Intentional Community Economics - Mirador Money?

Bennett Jones

While it may be premature to discuss "local currencies" (or local money options) here is some background -
When we started The Alpine Sustainability Project in 2007, we quickly formed a Local Currency Team and accelerated our research. Unfortunately I could never find a Project Leader for this one and I needed to focus my effort on Energy. I offer the following resources to anyone interested in the topic.

Step one - learn:
- what is the difference between currency and money?
- what is a fiat currency?
- what is the petrodollar?
   video < 26 min. and transcript -

Local currency -
List of community currencies in the United States -

Recent News Story - July 9, 2020 -

"What's Minted in Berkshire County Stays There: Finding Reward in Local Currency" - Sep 5, 2013  PBS NewsHour -

"Ithaca Hours: Local Currency" - Aug 15, 2010  Grassroots Activist Guild  -


Our original starting point -

From: efssociety@...
To: [address deleted]
Sent: 2/21/2008 5:23:32 P.M. Central Standard Time
Subj: Kilowatt Hour Notes and Other Mediums of Exchange

Dear [name deleted]

In April of 1981 the E. F. Schumacher Society convened a conference called
"Community Survival in the Age of Inflation." Schumacher President, Robert
Swann addressed the conference on the theme "The Place of a Local Currency
in a World Economy: Towards an Economy of Permanence"  In his talk he
laid out the steps for implementing a local currency denominated in
kilowatt-hours of electricity produced regionally using small-scale
technologies and renewable resources.

In June of 2004, E. F. Schumacher staff member, Chris Lindstrom led the
convening of a new conference: "Local Currencies in the 21st Century"
. It proved a historic gathering. Representatives from 17 countries shared
experiences and built relationships that have led to new productive

Much has happened in the development of new community-based systems of
exchange. Advances in technology have suggested possibilities for the design
of currency systems that Bob Swann could not have anticipated. And Bob would
have been proud that in his own region of the Berkshires, over 1.5 million
BerkShares have been issued from eleven participating banks since launch of
the program in September of 2006

A coalition of groups is convening a conference April 14th-16th in Seattle,
Washington to explore monetary systems, how these systems impact both the
individual and communities, and how this impact might be transformed through
personal and community action. See for conference
details and registration information.

Keynote speakers include:
Hazel Henderson, producer of the TV series "Ethical Marketplace," author of
"Creating Alternative Futures" and other books, and E. F. Schumacher Society
Advisory Board member; and Nipun Mehta, an inspirational speaker and founder
of CharityFocus, a fully volunteer-run organization that has delivered
millions of dollars of web-related services to the nonprofit world for free.

Everyone who attends is welcome to present (the format will be 80% open
space technology).  Topics will include micro-credit, slow money, local
currencies, complementary currencies, time dollars, retail trade exchanges,
LETS, state of the art transaction software and hardware technologies, money
and spirituality, ecological accounting, social venture and
entrepreneurship, monetary theory, value network mapping, equity sharing,
energy backed currency, organizational structures, gift economies, and

The E. F. Schumacher Society is pleased to be a co-sponsor of the event in
partnership with PlaNetwork, RSF Social Finance, Current Innovations and
Tools for Change.

Following are excerpts from Bob Swann's original 1981 talk.

Chris Lindstrom, Michael Gordon, Sarah Hearn, Susan Witt,
Amalia Feld, Beeta Jahedi, and Chad Nicholson
Staff and Interns of E. F. Schumacher Society
140 Jug End Road
Great Barrington, MA 01230

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

from "The Place of a Local Currency in a World Economy" by Robert Swann,

1.  I want to focus on the institution of money and the opportunity that now
presents itself to develop a better system than our present system. We need
a monetary system which will by its nature promote and enhance the small
scale institutions, small businesses, cooperatives, small communities, and
local towns, while at the same time being sensitive to the unique ecologies
of regions. Obviously, the system we have now, and which is failing, does
not do so.

