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Beyond Money

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They’re called EulachTaler in Switzerland, Chiemgauer in Germany, or Bristol Pound in the UK. All of them are considered local currency, a complementary payment system, which exists alongside official national currencies, but is disconnected from the vast national and international capital movements. However, this placid idyll is deceptive. Local currency, too, is very often backed by the official national currency. So, what is to be done when said national currency is heading towards a financial crisis, when inflation is skyrocketing?

There are countless attempts of alternative payments, economy, or trade. You can remedy money’s defects, you can create “good money”, almost as it is done in agriculture: regional, seasonal, organic, fair-trade. But is that really possible? Doesn’t money always remain money?

So-called LETS, local exchange trading systems, take this idea a bit further. Their currency is time. Because we all have the same time on our hands. Whether I spend an hour cleaning my apartment or working on a research project, either way, an hour of my life has passed or has been “invested”. But can a complex economy like ours really be based on the exchange of time?

Maybe a few reforms would suffice? For several years now, the term “financial transaction tax” has been repeated in the media as an alleged magic bullet, but mere changes in the interest system are also possible. But will the “monetary system” accept such interventions? After all, they do contradict the motivation of money in modern-day capitalism to multiply, to be optimized, to generate more output …

What are some feasible alternatives to the problems of capitalism that we know of? This is a question that’s on our mind and we want to analyze other ideas, support research, combine old concepts, and develop new ones.

One alternative is to detach our economic activity from individual pursuits of profit and to return to a more traditional understanding of economy, namely public interest or cooperative work. In the past, communities owned land that belonged to everyone and which was used collectively: the commons. Nowadays, we know Wikipedia’s information and picture database, published under a commons license. Commoning and Share Economy are pivotal key words in this context: objects or services are no longer purchased individually, but rather used jointly.

We have to ask ourselves: is it even possible to think of an economic activity connected to money that improves the welfare of all people? Or do the advantages of money immediately keep it from accepting a subordinate role and result in it completely controlling the economic system?

Could a more radical approach lead to a feasible alternative? Or a combination of several less drastic ideas? One thing’s for sure: we have to keep questioning our system – and all possible alternatives.

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