Visit to Wörgl, Austria

Reminiscences at the City MuseumMs. Veronika SpielbichlerThe Unterguggenberger InstituteMichael Unterguggenberger's statue next to the City HallMilestone

On Nov 03, 2006 I visited the Unterguggenberger Institute in Wörgl, Tirol, Austria and had a conversation with Ms. Veronika Spielbichler both about the historic event of “labor certificate” in 1930s and the ongoing projects today.

The first thing that attracted my attention on arriving at the Wörgl railroad station is the milestones. January 1st, 1 AD is arbitrarily selected as the day €1 is deposited with the compound interest rate of 3% per year, and historic incidents(such as the Destruction of Jerusalem, The Council of Nicaea, the Fall of Constantinople and the Fall of Bastille) are shown always with the value that this deposit had grown by that time(you will end up with being unable to count these numbers!). Of course both the publication of the “Natural Economic Order”(book / milestone) and the labor certificate”(to be depicted later) in 1932 are included in this series, accentuating the importance of monetary reform.

Then I went to the Unterguggenberger Institute, which is located in the very house Michael Unterguggenberger lived in. Ms. Spielbichler brought me to the city museum to show me several photos, publications and other reminiscences of this historic experience. In 1932 Michael Unterguggenberger, then mayor of Wörgl, issued the so-called “labor certificate” to stimulate the local economy, and it was extremely successful especially because of its “demurrage”(you would have to pay 0.1 schilling with each 10-schilling bill at your hand if you kept it to the next month, i.e. each bill loses 1% of its face value monthly). Although this experience was prohibited by the Austrian authorities one year later, this experience is known worldwide as the biggest success of the “Demurrage” that Silvio Gesell had proposed on his book “Natural Economic Order” in 1916.

But it is even more important that this is not only historic: Ms. Spielbichler told me a bit about the current situation in Wörgl. These milestones, built both by the municipal government(with the current mayor’s message) and the very bank which supported the labor certificate initiative more than seven decades ago, is a good proof that the local community still remembers this incident. This institute has been collecting information on today’s experiences in Europe as well as giving advices to those who want to introduce similar initiatives and has been playing an active role on introducing I-motion), a local initiative to promote the youth’s communitarian activities. She said that 2007 will be the “free money year” and several events(such as exhibitions and theaters) will be given there.

(Correction: the bank which financed the milestones is not the one which supported the initiative in 1932.  Thank you, Ms. Veronila Spielbichler, for the correction)

It is very nice for me that quite a few inhabitants still remember such a historic event. I wish them all the best and the further growth of this movement.

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