This article was published on our German site in September 2020. Now, in January 2022, we mourn the passing of Edgar Cahn, father of timebanking across the US, distinguished professor of law in Washington D.C. and most-valued and tireless advocate for social justice globally. Since this article calls for the idea of timebanking in times of crisis, we republish it in English now, as a tribute to Edgar Cahn’s work. Find his latest publication with his own take on timebanking in times of pandemics here.

Since March 2020 we have just witnessed such an astounding turn of events. Suddenly, a virus made health seem more important than the economy (at least for a while), even at government levels. Suddenly many of us had plenty of time at our hand, but were alone in our four walls. For many the questions was: What do I want to do with my time? How would I prefer to spend it? If it weren’t for the economic uncertainty, there would be something liberating about it. I can make good use of my time. No more traveling to work in rush-hour traffic. No time pressure from the work-schedule. No conforming to workplace conventions. Instead, the circle of friends and the neighborhood become more important – albeit restricted by the new distancing rules. Who can cut my hair when the hairdresser is closed? Who will care for the sick at home when hospitals are overloaded and visits risky? Who will help the elderly with shopping?

The corona crisis has taught us how important care services are as a foundation of our society. In families, it is usually taken for granted and raising children and caring for each other is hardly considered work. Parents give their children a lot of time – without expecting anything in return. This can also be called the gift economy. In any case, it is a basis of our society that deserves recognition, because without this donated time, there would be no people to do economics. Instead, the parents who worked at home during the corona lock-down are among the most disadvantaged, because they were alone and naturally overburdened with childcare “on the side”. Their experience shows that “home office” and “home schooling” cannot happen at the same time. How lucky were those who could ask grandparents for help, who have a garden. The closure of children’s playgrounds exacerbated social inequality.

One of the reasons the corona crisis has hit us so hard is because health care services are priced so poorly. And because working conditions have deteriorated for decades under the dictate of “economic efficiency” through austerity measures. Care needs more appreciation and better conditions – for children, the elderly and the sick – in other words, for all of us.

A good way to improve social exchanges in cities, communities and neighborhoods is through so-called timebanking or time-exchange systems. In these systems, people exchange their time on the basis of volunteered hours. One hour from me equals one hour from you. Everyone can volunteer hours and we all need people to help us – not only when we are sick. In time-exchange systems, voluntary work such as helping with homework, caring for the sick and elderly, giving somebody a life, repair work, cooking and childcare can be made visible and rewarded – without deepening the reaches of the monetised economy. And an increase in time being exchanged this way can document how the community is growing along with the trust between its members. In the end, its about more conviviality for all participants.

Of course, I would have done those hundreds of volunteer hours at my children’s schools anyway. But the possibility of an extra recognition through time-credits on my time-exchange account would have been an added benefit if I could redeem them later, when I require help myself and my children have moved to another city. For example, when carrying the groceries home or getting to my doctor’s appointment. With a time-exchange system it would be easier to ask for help, because I have “earned” it.

Who would ever thinks the corona epidemic was the last crises? We are probably only at the beginning of a longer economic crisis that will bring us many more financial crashes. The current crisis should make us aware that it is not the Euro, gold and Bitcoins that are the real source of wealth, but friends, family and a strong personal network.

Time-exchanges are not about the economisation of voluntary work or about charging for our precious time. No, it is about better collaboration, personal relationships and taking better care of our fellow human beings – together. Because the wealth of time is about quality – not quantity and not financial growth. A win-win for all – without profits.

Now is the right time to start such exchange systems, to demand government programmes in their favor and the adequate levels of data protection. This would promote social cohesion and community building, which are particularly difficult to achieve in times of corona-induced impositions of social distancing and contact restrictions. Exchange systems can perpetuate our willingness to help each other and cooperate peer-to-peer, nurture its potential and expand it into the future. For humanity. Time’s worth more when it is shared. And time-sharing systems show us that time is ultimately much more important than money. So let’s use our time better together!

