Presently money instruments or things used to settle transaction agreements, e.g. dollars and credit cards, are unequally produced and distributed by governments and recognized banks. Even the monetary innovation called bitcoin, mined by computers and known as a cryptocurrency, is just a virtual form of gold. It too is unequally produced and distributed adding the elements of anonymity and with no sovereign government oversight. Although not to be completely negative, bitcoin does have a wonderful upside potential that will be discussed later.
The problem with all of these money things is that none of them can act countercyclically to pull our country out of its economic stagnation, dare I say depression even. Since this stagnation is primarily the irresponsibility of our elected representatives, we are prompted to think of ways forward on our own.
Enter The VolunteerCoin Concept
Let us do a thought experiment. The purpose being to see if we can conceive of a disruptive monetary instrument that is based on the bitcoin protocol. The combination of this disruptive monetary instrument with the bitcoin protocol we will call a volunteercoin. The end result of this combination will hopefully achieve social economic value and public purpose.
What if tomorrow we had a way to mine for or mint a volunteercoin using the collateral of one hour of time contributed by a volunteer to a nonprofit organization? What if each volunteercoin was minimally worth US$22.14, as one hour of general labor volunteer time is currently valued by Independent Sector. What if that volunteercoin could be spent for any good or service produced anywhere in the world with the same level of transaction acceptance as your credit card or even cash? We might even want to include the capability for this volunteercoin to be tradable on currency exchanges and have a flexible rate of exchange with sovereign currencies like the US dollar. If we could do all those things we might be able to put everyone in the country to work almost overnight.
Volunteercoin: A Complementary Currency
Bernard Lietaer and Jacqui Dunne in Rethinking Money write, “There is a system of solutions already in place in localities throughout the world where terrible problems have existed. The changes came about, not through the redistribution of wealth, increased conventional taxation, bond measures or enlightened self-interest from corporate entities, but rather, by people simply rethinking the concept of money.”
In essence, a volunteercoin would act as a complementary money thing/instrument, e.g. complementary currency like an Ithaca Hour, to settle any transaction for goods and/or services where it is accepted. For additional reference, Charles Eisenstein has an excellent discussion on local and complementary currency on his web site Sacred Economics.
Economist Hyman Minsky’s Quote: “Anyone can create money; the trouble is getting it accepted”
Former Minsky student and respected heterodox economist, Dr. L. Randall Wray often references that quote in his own writing. Minsky’s statement is the anchor of our whole thought experiment. Since our elected government is not working for all of its citizens to relieve the stagnation in our economy why shouldn’t people go to work for themselves by creating and using their own money instrument such as the volunteercoin?
Volunteercoin: Let’s Start It Now
If a few bitcoins can be produced by a lot of computer time for a few people then why can’t a few computers produce a lot of volunteercoins for many people based on their volunteer time? Additionally, if bitcoin can find a market and grow in value (approximately US$ 625 per bitcoin as of 02/19/2014 on Bitstamp’s orderbook) over just five years, how much faster could a volunteercoin, produced by volunteer labor, find a market and grow the wealth of our country and its citizens.
Of course there is much discussion to be done still on this thought experiment with regards to its effects on money, economics, law, and politics but we can get to that after we have created the first genesis volunteercoin. So those who want an egalitarian neighborhood, community, country, and world need to come together to start the volunteercoin on its path to reality. Who wants to start now? My hand is raised.