In Ithaca We Trust
Last year we talked every week with representatives from what we referred to as “plausible artworlds”, many of which were built around ideas of alternative economies. In that vein, this Tuesday night we’ll be meeting up with founder Paul Glover to talk about the 20 year anniversary of the Ithaca Hours alternative monetary system, the oldest and largest local currency system still in operation in the United States.
Ithaca hours – like every other currency, including the US Dollar – are based on faith and confidence. In 2006 Paul Glover wrote “We regard Ithaca’s HOURS as real money, backed by real people, real time, real skills and tools. Dollars, by contrast, are funny money, backed no longer by gold or silver but by less than nothing- $8.4 trillion of national debt.” (it’s risen to about $14.5 trillion since then).
Ithaca Hours has historical roots in scrip and alternative and local currencies that proliferated in America during the great depression. It also had older roots in utopian communities of the 19th century. The question of why they printed their own money in 1991 is addressed on ithacahours.com:
we watched Federal dollars come to town, shake a few hands, then leave to buy rainforest lumber and fight wars. Ithaca’s HOURS, by contrast, stay in our region to help us hire each other. While dollars make us increasingly dependent on transnational corporations and bankers, HOURS reinforce community trading and expand commerce which is more accountable to our concerns for ecology and social justice.
For anyone interested in the longevity of alternative exchange systems, one curious fact is early examples in the United States tended to spring up when the mainstream economy was doing poorly – but interest tended to wane when the mainstream economy picked back up again. One of the many things we’d like to ask Paul about is how Ithaca Hours has managed to keep from loosing confidence and enthusiasm in hours.
See you all Then!
Join us this Tuesday night – in person, or on Skype, skypename: ‘basekamp’
If you come to the potluck in person, be sure to bring a dish :)
basekamp space: 723 Chestnut St, 2nd floor, Philadelphia usa