More information about time-exchange systems on our website:

  • In-depth article on timebanking (CCIA 2015), and one about similar systems as part of our online course.
  • Monneta expert Stephanie Rearick has developed an integrated time exchange system “Human Aid Networks“. New groups anywhere are welcome!
  • More links to timebanking experts in the UK, the US and elsewhere (amongst other examples of complementary currency and monetary reform) can be found on our website under Examples and Initiatives.

 

Special Issue “Monetary Plurality and Crisis” in the Journal of Risk and Financial Management (JRFM)

 

In addition to our commitment to the implementation of innovative currency ideas and the ongoing educational work on money and monetary reforms, it is above all the academic treatment of these two fields of activity that will ultimately pave the way for a new monetary and economic order in the long term. Especially in the young scientific field of complementary currencies research, the linking of practice and science was considered from the beginning. Thus, since the early 2000s, the international conferences on this topic have seen themselves as a forum for both activists and academic researchers. Under the auspices of leading universities in France (2011) and the Netherlands (2013) these conferences lead to the establishment of RAMICS, the “Research Association on Monetary Innovation and Community and Complementary Currency Systems”, founded in 2015 during the conference in Brazil. Since then, the specialist journal IJCCR, which has been published since 1997, has also been taken under the wings of this association.

However, it takes time for a new field of research to establish itself, both in the academic discourse and institutions, and in the awareness of academics and students. Publications in one’s own circles help, but full recognition in the discourse of the scientific establishment cannot be fully achieved this way. Therefore, it is a great achievement to place the rather unknown topic of monetary diversity in a conventional and broad-based business journal such as the Journal of Risk and Financial Management. The recently completed special issue on “Monetary Diversity and Crisis”, made this possible. This has not only motivated established scholars to consider new topics and share their thoughts on monetary theory and the practice of complementary currencies, but it has also given young authors the opportunity to publish the results of their work.

To ensure that these articles are not only accessible to a specialist audience with access to institutional libraries, it is of particular value that this journal operates according to the “open access” principle. This means that every article can be viewed in full by anyone at any time, and downloaded free of charge. Since such an approach eliminates the retrospective funding of publishers via subscriptions and “pay per view” fees, their editorial effort and costs of publication are commonly be paid in advance by the author or their institution. Unfortunately, for young and independent scientists this is often an insurmountable financial hurdle, even for many scientific institutions outside the industrialized nations. Therefore, it was a stroke of luck that for this special issue we were able not only to gather the interest of the journal, but to gain the financial support of the editorial team’s organisation. The funding of most of the publishing fees, for articles that passed the rigorous scientific review process, were financed in equal parts by Prof. Georgina Gomez’s research group at the University of Rotterdam and monneta.

Most of the articles now published deal with the economic benefits of monetary diversity. These are examined, on the one hand from a theoretical, macroeconomic perspective (see the articles by Simmons et al. and Kuypers et al.), and secondly on the basis of practical local examples – supported by data from established complementary currencies such as the REC in Barcelona (see Martín Belmonte et al.), the Sardex in Italy (see Fleischmann et al. and Simmons et al.), the Chiemgauer in southern Germany (Zeller) and Sarafu in Kenya (Ussher et al. and Zeller).

Historical examples with parallel currencies are also examined (see Kokabian and Sotiropoulou), as well as lesser-known monetary practices such as the obligation clearing in Slovenia (see Fleischmann et al.). And beyond the economic advantages of complementary forms of currency, some articles examine more fundamental issues, such as the legal definitions of “money” and “currency” as a basis for a sustainable and more equitable monetary order (see Bindewald), the effects of profit-oriented creation of currency on the stability of the financial system (see Kuypers et al.), and the influence of economic inequality on the diffusion of innovations and the importance of cash (see Srouji).

