LETS -barter systems

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yoshhash's picture
yoshhash
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 20 2008
Posts: 271
LETS -barter systems

With the collapse of currency becoming an imminent possibility, it is time to seriously discuss alternatives to cash.

Barter has come a long way, you no longer have to have direct
exchanges- a tennis racket for a frying pan, for example. Long ago, a
system was conceived called LETS (Local Exchange Trading Schemes), so
that when you give away something, you are alloted a credit- you can
call it a dollar, a green dollar, a gronk, whatever- the point is that
you can use that credit towards receiving something, either now or
later. Items available are listed on a bulletin which is updated
constantly. You can also barter a service, in fact, this becomes far
more popular in the long run. This is a huge advantage over Craigs list
and Freecycle!

I have participated in LETS barter communities in the distant past, but they
were kind of boring, people were starting to offer very lame services,
like fortune-telling and house-sitting. The systems I've seen suffered from lack
of growth. BUT THIS WAS LONG BEFORE THE AGE OF THE INTERNET.  There are LETS chapters in every city, but they are all struggling and tend to be stagnant.  Perhaps this is because the boom cycle we all enjoyed until recently.  Traditionally, barter gets forgotten during times of properity, and bloom during recession.

Curiously, there is one barter group which is enormous and full of useful,
professional services and very valuable items, like motorcycles and
real estate (http://www.u-exchange.com). However, they do NOT use any point or currency
system, which means that although they have modernized by harnessing
the internet, they have not modernized in the sense of using the much
superior point system.

Either way, I encourage all of you to join up in
some barter group.  Don't wait for a run on the banks to actually happen.

 

Crash's picture
Crash
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 26 2008
Posts: 171
Re: LETS -barter systems

Absolutely!

 

To get an idea of the software now helping LETS, take a look at www.bathlets.org.uk where you can see the template we use, although you'd need to join the scheme to look into the members area proper.

 This software is based on what the Four Corners Exchange came up with in the US

 

For those in the UK, check out www.letslinkuk.org for your nearest scheme,

 

Crash 

fujisan's picture
fujisan
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 5 2008
Posts: 296
Re: LETS -barter systems

I'm also interested to learn more about alternate currencies and found this site full of studies and researches:  International Journal of Community Currency Research

Japanese are also using hundreds of alternate currencies since the Asian crisis. It's little known since most of the litterature is in Japanese, but it helped them a lot in hard times. There's also a currency which unit of account is Energy (1 WAT = 1 kWh) produced from renewable sources. The most interesting feature IMO: It's designed as a pure peer-to-peer system, that is WITHOUT a centralized authority! GREAT! See: Complementary Currency Innovation: Self-guarantee in peer-to-peer ...

Back in 1934 some Swiss companies created the WIR Mutual Credit system. A B2B system created in hard times (no bank credit) which saved their business. It's still in use today!

Crash's picture
Crash
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 26 2008
Posts: 171
Re: LETS -barter systems

Hi Fujisan,

 Thanks for the links, the self-guarentee system is very interesting.

 

I see two problems with it, one: that possibly only the bigger businesses will have the credability to issue these and two, if they do become more widespread thre might be counterfeit issues, ie, people creating slips with false businesses on them or using other business' slips without their permission.

 

I really like it as a way of generating a system of exchange where there is no better alternative. I like it because it is more anarchic, but I still feel that the LETS model, with a combination of physical cheques and an internet-based trading platform is one of the best ways forward. It can even be combined with a physical representation (a note) which you buy off the scheme and then spend, these notes being redeemable at the scheme.

 

In a LETS, everybody has the same access to money-supply creation. In the self-guarentee senario, the bigger players have more of an ability than the smaller players.

 

I would be happy to see a multitude of alternative currencies springing up everywhere and think a plurality of currencies is very healthy. In the UK there has been a big hoo-har about joining the Euro or not, but there is no reason why we couldn't have been running the two currencies simultaneously for years now. It is not difficult, they were doing it on the continent for decades and some businesses in the UK manage it now.

 

A plurality of currencies, for example, the national currency, a local "pound", a LETS, a Time Bank and a self-guarentee system could all be opperating at once in any given locale and would be a healthy way of protecting the community against external shocks. Also haveing local currnecies helps to 'plug the leaks' from the local economy. You keep your national currency to pay the government and other external bodies (bank debts, external energy companies, etc) but you use the local currencies as much as possible and spend much time in communication with your community about how to reduce the dependance on unhelpful interest-bearing currencies (leaks) by moving your money from banks to local systems such as credit unions and by generating power locally etc.  

 

thats just some thoughts,

 

Crash 

yoshhash's picture
yoshhash
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 20 2008
Posts: 271
Re: LETS -barter systems

Crash,

You are right that like anything, LETS has some inherent flaws.  I would like to address the 2 that you mention though:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/01/print-your-own-money-build-commu...

It is both legal and surprisingly popular to print your own currency.  You do not need to be a big entity to find acceptance in this type of currency- you just need an active membership base- of which there already exists.  Counterfeiting could become a problem, but like conventional currency, most transactions do not involve actual handling of actual paper money- rather it is an electronic acknowledgement and central accounting of points being passed back and forth. 

Now you could also rightfully say that this is vulnerable to hacking, but the beauty of LETS is that being a local scheme, huge and/or regular tampering will stand out like a sore thumb. If LETS ever went mainstream and got so popular that this was no longer a feature, I don't know what the options are, but you would probably be able to afford a higher level of control and surveillance, whatever it is they do with conventional money.

Crash's picture
Crash
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 26 2008
Posts: 171
Re: LETS -barter systems

Hi Yoshhash,

 

I was actually refereing to the voucher system that Fujisan directed us to, but yes, there are flaws in every system. I am an active member of a LETS in the UK where we are resurgent and have Transition Towns which are at the forefront of community printed currencies, I see both these being complementary and useful.

 

We are in transition at the moment from a paper-based system to an online system which is exciting. At the moment we are focused mainly around individual skills but the next stage is getting businesses involved so people can buy staples like food on the scheme.

 

Crash

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