Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Posting your comments on our blog. If our blog inspires, enlightens or even confuses you, please post a comment. To do this, go to the bottom of that particular blog, where you will find “x comments” in green. Click on that and it will take you to the “Post a comment” page. Type in your praise, questions or abuse and then “choose an identity”. The first two are relevant if you have your own blog, else choose the third and type your name (and website, if you have one) or just post anonymously. Click “Publish your comment” and there you are, although there’ll be a delay as I get to vet them!

And if you like a particular blog, do have a look to see if there have been any comments posted. Click on the same “x comments” link and you’ll see what’s been written by other readers. Kristen (he's the happy one in the photo) posted a really comprehen-sive comment to my last blog, on the subject of Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) more specifically, their French equivalent, Système d'Échange Local (SEL). It’s so good, I don’t want it to be hidden / lost and reprint it here in full. (Don’t be put off, I don’t expect all comments to be this long! But do be impressed with the standard of English, as Kristen is very French!)

The French equivalent of LETS is SEL (système d'échange local), and I am very seriously contemplating putting my efforts into starting one around where I live, as I believe local 'currencies' such as the ones in these systems can save communities from total breakdown if (when) the world monetary system collapses (see my recent article on

Those local currencies often have a very useful feature: they melt when you do not use them (built-in negative interest rate). This encourages exchange and prevents hoarding. It places the supplier of goods and services in a dominant position with respect to the holder of money (which is the reverse of our current money system). It also has the same effect as hyperinflation of evaporating unused capital, but without the ill-effect of disorganising price references and gnawing at pensions and salaries.

Now the question of how to value work. There are three common possibilities: equal wages (as in: one hour of work = one unit of currency, be it aromatherapy, plumbing, or quantum physics), fixed prices (as in: some authority decides how much everything costs) or free market (as in: how many hours of plumbing would you be ready to do in return for ten minutes of high-end business consulting). Although there could be countless objections, I think I prefer the first (egalitarian) solution: everyone earns the same with the same amount of work. The difference then, between people with different skill levels, is that skilled people can choose the most interesting jobs, while unskilled people have to go for the repetitive tasks. It is now a struggle for quality of life rather than standard of living. I earn the same as my neighbour, only I like what I do better than he does. In fact, this is exactly what I have been doing in the past ten years, reducing my working hours so that my income has not changed.

I also like the possibility of fixed prices, as long as you can keep enough competition in the system. We know that one of the trends of a free-market system is to endlessly lower quality, because consumers go for the cheaper thing, even though it is flimsier or ill-finished. When the prices are fixed, the consumer will always go for the best quality, enticing craftspeople to always improve on quality (therefore durability, therefore sustainability). In essence, in a fixed price system, market forces adjust quality (instead of price). The danger when there is too little competition (oligopoly or monopoly) is a drop in quality. But this happens with free markets too, in which monopoly not only reduces quality, but also increases price. So apart from the (probably titanic) bureaucratic burden of fixing prices, I also like fixed price systems. (but I still prefer egalitarian systems).

Cheers, Kristen. Next up, Cider making, Part 2, then Guy Fawkes fun French stylie, making hempcrete, salad leaves all winter and loads of other stuff!