A Local Currency Begins To Save a Local World


Programming note: this is the first installment in an occasional series called “With Their Own Hands.”



This is one of those stories. It’s got everything one of those stories has. It happens in an unlikely, out of the way place. It’s about people coming together in common cause for their own lives and their own communities. And the original spark comes from a couple visionary citizens who see what needs to happen and believe if they work hard for a few years there’s a good chance it will happen.

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m in the hamlet of Accord, NY (pop. 562). For a couple years I’ve been following the story of the creation of a local currency for Ulster County called the Hudson Valley Current. It’s up and running and today its creators are giving a demo to show it off.

It’s a party, a quiet celebration. Barbara, a local bookkeeper signs up for her brand new HV Current account. She’s planning to start getting paid at least partly in Currents which she’ll use to buy services, food and other goods from members of her community. A few people have worked hard for the last four years for this day, and pride and satisfaction are in the air.

There’s something to be said for being on the flat end of the bell curve of being credulous. The people behind this didn’t take anyone’s word about much of anything. Chris and his wife Nicole spent years learning how to succeed as non-profit publishers and currently publish Country Wisdom News. David helped lead Sustainable Hudson Valley and co-founded Buddhist Television International and has developed expertise in traditional and alternative economics. Maria developed software for the international art world for years and now does “applied art” for local farmers, sometimes getting paid in chickens (though of course she’ll soon be paid in Currents). Perhaps the most telling detail of the whole event is her authorship of Completely Mad, the best-selling and definitive history of “the usual band of idiots” behind Mad Magazine, who, as perhaps the least credulous outfit in all of American popular culture, nurtured the non-credulous impulses of so many of us.

Ithaca Hours

Ithaca Hours

There’s a kind of brain freeze the first time you hear about local currencies. You mean, you just make it up? Like, instead of US dollars? It seems impossible, daft, illegal, pointless or some other kind of too weird to think about. But it’s a real thing and people have been working on it for years. There are working examples right here in these United States and around the world. In fact, there’s more than 2,500.

Since it’s geographically limited and used by local people and businesses, it strengthens local enterprise and blunts some of the tremendous power national and multinational companies deployed against local economy to such devastating effect. Wealth circulates locally rather than being drained away, diverted to distant corporate interests.

As things come apart, faith in existing authority begins to fade away. It’s natural a few hardy souls will take matters into their own hands and create something that will actually work. The world is careening toward a stratified system of a few haves and enormous numbers of have-nots and have-littles. The economy is serving nearly none of us and sets many of our parameters, shaping what people are taught, and who lives how well and for how long. As things begin to fracture, zones will proliferate where the native genius of a few and the willingness of a few more will combine to set a different kind of tone and table.

HV Current

HV Current

michigan currency

And also from Michigan

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