Don't live in one of these communities? No problem. The whole point of the online, collaborative world of today is that we can use the technologies at our fingertips to collaborate, share ideas, and spread open source know how to other people all around the globe.
We have talked in these pages many times about how the current economic paradigm is collapsing. The decline of the dollar, the encroaching police state, the casino economy created by the derivatives-crazy banksters; we have discussed the problem in its many aspects in great detail. And for years now I have insisted that the only true way out of this jam is to create an alternative economy focused on local business, utilizing complementary currencies, and re-connecting neighbors to one another.
Talk of creating an alternative economy sounds like an abstract pipe dream. But it is not. There are communities out there that are striving right now toward the goal of constructing those alternative institutions that will see us through the oncoming economic collapse. Sure, they aren't completely self-sufficient utopias yet; maybe they never will be. But people are working together in organizations to improve their communities and give their local economy a fighting chance against the inevitable fall of the Federal Reserve Note funny money system.
Let's take a look at four communities across the US that are working toward these goals right now.
Ithaca will already be familiar to readers of this publication, regular listeners of The Corbett Report, or those who have seen my new feature-length documentary, “Century of Enslavement: The History of the Federal Reserve.” Last year I interviewed Paul Glover on The Corbett Report podcast about Ithaca Hours, the community currency he founded in 1991. A mutual-credit currency, the Hour is valued at $10 US dollars. Hours are created through interest-free loans or grants to local non-profit organizations and community members can choose to offer their services in exchange for Hours or use Hours to buy services from participating community businesses, including the local credit union and medical center, local farmers, the public library, restaurants, etc.
The innovation did not stop there, however. In addition to the Hours currency, Ithaca developed a nonprofit community health organization, Ithaca Health Alliance. According to Glover, who was also behind the creation of the Health Alliance, the idea came about in 1997 when he set up a public display promoting the project and proposing: “Let’s each pay $100 per year into a fund. As the cash pile grows, we’ll pay for an increasing variety of common emergencies like broken bones, stitches, and burns.” Over the course of the next several years, the fund grew to over $1 million and offered members compensation for 12 categories of emergency up to a specified maximum amount. With their surplus funds they started a member-owned free clinic in 2006 providing 100% free healthcare services (both conventional and holistic medicine) to uninsured and under-insured Tompkins County residents.
Yet another innovation came as a result of an open community meeting in 2009 which birthed “Share Tompkins,” a volunteer-run group dedicated to helping locals share and trade goods and services in Tompkins County. The group maintains a Tompkins County resource guide with a directory of goods, services and businesses that are participating in the local barter, trade and sharing economy. Share Tompkins also organizes swap meets and free markets.
As a result of the vibrant local culture, the town has received numerous accolades in recent years, including the title of “America's most enlightened town,” and being named one of the ten best cities to retire to and the fourth best city to relocate to.
Austin has been known for at least a decade as an epicenter of the liberty movement in America. Many of the big name patriot radio hosts, including many that interviewed Bob Chapman and those that interview me, have been based in the city at one point or another. This has given rise to a vibrant liberty-minded culture centered around local institutions like Brave New Books in downtown Austin, host to events that include readings by noted national authors and lectures and seminars by local activists.
An exciting local initiative that launched in 2012 is the “Food Is Free Project.” A non-profit community building and gardening movement, the Food Is Free Project helps communities organize free community gardens using salvaged resources and offering free harvests to the community. The project makes use of drought-tolerant wicking bed gardens, low maintenance gardens which only need to be watered every 2-4 weeks.
Starting with one front yard garden, the Food Is Free Project expanded within 3 months to the point where the majority of the neighbors on the pilot block were hosting their own gardens. The group has gone on to expand into other communities, as well as constructing gardens at elementary schools, arts spaces, churches and small businesses.
The vibrant Austin liberty community also boasts the Austin Liberty Coalition, a political action group that includes libertarians, constitutionalists, the local We Are Change chapter, and other grassroots activist groups that are seeking to preserve and expand liberties in the Texan capital.
