New Civilization News - Category: Alternative Money Systems    
 Fill the Chalice26 comments
picture 2 May 2003 @ 23:59, by ming. Alternative Money Systems
One of the reasons I initially connected with Britt's talk of Xpertweb is that a few years ago I was also working on figuring out how to make a new kind of infrastructure that might help ordinary folks interact economically in a generative way. Julie Solheim and I were working on what we called the Chalice Network. Some of the positioning we used makes me cringe a bit today, and some of the explanations are a bit naive, but, hey, it was directed at an L.A. new agey crowd. Not to try to insult anybody. Anyway, one of the reasons it didn't happen is probably that I didn't quite succeed in getting the formulas worked out right. Another reason is that it wasn't peer-to-peer. It was a centralized thing one had to sign up for. As opposed to something that could spread pretty much by itself. Regardless, there were some key points made in the Chalice Network, which would be useful to bring up here.

People operate economically in many different modes and have different motivations. Some people are focusing on making money. Some people have certain goods, and want different goods, and are looking to trade. Some people focus mainly on choosing where they can best provide their services freely, to achive the best possible result. Which mode people are in might have something to do with how abundant they feel, but not necessarily with how wealthy they are. Rich people might well be very focused on making more money, and poor people might very well be focused on giving things away.

To serve several kinds of economic needs, the Chalice Network was envisioned to have three levels, or three entirely different ways of interacting economically. Anybody could exist in all three, but it is quite likely that a given person would find one of them to be the best fit. We gave each of these realms a romantic name, as follows:

Realm 1 - The "Avalon" Level - Free giving and receiving. You can choose what services and resources you would be willing to give freely to others, to what extent, and under what circumstances.

Realm 2 - The "Round Table" Level - Local Exchange System. You can exchange services and resources with others without any need for involving money. An accounting system allows you to use services that you need and to provide services where they are required, as long as the inflow and outflow remains fairly balanced.

Realm 3 - The "Castle" Level - Network Representation System. You can list services or resources you will provide for monetary exchange. You can also choose to act as an agent representing the services of others in the network, in exchange for monetary compensation. In other words, you can promote the services of others in the network to anyone you choose, and you will receive percentages of sales. In addition you will receive Local Exchange credit for using this system, whether it be as a provider or as a representative.

It would all be a directory of people offering certain services. They could take three drastically different kinds of payment. In Realm 3, the "lowest" level, we're talking about regular dollars, yen, euros, etc. People sell stuff to each other. And there's a system of pre-negotiated percentages that can be given as commission to others who help make exchanges happen. There was a bit of a multi-level thing there, to motivate people who are money-motivated.

Realm 2 would be a LETS system, i.e. exchanges would happen in an invented local currency, acting as a medium in barter exchanges. If you need something, you would be able to buy it, even if you don't have any dollars, as long as your account stays fairly balanced.

Realm 1 would be a gift economy. There would be a directory of services or goods available for free, and under what terms and conditions.

The hidden agenda was that people would be gradually magnetized towards Level 1. They might start by just wanting to sell stuff, but if they do well and the economic velocity increases, the dollars will matter less, but they still want some accounting, and some assurances that participants have balanced accounts. And if everybody gets used to easily and rapidly providing or consuming a greater and greater variety of services, eventually we might not even bother to count, but might just focus on most efficiently making useful services available as widely as possible.

Where I got stuck in the design was in how to build in an incentive for people in the money level to move on to the more ethereal accounting methods. I had some kind of bonus points in mind, but then it is a tricky problem how to make the accounting in each of the levels balance in and of themselves.

Anyway, back to what this has to do with Xpertweb. Xpertweb is at first glance like the third level described above. People offer stuff for sale, and there are various opportunities for building a business on brokering the information in the network. E.g. bring together some people who couldn't find each other before, or arrange cheap health insurance for everybody.

But, potentially, if the infrastructure building blocks are done well enough, the data structures and protocols are flexible enough, and the whole thing is distributed enough so that nobody controls it - these various economic approaches might simply be ways that people use the same basic pieces. Nothing would have to be inherently different if you want to pay your bill in Ithaca Hours or in Coconuts. You'd still want to be sure you're getting what you were looking for. Nothing would be inherently different if you were giving your service or your goods away. If your goods were scarce you would probably want to carefully compare the prospective recipients, and give your goods either to those who, according to their history, would make the most of it, or at least to those whom it would do the most good.

In other words, you can always make better choices if you have a good picture of the reputation and past history of everybody involved. No matter if it is dollars or good will that is flowing through the system, it will flow much better when it is no longer directed blindly.  More >

 Free Economy12 comments
picture 11 Jan 2003 @ 14:15, by ming. Alternative Money Systems
I wrote this little essay some years ago called Free Resources. It pointed out the relatively new phenomenon at the time that it can be quite viable to give things away freely, even for a business. And I also expressed a strategy for gradually making more things free. You know, if I look at the resources available to me, and I identify what I can freely share with others, and I work on increasing the number and variety of resources I can freely share, and others do the same, then we'd gradually be getting somewhere. Somewhere where a lot of what we need is freely and easily available for everybody. I'm not talking about whether I might take time out of my schedule to work hard for some charity once per week. I'm not talking about sacrifice. I'm talking about arranging things so that it is perfectly feasible and comfortable to give something away, without particularly being worse off myself.

