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Volunteer with a global federation of local currencies - in amazing locations!

August 23, 2017 - 06:29

The new Credit Commons Collective (CCC) is looking for 4 volunteers to work for a minimum of 3 days a week for a minimum of 2 months each. The CCC is a non-profit federation of organisations that host over 300 local currencies worldwide. This Federation currently works entirely with volunteers, serving over 20,000 users. But now we want to scale up massively...

The opportunity is for those who can work in Athens in October and November and/or Bali (Ubud) in January and February, for a minimum of 2 months. Additional months can be done remotely. In either locations, the volunteers will work closely with Matthew Slater, the cofounder of the CCC and Community Forge and Professor Jem Bendell. In both locations the volunteers will be provided with a membership of suitable co-working spaces for social entrepreneurs. As it is currently unfunded, all of us working for the CCC are unpaid volunteers. Therefore, the CCC will not be able to cover any other costs, so that laptop, accommodation, food, transportation and insurances will need to be covered by the volunteer themselves.

The volunteers will help us with the following activities:

  • research for various publications
  • researching suitable donors and codrafting proposals
  • analysing and modelling successful volunteer management systems, then establishing such a system and recruiting future volunteers
  • many other CCC activities that emerge

During a typical 3 day week, volunteers will work alongside either Jem or Matthew on each of 1 day a week, as well as at least one other volunteer. The working environment will be dynamic within a suitable coworking space. If you are interested please contact Matthew Slater before September 1st with a CV and a short statement of not more than 300 words describing

  1. what you would bring to the work (see the 4 areas listed above)
  2. what you would want out of it
  3. an email address and phone number of one referee, who is someone who has directly line managed you before
  4. confirmation that you have assessed the costs and practicalities of being in the required location for a minimum 2 months

Due to our limited resources we will not be able to reply to any other than the shortlisted candidates.

Shortlisting will be done by September 3rd and offers made by September 8th and must be accepted by September 12th. The latest start date in Athens is October 7th and the latest start date in Ubud is January 6th.

For background on the philosophy and strategy that inspires the formation of the Credit Commons Collective watch these talks from Matthew and Jem. And see the Credit Commons White Paper. Please email your application by September 1st to matslats at fastmail dot com

Categories: Blogs

Basic income currencies

August 6, 2017 - 09:50

As a complementary currency engineer, I come across basic income ideas of social justice all the time, but I don't see them as my territory. It is a way of sharing wealth which we collectively own or create. Ideally it would be enough money to reduce or eliminate the imperative on people to sell their labour, say, a few hundred Euros per month.

That means basic income is very difficult for grass roots organisation or NGOs to practice, because it necessitates finding enough money to do something meaningful, giving it away to the people least qualified to handle money (for some reason the 'trials' that happen are always on the poor), and then a more-or-less subjective impact assessment. So most of the few experiments afforded in the west are financed by governments, such as the current trial in Finland and the coming trial in Barcelona. Another strategy I admire is a German crowdfunded lottery in which the prize is basic income for a lucky individual for one year.

Some projects though like Grantcoin (soon to be relaunched as 'Manna') or Gradido, GroupCurrency are trying to implement basic income by simply issuing currency (or cryptocurrency tokens) to all participants. This has the advantage that they at least don't have to commandeer vast amounts money, or change government policy, but raises the problem that the tokens come into existence with no spending power. Consequently all these projects seem to me a bit ill-conceived. Take the Occcu, launched in 2012 and silent ever since.

I'd like to point out some common problems with this approach in case anyone is reading.

First of all inflation. Basic income implies a monthly distribution of tokens into the economy. If the tokens aren't being removed the from the economy using, say forced taxation, negative interest, transaction fees, fines etc, and if members aren't saving these units up for a rainy day or speculating on their future value, and if membership is not reducing, then the purchasing power of the tokens should constantly decline. One current project, Duniter copes with the growing volume of tokens in relation to goods and services by declaring a fixed rate of inflation as a fact of life. This is actually a sound mechanism, but counter-intuitive and calculated to raise the hackles of every eminent economist and middle class citizen. The same effect could be achieved with a constant token supply by say, adjusting all wallet balances half way back to 100 on the first of each month.

Secondly most alt-currencies and cryptocurrencies do nothing to foster the development of a marketplace. What I've learned in all these years of creating complementary currencies is that a currency without a marketplace is not even a currency in the sense that it has nowhere and no reason to flow (although that doesn't stop speculators pumping up the price). To justify its existence, a currency must direct energy and/or resources which otherwise would have lain idle or gone elsewhere. This was the breakthrough of the LETS model - it incorporated a not only a system of accounting but a directory of member-2-member services. Further, I would argue that marketplaces must exist before currencies and that currencies are tools that have utility only in the context of an existing marketplace. Creating a currency without a marketplace is all-but guaranteed to fail. And that is even without stressing the marketplace by redistributing stuff from producers to non-producers via a basic income.

Redistributing the community's resources, which basic income necessarily does, requires not only that resources be traded in the marketplace but that somebody has the authority to take from some and give to others. This is how the national economy already works but complementary currencies have voluntary membership and no enforcement, so the sales pitch to the rich is much harder.

Too many people who discover the problems with fiat money imagine that citizens can design a superior currency and the people, in the face of the the most efficient, acceptable, powerful, supported, habitual, liquid and legal currency, will vote with their wallets. Some people use Bitcoin this way, seeking to earn and spend it, and telling their friends, but after 8 years and loads of PR, and tens of billions market capitalization, most cryptocurrencies are used for for speculation, not their intended functions. For me a currency needs to have users and trades going on during the design phase, not to seek a market after being released! Inventing a complementary currency as a vehicle for basic income is absolutely the wrong way around.

