CREATING COMMUNITY CURRENCIES WORKSHOP
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
David Boyle, New Economics Foundation,
Jhym Phoenix, free-lance community activist,
Thomas Greco, Jr., Director, Community Information Resource Center,
Carol Brouillet, Panel-Moderator,
John C. Turmel, B. Eng. LETS Ottawa, Canada,
Michael Linton, LETS, Vancouver, Canada
John Turmel: My
name's John Turmel and I'm a politician and I've
used LETS as my program for the last while. I can say that around the
world now in New Zealand there were a bunch of LETSers elected to
Parliament. Miss Fitzsimmons, member of the Green Party and a Thames
member of LETS. The leader of the Democratic Party, John Wright,
leader of the Maori Party, Pamela Lee, they've all been elected to
In the recent UK election, the Falmouth member is a member of the
Falmouth LETS. The St. Ives member is a pro-LETSer. The candidate in
Uxbridge was the first person hired by the UK government to set up
LETSystems. There are about 400 or more LETSes in the UK. 100 out of
the 400 Local Authorities have financed and supported LETS. So there
are a lot of politicians now in the UK who are working on LETS.
In Canada, not so much. In the last federal election, I was the
only candidate acr oss the whole country who spoke about LETS but then
again, it makes me kind of special compared to the others. In the
United States, I don't know how many politicians are dog this but my
point it this: Our banks in Canada run American and Canadian accounts
side-by-side for me, I want them to run a Green account side-by-side
So I want to the existing bank hardware to deliver Greendollar
services for me. I haven't been involved in the grass-roots setting it
up at the bottom. I've been working trying to set it up from the two
down. And I think that if the politicians ever ordered the banks to
offer this service, side-by-side with their other monetary services,
then the whole country could have access to Green overnight and then
we Green activists could possibly retire.
I'm Michael Linton, I've been involved in this
since 1982 when I ran out of money. And if you don't have it, make it
up or that's the theory. It's been a fascinating process for me, I
thought it was going to take a few months and I haven't been able to
get out of it since. And none of it is about running the system or
even starting a system. It's all about propagating the system.
The word "mean," do people know what "mean" is? It's.. Genetic
material propagates through genetic patterns. The gene is that which
patterns physical material. The "mean" is that which patterns social
psychological behavior. The new dance step. The new way of saying
"What's up doc." It's copied and moved on. What we're trying to do is
set up "means" around community currencies and it's moving very
John's aspirations of the banking industry doing this may be a
couple of weeks away. I have a couple of banks in Canada thinking of
taking on local currency, in just a couple of weeks. One of them is
going virtual right across the entire country. It's doing it out of
the credit union movement and we're going to have, if that works, a
relationship with a bank that runs across the country. So it's partly
technical so that mainly it's sort of social and imaginative. So when
you're beginning currencies, that's where you've got work, to be good
to be social and imaginative. Don't worry about the technology. It's
Money is really simple. My purpose is to demystify
money. I've written two books on it already. "Money and debt: the
solution to the World Crisis, New Money for Healthy Communities," and
the next one is going to be sort of trying to demystify money and show
people the simple essence of money. Every piece of money is just a
credit instrument and what I would like to accomplish today is give
you a lesson in basics of money and show you how simple it can be.
I'm Carol Brouillet and a mother of 3 children,
a grass-roots activist and I wrote a paper called "Reinventing money,
restore the Earth, reweaving the web of life" and I have been just
trying to spread this idea and nurture the whole local currency
movement. I try to bring resources and tools to as many community
organizers as possible. Thanks for all the help. Could people in the
audience introduce themselves? Can the people who have been working on
this too introduce themselves?
Ian Woods: Hello.
my name is Ian Woods from Canada, from just
north of Toronto, Barrie, and it's great to be here. It's my first
TOES conference and I'm quite excited by the fact there are so many
like-minded people here. I was hoping there would be some group of
such people that met on an annual basis and and here we are. So it's
I, over the last year, have been working on the publication of a
magazine called Monetary Reform and how this ties in with local
currencies is that monetary reform talks about the big problem. The
biggest problem of all, which we seem to ba facing, is a corrupt money
system. And that comes out a corrupt democracy that we have because
democracy is supposed to mean government of the people for the people
and by the people right now it's government of the people by the
politicians for the corporations or actually, for the bankers. And
that's a xx
So here's the problem: the bankers write the legislation for the
politicians and the politicians dictate it to us and we end up with a
corrupt money system whereby the bankers get rich and we get squeezed.
