When money is in short supply why not resort to an alternative form of trade. Childhood currency often involves skilful bargaining of natural resources. Exchanges are as diverse and imaginative as a back tickle for a butterfly wing, a chocolate biscuit handed over for a turn to hold the pet rodent, loan of an older brothers Levi’s on a Friday night for a week on the Game Master.
Whatever resources are available or imagined are put out for bid, each party negotiating a value on exchange. Human beings are natural traders, the earliest farmers, nomads and tribesmen existed on exchanging resources before money was even invented. In my opinion hard cash has done away with the creative aspect of trade. And what’s more not only is money more difficult to come by but running a bank account, writing out cheques and having a credit card is expensive. Perhaps this is why groups of people around the world have come together and developed an alternative system of exchange that does so much more than charge interest, create debt and cause poverty. People who are unemployed, those short of cash, or people wanting to be part of the community and have something to offer be it a skill, their time, companionship or a product can post their offering on an internet site or in a directory. Members of the community can use each others services without actually paying any money.
Most communities have a wide variety of offerings, anything from changing the oil in a car to creating an internet site, massage, legal advice, organic veggies, family counseling, a lift to yoga classes and one even had a granny available for outings.
Anyone wanting any of these services has to have something they too can offer to the community. Presuming Joe becomes a member of this alternative exchange system and creates an internet site for another member, he may then be awarded 500 points (each community has their own name for points like acorns, talents, froggies, favours and so on). Joe then has 500 points to spend on a service or product offered by one of the other members. He may decide to have regular massages passing on points to the massage person who then might decide to get his or her house painted and so on. One such example which is available in South Africa is called Talent Exchange and is an initiative of the South African New Economics Network. In support of their conviction they quote philosopher Albert Nock who said “Money does not pay for anything, never has, never will. It is an economic axiom as old as the hills that goods and services can be paid for only with goods and services.” In a way this type of alternative trading just cuts out the money and goes straight to the goods and services.
Many benefits are created within these platforms for exchange. For starters, point system money is created by its members so can never be in short supply, no one ever need get stuck in a debt trap, communities can exchange services that may usually be regarded as favours without having to feel obliged. Networks also give members invaluable information about opportunities available such as a lift scheme or companionship, each of which aren’t that easily purchased from a retail outlet. Increasing communication and contact in communities generates value and community spirit as well as increasing self-esteem among participants. It also often minimizes the amount of welfare needed. Some countries officially recognize these forms of trading and have declared them tax-exempt. For more information about using the Talent Exchange system in South Africa log on to: www.ces.org.za