Local Exchange Trading Systems are Powering Self-Sustaining Collective Solutions

LETS, or Local Exchange Trading Systems, are local community trading groups where folks exchange their goods and services in a collective spirit of fair trade. A collective LETS group often has two interwoven means of trading goods and services. One is a local currency that is physically exchanged, just like any other currency, when and where that exchange takes place.The second is often an online system, some automatic like a spreadsheet others manual, that functions as a bookkeeper for the transactions by keeping records and putting the the exchangers accounts into debit or credit accordingly.

One of the huge advantages a LETS system has over a capitalist banking system is that an account which is in credit identifies a person who has given more 'favours' than he's received. An account which is in debit identifies a person who has received more 'favours' than he's given. As there is no interest paid to accounts in credit, and no interest charged to accounts in debit, neither situation is a problem, and both are necessary in order to make transactions happen. Every time interest is charged on borrowed currency in a capitalist transaction it is a drain on the real wealth of the community, interest is the biggest reason the rich, the 1%, get richer while the 99% get poorer.

Alternative economic solutions are on the rise everywhere, but nowhere faster than in sovereign debt riddled Europe, especially Spain and Greece. Many parts of Europe have a long history of collective economic organization and many also still have a far smaller scale family run agricultural system than we do here in North America. Both of these along with 'the mother of invention' have led their struggling poor and un-employed to adopt small-scale anarchistic solutions as the recession there darkens. Anarchism really means people working together outside of the structure of the state to meet people's needs, exactly what's happening there.

There are many LETS and community currency systems in North America. Fourth Corner Exchange in the Pacific Northwest is an Alternative Monetary System that supports a successful cooperative economy. Vancouver's currency, Seedstock, is a new system targeting local food production. Many smaller communities too, like up here in Powell River BC, are combining a local LETS system, ours is based on the Comox BC model from over on the island, with a local currency, the Powell River Dollar in our case, in an effort to bolster the PR Transition Town's growing success story.

Small communities, especially somewhat isolated ones, sometimes have a built in advantage in that they are often far more self- contained and self-sustaining to begin with. The success or failure of many of these collective endeavors seems to ride on their ability to build self-sustaining organic food production and exchange networks at their base. Real food is wealth, and real wealth - fresh local organic food - is only available to those who garden themselves or those who collectively organize themselves in a way that provides it for them. LETS do it, eh.