Business

Make your own money: Transition Snoqualmie Valley explores local currency

Francis Ayley is the founder of Fourth Corner Exchange - Courtesy Photo
Francis Ayley is the founder of Fourth Corner Exchange
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

Cash may be king, but it’s not alone. A new monetary system may soon take its place in the Snoqualmie Valley, as residents learn more about local currency options.

Local, or complementary, currency is a system of exchange in which members negotiate fair prices for goods and services, and pay for them with something that represents their own, non-dollar-based money. It could be another type of printed money, an online database of debits and credits, or something else on which all of the members agree.

Life Dollars are an online currency used by several communities in Washington State, and are being considered by Transition Snoqualmie Valley members. The Carnation-based group has met twice with Francis Ayley, the creator of Life Dollars and Fourth Corner Exchange (www.fourthcornerexchange.com), most recently on Friday, Dec. 3, to discuss the feasibility of the system for the Valley

“We’re trying to form a group here,” explains Kristy Trione, a member of the Transition steering committee. “The main reason is to keep goods and services local.”

Transition Snoqualmie Valley is modeled after Transition US (http://transitionus.org), which aims to prepare people for lifestyle changes, expected to come with climate change issues and declining oil production (peak oil). A local currency aligns with that goal, since all the transactions would take place between people within the same community.

However, Ayley notes that a local currency is also limited exactly because it can be used only within one community. Life Dollars differ from local currency in that respect, says Ayley, because anyone who is a member of Fourth Corner Exchange, the Life Dollars trading community, can trade with anyone else, whether they are in Port Townsend or England.

“There’s no reason why our currency can’t be used internationally,” he said. “We’ve designed the perfect cooperative monetary system.”

In the exchange, each member starts an account with a zero balance, but they can buy or sell goods and services immediately. Members can “owe” Life Dollars if they don’t have enough on hand, and take as much time as they need, interest-free to earn what they owe.

“We don’t call it debt…it’s a commitment to pay back to the community the value of the goods and services that you have received,” said Ayley.

Members negotiate fair prices for each trade, and can transact with a combination of Life Dollars and national currency. Each member is asked to return their account to a zero balance before leaving the program, and Ayley says that in the seven years that Fourth Corner Exchange has been in operation, "I've never seen anyone default on their account."

To allow more people access to the Life Dollars program, Ayley has reduced the membership fee, from $45 annually to $25. That's in US dollars, because "most of our expenses are in national currency," Ayley said. However, in some cases, Fourth Corner Exchange accepts Life Dollars for membership renewals, either as partial or full payment.

Transition Snoqualmie Valley is discussing becoming a chapter of Fourth Corner Exchange. This will require a core group of 25-35 members joining, and then recruiting other members, businesses, and eventually governments.

"The more people who join, the more options and opportunities there are," Trione said.

Follow-up meeting

Transition plans a follow-up meeting to learn more about the monetary system this Friday, Dec. 10, 7 to 9 p.m. at the Loft at Carnation Tree Farm.

For more information, visit http://transitionsnoqualmievalley.ning.com.

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