That's why there's not enough money and that's why we're having
ecological problems, and social problems, and hospital closures and
the social safety net falling apart is because there's not enough
But the other thing is that the problem is non-sustainable. So
how does this tie in with local communities and what we feel about
money is that we can talk a lot about what the problem is and we can
tell the politicians that they money system is corrupt but they might
not listen and as just happened in Canada with the last federal
election, the Liberals who were the party in power were doing
everything they could to balance the books and in so doing, cut the
social safety net by reducing the spending and hurting a lot of people
that somehow, through their propaganda, they were able to get back
into power again with a slim majority and are going to be continuing
with the same program of cut, slash, burn, bleed the people to death.
And we lobbied. We lobbied all we could to prevent that from
happening again and go for minority government which would mean that
we could get better democratic process. But that didn't happen. We've
got another 4 years of austerity to look forward to. So what can we
There's are two things you can do. You can either move your money
out of the bank to a credit union or something similar or you can
start your own local community currency. That's where the direction
I'm taking this magazine is is how to do that. So that's why I'm here
and I'm quite enthusiastic about the fact that so many people here are
Mendez: Good afternoon. I am from Mexico. I was
an activist 40 years ago and I've been investing 20 years or 30 years
working with grass-roots organizations and non-government kind of
organisations in Mexico and Central and South America. And I've been
working a lot with credit unions in Mexico and also with cooperatives
in the last 20 years. I was founder of Oxxxx for Central America and I
channeled a lot of money for Central America in the eighties.
And I started learning that money is a very contractory tool.
Especially this money that we receive from foreigners or from the uper
levels going to the bottom.
So three years ago, I received the visit of a friend from United
States, Mark Kinney and he gave me a lesson about the meaning of
money. And I realized that I was working a lot of dirty things and I
had to learn how to work with healthy things.
So 2 years ago, I started learning. We studied. We spoke to Tom
Greco. We learned a lot about Michael Linton's experience. We learned
through the French people, they don't have to be Canadian people, but
French people because we are lacking this and I think that this is a
cultural shift we have to challenge.
But we are also editing the Other Stock Exchange, the expression
of a network of exchange. We exchange knowledge, we exchange services
and we exchange products. This network has been developing 7 years and
we take advantage in order to imitate the creation of money in Mexico
City. So we've created this money learning from you and now we are one
year of activity developing the Yellow Pages of this network of 150
small enterprises or entities or groups that have accepted to deal
with this money. Okay?
And I have a problem because we are Latins. And Latins and
Hispanic people, it doesn't count for very much. We don't count and we
don't be very counted. So we have a problem of quantity and quality.
And my question for all of you is the question of how we do it. To
make sure or not to make sure? Finally, we can extrapolate these
questions to the system, to collapse or not to collapse.
Hi. We just got a local currency program started
in Carbondale Colorado which is about an hour away from Aspen. We just
printed our currency. It's called SPUDS, Sustainability, Prosperity,
Unixxx, xxx, because we're a potato-growing town.
Scott Chaplin: I'd like to mention that Krista is first Green
Party member ever elected to political office in Colorado and is a
member of the current Carbondale city council.
Carol Brouillet: Is there anybody else who has started a local
currency would like to identify themselves?
Jhym Phoenix: There was Jason Kirkpatrick who was here a few
minutes ago. He's on the Arcata City Council California. He's also a
Green. Actually, Arcata has the only majority of Green Party members
for their town council and they're in the process of hiring a new city
manager and one of the questions that he's posing to the manager is:
If the city council ordered you to develop a local currency, how would
Arcata has three out of five Greens and the two are Liberal
Democrats. It's a great town council.
Linton: Mind you, I would say that there's one, there's
three entities that we've, in the LETS movement, regard as improper
entities to be involved with community currencies in terms of issue:
One is the system itself. The system shouldn't issue money
because there's nobody there, basically. It's a ghost pretending to be
itself. The second one is local governments.
Jhym Phoenix: Why's that?
Michael Linton: Because it's thoroughly dangerous in government
hands, even the Green ones. You know, you'll have, as soon as you put
the power to create money in the hands of the state, it will get worse
than if you leave it in the hands of the banks.
John Turmel: I disagree.
Michael Linton: I'm sure you do. But, and indeed, there are.. The
Guernsey for example is a place where they're happy with money from
their Exchequer and the Treasury but it's very unique. And you can't
trust politicians with monetary control. And the third group we don't
let have negative accounts are serious gamblers. By this I mean banks.
John Turmel: I'm a professional. I'm really safe.
