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Community currency

This is a relatively new umbrella term for schemes that are designed to help people in a community help each other. Such schemes are frequently created as a way to develop links between isolated individuals or to bring people who are excluded from employment into useful activity. Reviving the local economy is often not the main objective. The best known examples are LETS, Local Exchange and Trading Systems. These create local currencies for trading among its members, a form of mutual credit. They began in the eighties; there are now about 400 LETS schemes in Britain, 250 in Australia, 50 in New Zealand and 140 in North America. LETS have a negotiable rate for services, which some writers distinguish from systems like time dollars, developed by the Washington lawyer Edgar Cahn in the mid eighties, in which it is assumed that everybody’s time is of equal value. How useful they are is not easy to judge, as benefits are often intangible rather than directly economic, what one writer has called “the warm glow effect”.

Key to the success of LETS systems, says Linton, is community control through community currency — or “Localized personal monies”, as he calls them.

Harrowsmith, June 1994

The “realities” which underpin a community currency system, as understood by its members, is very much dependent upon the picture portrayed to them as they join the system.

Int. J. Community Currency Research, 1997

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 27 Mar 1999