According to the Complementary Currency Resource Centre, there are 236 alternative or complementary currencies around the world
An executive office in Bank is not somewhere you might expect to find many anti-establishment voices. You certainly wouldn’t expect to hear the argument that the Bank of England — just a few hundred metres away — ought to give up its monopoly on UK money to make space for competing currencies. But Michael Mainelli, co-founder of commercial think tank Z/Yen believes just that, and he’s not alone.
According to the Complementary Currency Resource Centre, there are 236 alternative or complementary currencies around the world, which run alongside mainstream fiat currencies. These include local currencies, like the Brixton, Totnes, Lewes and Bristol pound in the UK, digital currencies like Bitcoin, and trade currencies like WIR and Ormita, which have grown out of business-to-business barter exchanges.
‘The last time we saw this number of currencies proliferate was back in 1929,’ Mainelli says. During the Great Depression around 400 scrip currencies were issued in America in response to money shortages, with similar experiments scattered across Europe too. Then, as now, the projects were founded on the realisation that one way of tackling failings in the financial system is to print different money.
I have investigated these currencies, from Basel to Brixton, which you can read more about in the next issue of Spear's.