What all these authors seems to have in common is that their research questions are formulated with a concern for social justice and ecological sustainability. The monetary innovations here examined are not evaluated solely in terms of their micro- or market-economic efficiency but are seen in the light of their contribution to a sustainable world.

[The author of this article is also co-editor of the special issue described, and author of one of the articles published therein.]

 

From November 5-7, the American Monetary Institute (AMI) will host the 2021 International Monetary Conference, which will consist of a series of Zoom events.

Register here.

The speakers’ list includes Laurence Kotlikoff, Miguel Ordóñez, Katharina Serafimova, Ahamed Kameel, Ronnie Phillips, Joseph Huber, Lilian Held-Kwaham, Richard Robbins, Tim Di Muzio, Sergio Rossi, Virginia Hammonand many more luminaries. The participation fee is $35.

There will be threeZOOM sessions starting Friday at 4 pm (Central Time US) and Saturday and Sunday at 9am, with a meal break midway each day. Each day willend in the early evening. The conference will utilise ZOOM, and the sessions will berecorded.

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More about the author Brett Scott on his website: https://alteredstatesof.money/

“The other day you said on the phone: Give me a problem and I’ll develop a complementary currency with which you can solve it. And I have to tell you this: Your imagination, your inexhaustible ideas on how to design, invent and transform money, simply amaze me every time. ”  Margrit Kennedy in a letter to her long-time work colleague and friend Bernard Lietaer

Review of
Peter Krause: Bernard Lietaer – Life and Work
(Berlin: epubli, 2020. Volume I: 400 pages, Volume II: 250 pages) – links to order the books online below

Bernard Lietaer passed away on February 4th 2019. For many who deal with new forms of economy and money, this means a trend-setting intellectual beacon and reference point of international standing has died. Like no other, Lietaer’s career and personal journey had encompassed all areas of finance: a celebrated Harvard graduate in 1969 and central banker in the early 80s, he became the most successful hedge fund manager of 1989, and ending as one of the sharpest system critics and simultaneously most creative visionaries of a new, socio-ecological monetary order.

However, only a few were aware that Lietaer’s expertise and reputation were not limited to finance and monetary reform. The recently translated biography of Peter Krause is the first publication for which Lietaer explicitly allowed insights into all areas of his life and work. From two personal conversations during the last weeks of Lietaer’s life, to countless interviews with friends, colleagues and family members, as well as numerous documents found in his bequest or sent in from all over the world – Peter Krause put together a holistic portrait of a most remarkable man. The topics for which Lietaer was publicly known now appear in unison with a much  wider spectrum of lived experience and intellectual prowess. Only very few close friends seem to have been granted glimpses of this wealth and depth of Lietaer interests before, while some elements were published under his literary pseudonym “René de Bartiral”.

In partly factual and partly poetic prose, the two volumes of this biography reflect the author’s fascination with the person he describes, and as if through a retrospective prism, they illustrate an extraordinary and courageous life in all its colorful richness. The first volume contains the actual biography. The second volume supplements it with a treasure trove of pictures, illustrations and previously unpublished texts and interviews. It may seem under-representative that only about a quarter of the text is dedicated to Lietaer’s life in chronological order. But it makes up for brevity by being vividly and lifelike embellished with information from interviews, archive material and an unexpectedly large number of personal details. This conveys intimate insights into Lietaer’s personal, professional and intellectual journey – from his youth in Belgium, through his studies and career, especially in North and South America, to the last months of life in northern Germany – which harbours ever new turns and astonishing developments.

The remaining three topical parts of the first volume sum up Lietaer’s work under the headings “Knowledge”, “Wisdom” and “Mystery”. Layer by layer, they complete a picture of Lietaer that was previously imperceptible to the public. In the section “Knowledge”, his professional career in the financial economy and his role as a pioneer of a new monetary paradigm is mapped through his early and best known publications. Even for those who have already read most of Lietaer’s books, this anthological approach offers new topical links and an appreciation for the incremental development of his arguments.

