Local exchange trading scheme(LETS), an excellent method of commoning


Money provide a medium of exchange and value for goods and services in mainstream economies. Since the period of pre-accumulation through to the industrial era, money has been used to simplify trade transactions in the economy. Money provide people with their needs, which is base on affordability. This system has been problematic for those who are unemployed for one reason or the other. For instance, the elderly, unskilled persons, or when there are no formal jobs for everyone or casualty of redundancy. These people have the ability to perform a task or another, but are not able to raise money which put them at a disadvantage as their needs can not met without money.
Communities have device ways of meeting their common needs without the use of conventional currency. Local exchange trading is a local currency used by communities to pay for goods or services within their locality. Such currency is not valued in the national system, but is a means for exchange of goods and service for the community. Trading is mainly for food stuff, service like hairdressing, care of the elderly, home improvements, childcare etc. credit points are accumulated for rendering service to another member of the community, and used to receive service when required. This practice has been ongoing for the past 20years in communities in the UK, Australia, NewZealand and Argentina, as a way of shifting dependence from capitalism. Similar system in the USA is termed Time Dollar, and is mainly for service delivery. Time in hand is used to provide service for others for credit points for when one is in need of help. Young people are mowing lawns and painting houses for elderly neighbours. Some members also use their credit points they have earned, to contribute to other elderly people who need them more. In some communities, time dollar is interwoven into conventional medical care system to provide service in deprived areas. For instance driving the sick to and from hospitals, help with feeding or meeting personal hygiene needs.
The advantages of these schemes are numerous to the communities. Cahn and Rowe (1992) state that these schemes provide things that people need that money can not buy. They refer to ‘the kitchen table’, where families and their close friends helped and cared for each other without the thought of renumeration. The system is based reciprocy, respect, and trust, just like the pre-industrial era. It provide community cohesion and bonding, where people know each other and care about each other’s welbeing. The community does not rely on the state to provide social service which is dwindling with the recent austerity measures. No reliance on police service to combat crime as everyone is their neighbour’s keeper. Communities are also insulated from global financial shocks because there can not be shortage of their local currency. In addition, it provide sustainable livelihood for the community as good and services are localised. No carbon foot prints from local transaction.
LETS and Time Dollar schemes provide the best alternative to capitalist system because everyone in society is valuable.


2 Responses to “Local exchange trading scheme(LETS), an excellent method of commoning”

  1. peterezekiel Says:

    I agree with your final statement, that LETS and similar systems provide a good alternative to the capitalist, market based system. In fact, I would go further and suggest that this is a variation of a system that pre-dates capitalism and has emerged in every community in some form. The idea of community is so closely tied to the commons – and one common pool resource that all communities share is that of the time and energies of their populations. People have been coming together to build barns, harvest crops and care for children for a very long time. Long before the notion that everything had to have a market value.

    For me, the question is – how do we shift the mind-set of the population away from the individualist nature of capitalism and onto the ideals of exchanging our services, our reproductive work, based on community and reciprocity and not money?

  2. izabelamichno Says:

    I believe that LETS and other initiatives like Time Banking are only at their beginning. Essentially we are heading toward a more and more urban life, where the concentration of the population will be so high that we will have to find way to live in harmony in
    communities and rely on each other as question of survival.

    I hope that trust and cooperation will develop along with the growth of urban areas and that technology and modern means will help building future communities. It is already happening, in my mind, if we observe a positive on social change through only internet access, impacting on so many communities, around the world.

    I want to stay positive and believe there will be still a lot of people willing to share time, skills, experience and knowledge with others to gain something else than just money!

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