Saturday, June 20, 2009

Local Money Strengthens Communities

FEDERAL currency was in short supply during the Great Depression, so local banks, stores, town governments and others with initiative issued their own scrip. In Springfield, Massachusetts, the publisher of the Springfield Union News, Samuel Bowles, began to pay his employees in scrip redeemable at local stores, which used it to pay for advertisements in the newspaper. Seeing Bowles regularly and knowing his character, locals developed more confidence in his dollars than federal money, which helped the Springfield economy stay relatively healthy during those hard times.

As production for World War II and President Franklin Roosevelt's work programs helped get the national economy back on its feet, local money faded away. But the last few years have seen a resurgence in local currencies, which are being used to keep money in the community and out of mall-based chain retail stores that decimate downtowns and force longtime merchants out of business. Local currencies affirm the value of labor among everyone in the community and reaffirm connections frayed in a mobile, increasingly impersonal society.


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