"THE FUTURE FACE OF MONEY"
QUIET, PEACEFUL MONETARY "REVOLUTION" GAINING STEAM
While some patriots and libertarians remain mesmerized by Establishment calls for what would be a
destructive "gold standard", community currencies such as "Ithaca HOURS" present a local, positive way for
American communities to recover their economic self-sufficiency.
by Chris Temple
(Part 1 of 2 Parts)
In the Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York, the most promising effort in decades by which communities
can regain at least a portion of their economic destiny has quietly mushroomed into a movement that, literally,
is being copied throughout the world.
Ithaca, New York--home to Cornell University--sits on the south end of Cayuga Lake, one of the "Finger
Lakes." The natural beauty and agricultural bounty of this area is unknown to many Americans, whose first
thoughts when hearing the words "New York" are of skyscrapers, concrete, insane taxi drivers and crime. Yet,
over some 4,000 square miles, this area boasts some of the most bountiful agricultural land and beautiful
scenery in America. From dairies, to apple orchards, to miles of vineyards, corn fields and more, this
picturesque area of green, rolling hills and lakes is a paradise.
Over the years, as is the case throughout America, small, local, family-based producers of virtually all manner
of agricultural products and many other goods have fallen by the wayside as big corporations have forced them
out of business. Declining along with the growing numbers of bankrupted family agricultural businesses has
been the ability of local communities to control their own economic destiny.
But, just five years ago, a group of people in Ithaca and surrounding communities in Tompkins County, New
York decided that they had seen enough of big corporate farms--and other national and multi-national
businesses--take over their diverse, unique local economy and affect their way of life. Led by Paul Glover--a
man dubbed as "a community folk hero" by one of the many local people I had the pleasure to visit on a recent
excursion to the sprawling Ithaca Farmer's Market--these people have launched their own localized currency
system. In my view, this is one of the most promising efforts in decades to slowly wrest control of local
economies back from the Federal Reserve system and big corporations.
In describing his community's motivation, Glover has written, "We printed our own money because we watched
Federal dollars come to town, shake a few hands, then leave to buy rainforest lumber and fight wars. Ithaca's
HOURS, by contrast, stay in our region to help us hire each other. While dollars make us increasingly
dependent on multinational corporations and bankers, HOURS reinforce community trading and expand
commerce which is more accountable to our concern for ecology and social justice."
In their bi-monthly newspaper HOUR Town, the community of Ithaca points out that today's dollars are
"currently backed by less than nothing: more than five million million (five trillion) dollars of national debt." In
contrast, Ithaca's community currency, the HOUR, is based upon the labor of people in the Ithaca area. One
HOUR is exchangeable for one hour of basic labor, and for $10.00 worth of goods or services. Glover and his
friends are proud of the fact that, with their currency system, the "minimum wage" in Tompkins County has
been recognized as being $10.00 per hour for five years now. More important than gold or silver to Glover and
increasing numbers of awakened people in Tompkins County is the labor--and well-being--of their fellow
It is fitting that the most fertile ground for the increasing momentum of this growing local economy can be found
at the Ithaca Farmer's Market. This market--which receives several thousand visitors in a typical weekend,
especially during the fall harvest season--is home to a wonderful array of crafts, farm products of every type,
baked goods, ethnic foods and spices, and much more. As I strolled the corridors of this open-air agricultural
paradise recently, I was touched by the vibrancy of wonderful, down-to-earth people conducting honest business with one another and, increasingly, without the need for the modern-day banking system. More than half of the nearly 90 vendors regularly selling their products and wares at the market now happily accept Ithaca HOURS.
But the acceptance and increasing popularity of Ithaca HOURS does not stop at the Farmer's Market. Several
hundred area businesses and service providers now accept HOURS, in part or entirely, for any number of goods
and services. A dozen area landlords accept rent in HOURS. A local credit union accepts HOURS, at "par"
with dollars, for bank fees and even for loan payments. There is hardly a product or service available in the
Ithaca/Tompkins County area that can not be obtained with HOURS. A directory is available for anyone in the
area who desires to do business locally with vendors who accept this community currency.
Glover--whom I had a great time getting to know better at the Farmer's Market--is especially proud of the way
in which this community currency has given increasing numbers of people in his area a sense of loyalty to their
local economy. This is especially impressive of Ithaca, which is culturally much more diverse than most of the
surrounding communities. Not only at the Farmer's Market, but throughout the city of Ithaca, a host of various
stores, restaurants and other one-of-a-kind local businesses bear testimony to the area's unique character.
"For us in Ithaca, ethnic diversity is a source of excitement, rather than a threat," Glover commented to me.
"(And) the local currency introduces us as neighbors, and helps us become resources for each other, rather than
to be competitors for scarce dollars."
