By John Vibes
Sep 1, 2015
One of the best ways for the general public to take power back is to develop alternative currencies — both local and global — that allow people to trade outside of the corporate-government banking systems and central bank notes.
Many people in different areas of the world have been moderately successful at implementing local currencies, such as Mountain Hours or Ithaca Hours, which have gained traction in the U.S..
In London, an interesting alternative currency bearing the face of pop singer David Bowie has recently come into circulation. According to Market Watch, the local currency is specialized for the Brixton community in southwest London. It is officially called the “Brixton Pound.”
Tom Shakhli, manager of the Brixton Pound effort, said, “They are using it because they want to feel connected to the local area. Every time you use it, you’re like a financial activist. You’re taking part in this act which is subverting the norm, which is to hand over your £10 note very passively.”
Shakhli pointed out that the project is intended to make a statement about the foundation of money, as well as provide an alternative to the current monopoly.
Shakhli said that his main goal with the project is to ask, “What is money? Does it have to be either printed by the state or created by the banks? Why can’t money be localized? Why can’t money feature a pop star or a black historian? Does it have to feature establishment figures?”
So far, there are currently 200 local businesses that have signed up to participate in the Brixton Pound program.
The increasingly popular Brixton Pound is making central banks nervous — and rightly so. Following the success of the Brixton Pound, new alternative local currencies are now popping up all over the U.K. TheOxford Pound, Kingston Pound, and Palace Pound are just a few of the currencies that have been recently introduced. The Bank of England has been forced to respond to these local currencies because of their popularity, deeming them “voucher schemes” and warning the public that they are unprotected when using them.
A document released by the Bank of England claims that “Local currency schemes lead to significant and unanticipated impacts on aggregate economic activity.” According to the document, the Bank of England will also attempt to delegitimize local currencies by “Design[ing] features and marketing material [to] help users recognise that local currency paper instruments are like vouchers and not banknotes.”=
For the economy to really be in the hands of the people, it is necessary to decentralize the currency and to have an open-source network of competing currencies that are community based and easily exchangeable. While it is impossible to predict how we will trade a century or even five years from now, we can still observe how people are innovating within their own areas and take those lessons into account for when state and bank issued currencies finally diminish in value to the point where they are unusable.