By Paul Glover
Dec 20, 2012
This article proposes issuing Hour-denominated currency nationwide, to stimulate creative and ecological economies, make grants to community groups, and make interest-free loans.
Twenty years ago I started printing money. Soon after, residents of Ithaca, New York, began exchanging colorful cash featuring children, waterfalls, trollies and bugs. Since then, millions of dollars worth of Ithaca HOURS have been traded by thousands of individuals and over 500 businesses.
HOURS have proven a flexible unit of exchange, strengthening local businesses, creating jobs, and enlarging sales tax revenue. Each HOUR is valued at $10/hour, or one hour of basic labor. Professionals may request multiple HOURS per hour of work, or trade them equitably. HOURS weren't intended to replace dollars, but to replace lack of dollars.
Today, however, while much of America tilts beyond chronic recession into early depression, it is time to begin an orderly national transition from dollars to HOURS. This profound heresy becomes perhaps inevitable, since dollars have become tokens of unrepayable debt. And, bluntly, they're a tool with which speculators gamble our jobs and homes.
By contrast, HOURS are as steady as the clock, because minutes neither expand nor contract. HOURS when properly issued represent basic labor that produces real goods and services. As Adam Smith said, "Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things."
Federal Reserve Notes are shrinking as well because, like all national currencies, dollars are in debt to nature. Feeding our treasure-to-trash economy, they spur degradation of the essential resources upon which commerce depends.
HOURS would be issued primarily through the proposed Green Labor Adminstration (GLAD), a nonprofit non-governmental WPA. They'd stimulate the less instantly profitable green markets that big investors have too long avoided: energy-efficiency and retrofit, solar and wind, urban agriculture, co-op health care, and transit. Just like national currencies, HOUR commerce requires constant networking, with sharp calibration of issuance, to balance circulation.
Gold itself, still the most admired store of value, is not capable of transacting the needs of seven billion humans. Total world supply is a sixty-foot cube. Sooner or later, as soaring populations compete for declining farmland, gold would become worthless because it is not food.
Meanwhile, supplemental HOUR cash honors skills neglected by the formal economy, stimulating new enterprise and creating new jobs. HOURS revive deflated sectors when issued through regional credit systems, community banks and credit unions, community-based stock exchanges and family farms; and lent interest-free to small businesses. They thereby strengthen the dollar. Just as healthy lungs depend on millions of healthy air sacs, macroeconomies depend ultimately upon the vigor of village and neighborhood economies.
Our Chinese creditors would approve America's transition to HOURS. Their People's Bank sent representatives to Ithaca who soon received approval from then-Premier Zhu Rongji to start HOUR systems. Time Banking also has its foot in this door, worldwide.
HOURS ease America's path toward sensible renewal. Putting HOURS to work, and ourselves as well, invites us to repair civilization. Times change, money changes. Thinking outside the box will become common, as the box dissolves.
Glover is founder of Ithaca HOURS and a dozen other community enterprises. He lives in Philadelphia. firstname.lastname@example.org
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