puts us into destructive competition because it is kept
scarce and it's like a game of musical chairs. That there's never
enough money in circulation for everybody to satisfy the banks in
paying off their debt.
So I wrote a book called "Money and Debt: The Solution to the
Global Crisis" which outlined these dysfunctional aspects of the
existing monetary system and I also brought into it some basic
principles and ideas that I had discovered about how to create an
honest and equitable monetary system.
A few years later, I wrote this book: "New Money for Healthy
Communities" which focuses on practical solutions at the grass-roots
level. And this talks about LETSystems and local currencies and other
kinds of alternatives that people can create on their own to create
parallel systems to the existing monetary and banking system. These
are available at the local bookseller who set up a table outside of
the Student Union.
So, I continue to do a lot of research. I think it's important
that we work not only at the local level but also at the global level.
This money problem is so pervasive that we need to attack it at every
level possible and what I'm working on now is sort of a global
approach which will still be a voluntary endeavor but it will involve
larger economic players. It's not going to create the kind of
community that local currencies do which is a very important aspect of
the grass-roots level but I think it's going to shift power in a
direction that will make it possible for us to be able to create local
systems that can be federated that will be able to carry a lot of
economic freight, so to speak.
I think local currencies are a part of the answer but they're not
the whole answer. We certainly have to build the community and there
are lots of different ways to do that. I think the reason why we all
feel so powerless is because we've been isolated from one another. The
industrial revolution was a revolution in many different senses of the
word. Not only did it create a lot of products, goods and services,
but it also destroyed the social fabric.
If you think about our normal what you might consider, natural,
social organizing groups who get the individual embedded within a
family, family embedded within an extended family, an extended family
embedded within a clan, a clan embedded within a tribe, a tribe
embedded within a nation and so forth, these social groupings only
have significance as long as they have economic meaning and they been
robbed of almost economic meaning. Especially in the latter part of
the 20th century.
Just think a minute about who you owe your allegiance to when it
comes to getting money for getting the things that you need to live.
Food, clothing, shelter, tr