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Community Currencies - Montreal International Seminar

Our current monetary system is deeply inequitable, leaving the producers of value with crumbs, while a large part of what is produced is automatically transferred to those who happen to have accumulated great piles of monetary resources.

Tommy-Usury: Free reports from the ongoing International Seminar About Financial Responsibilities and UsuryFree Community Currencies at UQAM, the University of Quebec in Montreal.

22 November 2003
In the first interim report, Tommy says Bernard Lietaer presented the concept of complementary community currencies. Litaer's prediction: "Orthodox economics will fight complementary community currencies just like conventional medicine fights the introduction of acupuncture and other alternative healing methods."

27 November 2003
A second interim report on the presentation of Molly Scott, Professor at the University of Wales, who relates of experiments with local currencies, designed to liven up the economies of villages that suffered from the closure of coal mines - their former principal source of income and economic activity.

28 November 2003
The third interim report relates the talk of Michael Linton, the software engineer who designed the original usuryfree LETS (Local Employment Trading System) software in the early 1980's. Tommy also adds his own thoughts on how to expand the local employment trading system into an internet-based world wide exchange of "hours", the currency LETS are based on.

22 November 2003

Interim Report on The International Seminar About Financial Responsibilities and UsuryFree Community Currencies at UQAM
By Tommy-Usury: Free

The Seminar began on Wednesday, November 19th, and continues until noon on Saturday, November 22nd, 2003. After Registration welcome addresses were presented on Wednesday evening. On Thursday morning the opening key-note address was given by Bernard Lietaer who is President of Access Foundation. He is also author of nine books on money and finances, including The Future of Money‚ (Random House, 2001), The Mystery of Money‚ (Riemann Verlag, 2000) and a book for kids, called 'The World of Money' (Arena Verlag, 2001) and Human Wealth, Beyond Greed and Scarcity‚ to be published, December 2003.

Formerly professor of international finance at the University of Louvain, Bernard Lietaer is currently a fellow at the Center for Sustainable Resources at the University of California, Berkeley and beginning in the fall of 2003 he accepted to become professor at Naropa University, Boulder, Colorado.

Bernard presented evidence that many countries of the world are currently experiencing an economic downturn. He briefly outlined two solutions being pursued to cut deficits at the various levels of government. The first solution, most often implemented but least effective is cutting social programs which rarely work because it is those social programs which are needed most that are most likely to be cut.

The second and more successful solution which is being pursued by out-of-the-box thinkers is to invent and implement a new approach to fund these much-needed social programs without incurring additional debt.

Bernard cited Japan as a world leader in seeking new approaches by promoting complementary community currencies to solve the economic strife that has been constantly plaguing Japan since the early 1990‚s. Bernard explained that since money is simply an agreement, within a community, to use something as a medium of exchange many local communities in Japan have taken the lead to make new agreements about money.

According to Bernard, the Japanese recognize that fiat money is created out of nothing by the chartered banks and/or the central bank and then manipulated to be in scarce supply under the guise of the risk of inflation. Since being motivated to action in the early 1990's, these innovative Japanese communities have launched projects whereby individuals are encouraged to create and spend their own complementary community currency to operate in parallel with their national currency.

Bernard Lietaer shared a most significant quote by Alan Greenspan: I foresee new private currency markets in the 21st Century‚ and a timely quote by the Japanese Minister of the Economy 2002: The use of complementary currency can bring an end to the long lasting deflation of the Japanese economy by supplying additional monies of various types at the local level.

Bernard Lietaer's favourite form of complementary community currency is a mutual credit currency, which is commonly created by the participants themselves to facilitate a transaction. The mutual credit currency is referred to as a simultaneous debit (for the buyer) and a credit (for the seller). The LETS (Local Employment Trading System) software and the Time-Dollar software are two of the most popular models of mutual credit currencies. Bernard Lietaer pointed out that mutual credit systems never have a shortage of currency and neither do they cause inflation - two weaknesses of our orthodox, usury-based money system.

In his presentation, Bernard suggested that we-the-people at the fringe of the pyramids of power ought not expect creative solutions to come from our respective federal governments as politicians and bureaucrats are least likely to entertain thoughts and suggestions from out-of-the-box thinkers. In his summary comments about government Bernard said: We are entering a new world of economics, where money need not be scarce. Then he added: Who better to resolve local issues than the local people.

