Common Sense currency

IssueOctober 2008
News by John Rety

Transition towns are a new and fast spreading initiative on how our communities can cope with climate change and the decline of oil supplies. One important aspect is that of local finance.

Lewes, birth-place of Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of the Rights of Man, a popular text book of republican principles, has issued its own currency, the “Lewes Pound”.
The money can be exchanged at issuing points round the town including the Farmers’ Market and the Town Hall. Over a hundred shops have already joined the scheme (supermarkets and multinationals are not included) and walking around one can see vigorous advertising for the “Pound” in the shop-windows.
One other town, Totnes in Devon, has also issued its own currency. This augurs well for the scheme which is likely to sweep across the country bringing with it a whiff of new “anarchist” politics. At the Lewes Arms the customers were divided in their opinions from: “Good idea, go for it”, to: “Don’t see the point”. And from: “It’s just another middle-class racket, they are selling it on eBay”, to: “I’m all in favour of it, it will help local industry” and: “Funny they should have Tom’s picture on the note, wasn’t he a tax-collector?”.
The scheme has started well but it is not going to be easy. The banks, intent on maximum profit, are not co-operating, although the local manager of NatWest wanted to introduce it, but head office apparently ruled against it.