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RE: <nettime> Open Source and Open Money
Doug Henwood on Thu, 17 Jan 2002 23:25:03 +0100 (CET)


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RE: <nettime> Open Source and Open Money


Kermit Snelson wrote:

>In fact, a community may choose not to address the risk at all.  If it is
>sufficiently small and saintly (or simply harmless) it may be perfectly safe
>to allow any member to "create money" anonymously to her heart's content.
>The key point is that any self-constituted community may enjoy the
>market-making benefits of a currency without having to buy into a bundled
>social norm that it may find inappropriate, unnecessary or even oppressive.
>
>This LETS design feature leads directly to the concept of plurality of
>currencies.  Because such systems don't assume any social norms in their
>design, they may be used efficiently by any kind of community, from
>commercial banks to autonomous worker collectives.  Instead of the
>monolithic, one-size-fits-all design of national currencies, the LETS design
>enables a flexible constellation of interacting payment systems that operate
>for different purposes and on different levels of scale.

If a community is small enough, you barely need a currency - you can just
barter (which is what these instruments are really all about).  But what
about buying anything more complicated than a locally produced haircut?
Where will the haircutter get scissors and clippers?

What does money represent? Past labor time used as a claim on present or
future labor time? If you're going to exchange products of labor across an
area larger than a backyard, or over a timescale longer than the day after
tomorrow, you need something more formal - and state-backed. If you're
going to trust the person and not the token, you have to know everyone
invovled, which makes production beyond the most intimate scale nearly
impossible.

The U.S. had all kinds of local and private moneys in the 19th century,
and there were frequent crises - frauds, defaults, panics, etc. It seems
like people are fetishizing the instrument of exchange rather than the
system of social relations it both constitutes and depends on.

Doug Henwood




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