The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating article, Cash-Strapped California’s IOUs: Just the Latest Sub for Dollars on the history of IOUs and local currencies. It seems that Depression 1.0 spurred quite a few improvised currencies, including the “Minneapolis Sauerkraut Note”, for a good reason. Just as today, a lot of people want the rewards for our labor tied to tangibles rather than monetizing it and sending it off to Wall Street’s abstract financial casino. Mutual fund or sauerkraut? I’ll take the kraut, please.
Several years ago I attempted to float the “Edendale Dinar” in our annual Christmas mailing. The front depicted a common scene here in Los Angeles, an abandoned mattress (could old mattresses be the new gold standard?). The back showed where you could spend one of your Dinars: at your local taco wagon. The Edendale Dinar failed to catch on, spoiling my fantasy of becoming a ghetto Ben Bernanke with the power to manipulate the carne asada rate.
Writer Douglas Rushkoff has been talking a lot about local economies in his new book, Life Inc.: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take It Back and on his radio show The Media Squat. One of the topics Rushkoff mentions often is time banking, an alternative to currency and bartering where hours are exchanged instead of money or goods. I’ve joined up with our local Echo Park Time Bank and in the past month have moved a heavy tree sculpture, had my portrait taken and unsuccessfully attempted to unclog a tub. Not only did I participate in useful activities (except for the botched tub snaking), but I got to connect with some great folks. If you don’t have a time bank near you you can start one via timebanks.org.
Now that I’ve switched to time banking, Goldman Sachs has kindly agreed to take all my extra Edendale Dinars.