So great is the motivation for many in the area to protect their various local businesses by supporting one
another's enterprise that the community was recently successful in doing something that even this writer found
incredible, but wonderful. First, Ithaca successfully kept a Wal-Mart from locating in their city. That in itself
was refreshing for me to hear; a local community protecting its own local goods from unfair, rigged competition
from a cutthroat corporation selling slave-made goods from exploited foreign nations.
The second example was even more incredible--and maybe even unprecedented in America. The community
actually succeeded in driving an existing McDonald's from the Ithaca Commons, preferring instead to support
the array of unique, ethnically diverse eating establishments located there.
Far from being what one might call a fledgling or economically "questionable" currency, HOURS have been
issued gradually and carefully since being introduced in 1991; and, new HOURS are brought into circulation
only in direct relation to the goods and services they will buy. This, of course, is the main purpose for any
kind of money, as I will explain in Part 2 of this story. A nine-member board oversees the system, and issues
new HOURS, in general, only as the number of people using them, or the number of merchants agreeing to
accept them, increases.
In addition, HOURS--which come in five different denominations, from 2 HOURS down to one-eighth of an
HOUR--are carefully designed, and each denomination unique. In keeping with the local theme, some of the
currency is made from local cattail paper, and contains a watermark and a locally-designed thermal ink, which
disappears when subjected to unusual heat (which helps deter counterfeiting). On this subject--hold on to your
hats--no less than the District Attorney of Tompkins County has made it known that any attempt to counterfeit
Ithaca HOURS will be deemed a felony, subject to up to seven years' imprisonment. Such is the gaining
popularity of this dynamic currency.
The increasing acceptance of this community currency as a viable, locally-controlled monetary alternative has
not escaped the attention of federal authorities. The Secret Service, Internal Revenue Service and Federal
Reserve have all given Ithaca HOURS a look--and have all decided that there is nothing illegal about this form
of locally-issued currency. In the case of the I.R.S., their determination is that, as long as any economic gain
derived from HOURS is reported as taxable income by the recipient, they will be content.
Encouraged by the success of Ithaca HOURS, communities in other locations have set up--or are
preparing--their own local currencies. Most of these, because of the positive theme of recognizing the value of
labor, have also denominated theirs in HOURS, after Ithaca's system. Communities in over a dozen states, four
Canadian provinces, and Mexico are slowly building local currency systems; ones which will not only help the
various communities foster localized economic health, but possibly help insulate them from future, large-scale
This is definitely an idea whose time has come. For more information, I urge you to contact Ithaca Money, P.O.
Box 6578, Ithaca, N.Y. 14851. A complete "Hometown Money Starter Kit", including a video presentation is
available for $40.00 , made payable to "Ithaca Money." For credit card orders, call (607) 272-4330. Of course,
for those of you in the immediate area, you can obtain the complete kit for four HOURS.
I also suggest you visit Ithaca Money's great web site at www.lightlink.com/hours/ithacahours to learn more.
THE VALUE OF A COMMUNITY CURRENCY
Rather than following Establishment or ill-conceived "patriotic" gold-based monetary solutions, all would do
well to look at the example being set by Ithaca HOURS
by Chris Temple
(Part 2 of 2 Parts)
You know the world is rapidly changing--and, that the opportunity exists for the creation of locally-based,
honest, interest-free money--when even Forbes magazine holds out the prospect.
In its June 3, 1996 issue of Forbes ASAP--a kind of lifestyle supplement to the regular Forbes magazine--writer
William Davidow's headline on page 26 asks, "Does Money Exist?" By the time the first paragraph is
concluded, he answers his own question: "Increasingly, the answer is no."
In a general yet thoughtful way, this writer remarked about how, as technology has increased, and as central
banks have lost the control of the monetary monsters they've created, "we should prepare for a world in which
the 'old money' no longer exists." The explosion of the Internet will increasingly give consumers ways--not all
of them controlled by the Federal Reserve--to transact business with each other. It is not inconceivable that a
huge array of "electronic currencies," some of them literally home-made, will be used by people wanting
financial privacy and self-sufficiency.
The same is true with local communities such as Ithaca, New York, many of which are already setting up their
own community-based, locally-issued money (as I wrote about last week in The Spotlight). In his article,
Davidow mentions Ithaca HOURS as one of a variety of new money systems that already have, or will, come
into being as even national economies (let alone the plutocrats' dream of their New World Order) decentralize
and disintegrate, destroyed by their own weight.
Now, I realize that these ideas and these types of "money" strike terror into some of your hearts. As I, many of
you reading this article have been taught that only gold and silver can be used as money, and that any other
manifestation of "money" is no good. Worse yet, millions of well-meaning Americans--who rightly are worried
about the loss of America's economic vitality and self-sufficiency--have bought the notion peddled by the likes
of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Jack Kemp, Steve Forbes and others that their notion of a "gold
standard" is the only answer to America's monetary ills.