The city also hosts the H2O Austin group that recently participated in a 14-day hunger strike outside of Austin city hall to draw attention to the dangers of water fluoridation. One of the members of that group, Nicholas Lucier, is running an awareness-raising campaign in the Austin mayoral election race, pledging in his semi-annual financial statement submitted with his campaign finance report: “I vow to take no financial contributions in the 2014 Electoral Cycle, in order to remind Austinites, and the population at large, that Statesmanship is not about money, and politicians are not welcome in any of the representative bodies in Texas.”
Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara, California hosts the Sama Group, a think tank / action network focusing on solutions to societal problems with a particular focus on monetary systems. The group was co-founded by Faye Cox and Bernard Werner, Santa Barbara-based entrepreneurs and activists who were inspired by Belgian economist Bernard Lietater's promotion of complementary currencies. The Sama Group, inspired by the idea that a secondary currency system can harness a community's unused resources by matching them to unmet needs, created “Santa Barbara Missions.” According to the website, “The Santa Barbara County 'Missions' are clay tokens created for the purpose of monetizing volunteer activities of mission-driven organizations in the Santa Barbara community.” They are created when individuals commission the creation of a set of Missions to a community organization. The organization can then distribute these Missions as a form of payment for volunteer work performed by community members.
Currently, the community organization that works with Missions is the SB Food Indy Co-op. The Co-op grows, distributes, and sells food locally. It works with local farmers and sources underutilized land including community gardens and aims to create a parallel economy for individuals, local restaurants, and cafeterias that bypasses the traditional dollar-based produce distributors.
New Hampshire's largest city, Manchester is frequently ranked as one of the best cities in the US to launch a business and one of the most tax-friendly and cheapest places in the country. But there may be more to these qualities than just happenstance. Manchester is also the home base of the Free State Project, an organization dedicated to the goal of getting 20,000 like-minded, liberty-loving people to relocate to the state of New Hampshire.
Started in 2001 by Jason Sorens, the Free State Project was born of the 2000 Presidential elections in which the Libertarian Party's membership reached an all-time high but its votes and influence on the course of the campaign remained almost non-existent. The idea is simple: gather people concerned with preserving liberty in one state where their combined efforts could make a noticeable impact in shaping their community's practices. After two years of deliberations about the idea, New Hampshire was chosen as the project's target state “because it has a low state and local tax burden, a low level of dependence on federal spending, a citizen legislature where state house representatives have not raised their $100 per year salary since 1889, low crime levels, a dynamic economy with plenty of jobs and investment, and a general culture of individual responsibility, independence, and self-reliance.”
So far, 15,930 signatures have been collected pledging the project's “Statement of Intent:”
“I hereby state my solemn intent to move to the State of New Hampshire within 5 years after 20,000 Participants have signed up. Once there, I will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of individuals' life, liberty, and property.”
Although no one is obliged to move to New Hampshire until after the 20,000 signatures have been collected, there are already 1,634 members in state. Members have been “elected to state and local office, founded watchdog organizations, formed new media outlets, participated in dignified and educational civil disobedience, funded legal challenges to state abuses, or otherwise advanced the cause of liberty in noteworthy ways.”
Don't live in one of these communities? No problem. The whole point of the online, collaborative world of today is that we can use the technologies at our fingertips to collaborate, share ideas, and spread open source know how to other people all around the globe. The communities featured here are examples for others to follow.
No complementary currency in your local area? Start one yourself. It is possible. No local organization dedicated to preserving and promoting liberty? Create a meet-up group and find like-minded people in your area. No community garden project in your neighborhood? That didn't stop the Food Is Free Project from starting with a front yard garden that grew into an entire grassroots activist organization. The best part is that these solutions are applicable anywhere in the globe, and they all exist (or can be started) today.
So what are we waiting for?