For many of my neighbors and friends, as well as myself, the “economic downturn” has crunched budgets that were tight to begin with. There are empty storefronts. Lots of people are unemployed or under-employed. Many people have more time on their hands than they have money. Taxes and fuel prices are rising, while wages stagnate. It's hard for many families to make ends meet. It's not just my community; it's happening all over the U.S. and in other areas of the world.
With the long-term value of the dollar uncertain and many people’s incomes shrinking relative to the cost of goods and services, alternative currency systems are being proposed in some areas. Some are even currently viable in certain communities. In Brattleboro, Vermont, where I live, there is still no alternative currency in use, although I am aware that certain community members have met over the years to see about getting one going.
Instead, just two years ago, the Time Trade (also known as “time banking”) came to our town, and although it is not a currency per se, it has been very successful in enabling people get for “free” what they would previously have paid for in cash. It has also fostered community among members, many of whom share concerns about the general health of our community and the erosion of social connection in recent years.
The basic premise of time banking, put forth by Edgar Cahn over twenty years ago, is simple: One hour of one person’s time is worth one hour of any other person’s time. Period. No matter what we do with that time, an hour is an hour.