2.  From a legal viewpoint, money is nothing more (or less) than a claim.
But from a technological viewpoint, money is a tool. Like any other tool it
can be shaped to perform in different ways. Just as both a scythe and a
combine are tools for cutting wheat, so money may be designed to perform in
different ways with different objectives. In the same way that we are
presently designing and creating more appropriate hardware for small scale
needs, so we must create an appropriate tool for exchange.

I do not mean to suggest that creating a better money or exchange mechanism
will solve all the problems that confront our society. Not by a long shot.
However, just as E. F. Schumacher pointed out, if we create inappropriately
scaled tools we end up with many social problems (unemployment,
dissatisfaction with work, alienation, etc.) so also the tool which we
presently use for exchange, is inappropriately designed for the various
functions for which it is intended and as a result has led to serious
economic and social problems.

Economists are presently arguing about the possible "solutions" to these
problems but since economists, like most modern technologists are looking
for "macro" solutions, they have virtually overlooked the possibility of
micro solutions. . . . . It is, therefore, I think up to those of us who are
the advocates of appropriate technology and small scale to become the
inventors, creators, and producers of an appropriate technology for money
and banking. We cannot expect the answer to come from outside of our own
ranks. Moreover, it is vital to us, because all of the other appropriate
technologies with which we are involved depend eventually upon a proper and
decent exchange system.

A new money system should have all of the attributes that we value
(cooperation, self-reliance, community, etc.). Such would be the direction
of the work on which we must concentrate in order to develop an "economy of
permanence" in Schumacher's words.

3. If we are to begin to design a local money system that would work for
development of a local economy, what are the elements or characteristics for
such a system?

It would have to be simple to understand, but consistent with our experience
of the present money system. That is: it would have to consist of both cash
(or paper currency) as well as a checking system--or some other form of
bookkeeping which utilizes the computer to simplify accounting. Unlike our
present money system, it would have to be redeemable (i.e. exchangeable) in
some real value--not necessarily gold or silver, but real needs of everyday
use such as energy. Without redemption system it will be difficult to
convince people of its value--after all isn't that exactly why the dollar so
devalued--because it is not redeemable for real value from the primary
issuer, the Federal Reserve.

Most importantly, we would need to establish a measurement of value which
would be as universal as possible and not subject to swings in value up or
down as our present money system is. In other words, it would have to remain
as constant in value as possible in order to establish a sense of permanency
and security as well as make it more practical for exchange to take place.

Such a method of measurement would be the most revolutionary element in the
design and would be the key factor in making it possible for a universal
system of money and banking--without the need of central banks or central
governments becoming involved in money issue. Once this standard of value
had been arrived at, it could be monitored by the state or federal
government just as the Bureau of Standards maintains and monitors other
standards of measurement such as weights and units of space. But it would
not require state intervention into the economic sphere, as is now the case.

And finally, it would have to be organized at the local level and controlled
by the community as a whole (i.e. each community would elect members of the
board of the issuing bank which would preferable be a non-profit
institution). Under such a structure as I am suggesting, banking would
become more truly a profession, and bankers would be paid for their
services, but the community would decide how and where its currency would be

Let me reiterate briefly these specifications: a local currency (appropriate
scaled currency) should: be consistent with customary practices (cash,
checking, and accounting systems); be redeemable in some form of real need
of every day value; and although based on local production, be a universal
measure of value.

4. To restate the major point of this talk: the most pressing need I can
imagine for a local and regional self-reliant economy is the invention and
establishment of an appropriate exchange system such as I have described.
Yet such a system, because it is based on a universal measure of value like
a kilowatt-hour of energy, could, at the same time, become the key to
eventually establishing a worldwide system. For it is obvious that while on
the one hand we are at an historical point where local and democratic
participation in the economy is essential to our economic survival and to
our humanity, it is also clear that we live in a world which is rapidly
moving towards a one world economy.

This new, appropriately scaled monetary system would consist of thousands of
small, primarily self-reliant regions exchanging or trading directly with
each other using a common unit of exchange. Thus the foundation for a
cooperative world economy would emerge.

I would therefore call for a task force of volunteers to come forth from
this conference determined to study and then implement the first stages of
such an appropriate money and banking system.

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