LETS is about more than money, it is also about rebuilding society using alternative/sustainable economic policies and practices. Complementary Exchange Systems fall into this category because they are instrumental in:
- Mobilizing the Real Wealth of a Community: The knowledge and skills of its people is the real wealth of a community. Conventional money drains away while a local exchange system keeps this wealth moving about the community, generating economic activity and providing access to the common wealth for all involved. People who have accumulated a wide range of skills and abilities suddenly become once again highly valued members of the community.
- Fostering Self-Reliance & Self Esteem: In our communities unemployment is growing and increasing numbers of people are unable to get their needs met. Single-parents may need respite care or other services for their children. Elderly pensioners also need a range of specialised services or may simply require company to combat loneliness. At present a person’s ability to access these and other services is proportional to their purchasing power. The community exchange system breaks this bottleneck by making it easier to match someone’s need with another’s offerings. People are no longer dependent upon welfare or charity, and everyone’s self esteem is elevated.
- Increased Personal Savings & Disposable Income: Because CES users can acquire local goods and services through their local exchange system, this reduces their need for national currency. Disposable income in conventional money, available after basic needs are met, thus increases. Those who trade regularly with complementary exchange systems will find they have more money left in their pockets at the end of each week. The rate of community savings, and therefore of community investment and capital generation, will improve. This will result in an improvement in the quality of life for everyone.
- Creating Local Economic Control: Complementary exchange systems help to plug the leaky bucket of the local economy. By creating an exchange system that reduces the leakage of wealth from a community, uncontrolled and activity-limiting capital outflows are reduced. As wealth generated by users of a local exchange system only has value in the community in which it is generated, it continues circulating to create more wealth for everyone. They give community members a powerful new tool with which to “steer” the local economy in directions which benefit everyone.
- Building Community Support Networks: Because the CES plugs its users into a local information network, it provides new or isolated residents with an instantaneous social support network. This avoids the embarrassment of introductions for strangers. Through a CES network all users have a ready reason for calling for support or help. Elderly pensioners, people with disabilities, unemployed youth, supporting parents, new arrivals, and single-income families with partners trapped in a dormitory suburb can all build firm friendships on relationships established through a functioning network.
- Fostering Social Justice & Equality: Because the value attached to one’s time and commitment is set individually by participants, a complementary exchange system equalises the differentials that exist in the conventional economy between the work of women and the work of men. This greater equality helps prevent the polarisation of the community “haves” and “have-nots”. There is no point in accumulating community credits as they do not earn interest. It is only by spending them back into the community that the individual or community benefits. Local exchange systems foster participation at all levels in the community.
- Building a Sense of Community: The increasingly transient, temporary and mobile lifestyle in the world today has seriously damaged our sense of belonging to a meaningful community. Because a local exchange system builds relationships it is a powerful means of regenerating a sense of trust among community members, a necessary component to the health of any community. As communities become more self-aware and self-reliant through the use of a local exchange system, isolation, fear and loneliness diminishes and everyone benefits.
- Keeping Wealth Where it is Created: National currencies always leak away to the ‘money centres’ creating money deserts and the dwindling of local economic activity. Local exchange systems, on the other hand, are community based and so keep wealth where it is created. Where previously economic activity was stagnant, the local exchange system can stimulate trade and permit things to happen where formerly there was no economic activity due to a lack of money. By being community focussed the entire community becomes self-sufficient and does not have to rely on ‘imports’ and external businesses to provide what is required.
- Bringing the ‘Money Power’ Back to the Commons: The money we use in our daily lives is provided by the corporate financial system as a profit-making enterprise, not by the government as a public service to the community. As such, the money we use does not belong to the commons and so we have little control over how it is spent and who it benefits. A local exchange system is democratic because it brings the ‘money power’ back to the people. Its users can decide how that power is exerted.