Creating Currency For A Resilient Local Economy
from Financial Permaculture
By Crystal Arnold
Imagine a world of sufficiency where needs are met through a web of local relationships, where meaningful exchanges circulate goods and services independent of the availability of national dollars.
One of society’s most common misunderstandings about money is that it is an object, when it is actually an agreement of trust. According to Lewis Lapham, author of Money and Class in America, “Money ranks as one of the primary materials with which mankind builds the architecture of civilization.” Economic textbooks describe money according to its functions—a store of value, a medium of exchange, and a standard of valuation. Money itself is actually a symbol of exchange that carries value through agreement only. What would the numbers in our bank account be worth if no one would agree to accept them in exchange for goods or services?
In my view money is a social interface of provision, a tool for engaging with others to satisfy needs. As many people uncover their own behaviors and attitudes about money, they realize the way they relate with money is often the way they relate with most everything in life. Lyn Twist, in her book Soul of Money, writes, “Money is a current, a carrier, a conduit for our intentions.”
In dozens of communities across the United States, complementary currencies (CCs) have become powerful tools that generate resilience in local economies. CCs are created in a variety of forms including time hours, mutual credit systems, precious metals, and even seed or energy-backed coupons. Like national currency these new CCs are not mere coinage, they are a whole system of value transaction, exchange of credit, and agreement of mutual trust.
Complementary currencies exist parallel to the national currency, and, by design, fulfill a different role. CCs enable relationships and behavior to develop to match unmet needs with under-utilized resources, providing a way for people to engage in the local economy that is not limited by their access to dollars. Because diversity is a key element in resilient systems, which are able to adapt to change and reorganize wisely, these new exchange mechanisms reflect an evolving economic strategy of regions to encourage trade of local goods and services. New avenues of transaction open as latent human energy is accessed. Southern Oregon has a large elderly population and high unemployment rates, a CC would provide these populations with a means to plug into the local economy. Jeff Golden, local author and radio host, said recently, “Complementary currencies are at the heart of a localization movement.”
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