According to Bernard Lietaer, Japan is exploring more than 40 different types of complementary community currencies in a series of projects defined as Eco Money Projects. These Eco Money Projects are experimenting with a variety of

(a) technologies - from high-tech smart cards to low-tech paper notes

(b) scales - from mountain villages of 800 people to prefectures of 10 million and

(c) complexity of function - from single function to 27 different functions on a single smart card, elderly and/or child care, local unemployment, small business loyalty schemes, disaster-preparedness training etc.

In summary, Japan continues to test models to determine which will work best and for what purposes so that eventually they can initiate large scale projects with the optimal strategy.

Bernard explained the concept of Fureai Kippu whereby the Japanese create Caring Relationship Tickets for exchange in 372 operational systems that permit hundreds of thousands of senior citizens to live longer in their family homes. Seems like North Americans might be encouraged to copy this model to better care for our elderly.

Bernard explained how the city of Yamato creates a municipal currency known as Love (Local Value Exchange) and encourages the use of smart cards to facilitate transactions. The quality of life is improving in Yamato because of the implementation of projects involving complementary
community currencies.

At this time in his research, Bernard Lietaer does not entertain the possibility that complementary community currencies have the potential to replace national currencies. Myself and other visionaries do see the power and potential of the optimal complementary community currency - a universal time currency - eventually replacing all national currencies to become the currency-of-choice that will best serve us locally, nationally and internationally. This is because the standard unit of one hour is
measured in 60 minutes in every country of the world thereby eliminating the need to pay banks an exchange rate on the sovereign national currencies of their respective countries.

In summarizing his Practical Findings Bernard Lietaer made these points:

1. In the field of complementary community currencies our practice is far ahead of theory and it's time that the academics catch up with the practical experience of the doers in the complementary community currency movement.

2. Contrary to the key economic theoretical hypothesis assumed by Adam Smith, money is not value neutral.

3. The implementation of complementary community currencies solves social problems.

Bernard Lietaer said: It's time to leave Monetary Flatland and he pointed out that in 2003 the complementary community currency movement is where the Wright Brothers - the leaders of the flight and airplane movement were in 1903. In closing, Bernard stated: Orthodox economics will fight complementary community currencies just like conventional medicine fights the introduction of acupuncture and other alternative healing methods.

More later - Tommy-Usury: Free

27 November 2003

Interim Report II on The International Seminar About Financial Responsibilities and UsuryFree Community Currencies at UQAM
By Tommy-Usury: Free

It is unfortunate that the usuryfree experience is the reality that most people believe to be impossible. - Tommy-Usury: Free

It's time! Yes it's time indeed for Interim Report II about my experiences at the International Seminar About Financial Responsibilities and UsuryFree Community Currencies at UQAM.

Some readers were still not sure of the whereabouts of UQAM which stands for University of Quebec at Montreal. UQAM is located just east of downtown Montreal at the corner of St. Catherine and St Denis.

My understanding is that UQAM is the first (and only) university in Canada to host an International Seminar of the topic of UsuryFree Community Currencies. Bravo UQAM! Hopefully, other universities in Canada and elsewhere will now follow UQAM's lead and hold Full Conferences and/or Mini-Conferences of the topic of UsuryFree Community Currencies.

I will commence Interim Report II by continuing with Molly Scott's presentation on Thursday, November 20th, 2003. Molly Scott, Professor, University of Wales made a presentation which focused on the roles of money within capitalism and resolving the conflict between these roles. Molly identified four roles of money:

1. lubricate and facilitate economic exchanges

2. underwrite exchange of goods and/or services between nations

3. source of income via investment

4. speculative commodity

Molly reflected on the obvious conflicts between these roles. For example, Molly pointed out the conflict between 1 and 3 (facilitation and income generation) by explaining how these roles are incompatible in poorer national or regional economies. Molly also focused on the conflict between 2 and 4 (underwriting for trade and for speculation). She proposed that working to solve these conflicts will lead us to social justice.

Next Molly talked about her research project in the Rhondda-Cynon-Jaff Valley in the coal mining area of Wales. Her findings reveal that poor liquidity and leakage (money flowing from the local economy) are key causes for floundering and/or disappearing regional economies.

