Democracy. hOURS is the form of money that a genuinely democratic society would have. The power to create the money is completely decentralized. Hours are created by the participants in the system when they transact with one another. To quote Thomas Greco: “The pinnacle of power in today's world is the power to issue money.” He’s right – it’s huuuge. Why should such power be in the hands of 19 rich white male bankers? The word democratic comes from the Greek: demos – people; cratic – rule. “Demos” really does mean “people”, not “private banking cartel”.
Wealth distribution. Those who create money decide who gets it. Different people in this society don’t all get it on the same terms – not by a longshot. At the very top are those who simply will it into existence. Below them are those they loan it to at very low rates. This is in turn gets loaned out at higher and higher rates to larger and larger groups of people. In addition to the higher rates comes an increase in the extent to which one must perform actual labor in order to obtain money, as opposed to obtaining some through merely shuffling it around.
US dollars are issued in the form of a loan. But only the principal gets created. The additional funds which would be required to fully pay back these loans (i.e. the interest) never gets issued. The only way to obtain that extra money is from other loan recipients. It’s a mathematical impossibility then that all loans will be repaid. Bankruptcies (lots of them in fact) are therefore guaranteed. When they happen, the banks gobble up collateral. This is a major contributing factor to the ever increasing concentration of wealth in our society.
Disrespecting the dollar undermines the power of the rich. As a society we suck up to corporations big time. We let them run roughshod over us, threaten us (“You want to save the spotted owl? Fine, then you can’t have a job at all.”) Here’s a subtle, but disgusting example: A high school teacher was interviewed on NPR discussing the importance of teaching kids basic writing skills. The interviewer played devil’s advocate, suggesting few people would really need that out in ‘the real world’. The teacher responded, “I thought so too, until I learned Ford motor company was interested in developing good writing skills because their employees couldn’t write a decent memo.” That’s why it’s a good thing, because Ford wants it!? Why is Ford worshipped? Because they have money, which in this day and age means the power to sustain us. By making dollars less valuable (by taking away their status as the monopoly currency) we erode corporate power. Corporate actions will no longer have such a profound, life or death level of consequences. Wealth perpetuates itself – going with another currency is like a fresh start, kind of like setting things back to equal.
Denominating a currency in hours is the fairest, most egalitarian way to do so. As a completely arbitrary abstraction, the dollar invites abuse and exploitation. Unfair terms of trade can be struck, lawyers making thousands of times what the janitors who clean their offices make, simply because they’re in a position to get away with it.
Environment. Having all money issued as loans, creating a world with interest, causes the phenomenon of “discounting the future”. That means $100 today is better than $100 a year from now, because if you had it today you could get interest on it, and have $102 or whatever in a year. So money in the present is more valuable than money in the future; hence the phrase. Why is that a problem? Well, because the future matters. We shouldn’t dis it. This serves to exacerbate environmental problems as we become a ‘sweep it under the rug’ society, believing future costs aren’t as bad as present day ones. This effects everyone’s behavior. Should you spend $300 on a replacement window that will save you $305 on your heating bill? Nope – because of interest the environment suffers. Discounting the future also helps foster a society where everyone is in a hurry all the time.
Peace, and safety from terrorism. When you use US dollars, you cooperate with a system that causes a lot of killing. The Federal Reserve is always happy to provide the financing whenever the government wants to wage war. They will buy as many bonds as the government is inclined to issue. They will use their power to manipulate securities markets to ensure private buyers can and will absorb the bonds. They’ll keep the interest rates low and pump out the extra liquidity that’s needed – the general public then ends up paying for it later with the resultant inflation (or recession, though the Fed generally chooses inflation). Interestingly, when the government wants to do some peacetime deficit spending, the Fed is much less cooperative.
Financial aggression is behind much of the 3rd world’s anger toward industrial nations. The process of creating money at interest (usury) and then seizing collateral devastates the 3rd world in the same way it works on us. Entire nations default on loans, the IMF demands “austerity measures” and governments comply, passing the costs on to citizens who didn’t want the loans in the first place. Banks seize land belonging to peasants who then must trade in their pastoral lifestyle for wage-slavery in a Nike factory. Osama Bin Laden makes appeals to Islam, but that’s just because it’s the best way to inspire passion in that part of the world. Hatred toward the US is not due to offenses against Islam, it’s due to the financial aggression.* (Of course, Islam does regard usury as a sin. Christianity used to as well, centuries ago.)
National currencies help foster a national identity. Nationalism in turn begets war. By using local currency you help dismantle the fictitious concepts of “national interests” and “national security” that delude many people into being accepting of wars, or even advocating them.
