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In Hoover's Vision, Gary Hoover reveals "the answer is almost never where you expect it to be or where you are looking for it." (p. 57) Similarly, he suggests a question to ask: "What's not in the headlines? your attention to what everybody else is thinking about." (p. 63)

However, ocassionally an answer does briefly surface into the headlines. We have a moment of cognitive dissonance and then forget about it. For instance, here is a video of Peter Jennings talking about Ithaca Hours. Community and small business are revealed to be served by this local currency.

This news story is the exception. In general, the headlines are missing a major emerging trend of complementary currency.

Why is this relevant to Bootstrappers? All complementary currencies have one thing in common. They match unmet needs with unused resources. In particular, Bootstrap Austin has a wealth and variety of resources. Because of the nature of bootstrapping in the valley of death, needs are often unmet because of a lack of money.

Why should there be a lack of money? What is money? Bernard Lietaer defines money as an agreement, within a community, to use something as a means of payment. Secondary functions of money include a unit of account, a store of value, and a tool for speculation. Currencies do not necessarily perform these secondary roles.

Here are four assumptions about money that we have inherited:

  • Money is geographically tied to a nation-state or union of nation-states.
  • Money is created by fiat bank debt.
  • Money is value-neutral.
  • Money earns interest over time.

What are the undesirable consequences of these four assumptions?

  • A monopoly controls the extent to which communities can pay for work.
  • Since money is created out of thin air, a central authority is required to keep it artificially scarce. Even if there is work to be done and workers willing to do it, work often remains undone and the workers remain unemployed.
  • Conventional money generally degrades quality of service and subverts trust. If you still think it is value-neutral, try giving your spouse (or significant other) money as a gift and see what happens.
  • Interest biases the system toward competition. People are required to compete with each other just for the means to perform exchanges. Interest fuels the need for endless unsustainable growth.

Conventional money is well designed for competition, expansion and war. Innovation in the valley of death is a time of play and requires a different currency design. Complementary currency applied to bootstrapping is discussed in this article at WorldChanging.

The amount and variety of innovation happening is staggering and although a lot has been learned about design choices, the development of these currencies are still experimental.


EF Schumacher Society International Journal of Community Currency Research Complementary Currency Resource Center How Currency System Work

Recommended Reading The Future of Money Of Human Wealth