To overcome these shortfalls, Molly explained that the local communities were increasing local liquidity and plugging the leakage through the introduction of complementary community currencies thereby re-building their respective local communities in the coal mining area of Wales.

On reviewing her Case Studies, Molly determined that when local residents within their respective communities changed the agreements they had about conventional money, by creating and spending complementary community currencies locally instead of spending only diminishing amounts of federal currency with giant corporations, it commenced re-birth in the local communities. Molly used the term local multiplier when she discussed how local liquidity increased proportionately to the amount of complementary community currency being circulated by those who were choosing to participate.

In response to the horrendous job losses in the formerly thriving pit villages - those villages where the colleries (coal mines) were closed down - a severe economic downturn followed. During the 1990's the Wales Institute of Community Currencies was established as a project to lead the re-building of these local communities. The aim of the project was to test out various applications of complementary community currencies in 16 different communities.

In these selected Ĺ’pit villages‚ in Wales, they have experimented with: (a) learning time credits (b) health credits (c) environmental credits (d) special tourist credits and (d) the ultimate political objective - a unique currency for Wales.

Molly, who also works with the Welsh Institute for Co-operatives talked about the Tower Colliery in South Wales as the shining example of a worker-owned colliery which was established in 1994.

During Molly's discourse in the afternoon workshop she clearly revealed that indeed she is an astute point one percenter by speaking eloquently about how the design flaw of usury creates the growth of debt and keeps the poor borrowers forever indebted to the wealthy lenders. It was clear to her that the function of usury on the money system is the direct and/or indirect cause of the economic malaises that have afflicted the pit villages in Wales as it has similarly afflicted small communities in other countries worldwide.

Molly suggested that the design flaw of usury in our orthodox money system must be addressed along with the truth about how banks create money (principal) out of nothing and to lend to borrowers, charging them usury - which is never created. Indeed, Molly Scott can join the point one percenters - those few free will, full liability men and/or women who know the truth about how usury is the killer machine that destroys local and regional economies as well as country economies such as what happened in Argentina in 2001.

Permit me to sidetrack to describe a couple of unique experiences while being in Montreal this week for the International Seminar at UQAM.

Episode I

The International Seminar at UQAM commenced on Wednesday, November 19th, 2003, Day 3 of the Montreal Transit strike. John C. The Engineer Turmel was a passenger in my automobile as we drove to Montreal in heavy rain in the late afternoon. I was not aware that there was a Transit strike but I did find the traffic heavier than usual as I entered downtown Montreal via Highway 20 and the Ville Marie Expressway.

With limited bus and Metro service we had no choice but to drive downtown each day of the seminar. Each morning we have left NDG (Sherbrooke near Decarie) early to maximize our chances of securing a parking spot in the grid-filled lots at the discounted price of $7.00 - if parked before 8:00 AM.

Leaving the parking lot requires an abundance of patience as the attendants have to jockey the cars to unlock the parking grids. On Friday afternoon, I was set to depart the parking lot at 3:30 PM and my car was 5 rows over and 4 cars deep in a 9 x 5 grid-packed parking lot on St. Denis just south of St Catherine.

I humoured the frustrated car-juggler, a man named John (50+ years) as he hustled to jockey the cars from the lot to the street and back again in an effort to satisfy some hurried and rather impatient motorists. When he finally got to ungriding my car 40 minutes after I had paid the fee and received my keys he thanked me for my patience by saying: Thank you for your patience, you're not as raged as most people. I don't own this parking lot. I'm just doing my job the best that I can and so many people are so impatient because of the strike. Then he added: You know, I have a university degree from Concordia and here I am labouring and taking insults as a parking lot attendant just to survive in this crazy world.

I wondered which corporation had given John the golden handshake because of cutbacks due to a shortage of money. John looked like a respectable middle-class Canadian who had been totally loyal to his employer for many career years only to be let go because there was not enough business to keep him gainfully employed. Obviously, John still has his education, skills and talents but there is a scarcity of money and he is demoted to a minimum wage job in the service industry.

I asked John if he had access to a computer. He answered: Yes. Then I passed him my business card and invited him to read some information at my website which would help him better understand why he was suffering through the experience of scarcity and lack. He assured me that he would. I also passed along the name and telephone number of a friend in Montreal with whom he could talk if he wanted to learn about some solutions that are offering hope to those who are seemingly trapped in the system that is failing them.