Michael Linton: Oh, your money's good, John. I know your money's
good. But we basically say you can't have irresponsible entities
issuing money and expect that money to hold credence in the community.
And irresponsible entities are the system itself..
Audience: Meaning the LETSystem itself?
Michael Linton: Yes. The LETSystem can't have a negative account
because it doesn't really exist. It isn't an incorporated entity, it's
just like a xxx.
Audience lady: So they can't hold money?
Michael Linton: You know, our system starts with everybody at
zero going positive or negative depending on whether they're issuing
money or other people are earning, right? Now, somebody that's going
into the negative is making a promise to their community..
Audience lady: Oh, so they have created money.
Michael Linton: That's what it is. It's a promise to the group.
And the thing that will keep these systems solid, persistent,
resilient, and we have evidence of it, our system basically stopped
trading for 2 years in the late 80s and then started again because
people in the negative and people in the positive just started
trading. Because the promise had not disappeared.
Now, if you start putting out promises that have no backing, then
at some stage or other, you'll be gone. They disappear. So we say the
system can't issue, it must be issued by a responsible person, a
responsible corporation, responsible non-profit. And if government
takes part, it must take part on the positive side of the ledger, that
is, it must earn it before it spends is.
How many people have studied the subject in
detail? Can you raise your hands? And how many people haven't a clue
about how the system works?
Michael Linton: I'll give you the quick problem and the answer.
Then you can see where the systems come from, that's your life, you
have money coming in. You fill up the barrel to that level and you
have money going out. Anybody not see that? That's the way the world
works. Now the barrels are connected to barrels so anything you spend
goes to somebody else which they spend to somebody else and so on. And
a community is just a very big collection of barrels.
Now, if there's a shortage of money coming in, the barrels dry
out. And then all hell breaks loose. I mean, the community will do
virtually anything to get money in whether it's clear-cut logging,
tourism, a defence base. Whatever. So basically, what we said was
"we've got all these barrels here, let's just find a different money
than the usual stuff that moves around between them." That's all you
need to know about why to start a community currency. That's it.
There's nothing else.
Now the next questions is: what versions will facilitate this
interchange. And the answer is: Any many as you bloody-well like.
There's thousands of ways to do it. So, go play.
I'd like to elaborate on that. The economy is just
a game of put and take. Everybody's got something to offer, you've got
goods and services out there on the market. If I take some out, then
by the laws of reciprocity, I've ought to put something back in. Money
is just a way to keep score. If I take something out and you provide
it, you get the money as evidence that you have provided it and you
have something coming. I have a commitment or an obligation to put
equal value back in. And money is just a way for us to keep score.
Now, the problem with the official money is that it's been
appropriated by centralized power to serve its own desires. I'd like
to pass these out and let anybody else chime in, this is a simple run
down of what money, what substance it has taken and what kind of
instruments we used in the past.
Can we just sort of break up and let people
John Turmel: Well, why don't we finish the questions and issues
that were raised; then do that. Because I haven't had a chance to
Carol Brouillet: I know. I'm just looking at the best use of
Audience male: Why don't we go ahead and do that.
Carol Brouillet: Okay.
John Turmel: LETS is just like poker chips. Okay? It's exactly
the same as poker chips where you bring your IOU to the cashier and
promise to back these up and he gives you a loan of poker chips and
you can now trade amongst yourselves. That's the simple explanation.
Now, as for government using LETS, many examples. I'm saying:
Sure, if any government goes and decides to go to loansharks to borrow
the money, that's being irresponsible. But to lump politicians who
don't want to go to the loansharks in with the politicians who do go
to loansharks as all irresponsible, because we're politicians, is not
In Guernsey, they've got politicians who are running a Government
LETS but Guernsey's "unique." They're smart. We're all stupid? No.
As a matter of fact, the Roman Empire was created on "Aes Grave"
interest-free money. Okay? British "tallies" were another example of
government money where the King created his own money, didn't go to
loansharks, spent it, taxed it out. No interest.
Abraham Lincoln had his Greenbacks which was another interest-
free money that worked fine. And the Continentals. The Colonies had
their Continentals which worked fine until King George ordered that
they couldn't use it anymore and that's why Americans had the
revolution. It wasn't over a stupid "tea tax." Believe it. As a
matter of fact, Benjamin Franklin said "we revolted because they took
away our money" when they banned Continentals and made them use gold
and pay loansharks.
Now my point is,
The most successful Royal LETS was in the British Isle,
Where "Tallies," sticks of money, left King Henry I with smile.
