Monthly Archives: October 2006

The conference “monetary regionalisation” at Weimar, Germany

The international academic conference “Monetary Regionalisation – Local Currency Systems as Catalysts for Endogenous Regional Development” took place at Bauhaus Weimar-University in Weimar, Germany on Sep 28 and 29, attracting more than 250 participants not only from Europe but also from Argentina, Australia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and South Africa. German and non-German researchers who see community currencies as a tool for autonomous development at each region gave different and invaluable presentations.The first day was supposed to begin with Bernard Lietaer’s online lecture, who classified community currencies as part of “complementary currencies” from the Taoist viewpoint of yin-yang, but the terrible Internet connection made it necessary that Margrit Kennedy, who has been working for years with Lietaer, should take his place. He(actually she) said that yang symbolizes male values such as competition and expansionism while yin represents female ones such as equality and sustainability, and that complementary currencies’ role is to fulfil the lacking yin as our current economic system is run only by the yang-promoting official currencies.

Historical examples in Europe and United States were given after this keynote lecture. Jérôme Blanc, of Université Lumière Lyon, France, made clear that local currencies were issued by different actors(such as local governments, non-profits, local businesses and banks) for the promotion of the local economy or its autonomous development, that regional banks issued their own currencies in France and Germany on their early stage of industrialization and that there were a number of initiatives from 19th to 20th century. Loren Gatch, from University of Central Oklahoma, United States, mentioned that similar practices were found there too in 1930s during the Great Depression, stressing the importance to design local currencies as an instrument for the self-interest of each individual and/or corporation.
Then followed two presentations on the framing of “regions”. Roger Lee, from University of London, told about the importance of keeping “economic geographies” which is under the pressure of today’s globalization, because economies are rather run in such zones than on the level of each nation-state. Robert Musil, from the Universität Wien, Austria, showed his study based on the networking theory, telling that rich regions tend to rule poorer ones and that different sorts of complementary currency systems are needed for different regional activities, ranging from mutual-help one to finance. And Nigel Thrift, from Warwick University, United Kingdom, spoke that we need to have another financial system which takes care of social aspects as well as regional developments since our society today is more and more controlled by the financial capital.

The second day started with Martina Schäfer, of the Technical University of Berlin, about the REGIO(regional currencies) initiatives which have been emerging in Germany for the last four years as a means to create buy-local-style economy and to promote non-profit activities, on top of showing some key points for the success of REGIO. Jonathan Warner, from Dordt University, Iowa, United States, followed her to tell about the recent trend of local currency movements there.
Several mainstream economists also gave their analyses on community currencies. Wolfgang Cezanne, of Cottbus University, shows his survey on them as well as on the “aging money,” suggested by Silvio Gesell(1862-1930). Gerhard Rösl, at Regensburg University who once worked for the Federal Bank of Germany, told that he is in favor of using this tool, although he is skeptical on its effectiveness on the regional economy. And Henning Osmers, from Universität Oldenburg, Germany, explained how the monetary policy is affected by regional currencies.
Several real practices were presented in the afternoon. Peter North from Liverpool University, United Kingdom, told about this movement in Hungary, followed by Athanasia Kyunghee Chun from Daejeon University, Korea, who gave the overview on this movement in this Asian country as well as on Hanbat LETS with which she has been involved. Gill Seyfang, from East Anglia University, United Kingdom, said that Time Bank systems, operational there, play a complementary role with LETS(local exchange and trading systems).
On the last part Stephen DeMeulenaere, based now in Bali, Indonesia as an employee of the Dutch non-profit Strohalm to work for the promotion of community currencies, gave several examples in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world. Then Barbara Roßmeißl showed her analysis on the RGT movement in Argentina, followed by Heloisa Primavera, from the University of Buenos Aires, told about her Colibri projects in Argentina and Brazil.
I was strongly impressed by the fact that most participants shared the awareness that we need to create community currencies and other systems to get over social and economic issues because they are tightly related with our monetary system. The results of this conference will be published soon in English and German.