Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Banking on Time

Recessions are good for innovation. And not just commercial innovations: social innovations thrive too. I remember reading Bernard Lietaer's book The Future of Money and his description of various experiments with new types of currencies that took place during the Great Depression. Some of the currencies were based on units of time rather than units of money, and many were very successful. At least until the various tax authorities started to fret about them ...

Which is why I am intrigued by the idea of setting up a time bank in Ireland. I think its an idea whose time has come. And so does Trinity College's Michael Daly, who has put together this excellent presentation on the nature and operation of a time bank. Michael and I would be happy to hear from anyone out there - individual or organisation - interested in developing this idea further. And don't worry about the Revenue Commissioners: better to seek forgiveness than ask permission ;-)


  1. Gerard,

    The idea is good, but it is far from new. In rural Ireland (and elsewhere, I expect) people have operated varieties of time banks for generations. You still hear people say things like "I gave him a day on the bog", or the like. And people are very conscious of who owes who time. Non-payers (i.e. those who don't reciprocate with an equivalent period of time) often get slightly ostracised, or seen as 'no good'.

    If anything, the 'Time Bank' idea is simply the application to an urban setting of an existing idea - it can be considered an innovation, therefore. But it seems to also involve (judging by the slide show) a lot of administration and bureaucracy. Perhaps this is inevitable when people are not actually part of real 'communities'.

    Maybe it will work, like Credit Unions (which are a similar outgrowuing of a more informal familiar system). But I remember a lot of fuss a few years back about local barter-style micro-currencies, and they seem to have largely disappeared, or at least not prospered.

  2. Yep, same idea as the LETs schemes. I like the alternative proposals, not because they are alternative as such, but because many stands make a stronger rope. I avoided the fascist symbolism of twigs there.


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