Money Abhors a Vacuum: Alternative Digital Based Barter-Currency System Emerge in Greece
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 4:00
Money and trade abhors a vacuum and a replacement will always emerge at the margins.
In lean economic times, alternative financial systems are sprouting up around the world. And now they come with a digital twist."The Greek state is completely absent," says Katarina with a deep chuckle. We are standing across from each other inside a sweltering building on the outskirts of the Greek city of Volos, about 200 miles north of Athens on the Mediterranean. Both Katarina and her daughter, who stands beside her, have been unemployed for months. They are at this makeshift market to sell their array of homemade jams, pickled vegetables and liqueurs, which are spread out on the table between us.But this isn't a typical market. In fact, there isn't a euro in sight. Katarina is part of a network of more than 500 people in Volos who are taking financial matters into their own hands as part of an alternative local currency, known here by its Greek acronym TEM. "In the network, people can trade their goods and services," says Christos Papaioannou, one of the network's founders. "If I do a service for you, then you owe me a favour. And I can use that favour to get some service from someone else. So, we don't have to exchange directly, I can get it from some third person."To be clear, there is no actual currency or scrip exchanged. Credits are tracked via an open-source community banking software system called Cyclos. Katarina, for example, banks her credits from selling jam to buy staple foods such as eggs and fresh vegetables that are offered through the network.The barter idea is catching on in a number of cities in Greece during these lean economic times, returning communities to a centuries old system but with a digital twist. And it's not just in Greece. The global economic downturn has created renewed interest worldwide in alternative economic models."I think that people are becoming increasingly aware, over the past few years, that financial systems aren't sustainable. And that boom and bust is always going to be with us, despite politicians continually telling us they are going to work to remove [them]," says Ken Banks, who recently launched a project called Means of Exchange. The idea behind the project, says Banks, is to create a "toolbox" of web-based and mobile apps that will make it easier for people to engage in things like bartering, swapping and alternative currencies.
This has clearly been the free market alternative; spontaneous order, no taxes and strictly competition based.
Yet the emergence of digital bartering and currency alternatives are likely the future trend
As Professor Gary North rightly points out,
This is going to spread. It will appear whenever governments and banks break down. When this happens, production will scape the tax collector’s nets. The tax collector cannot track everything. He cannot brig charges against everyone. The more people who get away with unreported income, the more difficult it will be for governments to avoid contraction.The future will have smaller, weaker governments.