Accountants in the Treasury would split the stick in two,
One half would be the money and the other half its due.
So in other words, they came up with a perfect non-
counterfeitable money by taking a stick, stamping ten pounds of gold,
breaking it in two, saying: "There's the chip, here's the stub," and
then at the end of the year, the king said "How much did I spend in
the upkeep of the realm last year?" They said "You spent ten million
pounds of gold in tallies and he said "Well, that's the tax." And
guess what, people came back with their tallies and it exactly matched
up with the stubs and that's how people paid their taxes.
Then in the 1700s, some bankers said "Listen, instead of you
going to the Treasury to borrow tallies, why don't you come to us.
Borrow them from us, gold or paper, and you can now pay interest by
And the same thing happened in the States. You were using Abraham
Lincoln's Greenbacks from the Treasury until 1913 when some bankers
said: "Hey why don't you have Congress pass the law which allows our
banks to create a Federal Reserve and that way the government can come
and borrow money from banks, pay us interest, instead of borrowing it
from the Treasury and not paying interest. So guess what? Mortgage
took place. Government would borrow $100, spend it and try and tax out
$110, just like the banks. And I'm saying that's irresponsible
politicians and that's irresponsible government.
But governments who go to their own Treasury, borrow their own
tokens, spend them, tax them out no interest, we're the responsible
kind of politicians and you can trust us to run a LETS.
Audience male: Well done.
John Turmel: Besides, as soon as government takes LETS in taxes,
the whole town will accept it, right?
David Boyle: Can I answer it from a British point of view? Were
you saying, I'm answering your question,
Audience male: What's the question?
Audience lady: No, it's the same question again but it's not on
the point. I mean you've got one saying government should and..
John Turmel: It works the same way except my way, I want the
government to be able to borrow too without going to loansharks. And
the other way the government is going to be forced to either you tax
you before it can spend but it can't go negative. And I'm saying
government's the one I trust the most to go negative because they can
tax me and the moment government takes Green in taxes, everybody in
town will accept it. None of this starting with 10 and then 20 and
We use a charge card type thing and people keep
currencies like an imaginary bob in your barrel. It's zero when you
start, it goes up and down and the more you trade the better and we do
it with accounts and with a computer. But we could do paper money as
Audience male: So you walk into a store, say: "I want this." They
say: "okay, give me your card" and it takes off so many LETS?
Michael Linton: We don't bother with that. You just sign on the
sheet if you go to the restaurant and say I want this paid on LETS and
they'll say: "okay, that will be half cash and half local" and you
sign the sheet as Joe Blo with ID.
You start at zero and you can go negative like and overdraft. Not
with interest on it. Other systems are different.
Audience female: IOUs. I've gone negative. And you have just gone
positive because you provided service. We've created money.
Audience male: Unless my boss decides that the LETSystem is a
good one, there's no way I could ever repay my debt unless someone
buys something directly from me.
Michael Linton: That's right. Small stuff. If you're not getting
it in your earnings in some way, which may be a little way down the
line, then it's going to be at the side of your life rather than
central to it.
David Boyle: I
think the question comes down to: what do you do
to a community that's running out of cash? And lots of communities
are. And you've got lots of people around there with time on their
hands and they've got skills and there are a lot of things that need
doing. But there's no way to bring the two together because there
isn't any money. So what you do is you imagine a money and you go into
debt to your neighbor and you denominate that debt, not in dollars or
pounds, but in.. Am I right?
Michael Linton: No. There's no debt. Debt is when, if two men
need money and I'm in debt to you and neither of us has got the money
anymnore, we've both got problems. When you go negative, you have
issued a promise. It's a small distinction which I'm really xx about
because you're creating money when you go negative.
David Boyle: Sure.
You issue a promise but you denominate that
promise not in pounds or dollars but in Greendollars or something that
some imaginated currency that you all agree on. Well, not the whole
community but the local community. It need only be baby-sitters
circles. If you agree that that's the money that's acceptable for the
circle, then it is. So..
Jhym Phoenix: Another way we do it is we just print our own
money. We just say: "Okay, this is money. You work for me, I pay you,
and back and forth. It's real easy." This is legal. You can't
counterfeit Federal Reserve notes, that's illegal. But you can print,
you can design and print your own money providing it doesn't look
anything like Federal Reserve notes, providing it's a different color
and I think it's supposed to be 25% bigger or smaller if it looks like
it. And it's perfectly legal. Right now, there's 39 of these
currencies in the country and in the 1930s, there were over 400 of
these currencies in the country.