In “Wisdom”, the psychological and historical approaches that Lietaer already mentioned in some of his publications (e.g. in Mysterium Geld, 2000, Riemann) are introduced and traced through both their biographical and ideological backgrounds. Among other things, it deals with general philosophy, the arch-types of Gustav Jung, and the historic transition from matrifocal to patriarchal societies. In a separate section that is dedicated to the future,various utopian and dystopian scenarios that Lietaer developed in several of his publications are brought together.

The last part of the first volume, “Mysteries”, provides the most astonishing insights into the person Bernard Lietaer. Based on his little-known work on Rembrandt’s self-portraits, this chapter outlines a large number of topics, fields of engagement and influences, all of which were of central importance for Lietaer, but were largely left out of his previously published work. These include art and architecture, Freemasonry, spirituality, metaphysics and practices of personal development. Remarkable here is the depth of the knowledge exhibited in areas that are predominantly considered “esoteric”, i.e. secret and exclusive, and commonly treated as such. This turn towards transparency, if only posthumously, is one of the last gifts of Bernard Lietaer.

The second volume primarily offers accompanying pictorial material that underlines the text of the first volume. It makes the life and work of Lietaer tangible, especially where art, architecture and esoteric knowledge are concerned. It contains a large number of photos – of Lietaer and the objects of his interest – as well as drawings, manuscripts and graphics from his own hand. The effect of this material should not be underestimated for the overall impression of both Bernard Lietaer and this biography. The second half of this volume contains texts through which Lietaer himself, directly or indirectly, is allowed to speak. Two interviews with Tesa Silvestre from 2008 are included here to which Lietaer himself had repeatedly referred to as comprehensive summaries of both his contributions to monetary reform and his personal, spiritual convictions (this latter interview was previously unpublished). This part also contains the first translation of an archaeological-anthropological study about a pre-columbian temple complex in Peru, for which Lietaer first used his pseudonym in 1982.  Finally, Lietaer’s master’s thesis on the management of exchange rate risks, on which his early international reputation and professional success were based, is reviewed here in detailed yet comprehensible language.

The author ends his text with words by Bernard Lietaer, which, published in 2008 under the name René de Bartiral, have only become more topical again in the second half of 2020. Through them, the appreciation and legacy of the life and work Bernard Lietaer lives on:
“As I see it, we are at a key juncture, just a step away from ‚rupture‘; on the edge of the chaos of a major change. This involves a choice between what the English so neatly call ‚breakdown or breakthrough‘ – either we break through to a new level of complexity or collapse backwards to a lower level.» The contribution of one remarkable man to the positive continuation of this human journey on this planet is traced and illustrated in this biography.

This review first appeared in German, in the Zeitschrift für Sozialökonomie, on 08/17/202

You can order the books “Bernard Lietaer – Life and Work“, Volume 1 and 2, by Peter Krause (ISBN-10: 3753443379), through your local bookshop. In Europe, you can also order them through the self-publishing site Books on Demand. In other parts of the world you might have to turn to Amazon for now (Volume IVolume II).

 

This summerschool, organised by AEMS and credited with 5 ECTS, is open to motivated applicants from all fields of study and focuses on alternatives to the economic status quo. International participants deal with limits of growth, as well as the instabilities of our financial system and learn why a drastic system change is necessary to stabilize the world climate at 1.5°C. There will also be an additional focus on possible solutions to the financial crisis triggered by Covid-19.

AEMS 2021 will take place July 19 to August 6 online – registration is already possible!

More information on the program and application process can be found here.

The report from last year’s Online-AEMS with 36 participants from 17 nations can be found here.

At a time of uncertainty about the future and increased precarity in the present, we at RAMICS believe that complementary and community currencies have become and even more relevant tool to build community resilience and hopefully help us transition towards a more sustainable future. read more