Collapse spawns economic innovation

The gradual collapse of the world as we know it is inspiring people to come with new ways to share value with each other in a more equitable way than seemed possible under the old system. In the article excerpted below from The Guardian, a U.K. newspaper, Jon Henley describes how farmers and consumers in post-collapse Greece get together to meet each other’s needs without enriching the middle man:

From The Guardian, U.K. Click image to go there.

“There’s some dispute about where and when it all started, but Christos Kamenides, genial professor of agricultural marketing at the University of Thessaloniki, is pretty confident he and his students have made sure it’s not about to stop any time soon.

What’s sure is that the so-called potato movement, through which thousands of tonnes of potatoes and other agricultural produce – including, hopefully, next month, Easter lamb – are being sold directly to consumers by their producers, is taking off across Greece.

“It’s because everyone benefits,” said Kamenides, standing in a clearing in the woods above Thessaloniki in front of one 25-tonne truck of potatoes, another of onions, and smaller vans of rice and olives. “Consumers gets good-quality food for a third of the price they would normally pay, and the producers get their money straight away.”

As devised by Kamenides and his students, it’s a simple system. Their brainwave was to involve Greece’s local municipalities, lending the movement a degree of both organisation and official encouragement that it might otherwise have lacked…..”

Read it all on The Guardian U.K.

And in a related story in The Orion, Michael Shuman talks about “Local Dollars and Local Sense”. Here’s an excerpt from that:

“…Shuman is the author of the important new book, Local Dollars, Local Sense, which details how local investing can be done, using a variety of approaches from cooperatives to local exchanges. It’s key to explore these options: the big multinational banks that hold the majority of the country’s savings mostly do not act in the interest of the places where their depositors and shareholders live.

But local businesses do care, and they comprise more than half the economy by output and jobs, so shouldn’t we try to make them bigger and better? Plus, increasing evidence suggests that local businesses are remarkably profitable and competitive, so it makes good investment sense, too….”

Read it all on The Orion.

Also related, from The New Currency War”, by Keith Finley, on Technoccult:

“Since the colonial period, the United States has been fighting to control currency. In fact, this battle was part of the foundation of the country. Prior to 1764, colonists issued “Bills of Credit” to deal with a shortage of hard currency. Some were issued by “land banks” and backed by the value of land. Others were merely promises of credit. [1] In 1764 the British Parliment passed the Currency Act, which prohibited the use of these Bills of Credit. This caused significant economic hardship for the colonies, and helped set the stage for the Revolution. [2]

In an 1883 paper called “Ideas for a Science of Good Government,” Peter Cooper wrote (emphasis mine):

After Franklin had explained this [the use of paper money] to the British Government as the real cause of prosperity, they immediately passed laws, forbidding the payment of taxes in that money. This produced such great inconvenience and misery to the people, that it was the principal cause of the Revolution. A far greater reason for a general uprising, than the Tea and Stamp Act, was the taking away of the paper money. [3]

Although Cooper was in favor of government issued currency, he saw the British outlawing of the Bills of Credit as a problem. He opposed the use of these local currencies, but saw them arising out of a failure of the government: “Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, raised his voice against the curse of the local banks, which were allowed to come into being by the neglect of the Government in the performance of its duty.” [3]

Today, a host of independent currencies are available: from small and local to big and global, and they are all issued to solve perceived problems with government issued currency. But it appears that the government is none too pleased with this competition.

Indie currency

Activists on both the far left and far right of the political spectrum work to create government independent currency solutions, but it seems that the left tend to prefer local currencies. “Community currency is a tool that can help revitalize local economies by encouraging wealth to stay within a community rather than flowing out,” Susan Meeker-Lowry wrote for Z Magazine. “In many communities around the country people are taking control by creating their own currency. This is completely legal and, as organizers are finding, often very empowering.” [4]

The Local Exchange Trading System (LETS), developed in British Columbia in the 80s, is one widely used system. LETS does away with the need for a printed money, acting instead as an interest free credit system. Michael Linton, a computer programmer, created LETS to solve a simple problem: community members “had valuable skills they could offer each other yet had no money. He also saw the limitations of a one-on-one barter system. If a plumber wanted the services of an electrician, but the electrician didn’t need plumbing help, the transaction couldn’t take place.” [4]…”

Read more on Technoccult.

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2 responses to “Collapse spawns economic innovation

  1. thebovine

    More on alternative currency use in Greece by Jon Henley of The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/16/greece-on-breadline-cashless-currency

    “In recent weeks, Theodoros Mavridis has bought fresh eggs, tsipourou (the local brandy: beware), fruit, olives, olive oil, jam, and soap. He has also had some legal advice, and enjoyed the services of an accountant to help fill in his tax return.

    None of it has cost him a euro, because he had previously done a spot of electrical work – repairing a TV, sorting out a dodgy light – for some of the 800-odd members of a fast-growing exchange network in the port town of Volos, midway between Athens and Thessaloniki.

    In return for his expert labour, Mavridis received a number of Local Alternative Units (known as tems in Greek) in his online network account. In return for the eggs, olive oil, tax advice and the rest, he transferred tems into other people’s accounts.

    “It’s an easier, more direct way of exchanging goods and services,” said Bernhardt Koppold, a German-born homeopathist and acupuncturist in Volos who is an active member of the network. “It’s also a way of showing practical solidarity – of building relationships.”

    He had just treated Maria McCarthy, an English teacher who has lived and worked in the town for 20 years. The consultation was her first tem transaction, and she used one of the vouchers available for people who haven’t yet, or can’t, set up an online account.

    “I already exchange directly with a couple of families, mainly English teaching for babysitting, and this is a great way to extend that,” said McCarthy. “This is still young, but it’s growing very quickly. Plainly, the more you use it the more useful to you it gets.”

    Tems has been up and running for barely 18 months, said Maria Choupis, one of its founder members. Prompted by ever more swingeing salary cuts and tax increases, she reckons there are now around 15 such networks active around Greece, and more planned. “They are as much social structures as economic ones,” she said. “They foster intimacy and mutual support.”…”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/16/greece-on-breadline-cashless-currency

  2. Pingback: RAW MILK | Amanda – SA Mother to One

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