As I left the parking lot, I felt great empathy for John while thinking about what Bernard Lietaer had said about the usuryfree community currency movement of 2003 being where the flight and airplane movement had been in 1903. How many people are feeling trapped like John not knowing anything about how a usuryfree time currency could free them from their financial slavery?

Episode II

When we walked out of UQAM on Thursday afternoon at approximately 5:00 PM there were hundreds of protestors walking on la rue St. Denis near the corner of la rue St. Catherine. They were protesting to denounce the veil of secrecy under which they say the Free Trade Area of the Americas is currently being negotiated.

The Montreal Gazette reported that there were approximately 1000 protestors, mainly students from colleges and universities in Montreal. Apparently, the trade ministers from 34 countries in the Americas were gathered in Miami, Florida to approve a watered down declaration which is supposed to be ratified in January 2005.

It seemed like a peaceful demonstration and having gained experience at the FTAA in Quebec City in April 2001, John and I walked with them for a while. As I walked, I pondered how a usuryfree time currency for the whole world would quickly solve all of the legitimate complaints raised by the anti-globalization demonstrators everywhere. Too bad they can't be marching for the solution instead of demonstrating against the problem!

More later

Enjoy this day!
Working with you for peace and plenty by 2020 AND Becoming usuryfree in 2003 I AM Tommy-Usury: Free otherwise known as Tom-Joseph: Kennedy‚

The world is magnified and perfected by the possibility of a usuryfree time currency being implemented at the global level. - Tommy-Usury: Free

28 November 2003

Interim Report III on The International Seminar About Financial Responsibilities and UsuryFree Community Currencies at UQAM
By Tommy-Usury: Free

Michael Linton was one of the three panelists presenting information about complementary community currencies at the plenary session on Thursday morning, November 20th, 2003. Michael was introduced as the software engineer who designed the original usuryfree LETS (Local Employment Trading System) software in the early 1980's.

At that time Michael lived in the Comox Valley in the area of Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada. The economy had collapsed in the Comox Valley because of the spiking usury rates exacted by the orthodox banking system. (Remember when usury rates spiked to above 20%!)

Michael Linton is to be lauded for dedicating 20+ years of his life to furthering the understanding and initiating the concept of complementary community currencies in Canada and many other countries around the world. Michael talked more about Bernard Lietaer's comment that the complementary community currency movement of 2003 is positioned where the airplane and flight industry was positioned in 1903.

While Michael was making reference to Bernard Lietaer's statements about the evolution of the complementary community currency movement it occurred to me that the public are brainwashed more now than they were in 1903. It took only five years - from 1903 until 1908 - to overcome the brainwashing of the masses who did not want to leave Travel Flatland. What the Wright brothers saw as the obvious in 1903, the masses didn't buy into until 1908!

In 1983, the Right engineers - Michael Linton and John Turmel - saw the obvious, that we-the-people can create and spend our own community currency. Here we are 20 years later, in 2003 and the masses are still displaying an inability to see the obvious. Bernard Lietaer, a visionary says it will take a minimum of five more years before the brainwashed masses will consider leaving conventional Banking Flatland! What's going on here? Eighty years after 1903, were the brainwashing techniques so perfected by the PTBs (Powers That Be) that they were much more effective in dumbing down the masses. And what has happened since 1983?

It has already been 20 years since the Right engineers saw the obvious - that the implementation of complementary community currencies could offer the optimal solutions to the ever-present problems associated with war, violence, greed, poverty, scarcity and lack.

In his presentation, Michael Linton pointed out that the doers have already proven the effectiveness of complementary community currencies but the mainstream has not yet given the concept the credibility that it deserves (has earned). Michael explained the analogy that if you lived in a part of the world where you had never seen a bicycle you would not believe that it was possible to use it as a vehicle for transportation. Similarly, people who have not studied complementary community currencies do not see the obvious benefit of what this type of currency can do to re-build and maintain local community. Michael keeps his positive vision and he predicts that very soon we will see a worldwide explosion of complementary community currencies.

Michael referred to Bernard Lietaer's impressive graphing of the global growth of complementary community currencies since the early 1980s and he expects exponential growth during the next 5 to 10 years. Michael spent some time defining two sorts of money

(a) that money (federal currency) which leaves the local community when spent by consumers who keep buying from the giant corporations and

(b) the other money - the complementary community currencies which are created by conscious consumers and spent within the respective local communities.

