(Insert Name Here) – Dollars

Ok, this is ill-conceived, not thought-through and premature. I don’t know what I’m talking about.

I saw these the other day:


(via : from)

A London Design firm (or person) Lisa Tse has taken to printing their own money – which, admittedly, they did back in January… and if their office is where I think it is, then you probably need to be able to print money to be there.

Still… it reminds me…

I come from a small town in New Zealand in the 1970s… there is a beach covered in sticks and bits of pummice, and the kids all ride their bikes to school and there’s nothing for teenagers to do except drive up and down the main street on Friday Night listening to ACDC.

Once a year, they (we) have a thing called “The Big Dig” where all the local businesses give prizes (a free haircut, 3 free lawn-mowings, some new wind-screen wipers) – these are all printed on bits of paper and buried in their hundreds, in film canisters out at the beach. Then on the given Saturday, everyone rushes out and digs up as many of them as they can. Not all of them get found, and sometimes you find ones that weren’t found from the year before. They still work.

This is localised currency… each business issues a little bit of its own currency – promissory notes every bit as real as the printed money that is conjured out of nothing by the central bank.

Obviously, a business can only issue so many of these IOUs. In the case of The Big Dig, they’re essentially swapped for advertising – and this (I suspect) is what Lisa Tse’s dollars are doing as well. There are in-built limitations on the accumulated value of these things… you can’t be an “Upper-Cut” billionaire, because not only can you never use a billion haircuts, Upper-Cut can’t possibly deliver that many.

There are limitations, and there’s possibly a limited shelf-life, and maybe this is a good thing. The world doesn’t need billionaires. Billionaires have not made the world a better place. Systems of money that are designed so that people who are already rich just get richer and richer (at other people’s expense) without actually doing anything… without creating any value – that is deeply problematic.

Maybe currency that is a function of the value in the system – rather than a function of how much can be borrowed (from the future) is a good thing.

Every time someone in my little town buys a house from someone else, hundreds of thousands of dollars is siphoned out in interest and insurance payments, and winds up going to some distant corporation (who probably bankrolls wars and environmental abuse).

This isn’t a minor parasitic drip-feed, this is parasitism through a pipe so thick… it’s specifically tuned to the utter limit that the market can bear. It’s maximised to be slightly shy of killing the host. This is what we live with, and we think it’s normal.

And it is normal, but it shouldn’t be. We need to route around the centralised money system.

7 Comments » for (Insert Name Here) – Dollars
  1. I couldn’t agree more. You put it so well. I listen to Katherine Austin Fitz for exactly this point of view. Her whole advocacy thrust message is to stop using money to make money and to shift instead to investing directly in sources of food, water, shelter, etc., via local community commerce.

    Investing in installing your own water line instead of depositing money in a big city bank far away to one day maybe have enough to pay for water from a utility. (While the bank gets rich off using your money to make rotten loans while at it.)

    <Catherine Austin Fitz : “Invest in things that (…) make you more self-sufficient. Build networks and friendships with people you can trade (trust)”.

  2. CH says:

    Investing in things rather than institutions sounds OK, but of course the banks themselves do that kind of trading anyway. On the other hand, they do borrow from the future a lot too. Maybe banks should be limited to value that can be proven to exist *now* i.e. resource-based economy.

  3. admin says:

    I think with localised currencies the emphasis goes from investing in things to investing in people. You tend to personally know the person who has created the value that is represented in the token.

    There are echoes of this in Kiva.com – micro-loans (with regrettably, extortionate interest rates) which are far closer to a peer to peer model than channeling dollars through aid-agencies. It would be so much better to buy the products of these people directly than just lend them money though. Distribution is the thing though. The Royal Mail isn’t so reliable in Somalia.

    I think “long-distance” currency is important… we still need it, but we’ve got to find a way of becoming enslaved by it.

  4. CH says:

    Wouldn’t investing in people just give more reason to resent people if things don’t work out. Anonymous currency protects people from such things.

  5. Nick Taylor says:

    @CH – I think Anonymous Currency possibly makes things worse – ie: it shields/distances people from the need to be trustworthy.

    Our systems desperately need more trust in them – and I think peer-accountablity works pretty well. Look at ebay or trademe in NZ… or Kiva, or Zopa… the personal touch… the reduced degrees-of-separation massively reduce the rate of non-payment.

    There’s this cliche that it’s easy to take candy from a baby… not if you have to look them in the eye when you do it, isn’t.

  6. CH says:

    But what about when it doesn’t work?
    Anonymous currency is unsafe for everyone, so it forces people to be wary;
    I wouldn’t like to lend money to friends, even under strict terms; I’ve even seen someone lend money to a friend (a lot, they where facing bankruptcy) who then skipped town;
    Bare face criminality isn’t the only reason people default, and the best (worst?) criminals don’t care anyway.

  7. admin says:

    How do you envisage it not working?

    It’s not a matter of lending money to people, it’s a matter of issuing promissory notes for things that you provide. The only problem I personally would have is that the service I provide doesn’t really come in chunks of less than 250 GBP – I can’t really offer someone 5 dollars worth of web development… so I can’t casually buy coffee with it.

    In the late middle-ages it was based on physical commodities – Corn Exchanges etc… and a trustworthy third-party looked after the corn.. to the best of their abilities. I’m sure accidents happened, theft happened…

    … but not theft that required trillions of dollars worth of bailouts. Not theft that happens when one person buys a house from another person in your town, hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest payments are siphoned out of the community, never to be seen again.

    Criminals would find that their currency rapidly becomes worthless.

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