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Adventures in mutual credit
Students of economics are taught that money has three main functions, a unit of account, a store of value and a medium of exchange. On closer examination we find that these three sit uneasily together. For example, a store of value should increase in value over time, while a medium of exchange works best when the value is decreasing. All the while the unit of account should stay the same value!
My understanding of money came initially through LETS and the beautiful, simple mechanism of mutual credit. Working from the principle of balance, mutual credit accounting begins and ends with no debts and no money. Money is just an imaginary intermediary that keeps account between all the members of society, enabling them to 'split the barter', giving and receiving with different people at different times, but always in balance.
It is tempting to view all money in those terms.
About four years ago I realised that my work with local exchange systems could be much more impactful if I concentrated on commercial business barter rather than on LETS and time banks.
I am often told that money is like energy; that it flows around the community creating economic activity remaining essentially the same, never being destroyed. But this metaphor doesn't satisfy me. it works quite well for cash whether fiat or backed, but most of our money is not cash and in fact behaves very differently.
For some years I have been drawn towards the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and around 3 years ago started talking to them about exchange and the benefits of not using money. This was never going to be a quick win for me or the movement and I have been employing all my relationship-building skills, my deep listening, my nomadic powers, my Drupal expertise, and my patience in order to serve them.
I was honoured to be invited to Skala ecovillage in Greece. Anna and Nikiforos are 3 years into their fourth attempt to build a community on their property near Thessaloniki on which currently abide 7 adults plus 3 volunteers and some children. I'm still not sure what they thought I would bring, but their main concern is to take the project from merely living together to building a future together. Nikiforos is a highly skilled engineer running a family business 50km away putting all his income into Skala.
A long time ago, when Stewart was an estate agent, interest rates jumped from 5% to 15% in a day (Thanks to George Soros) and three of his clients committed suicide. Stewart decided to design a new, less money-centric life, and started New Morray LETS in Forres, near Findhorn, Scotland twenty years ago. His energy and commitment helped the LETS to grow steadily and now he reckons 60% of his economic life is through LETS.