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The case for local currencies (Part Three)

WASHINGTON - The first part of this series on local currencies listed the storing of value among the essential functions of money (along with the usual suspects of facilitating exchange of value, i.e. commerce, and providing a convenient standard of value).

But as the series concludes with the current article, it can now be revealed that the point was allowed into print only as a way of avoiding a difficult discussion in the earlygoing of subject matter that was difficult enough anyway. But now that the time has come for that difficult discussion on alternative economic thought, we can say it up front - storing value isn't really an essential function of money.

It only seems that way in the post-industrial West. But it seems that way so intensely that it's hard to imagine a different concept. Interest on money is the result of storing value in a currency - of convincing whole societies that money is valuable and scarce and therefore we'll save it and let it sit and make it more valuable.

But if currency has to be spent within a set time on pain of becoming less valuable in the future rather than more so, people spend it. And while reinvesting currency in a job creation process they also find a different store of value than money. That store of value might be a home, a plot of land, a gathering area, a forest in its environment, salmon in the river or buffalo on the open plains. The point is that such stores of value would prioritize personal economic decision-making for the long haul, rather than for short-term cash profit as enforced by the classical system of positive interest on money (for where money is the recognized store of value, people want more now).

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Scholars of alternative economic thought such as Bernard A. Lietaer, David C. Korten, Thomas H. Greco and of course the underrated Silvio Gesell have championed the concept of a negative interest or carrying charge on money as a way of encouraging reinvestment and creating sustainable stores of value. The author Jack Weatherford, well-known to Indian country for the Native-specific books "Indian Giver" and "Native Roots," has written "The History of Money," on the changeful evolution of cash under the influence of computer technology and the several ramifications thereof. But few have touched on the fit of negative interest with the sustainable traditions of the American Indian.

Important to realize is that a negative interest local currency would not be looking to displace the American dollar. But as an addition to the dollar economy, a negative interest local currency might well get a good start among cultures accustomed to making decisions for the seventh generation.