Sep 21, 2008

funny money

Back in the day when Park Slope, Brooklyn was the neighborhood with the highest concentration of dykes in the U.S., I lived in an adjacent 'hood, and belonged to a group of gals who bartered our skills: haircutting, tax preparation, legal advice, painting and construction, cat/dog/bird/rat sitting, and most often, help moving. The Barter Bank was formalized enough that you had to put in time in order to get help, and you were able to draw on the skills of people you didn't yet know. Barter is a fabulous thing, as is just plain giving each other a hand. But it's hard to live in our world without money. Getting something you need without paying for it seems as queer as a 3 dollar bill.

The banks are mighty shaky these days and a U.S. dollar not worth a whole lot, so investing in your own town, in it's food producers and craftspeople seems even more important.

The Berkshire region of Massachusetts has produced its own local currency so that people and businesses can use money in a straightforward way, and still commit to supporting each other. The local bank accepts and distributes BerkShares, and all the local businesses accept them. However, the Dunkin Donuts and and Rite Aid that have popped up in town don't. It seems to be working. Local businesses are thriving, and millions of dollars have been kept local. If you weren't able to keep chains and box stores out of your town through zoning laws, you may want to look into local currency!

Thirteen dollar bill is by Jason Polan. Berkshare artists are Bart Elsbach, Morgan Bulkeley, Janet Rickus, Joan Griswold, Warner Friedman, and Michael McCurdy.

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