By Paul Glover
America’s most thoughtful magazine has honored Ithaca’s community money system with a display [“HOUR TOWN”] which is clever though not accurate.
While giving passing mention to the benefits of our cash– that millions of dollars worth has traded among thousands of residents and over 500 businesses (food, clothing, health care, rent and childcare are the prime staples HOURS buy); that HOUR grants have been made (to 62 local groups which have lost state or federal funding); that HOUR microloans (up to $30,000 each) are made interest-free (for projects unfundable by banks)– your freelancer emphasizes concerns regarding “protectionism” and “economic puritanism.”
As to protectionism, we explained to him that extra local cash enables more trading than usual, by creating discretionary income that meets more needs. This then brings more skills into markets, creating new jobs and enabling residents to export more, import more, and travel more
We explained that the vigor of global commerce depends on the vitality of innovative local niche markets, from which larger markets grow. We were clear that chain stores are not prohibited from accepting local currency.
And we explained that HOURS circulate supplementally with dollars, to be delinked only were there severe hyperinflation of national money. Dismissing the above as somehow puritanical provides, again, less insight than Harper’s readers deserve.
Perhaps we may look forward next to Harper’s courageous dissection of the dollar, whose principle corporate backers are protected by the World Trade Organization, the IMF and U.S. military, themselves actively punishing the world’s poor with a Calvinism that local currency helps reverse.
Glover is founder of Ithaca HOURS.