Two weeks ago on my island we launched a new money called the Terra. It’s an online and face to face trading system and the Terra is the unit of trade. Think of it like ebay or Craigslist with a different means of exchange. But that’s just analogy. The system has a very different feel – because it’s community currency.
I’ve been teaching about money for years but folks, this Terra is opening my eyes and expanding my horizons in the most amazing ways. See, the national currency (dollars) is created when banks make loans. Imagine that. With nothing more than permission from our government to do so, banks make loans with money they largely don’t have. You sign a document and with one keystroke the amount of that loan shows up in your bank account. dollars are created. out of thin air.
Ahh, but in the Terra system, we’re “the bank.” We literally create a Terra (roughly like a US Dollar) when we buy something from a neighbor – a product or service. As with a bank “loan”, a moment earlier there weren’t any Terras in anyone’s account or the bank. But when the vendor and the buyer agree that an old bicycle or pruning a tree is worth 20 Terras, voila, 20 Terras exist. The vendor’s account is credited 20 T and the buyers debited.
Now what? Where does the vendor spend her T? She goes into the Whidbey Community Exchange site and looks at the list of “offers”. Hmmm. Rebounder? Eggs? Goat Milk? Ten percent off on a workshop? Like a kid in a sustainability candy store, she scans what’s out there and picks something she needs. Or has always wanted to try.
I’m finding that my freedom with buying and selling has expanded in this system. With national currency – dollars – I’m famous for pinching pennies. But in this community currency I find I enjoy thinking about small things I can do for neighbors and stuff in my garage that neighbors might want. I am making myself a “worthy” citizen by thinking more broadly about how I and my stuff and my skills can be useful to others. This is different from writing a resume and competing for a job in the national currency system. Being a Jill of all trades doesn’t look good there. To get the highest real hourly wage in dollars, you narrow yourself down to the highest income worthy skill and commit to giving that – and only that – day in and day out to your boss in exchange for dollars. In the T system, I broaden my sense of myself as a contributing human. I have much I can offer that I’d never be paid for – or that I might not bother to sell on ebay or in a yard sale.
For example. I looked through the “asks” lists and discovered someone wanted a rebounder and I realized the one I’ve been hauling around for years and never using could actually be used! I low-balled my T price and he was only too happy to take it home. And credit my account 20T. In the process, I discovered he has handyman skills I need and paying him in partial Ts means I can afford his services – cuz there’s always more Ts… I just make them up by making myself useful.
Another example. I put up as an offer that I’d do consulting for 1T/minute. That’s half my price in national currency, but it’s so simple for me to do it and helping anyone in the community succeed somehow is helping me. I’ve already had one taker and she got her T’s worth for sure!
You probably can’t trade in our system (you just have to be here) but you can check it out at http://www.whidbeycx.com/.