Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"elevator-pitches" for community currencies

There's a skype chat I'm on that discusses community currencies, that recently was trying to find "the ultimate elevator pitch" for community currencies. This is a very reasonable request as all of us working in this area are frequently asked to describe what we are up to succinctly. Here's my post to that chat in response to this request:

The results on this chat of the request for "the" cc elevator pitch is very interesting, and I think very telling. It led to one of the longest back and forth we've seen on all kinds of things about different approaches to what is the key or central issue and reason for community currencies. The arguments and points of view presented were pretty familiar and very similar in flavor (though much more civil :-) to what happens over on IJCCR and elsewhere in cc circles. But, as I've seen before, they don't seem to take us very far. In theory I agree that an elevator pitch helps us focus on the "essence" of a thing, but my experience has been that there really is no single elevator pitch for cc. I now see this experience itself as a clue to the essence of community currency.

When I'm talking with free-market business people my elevator pitch is about allowing the power of competition and the marketplace to work on the currency system itself.

When I'm talking with environmentalists, my elevator pitch is about cc as a tool for solving the problem of the economic externalities of pollution and environmental degradation.

When I'm talking with social and political activists my elevator pitch is about how the structure of money is fundamentally causal of the problems unequal distribution of wealth.

When I'm talking with mathematicians my pitch is about how money is an axiom and current economics is the theorems that results from that axiom, but a different axiom (i.e. community currency) is possible that leads to whole new theorems, just like non-Euclidean geometry resulted from changing the parallel postulate.

When I'm talking with engineers and information-theory folks my elevator pitch is about Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety and questions of the insufficient information carrying capacity of the monetary system to handle the control problems posed by the modern economy.

When I'm talking with computer geeks my elevator pitch is about cc as a peer-to-peer distributed information system and about "pushing the intelligence to the edges" as in Reed's Law.

When I'm talking with peace activists my elevator pitch is about how the structure of money is what allows governments to finance wars (it's not the taxes which just pay for them after the fact).

When I'm talking with people focused on spirituality my elevator pitch is about how cc can be a tool for changing the economy itself into a means for increasing mindfulness, self-consciousness and community interrelatedness.

When I'm talking with the plain old "concerned-citizen" my elevator pitch is about their experience of degraded community and how money that leaves the community is central to the problem and how money that "goes-round" is the solution to that problem.

When I'm talking with people who are interested in questions of trust my elevator pitch is about the value of moving from an economy of external trust to internal trust, and I used the analogy of the bicycle: Bicycles are more maneuverable and useful than tricycles because we move from trusting the tricycle not to fall over because of the stability of its three wheels, to trusting ourselves to not let the bike fall over because of the stability of our steering.

Similarly this process of moving the locus of control from outside of communities to inside them can be applied to money. (This pitch works well with spiritual people too, and oddly, a variant of this pitch works great with engineers who understand how adding "instability" into a system is the paradoxically key ingredient to it's greater stability when the system is coupled with humans. It's one of the key things the Wright brothers figured out in designing airplanes.)

The experience of developing all these very different pitches has led me to a new pitch (it's not an "ultimate elevator pitch", it's just the one I use with people who already know something about cc) namely, that essence of community currencies is meta-currency.

That modern money was one step in the evolution of the more general human process of wealth-acknowledgment, and that the next step in wealth-acknowledgment is the building of a meta-currency platform that allows us to create currencies at will, which will activate all forms of wealth, not just tradable wealth.

Whereas money provided liquidity to value, a meta-currency platform will provide liquidity to currency itself.

Within this framework, all the other pitches are embraced.

Within this framework, the pitches given so far on this chat (and they are all pretty good) are for particular instances or types of community currencies, namely ones where the community is geographically local and the wealth acknowledged is tradable wealth.

For more than an elevator pitch (it's about 2 pages) on wealth-acknowledgment, the non-tradable forms of wealth, and a meta-currency platform in development, see http://openmoney.info/sophia