Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Potential Use Cases for Alternative Currencies in the SF Bay Area

-Veggie shares- An alternative currency in which money and/or time is invested into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) or Veggie bank. Your share is invested in future food production in the form of: expanding current organic farming operations in your area; funding start-up costs of new farms for low income families, immigrants, and worker-owner cooperative organic farms; and creating new urban agriculture projects, including buying urban land and start-up materials for urban farms, school gardens, rooftop gardens, back and front yard gardens and community gardens. It would be an investment in your community food shed and therefore your future as the cost of importing food rises with the price oil, this would be a very good investment. These veggie shares could be traded as currency and redeemed for veggies at any time from the veggie bank. Time, in addition to money, invested in these projects could be logged and used to purchase shares. Many individual CSAs today already do something similar, using prepaid veggie boxes to fund next season’s growing and occasionally expanded operations. The difference here is the pooling effect that allows for great development of funding for seed projects as well (ideally selected by members of the CSA or Veggie Bank voting for projects), and a greater guarantee that you will have veggies when you want them as the boxes are supported by more than one local operation. It would be a sort of super veggie co-op union bank and currency. Veggie shares currency funded projects would be required at some point when profitable to return money and time to the veggie bank to perpetuate new projects.

-Community health fund currency (Karma currency?)- An alternative currency in which money and/or time is invested the development and maintenance funding of community health services and projects. Your shares would be bought by contributing volunteer time in the form of care-giving to the sick and money invested on a regular basis that might otherwise go to a health insurance company (which usually make a huge profit). Ithaca, New York already has a successful community health insurance fund. Edgar Cahn, who invented Timebanks, has developed the concept of investing time in a bank while you are able-bodied and then redeeming as you age and need care-giving by professionals or volunteers- a great idea for aging baby boomers. Karma currency backed by money or time could be used to support free community health clinics and their volunteers, as well as an emergency care investment fund.

-Cooperative currency- This currency would be purchased through donated time or money or as a rebate for shopping at bay area worker cooperatives that could be added onto a card or as paper. The money or time stored could then be used to help perpetuate new worker cooperatives, preferably in the context of a good worker cooperative or collective training program run by the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives (NoBAWC). It would be interesting to have the currency be primarily or only useable at worker cooperatives or similar businesses or nonprofits that have cooperative structures and values, that is, the workers have collective ownership, decision-making authority, profit sharing, etc. This cooperative currency circuit could also include collectively run gardens, farms, and clinics as described above. I like the idea of having these development projects funded both by money to cover fixed costs of rent and materials and time exchange to cover labor in an egalitarian way that is also much less limited than the available abundance of cash in an area. As new projects become profitable, they should again contribute to the funding of new cooperatives. Thus, we would have an unstoppable Bay Area Mondragon-like complex of cooperatives. Cooperatives would take over unused buildings and land in the City and the CIty would give preferential purchasing to cooperatives. We would have import replacement, become more self-sufficient as a region, and be less subject to the tyranny of the scarce, undemocratic, and centralized monetary system. Thus, the end of wage slavery in the Bay Area.

1 comment:

  1. ideas contributed by rick simon, ken lynch, and guillaume lebleu.