I’ve just returned from the 2nd International Conference on Complementary Currency Systems in The Hague with my head buzzing. More than 200 people sharing ideas about alternative economics and local currencies. It was a blast.
The five day Conference was organised by the Erasmus University Rotterdam, Qoin, the New Economics Foundation and Palmas Institute. It brought together academics, local government officials and other policy makers, practitioners and representatives of grassroots organisations related to complementary currencies. There were representatives of the Berkshares currency in Massachusetts ($2.7 million in circulation!), the Chiemgauer in Bavaria and the Brixton and Bristol Pounds.
I was there with three hats on. I was invited to speak in my capacity as Board Member of TEQs.net, an organisation which promotes Tradable Energy Quotas, a way to remove fossil fuels efficiently and fairly from the economy using the market. In my role of News Editor of the new national newspaper, Transition Free Press, I was looking for solution stories. And as an avid user of the Lewes Pound I was there to wave my Thomas Paines loyally in the air at every opportunity.
My TEQs talk was well received but it was something of a sideshow – especially when the opening event on Policy Day was a lively Dutch female cabaret artist giving a new twist to the story of how money came to be created (the Goldsmith’s Tale) and how97% of it is created out of thin air as debt by private banks through mortgages and loans.
Something that caught the imagination of the cognoscenti was the fact that Bristol City Council and the London Borough of Lambeth both accept local currency (the Bristol and Brixton Pounds) to pay business rates. This impressed one of the biggest names in complementary currencies, Bernard Lietaer, a former central banker turned alternative economist. “People usually think more about currency issuance rather than demand,” he pointed out, “but it’s the demand which creates the value.” And his piece de resistance: “The value of taxes is to give value to a currency that has none.” So bravo Bristol and Lambeth! Now when will Lewes District Council start accepting Lewes Pounds for business rates and council tax?