There's 5 rebel money movements - and the "Crypto-Credit Alliance" (mutual credit + blockchain) is the most exciting


We are constantly monitoring the upheaval in alternative money and currency systems, in our aim to find tools and mechanisms that can increase the power of communities and localities.

Brett Scott, one of the most insightful commentators on this whole area, has written for Huffington Post on what he calls the “five rebel money movements”.

We would recommend reading them all. “Government Money Warriors” believe that if a country has its own currency and central bank, it can print its own money to support infrastructure that pays for itself. “Bank Money Reformers” zero in on the irresponsibility of commercial banks, and want the creation of money to be via a people’s bank, with democratic input.

But it’s the final three movements which concern our agenda. Read them one after the other, and we’ll recap at the end:


Cryptocurrency Crusaders

Cryptocurrency crusaders not only reject both national and bank money systems, but also reject the entire concept of credit money (money that is “created from nothing” through law or social agreement), calling for it to be replaced with “commodity money” (money that is “created from something” through production). They have inherited the baton from “goldbugs,” who called for gold to be money.

The movement, which began with Bitcoin, argues that the best money system is one that’s outside of human politics. This comes from a philosophical tradition that says systems should be governed by the boundaries of God, physics or math, rather than laws set by politicians. With gold, for example, these natural boundaries would be geology: how much gold can be found and extracted. In Bitcoin’s case, the boundary comes from the fact that the digital system sets a hard limit on how much digital money can be issued and then forces participants to “mine” it as if it were a commodity.

Because Bitcoin hard-liners believe true money is a limited-supply good that must be extracted through production, they claim that fiat money ― created by banks or countries ― is artificial or deceitful money under the control of corrupt powers. There’s a puritanical edge to these cryptocurrency crusaders, who mistrust human institutions and trust in an abstract ‘godlike’ order of mathematics and markets.

While theories like MMT hinge on collective human political institutions, crypto crusaders see politics as foolish. This distrustful attitude shows: The movement sometimes seems as much at war with itself as with the fiat money system, with bitter in-fights between supporters of different crypto-tokens.

They are, however, the richest of all monetary reformers, with many crypto users having ironically become millionaires in the fiat currency they claim to dislike so much.


The Localists

There’s a whole history of alternative non-government money prior to cryptocurrency. These original alternative currency variants include mutual credit systems, timebanks (where time is used to measure how many credits you earn), local community currencies, such as the U.K.-based Brixton pound, and systems like the Swiss Wir, a currency used between businesses. 

The tradition is also skeptical of large-scale government-bank money systems, but rather than calling for them to be replaced by a robotic algorithm, they believe small-scale communities should take control to issue money locally.

Unlike cryptocurrency advocates, they have no problem with money being “created out of nothing.” Rather they have a problem with who gets to do that and at what scale. They believe large-scale systems alienate people and dissolve close-knit communities.  

A mutual credit system like Sardex in Sardinia, for example, does not reject the idea of money expanding and contracting, but it brings together an island community to decide on what terms that occurs.

While the other movements are outspoken, local complementary currency enthusiasts are often humble and below-the-radar, working for low pay to build resilient community structures. 

“Local currencies change how money is issued,” says Duncan McCann of the New Economics Foundation, “how it circulates and what it can be spent on in order to re-localize economies, encourage environmental behaviour, and promote small businesses.”


The Crypto-Credit Alliance: Mutual credit meets blockchain technology

This is the least-known or developed of the movements, but is perhaps the most exciting. Nascent initiatives, such as TrustlinesHolochainSikobaWaba and Defterhane, seek to hybridize older alternative currency systems like mutual credit with the blockchain architectures that underpin cryptocurrencies. They share common ground with both modern monetary theorists, who also see commodity money as regressive, and cryptocurrency advocates, who wish to bypass the government.

Cryptocurrency unleashed a lot of creativity, but much has been wasted on toxic speculation. On the other hand, localist mutual credit movements have powerful ideas but often struggle to get heard or to spread. Crypto-credit innovators are exploring the creative possibilities of merging these two to solve flaws in both. 

Our association with Holochain, through the Open and Platform Coop movement, is ongoing. But we’re delighted to find out about Waba, for example, which seeks to amplify and make more usable already existing schemes, in mutual credit and LETS (local economic trading schemes).

More here, from Forbes magazine: The rise of civic cryptocurrency