These complementary community currencies have a special recycling quality whereby they are passed around the local networks (databases) by the consumers who are wisely choosing to spend their money differently.

Michael pointed out that the smaller the database, the faster the money recycles and the larger the database, the slower the money recycles. He added that though the money recycles slower in a larger database, it gains more value within the community because it facilitates more trades, thereby satisfying the needs/wants of more consumers. Michael Linton's experience with complementary community currencies leads him to advocate the idea that numerous smaller networks of local consumers (which can possibly be inter-connected) are the most effective models to duplicate.

Michael invited all conference attendees to explore the website and become committed to playing the game of creating a currency and trading with others to experience the simplicity of such transactions so that it can then be applied to real life exchanges using complementary community currencies.

Michael also briefly referred to the Community Way project that has been in operation in the Comox Valley, British Columbia. In a nutshell, businesses create and donate chunks of complementary community currency to charitable organizations. These businesses are listed on a database as being willing to accept this new money as partial payment for any goods and/or services listed.

These charitable organizations which require some cash for operational needs invite their supporters to exchange cash for complementary community currency on a dollar-for-dollar basis. These supporters are then given a list of the businesses on the database and encouraged to support these local businesses. These local consumers are re-educated so that they understand the significance shopping differently. They are encouraged to begin making a conscious choice to spend their complementary community currency in combination with their federal currency to purchase the products and/or services needed for personal, family and business needs.

Michael explained that

(a) grocery stores in the Comox Valley, B.C. were accepting 20% complementary community currency and 80% federal cash for merchandise and

(b) restaurants were accepting 50% complementary community currency and 50% federal cash as payment for meals.

The merchants in the Comox Valley are showing outstanding leadership with this Community Way model!

Michael closed his presentation by talking about successful complementary community currency projects in Japan. He pointed out that even though the Japanese are not known to be imaginative and that their society there definitely runs from top to bottom it is remarkable that they have shown great interest in exploring the LETS mutual credit model.

He summarized the Japanese enthusiasm for complementary community currencies by saying that the top leaders in Japan society know that the orthodox model based on competition and thwarted by the reality of scarcity and lack is failing. Then he added that the unorthodox model of co-operative effort in creating and spending usuryfree community currencies is succeeding. So why not advocate that which works best?

As much as time restrictions permitted, Michael talked about the optimal size of databases which facilitate the most number of trades of mutual credit within its membership. Michael expressed that the evidence shows that a network can be as small as less than 50 participants to more than one million. (It is my conviction that if a trading database can serve one million, it can therefore serve multiple millions - especially if we utilize a universal time-based currency as the trading currency of choice.)

Indeed, it is my conviction that we-the-people ought to promote a global database of time-traders so that it can serve us locally, nationally and internationally. If within eight years, Ebay can grow from an idea to multiple millions of registered users who rely solely on trading with federal currency, then our database can grow at a much faster rate. We will be offering to trade with a combination of federal cash and complementary community currency and the optimal currency is time currency in denominations of hours and minutes. Think about it!!

NOTE: Tommy-Usury: Free types:

Readers are invited to join the Third Market Network where its members are already trading UFOH's (UsuryFree Online Hours) whereby one hour of basic labour is valued at $13.00 (Canadian Funds). Participants are satisfied that $13.00 for one hour of basic labour is fair payment. Depending on
one's skills, talents and education, participants who think the free market will pay them more than $13.00 for their hour of time are inviited to simply adjust the value of their hour by a multiple of 13 that suits them. Traders from countries outside of Canada are invited to make the necessary calculation and fairly equate their sovereign currency with an hour of time. Then let's travel and trade!!

For more information about the Third Market Network email Tommy-Usury: Free: or call 1.613.379.5131

More later - In fact, the best is yet to come !!

Enjoy this day!

See also related articles:

Complementary Currencies for Social Change - an interview with Bernard Lietaer

Communities create own currency to help their small businesses

Deficits, Free Trade and Privatization

Your Bank - a Money Making Machine

Hovering at the edge of bankruptcy

Energy based economy or roaring debt growth?

The Golden Dream of Islamic currency