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Lift Review: Local Money: What Difference Does It Make?

LOCAL MONEY: What Difference Does It Make? By John Rogers 
Publisher: Triarchy Press, U.K. 2013. 59pp, Resources 1p, Questions for Study Groups 2pp. ISBN: 978-1-909470-19-4.

‘LOCAL MONEY’ is referred to by the author as a pamphlet, rather than a book, as it is so short, simple and clear as an introduction to a complex subject. Briefly, it sets out to explain how local currencies work, their benefits and problems, and suggestions on action for the reader. It is very suitable for a study group. For the reader who is new to the subject, or who wants an introduction to the topic but does not have time to read a longer book, this is ideal.

The first chapter outlines a simple story of a group of people and organisations using a local currency in association with the national one.  All the actions are currently in use successfully in various places around the world. The benefits are clear. Then we read of the advantages and disadvantages of national money – which we all use now, and “90% of which is working to create a profit for the banks and investors.” Readers new to the topic will be surprised by some of this information, such as “Bank notes and coins are minted by the government and make up just 3% of the ‘money supply’. The rest, 97% of modern money, is put into circulation by banks and building societies through loans.” Various ideas about reforming money are then explored, such as The Positive Money Campaign, virtual currencies such as Bitcoin, and the ideas of supporters and opponents of local money.
Next is an analysis of the upsides and downsides of local money – what it can and cannot do – before a detailed description of various well-established systems in England (Brixton Pound), Wales (Blaengarw Time Centre), Switzerland (WIR Bank), Brazil (Banco Palmas), and the USA (Equal Dollars). The systems are all quite different in their aims and methods, so the reader can assess their relative advantages in different situations. Information on the situation in each in this year, 2013, is very helpful. Wisely, the author then answers a range of objections and criticisms of the systems, before going on to advise on actions which readers can take.

As a quick overview of the subject, this pamphlet is an excellent introduction. The information is readily comprehensible for the novice in this subject. Frequent footnotes refer the reader to useful Youtube links and other books, articles and websites, for further details. The most comprehensive and recent resource would be “People Money: the promise of regional currencies” which is co-authored by John Rogers together with Margrit Kennedy and Bernard Lietaer, published 2012 by Triarchy Press.
Readers who would like to know more about how to start up action of this kind in their own community, particularly a small one rather than a city, would be disappointed to find there is no help here, besides considering the range of types in successful action – but there is plenty of detailed advice and suggestions on “How to implement a regional currency” in “People Money” (above), which includes examples from New Zealand.

Altogether, this pamphlet is extremely valuable as a starter in the field of community-strengthening alternatives to our present exploitative money system.

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