the LETS model
(1) A conventional Time Bank system helps to include the most vulnerable
members of society, those normally excluded, marginalized or isolated,
but is expensive to run because of the high security overheads.
It is a purely =time system and is unambiguously disregarded w.r.t.
benefits and taxation.
(2) A LETSystem ("conventional LETS") is a zero sum, interest-free,
mutual credit system useful in times of low circulation of national
currency to assist the temporarily-inconvenienced by freeing up
lock-in resources. It is not as well suited to assisting the excluded
or marginalized (although it has done so in some cases). It can
be managed at a much lower cost than a Time Bank.
In the UK, trading using a LETSystem my be taxable or affect benefits
- the position being ambiguous and often open to local interpretation
of the rules. The essential model can be modified so ...
(3) A timeLETS (using 1=1 time as its units) will not affect benefits
or be taxed.
(4) A "model 2" timebank (time network, as pioneered by the Wales
Institute for Community Currencies) can better assist a different
group of excluded or marginalized - more at community level than
It is difficult to compare the costs of running such a system
with those of running conventional time bank; the former requires
a rewards system to stimulate collective activity while the latter
requires a brokerage system to match (carefully) individuals. The
costs are incurred in very different ways, and may be met in very
(5) Specialized, time-limited voucher systems may stimulate economic
activity or assist in the fair allocation of limited resources.
(6) Localization/ decentralization may be increased by SHARE-like
systems (although these have not been well adapted so far for use
in the UK) or "loyalty card" systems.
Many variations are possible on the way payments are made and
Many variations are possible on the way resources are matched
The effects of any "money" system are very much dependent on the
nature of the "money" itself - e.g. 1=1 hours systems (where the
system defines everyone's time to be of equal value), negotiated
value systems (such as those we're most used to - the value being
attached arbitrarily to a unit by supply, demand or other factors
affecting the relative position of strength of each party involved),
energy-based systems (good store-of-value properties), and so on.
A few of the possibilities are mapped out in www.esrad.org.uk/projects/CCS/tile.php
(but this is an incomplete 2-dimensional map). One of the missing
dimensions would be the cost of running the system, e.g. from conventional
"arbitrary value" money (low cost management in the equivalent form
of cash, information-poor) to "high cost" systems to meet necessarily
but unprofitable objectives (high running costs, information-rich
No one system is anywhere near adequate to meet all needs, but
the complexity of managing an integrated system seems to demand
a gradual introduction via one path or another. For some the best
starting point may be a time bank (to assist marginalized individuals),
for another it may be a time network (to assist in community repair),
for others it may be a LETSystem (to free up locked-in resources
in times of slow cash circulation), for others a SHARE-like system,
and so on.
It seems to me that only by working TOWARDS a fully integrated
system (built from all the variants listed above, and more) can
a long-term sustainable economy be developed to minimize waste and
maximize involvement and community cohesion. At the same time it
is clear the such systems can only be built and managed from the
ground up, by those closest to the needs being addressed and perhaps
easily discourage or intimidated by both complexity and technology.
From these assumptions I conclude that only by developing a shared
framework to support both the rapid development of ad hoc systems
and the subsequent integration of those systems into a more complete
framework can long-term resilience be a realistic objective, and
this requires maximization of flexibility, local autonomy and resource-sharing.
This in turn requires the development of a metasystem - a gradual
process, but built upon experience and an already well-developed
Another notable point (imho) is that currencies based on any particular
measure allow easy movement between one resource-to-needs matching
system and another. A notable example is time: it should be possible
to spend an hour earned in a time bank (brokered) within another
time-based system such as a time network or a timeLETS (each of
which can be managed in a different way with different costs). A
large & complex system can be built up from many small & simple
systems, and no assumptions about which such systems will provide
the seeds need be made at the start. However, by building structures
able to guide and nurture their development it will (I believe)
be possible to minimize wasteful competition, duplication and disconnectedness.
The incipient Robert Owen Community Time framework is being developed
with exactly these objectives. The currently visible website (www.roct.org.uk)
is out of date, background development having moved on quite a bit.
For the first time, software with sufficient flexibility to allow
this is being developed (by Matthew Slater) and this will be integrated
into the next version of the ROCT website. (In due course I'd like
to be able to integrate parts of Geoff Chesshire's "Regenerosity"
system which provides a useful map of emergent social capital, helping
to complete an important feedback loop.)
John Walker: 17th August 2009: I'd be happy to discuss this
structure if anyone would like some clarification.
I can be contacted on: home: 0845 458 0626 mobile:
07848 008039 Skype: jethro_swan John Waters