It was reported last week that Canadian citizens have been cutting their official government money in half and using it as a localized alternative currency. The currency is called “Demi,” which means “half” in french. The Demi currency is being used specifically in the Gaspesie region of northern Quebec and is actually accepted by a number of local businesses.
The founders of the currency have specified that the half dollar notes are worth half of whatever value the original note was intended to be. For example, half of a $10 bill is worth $5, while half of a $20 bill is worth $10.
The idea for the Demi formed from a conversation that Gaspesie resident Martin Zibeau had with his friends who came from areas of Europe where alternative currencies were being used in place of the Euro.
Zibeau explained that he began by getting members of the community to join in on the plan, which was especially important for local businesses.
“The first few people that started using the demi were people we just had a conversation with, 99.9% of the people who first hear about it go what the hell is that. They react very strongly, very emotionally, why would you do something like that?” Zibeau said.
Luckily, there were some very open minded businesses in his area that were eager to jump on board. Gerard Mathar, for example, is a local business owner who has a company that sells food items foraged from the mountain forests, like mushrooms and berries. His business sells their products to local restaurants who are in the market for that type of food.
“I buy bread, a lot of food, vegetables,” Mathar said.
The plan was surprisingly welcomed by local economists, one of whom called the idea “brilliant.”
Germain Basile, an economist at HEC Montreal, said the plan was a “brilliant solution” because, “If anyone can photocopy any alternative currency it becomes very very abundant and it loses its value.” He added that a state currency would be one of the most difficult things out there to reproduce.
Many people in different areas of the world have been moderately successful at implementing local currencies, such as Mountain Hours or Ithaca Hours, which have gained traction in the U.S.
In London, an interesting alternative currency bearing the face of pop singer David Bowie recently came into circulation. According to Market Watch, the local currency is specialized for the Brixton community in southwest London. It is officially called the “Brixton Pound.”
For the economy to really be in the hands of the people, it is necessary to decentralize the currency and to have an open-source network of competing currencies that are community based and easily exchangeable. While it is impossible to predict how we will trade a century, or even five years from now, we can still observe how people are innovating within their own areas and take those lessons into account for when state- and bank-issued currencies finally diminish in value to the point where they are unusable.
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