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Adventures in mutual credit
Last month's meeting at Tiocan, near Geneva was pivotal for Community Forge, as it was the first time we had really engaged with a broad spectrum of users, potential users, and other actors in the movement. We made tangible progress on many fronts, but the headline issue, how we should coalesce into a Community of Practice wasn't properly addressed. Nor was it addressed at all in Lyon.
A new web site Our Goods, a barter network for the creative community "is a recipient of The Field's Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists (ERPA) Phase 3 Implementation award. The Field's ERPA program receives funding from The Rockefeller Foundation's Cultural Innovation Fund."
It hasn't even got an accounting system!
Why is there money for artists but not for engineers???
Mutual Credit systems require that half of their users be indebted, or in 'commitment' to the other half, yet the law does not recognise these debts unless they are measured in national currency. The money is only as good as the willingness / ability of the indebted users to repay. That makes it rather difficult to bootstrap such projects and to assure users that their credit will be redeemed. So when a mutual credit grows beyond the point where all the members trust each other, we should have some way to guarantee that the credit is good.
In this final apology (in the classical sense) for complementary currencies, I will briefly survey the plethora of other currency experiments, and consider their success.
Mutual credit systems have one, serious limitation - the credibility of the 'money' is the average of the credibility of its users and there is no way to enforce the debts which the system requires. If I borrow from a bank and fail to repay, with interest, I am accountable in law for that debt. if the debt is measured in some other unit, such as hours, it has no weight in law. In mutual credit systems, half of all the users should be in debt to the other half, and they rely absolutely on the confidence between the users.
Will Ruddick (Eco Pesa) reached the last round of telephone interviews for a TED fellowship only to be confronted by an Important Person who flatly stated that CCs had been tried but failed. In this series of three I opine that CCs have hardly seriously been tried, and that many of the failures should be put down to the specific design or implementation of the projects.
Initially, Tim and I decided that we wouldn't go to Lyon, as it was purely academic, and as practitioners, we neither had time to write an academic-style paper, or listen to theories that had no bearing on our work. However as time went on, and the practitioners day was announced, and we later timed the Community Forge General Assembly, directly after it, more and more people appeared to be coming, so we showed up in force.
I am working with groups who understand the need to re-localise our society and re-build community. In this context it is tempting to imagine pre-industrial landscapes where every village was mostly self-sufficient. But only a cataclysm would bring that about given that half of us live in cities, and our love of technology favours an economy with intense specialisation.
Dear Josh, Rob et al.
Writing an RFI was exactly the right thing to do, since it shows everyone where you are, and that you are seeking consultation and collaboration, and are open to suggestions.
As far as possible I will stick to your prescribed response format, but my most important messages don't fit it. However, I don't think you'll find anything here irrelevant.
I just wanted to share this chapter of Charles Eisenstein's seminal work, the Ascent of Humanity
Download 4.2 Alone in a Crowd (audio file, 22 mins)
It explains how our present money contributes to the breakdown of community by making people anonymous and replaceable part of a machine. The implication is that to build back community we need to rely less on money for our goods and services.