In conclusion I think that basic income is only meaningful when done with 'current' money, i.e. widely circulating money and that only government has the legal and political tools to redistribute resources in an organised and socially just way. Basic Income is a policy instrument which sits on the shelf next to public services, welfare and tax rebates. That's why this tweet caught my attention, more than the projects linked above.

"Universal #basicincome paired with a local cryptocurrency is the way forward." - candidate for mayor of Detroit

— Scott Santens (@scottsantens) August 6, 2017
Categories: Blogs

Which way for the ecology movement? (Audiobook)

July 19, 2017 - 14:46
Despite being repetitive, and often dense, Bookchin writing in the 60s, 70s and 80s makes arguments I've never heard before, and manages to be more convincing and more optimistic than many of his contemporaries, many of whom, he argues are shallow, woolly, misanthropic, or totalitarian! Introduction: the future of the ecology movement

Covers most of the themes of the book, but in less detail (1993)
Download (59 mins). Will ecology become "The Dismal Science"?

Bookchin lays into spiritual ecologistsl, accusing them of mistaking industrialism for capitalism and of Neo-maulthusianism! (1989)

Read the text, or listen to Mp3 audio (25 mins).

The population myth

Lots of overlap with the the previous essay, but the focus on population and the problems not so much with the maths of Neo-mathusianism, but the tyranny of it. (1988)
Read the text or listen to the Mp3 audio (53 mins). Sociobiology or social ecology

This longer essay is in two parts. The first looks at how ecologists try to understand human society as if it merely emerged from the deterministic biology. The second is about whether and how it is possible to derive an ethic by looking only at nature (1993).
Read the text or listen to the Mp3 audio (85 mins).

Categories: Blogs

Money: the Unauthorised Biography

July 15, 2017 - 08:58

This lucid and readable book traverses monetary history and philosophy to explain why money is no longer a tool for social justice, and indicates the kinds of solutions that could set it straight.

Download zip file (140MB).

Buy the paper book here.

Categories: Blogs

Paying attention to FairCoin!

July 1, 2017 - 06:08

Two years ago I posted a bemused article on Faircoin, which was trading between some members of Faircoop at five times the price it was available on the free market. This was a social experiment being run by Enric Duran as part of his attempts to build a new financial system. It seemed to me a risky venture which depended not only on Duran's integrity, but on everyone's confidence in him. Our language abilities didn't overlap sufficiently for me to be confident that he understood the market he was manipulating.

This year however, the project is in a different league. Instead of Enric's periodically announcing the price on an obscure FairCoop noticeboard like a sovereign, there is now a lively chat group with 80 members. Their objective is twofold, 1) to propose the 'official' price of FairCoin to the FairCoop monthly assembly, and 2) to manage the free market price.

The price should increase slowly and steadily, in contrast to other cryptocurrencies which fail as money because they are volatile. They aim to build confidence attract long term investors who want their money to do social good. FairCoop is selling FairCoin at the official price and building a pile of Euros. Those Euros are not for spending but remain available to buy back FairCoins from members who accepted them but cannot spend them. They do not guarantee to redeem all FairCoin ever issued, why should they? They are just a private institution in a free market trading a commodity.

Insofar as coins are circulating they don't need to be redeemed and only then can the pile of Euros be LENT (not spent) on something else. They are building their own bank, capitalised by the FairCoin in our wallets.

It is this manipulation for a purpose, within the free market, that makes FairCoin so interesting. Cryptocurrencies by their nature allow anyone to participate, but a motivated team with some resources should be able to 'own' or at least take control of a market for their own ends. They need to keep as many coins as possible in friendly hands, and of course to grow the list of vendors who accept FAIR, who can be reassured of a cash price from FairCoop.

Two years ago the 'official' FairCoop price had been 5x of the Bittrex price, and a few people kept the faith, but it was really only a handful of activist business who accepted it. But something, whether Enric's persistence, or the whims of the free market, or a handful of self appointed market-managers, lifted the price, then in in May this year, there was a rush of money into crypto-markets, and FairCoin, with its low volume of trade benefited more than most.

Suddenly the free-market price was above the official price. FairCoop had to restrict its sales to prevent arbitrageurs eating the money pile.

This has been the situation for some weeks. The new price should be decided by the assembly. If (and when) the volatility can't be managed and the official price drops, FairCoin holders will weather the storm, especially after having enjoyed a 20 fold increase in the free-market price.

This all means that suddenly there is a lot more money behind Faircoin. The team can more confidently offer cash redemption to more vendors and has more reserves with which to smooth the free market volatility. The official list of vendors is much improved on two years ago, though still rather weak. So saying, I was able to go to a wholefood store in Athens and buy more than I could carry!

FairCoop activists are also innovating on payment technologies possible in few other cryptocurrencies. They are able, with a Spanish partner, ChipChap, to convert FAIR into Euros and withdraw them from the ATM in one smooth action! The Bank of the Commons initiative aims to provide a multi-wallet solution for holding and moving between Euros, Bitcoin, FairCoin, and balances from local exchange systems.

So why not show some support by at least getting yourself a FairCoin wallet, proudly displaying this badge, and listing your trade on the Fairmarket.

Categories: Blogs

To all my followers...

June 6, 2017 - 08:22

As readers of my blog you'll be aware of a new initiative, the Credit Commons Collective, to connect three of the larger complementary currency networks, and invite others also to connect.

I invite you to sign up to a new mailing list, on which news of that initiative will be broadcast.

Thanks for being there...

Categories: Blogs