I'm a activist. I live in a small rural area and
interested in doing a local currency and what I'm hearing is there are
lot different array of models and I'm interested in finding out the
plusses and minuses of Michael's and David's systems.
Audience Lady: I would like to find out how I begin, step by
Audience Lady #2: Some of us were here for the last session and
perhaps that can be discussed at another session.
Jhym Phoenix: I'll take them across the hall and if you're
interested in that, you can join me.
Audience man: In Canada we have a goods and services tax. How
does that work?
John Turmel: Just like cash.
Michael Linton: You have to distinguish between the social
process which is that you're doing something inside of your country's
in the legal structure, and that legal structure has rules about
taxation and then you have the process of payment and those two are
different areas and basically, when a government ruling is: "if it
moves we want a piece," that's the basic rule ofiVKW.++ R)]may be
a basic rule of democracy is that if I'm doing something, it ought to
be of service to the community in some way.
I don't have a problem paying taxes if I've got an income and
expenditure that fits. So like, if you've got the money moving, the
merger into the tax process is easily as possible. Anticipate tax.
Lady: I thought you said that if it's labor, it's not taxable.
Michael Linton: Well, in Canada, if it's friendly social favor, a
small scale service outside of normal activity, Revenue Canada does
Jhym Phoenix: Well, then that's the same in the U.S.
Audience Man: It's why Time dollars is not taxable.
Carol Brouillet: The Time dollar issue has had a gruelling
debate. Well the Time dollars was developed by Edward Cahn, there's an
excellent article about it in YES which describes it. It's an exchange
but it is more similar to LETS in just keeping track of the hours.
Because it's look at as volunteer community building, they say it's
David Boyle: It's like: would you tax on the cup of sugar you
lent to your next door neighbor, no, they don't. So on that basis that
they don't tax Time dollars.
Michael Linton: Another consideration is that Time dollars, those
dollars, are Hour per Hour. So if you're a brain-surgeon or a baby-
sitter, it's Hour-per-Hour.
Lady: And yours is not?
Michael Linton: No. Ours is a dollar measure.
Jhym Phoenix: Ours is just like cash. If you normally make $30 an
hour, that's what you make. Our only difference is that the minimum
wage is $10 an hour.
John Turmel: Your doctors don't charge the same as your baby-
Jhym Phoenix: No.
John Turmel: Okay. Not in Ithaca either?
Jhym Phoenix: No.
Audience Lady: One could do either?
Linton: We should do both. We advocate that you do all of these
things. We're not suggesting that one currency shape works for
everything any more than one gear on your bicycle or one suit of
clothes would. You should have a card like this and currencies like
that and some of them should work for particular tribes that you're
in. I mean I see this as a multi-network and neo-tribal approach
because I belong to many different tribes and I want to be networked
with this group for my hockey team, and I want to be networked with
this group because I went to school with them, I want to be networked
with this group in my church. This for my locality, this for my
region. You see? So look for many currencies, not just one additional.
And somehow, it's good to have flat hours because, you know, you
don't baby-sit for people on a my kid's worse than yours basis. So
like somethings you've got to have on the social level and then those,
of course, permeate into straight gift exchange networks where there's
no accounting, no record.
Audience Man: Do you feel that it would be difficult to institute
multiple levels of these currencies at a time like this?
Carol Brouillet: It's happening right now.
Audience Man: I live in Lawrence Kansas and I used to do the
lETSystem in Lawrence Hours.
Michael Linton: Yes, the Lawrence Hour, the Kansas Hour. Kansas
Dollar. We've done it all.
Audience Man: Kansas hours are a little bit longer than ours.
John Turmel: In Great Britain, in Houslow, their money, they
count them both as pounds and hours on the same note. So you have 6
Cranes which are worth 6 Pounds or 1 Hour on the same note. And that
is the smartest thing you could possibly do. (model)
Jhym Phoenix: I did the same thing in Boulder. It's two Hours in
front and $20 on the back.
John Turmel: That's right. So that means that they can
immediately start trading between Boulder and Great Britain using
their Hour as a common denominator.
Jhym Phoenix: Well, except for that US law
Turmel: Theoretically, though.
Jhym Phoenix: When you print your own money in the United States,
you can't cross state lines. It's an anti-trust law that they have. So
you can do it community to community, the Bay area, the San Fransisco
Bay area is on the verge of having four, five, six different
currencies within about 30 miles radius. They will be able to trade
with each other but if you want to go and trade across state lines,
you can't do it.
a comment to John Turmel