by Judy Molland
September 15, 2012
Babysitting services in exchange for French or Spanish lessons? This barter/exchange system worked perfectly for my friends and I, a group of new moms with not much money, when our kids were toddlers.
We thought we were being innovative, but the country of Spain has taken our idea to a whole new level.
At a time when the future of the euro is in doubt and a bailout seems inevitable, alternative forms of exchange and survival are springing up in the cracks of capitalism, allowing people to exchange, barter, and live outside of failing currencies. These experiments aim to take communities back to a time when goods and services were bartered, before things such as interest rates, market speculation and derivatives complicated the financial world.
From The Guardian:
Psychologist Angels Corcoles recently taught a seminar about self-empowerment for women, and when she finished the organisers handed her a cheque with her fee. The amount was in hours, not euros.
But Corcoles didn’t mind. Through a citywide credit network that allows people to trade services without money, the 10 hours Corcoles earned could be used to pay for a haircut, yoga classes or even carpentry work.
In the city of Barcelona, the preferred model is time banks, which allow people to trade their services in hours without the involvement of money at all. There are more than 100 of these time banks within the city, ranging in size from a few dozen members to 3,000.
In another instance, residents in the city of Malaga have established a website which allows individuals to earn money and buy products using a virtual currency.
In the Catalonian fishing town of Vilanova i la Geltru, residents are experimenting with a localized currency, which is worth slightly more than the euro when it is used at local stores.
How does the system work?
Many of the time banks operate like real banks — with individual accounts, ledgers, checkbooks and, in many cases, even auditors. Some conduct transactions with physical checks and are overseen by a secretary who keeps track of deposits. Others exist solely on the internet.
From The Guardian:
Sergi Alonso, a 30-year-old computer technician who has been unable to find a full-time job, said he has helped numerous neighbours develop web pages and troubleshoot hardware problems through a time bank. In return, he was able to get private sewing instruction and piano lessons and learn about graphic design.
“Time banks help remind people that ‘regardless of your skills, you can always bring things to others,’” Alonso said.
Other eurozone countries with economic woes, such as Greece and Portugal, are experimenting with similar ideas, but it is Spain that has taken the lead.
There are now more than 325 time banks and alternative currency systems in Spain involving tens of thousands of citizens. Collectively, these projects represent one of the largest experiments in social money in modern times.
While each social-money project has its own accounting rules, the basic concept is the same. You earn credits by providing services or selling goods, and you can redeem the credits with people or businesses in the network.
These are the sort of experiments that create history if they succeed. But will the capitalist model allow that to happen?
What do you think? Can this work? Will it last? Is it a great idea or is it doomed to failure?
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