Software remains the best example. Free Open Source software is today the best stuff you can find in a number of categories. The open source model has turned out to be a more reliable and efficient way of producing high quality software and distributing it widely. It costs almost nothing to copy software, and that means in part that smart people can build on lots of other smart people's work, and do something better than they otherwise could.

The music market started moving in that direction, of making it easy to share music easily and freely - Napster - but it is a mixed success at this point, as the big central media companies don't understand it, think it is evil, and are spending a lot of resources on making sure their products can't be shared.

Lots of free Wi-Fi wireless networks are springing up in many places. Individuals and small companies leave their wireless network open to whoever is in the proximity. They do that either unknowingly, or because they can, and because they think it might useful to somebody. A very small number of ISPs support it. The majority think it is theft and are trying to find ways of making it impossible.

There is obvioiusly a clash between different systems and different cultures there. I think it can be a vibrant and viable economic model to work on making more and more things free and easy to distribute widely. And it can very well be very profitable along the way for the originators of technologies and content that supports that. But then there are the big and powerful companies who don't get it, who believe that sharing is theft, and that it couldn't possibly be economically viable for anything to be free. And they're wrong. The most long-term viable production and distribution solution is for it to be free. Sunlight and air is in ample supply, no matter how much you share it and give it away.

It brings an interesting secret to light. You know, Monsanto sells suicide seeds to farmers. They work for the crop of one season, but they don't reproduce, so the farmer needs to come back next year and buy new seeds. That's the perfect model for many big corporations, and it is essentially what they're doing. You pay money and buy their product, thinking that it is now yours. And if it really were yours, you could of course do with it what you want, including sharing it with your friends or giving it away to somebody else. But there's a lot of small print, which you usually don't pay attention to. And the legal truth is usually that it isn't yours, even if you paid for it.

The solution is obvious if we pay more attention. Focus on alive, fertile, self-reproducing products, that can be modified, expanded, shared, given away, re-combined, re-cycled, re-invented. And start forgetting about suicide products that legally self-destruct in your hands right after you've looked at them, or the moment you consider using them in a new creative or beneficial way.

"Out of abundance He took abundance and still abundance remains." -- The Upanishads  More >

 Abolishing the Money System. Can we afford not to?
29 Jul 2002 @ 14:58, by linder. Alternative Money Systems
Abolish Money??!! How can we possible afford not to.
by Linda Simmons

When I first heard the concept “abolish money” I struggled with it. I loved the idea of not having to be focused on money for survival, but I couldn’t imagine what would replace it. Socialism? Communism? All things that we know will remove some freedoms. But when I began to think in terms of Abundance, I was able to shift.

I'm interested in starting a discussion of this concept. Please read full text and add your comments. :)  More >

 Governments could issue interest-free money20 comments
11 Jul 2002 @ 19:57, by alchemist. Alternative Money Systems
In most industrialised countries, the vast majority of money is created by the banking sector as a debt in the form of loans. A small remainder is issued by governments in the form of notes and coins, as a debt-free injection into the economy.  More >

 Money is Anti-Networking22 comments
14 May 2002 @ 22:53, by ming. Alternative Money Systems
Money can be a very useful thing. Its original purpose was probably to facilitate exchange. It allows you to trade things even when what you have to trade with doesn't match exactly what somebody else has to trade with. You know, you have an extra ox, but need eggs. The person who has extra eggs needs to have his roof fixed, etc. A monetary currency allows you to make an exchange, even if your items don't quite match. That assumes of course that you somehow have managed to have some money ready for when you need something. And there are various hidden issues and problems with the type of money we happen to use (fiat currency created by privately owned banks and lent out for interest). But the point I want to focus on is how the use of money tends to break down networks and communities.  More >

 Creative Resourcing26 comments
7 May 2002 @ 22:07, by ming. Alternative Money Systems
I was looking at a page about "Creative Resourcing" at the site. To answer the question "What is Creative Resourcing?" it says: "Creative Resourcing describes an ability to find new ways of engaging the resources in the local environment (i.e. funds, people, goods and services) to support an organization and make it self-sustaining". Which is a great thing, of course. And my first thought was: "Great, that's exactly what I'd like to have happen". But my second thought, after looking at the examples, was that what I'm really interested in is something more pervasive.  More >

 Virtual world grows real economy0 comments
picture28 Jan 2002 @ 17:22, by ming. Alternative Money Systems
New Scientist has an article about how the players of the online game EverQuest have created a real economy, buying and selling virtual items for real dollars on eBay. And how playing that game puts you in a better economic spot than the everage citizen in many countries in the world. I know the phenomenon well, as my son does just that. It is a different online game, called Asheron's Call, but it is quite amazing what some of the virtual items go for on eBay. What is interesting is the implications for what en economy really is, and how any kind of activity can become economic activity, even if nothing is physically produced.  More >

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