A few weeks ago, I wrote the economic case for local currency as a way to keep money circulating within the local economy and supporting locally owned businesses. While printing your own money might seem like an improbable solution for most cities, a handful of communities have actually put it into practice.
In the U.S., two communities lead the way for local currency:
- Berkshares: Located in Great Barringon, Massachusetts. One hundred Berkshares are exchanged for every $95 and are treated as cash by local merchants. Starting in 2006, this currency has helped Main Street retain its locally owned business character and earned Great Barrington the title of “Best Small Town in America” by Smithsonian Magazine in 2012.
- Ithaca Hours: Local currency based out of Ithaca, New York. The first successful American local currency in the post-depression era, this system trades “hours” and “half-hours” of time with the exchange rate of $10 per hour. The Ithaca Hour offers local businesses loans in the local currency at no interest.
Over the last couple of years, local currency has experienced a boom in the United Kingdom. Leading the way has been the Guild of Independent Currencies, which specializes in showing communities how to set up their own electronic forms of local currency. The Guild had its first conference on independent currencies recently but unfortunately Paula and I couldn’t get a babysitter for the trip across the pond! Nonetheless, we’re impressed by the following stories coming out of the UK.
- Totnes Pound & Brixton Pound: The Totnes Pound started the UK local currency movement off in 2007 and allows users to pay by text! The Brixton Pound followed suit in 2009.
- Bristol Pound: The UK latest local currency starting in 2012 and is similar to Berkshares in that it is backed by British Sterling.
- Hullcoin: Located in the City of Hull. The municipality is working on developing a crypto-currency using the same technology as Bitcoin but managed by the City. http://www.coindesk.com/hullcoin-worlds-first-local-government-cryptocurrency/
Such inspiring work! Who wants to get started?