In Brixton, some community-minded souls are taking their movement to a natural extreme — they’re setting up a new currency. The Brixton Brick is modelled on similar schemes in Devon and elsewhere. The idea is that keeping money in a community increases its benefit to locals as it circulates round the houses, rather than going off to a multinational company or somebody’s offshore bank account.
The plan has already attracted the attention of the FT’s Tim Harford, who pronounced the whole thing a wash in terms of benefits to the local area. Some money might stay in Brixton, Harford argued, but the new currency might also discourage trade with non-locals, so Brixtoners would miss out on the spoils of free exchange.
Harford’s pretty much right when it comes to the pure economics — but local economy schemes aren’t just about pure economics. Currencies tap into things like pride in community, neighbourly goodwill, and in the case of hyperlocal money, the difference in feeling that you get from obtaining something in a way that’s more akin to bartering than paying in cash. These things can’t be measured, so conventional economists leave them out of their equations.
Fortunately we’re not similarly constrained — and if you’re interested in the Brixton currency, there’s a local economy day this Thursday 19 June at Lambeth Town Hall.
Image from Simpologist’s Flckr photostream.