Recently, a colleague drew my attention to the “Bristol Pound“, an example of a “local currency“. Ah yes, I said, that’s been around for a few years now. Embarrassingly, I later realised I was thinking about the “Brixton Pound“. Having attended many concerts at the legendary Brixton Academy (Nick Cave, Ministry and the Sugarcubes among them), I really should have known the difference between Bristol and Brixton!
There are now a number of local currencies in Britain. The first to appear in recent years was the ”Totnes Pound“, launched in March 2007. According to their website, the benefits of the Totnes Pound are:
- To build resilience in the local economy by keeping money circulating in the community and building new relationships
- To get people thinking and talking about how they spend their money
- To encourage more local trade and thus reduce food and trade miles
- To encourage tourists to use local businesses
The aims of the Brixton Pound, the Bristol Pound and the other local currencies are essentially the same. As far as I can tell, the take up of these currencies to date has been modest, but the Bristol Pound represents an interesting new development. Not only does it have a far slicker website, but it also offers payment by mobile phone. Perhaps most significantly, according to the FAQ, ”Business members that pay business rates to Bristol City Council will be able to pay in Bristol Pounds.”
A key tenet of “Modern Monetary Theory” is that the value of fiat money is not underpinned by gold or any other commodity; rather its value derives from the government levying tax in that currency. Since almost everyone has to pay tax at some point, this creates a base level of demand for the currency. So, perhaps the fact that the Bristol City Council is supporting the Bristol Pound will enhance its take-up prospects. It would be even more interesting if the council decided that they would only accept Bristol Pounds as payment for rates.