Saturday, March 24, 2012

Digital Desperation

Necessity is the mother of invention, which I guess makes desperation its sister. The Guardian reported recently on the emergence of new currencies in Greece brought on by the recession: things are so bad people are desperately trying everything from barter to time based currencies in order to meet their needs for food and basic services. The Greek government has even given them the all clear in terms of tax exemptions.

But we don't have to do these things out of desperation. As I noted before, Ireland could become a global centre of excellence in the development and implementation of new currencies. I've recently joined the Feasta Currency Group which is supporting The Liquidity Network: who in turn are dedicated to finding new ways to resource economic activity in Ireland beyond debt-based/euro financing (since there isn't much of it around).

As the euro crisis worsens (we're only in the eye of the hurricane at the moment) then expect to see a flowering of community-based, local schemes that aim to kick-start local (and even French city) economies rather than wait for Brussels and Berlin to solve things. One brilliant example of how we could take the lead in Ireland is a proposal from L. Randall Wray who suggests we start an Irish job guarantee scheme which pays its participants in punt. In other words, create a parallel currency (and supporting infrastructure such as shops that take them in payment), without, of course, leaving the euro (or exacerbating the government's budget deficit). Though it might also be handy to have the 'parallel punt' up and running in case we actually do leave the euro.

Finally, there's another reason to support a flowering of new currencies: the increasing shift away from cash to digital payment systems is creating new threats to our privacy (even the Financial Times is worried). With governments the world over desperately seeking more taxes (Italy's is using citizen's credit card details to see if they are spending more than they are 'earning'), then expect to have fewer euro in your purse or wallet (or bank account).

Let's make their budget desperation a spur to our inventive desperation...

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