This is nonsense, on two counts. Now, I have no animosity towards gold. The problem is that, first, even if the
current U.S. dollar were "backed" somehow by gold, or pegged to its price, the fatal problem of the dollars
being loaned into existence--at interest--still exists. So, nothing has changed there. (I explained this to readers of
The National Investor in my two-part feature entitled "Understanding The Game" in my July and September
Secondly, and compounding this, the question needs to be asked, "Who controls the supply, and by what
criteria?" Gold itself could be used as our money; yet, if it is not made available, interest-free, in sufficient
quantities to make the wheels of the economy turn properly, what good is it?
For too long, many of us have ignored the far more important issue; and, that is, what is the purpose of money?
On this subject, I don't believe I have read a more eloquent, yet concise, discussion of the subject than that
contained in William Joyce's book Twilight Over England.
Joyce wrote during World War 2 of the eventual fall of England to the status of a third-rate power. Many of his
observations from that book--particularly in the area of finance--could be applied to the other western nations
as well, especially America.
"To be clear on the whole matter, we must realize that, fundamentally, there can be only two views as to the
purpose of money. There may be a thousand intermediate shades of opinion, but, eventually, one is forced back
into the position of having to decide whether money exists for man, or man for money; whether money is
merely a symbol of real wealth enabling commodities and services to be exchanged, or whether it is the
determinant of all industry by the criterion of which production and distribution must be regulated. . ."
We all know, of course, that the latter is the case. Many times throughout history, an engineered shortage of
money has caused economic recessions and even depression. Among other instances, I would remind you that,
when the Federal Reserve tightened money some 70 years ago and caused the Great Depression, we were on
a gold standard!
Joyce offered in his book a simple analogy; so simple, as to forever lay to rest in any thinking person's head the
silliness of a controlled "gold standard" run by the plutocrats at the Fed. Following on the theme above, when
he tries to make his reader understand that the purpose of money is far more important than the substance used
as money, Joyce writes:
"The notion that the level of production should be controlled by monetary considerations belongs to a very
primitive and superstitious stage of social evolution. . . Suppose that in some very backward island, a shell
standard of money prevailed. Assume also that some malicious or half-witted creature managed to acquire half
the shells in the island and to drop them into the water beyond recovery. The chiefs and witch-doctors would
have to hold a counsel of emergency. But if the rulers of that island decreed that because half the money of the
community had been lost, hunting and fishing and tilling must now be reduced by fifty percent, there'd be a hot
time in the old town that night. In such a simple state of society, the criminal absurdity of the proposal would be
obvious to the meanest and most untutored intellect. . ."
Well, it should be. And, it should also be obvious today that, with not only our own country's needs but those
of people throughout the world increasing, any controlled "gold standard" would fall far short of meeting the
needs of food, clothing and shelter, and the desire to increase enterprise, of every citizen involved. A gold
standard would still have us shackled to a system where, as Joyce lamented, "man is made for money."
It's time to get off this choreographed "debate" that the plutocrats have laid before us, and that a number of
well-meaning but ignorant libertarians and patriots have been suckers for.
Ithaca HOURS have wonderfully filled this basic role of money. The "multiplier" effect of HOURS locally--the
number of times an HOUR causes goods or services to be exchanged--is vast compared to that of federal
dollars. In just five short years, some $2 million worth of economic activity has been generated by the
introduction of, to date, approximately 5,900 HOURS into the local economy. Unlike Federal reserve notes and
bank credit, HOURS are issued interest free. As founder Paul Glover has written, "HOURS earn community
interest--job creation, local self-reliance and pride, funding community organizations, and making zero-interest
loans--rather than bank interest."
Community currencies, while possibly not the answer yet in everyone's minds, nevertheless impress me as
being the most realistic and workable way by far to begin setting up independent economies, community by
community, across America and beyond. Some day, by using this simple yet effective--and honest--system,
Third-world nations, hopelessly in debt to the plutocrats, can make their own way.
In Mexico, for instance, local areas can create their own thriving economies rather than remaining in squalor,
subject to the whims of New York money-center banks and their corrupt stooges ruling Mexico. Healthy
economies in Mexico, free of the influence and debt bondage of the big banks, would by themselves do more to
solve the problem of illegal immigration than all of the stupid promises and platitudes of our own hypocritical
Yes, the world would be a better place if every community in it brought their economies--and monetary
systems-- "home." As the efforts to solidify the New World Order slip from the grasp of the internationalists,
the time has never been more right to join with like-minded people to draw away from their failed, doomed,
What are you--and your community--waiting for?
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