What sort of society we have. This is something of a restatement or summary of points above. But try looking at things this way for a bit: Money is a powerful director of human activities, probably the most powerful. People spend phenomenal amounts of time obtaining the stuff, often doing things they hate to do (i.e. their jobs) for it. As the issuers of dollars, the Federal Reserve system gets to decide for what purposes money is issued. The extent to which that shapes our society is enormous. The horrible sorts of environment-destroying, war-making, and body & soul deadening activities that the Fed finances become much more prevalent than they otherwise might – because they get rewarded so. The secondary uses to which money is put (an additional slew of activities it rewards/encourages, as it circulates) isn’t up to the Fed. That’s up to other people, but the Fed has determined who those other people are. The money could be put to better uses, and a bit of it is. But there’s a ton of inertia. The initial contours, the general thrust, has already been defined. When a Federal Reserve bank loans money to Dow chemical company, do you expect it will end up, somewhere down the line, funding the teaching of people in methods of organic agriculture? With money issued in this manner, is it any surprise Pathmark is bigger than purveyors of organic foods like Essene? Is it any wonder the Heritage foundation and John Birch society end up with more money than Bread & Roses? We can have regular social movements – to return to food for example, environmentalism has allowed for some mainstreaming of organic agriculture. We’re able to have CSA’s and outfits like Fresh Fields. But why must we swim against the tide so? Let’s reverse the direction of the river. Now, that’s a task that may prove harder than things like: establishing a CSA; stopping a war; undoing Jim Crow; “de-criminalizing” people with AIDS; shifting to a bicycle, rather than an automobile-centric society, etc. But the benefits, the victories, will be legion, a thousandfold greater.
In short, those who issue/have money thereby acquire the right to tell others what to do and think. We can’t allow that to persist. No one should have that kind of power, period. And those that presently do, aren’t benevolent despots. They’re causing great harm. Plato would not recognize Alan Greenspan as his ideal of the philosopher-king. We don’t need to give up money completely (well, in the really really long-term we should) but we can make money creation a consensus, and democratically based act. And see a very very different world.
Friendliness. hOURS helps build community. Dollars destroy it. They’re made purposefully scarce (by being issued as loans as described above). The scarcity puts people in competition with each other. Is it any wonder then people are always stressed out, and haggard? Is it any wonder we have so much violence, and things like road rage?
New economic opportunities. Do you have a skill to offer that the mainstream economy doesn’t appreciate? Now’s your chance to earn income for it. Are there goods and services you want but can’t find – perhaps because they’re out of the ordinary, too “non-standard” for the usual professionals to consider? They might be available in hOURS. Some tasks require levels of creativity and resourcefulness that make them financially unviable in the dollar-run system. Such things can work just fine in hOURS. Have an online yard sale – offer stuff you don’t want anymore. One person’s junk is another’s treasure. Etc.
Organize your time. Do you get into time crunches, periods when you’re busy and overwhelmed? Do you also have periods when things are lighter, maybe even a little boring? Smooth it all out. Have people take stuff off your hands when you’re busy, then give back when you have the time. Not necessarily in that order of course – you could look at it this way: When you have some free time, “bank it”. Earn Hours performing services for people. Then spend those Hours when you get swamped. Of course if your shortage of time is a chronic thing, you might be more interested in hOURS as an overall time saver…
Save Time. hOURS makes it easy to construct little “economies of scale”. That sounds kind of oxymoronic, so let me give an example. True story: One hOURS participant cooks for another, making him the same stew that she herself plans to eat. She just makes twice as much. It takes her an hour to cook it. She gives him half and charges him half an Hour. (That would be a sensible way to price it. Though it took her an hour, you could say half the time she was cooking for herself, and half the time she was cooking for him.) The key observation is that cooking for two doesn’t take twice as much time as cooking for one. Had she cooked for just herself it still would have taken her like 50 minutes. There’s a net gain of 20 minutes then (10 minutes of extra work, but 30 earned) which she can realize by spending that half Hour having someone take some other task off her hands.
Creative things can be done when Hours exchanges are tied to other transactions as barter. A simple example: one could pay their rent by buying their landlord massages with Hours. If you have a full-time (maybe and then some) job and feel pressed for time, but have some disposable dollar income, maybe you’d like to get a little free time in your paycheck in lieu of some of those dollars. Someone could pay you Hours to work at your regular job. What would be their motivation? To get something from your employer. Suppose they pay you 4 Hours and you do a 40-hour work-week. Your employer could withhold 1/10th of your paycheck that week, which could go to your hOURS benefactor in some form. Perhaps they receive goods/services of that value. If you work for a non-profit that doesn’t offer any goods or services, maybe they do it as a donation to the effort. (Non-profit organizations could do this sort of thing on a large scale, by the way.) You could save some money on income tax doing this. Now you’ve got 4 Hours burning a hole in your wallet. Maybe you hire someone to take some tasks off your hands. Presto, you’ve got free time now.
The personal touch. You don’t have to deal with institutions to provide for yourself. You don’t need to open a business, go on a job interview, enter a store… Interact with people personally, make new friends…
* The military presence doesn’t help either. None of this is meant to argue that dollars are the sole cause of all these problems – just a contributing factor.