UK LETS and Complementary Currencies
Development Agency


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After the Conference
The Importance of Being Prudent
extracted from the May 1999 newsletter

By Jan Wyllie

In October 1998, the LETSLINK UK National Conference, New Choices for the Millennium, was told in no uncertain terms that a combination of severe trouble in the global economy and population factors could change complementary currencies - LETS, Time Dollars and many others out from the margins to being a mainstream survival tool.

     Both Bernard Lietaer, designer of the Euro and renowned monetary thinker and myself found ourselves coming to the same basic point from our very different perspectives. My perspective rests on five years of systematic "intelligence" research into the subjects of computing and the global economy. Bernard's viewpoint comes from being an economist, a central banker and a money trader

     Yet, here we are already six months later and the stock markets in the US and the UK are at all time highs, while governments and corporations are assuring us that the so-called millennium bug has been pretty well squashed, so there is no need to prepare (and especially don't take your money out of your bank!)

     However, it can hardly be said that things are improving in Asia and Russia, while the new "Euroland" teeters on the edge of deflation and rocketing joblessness. Meanwhile, the terms of the Maastricht treaty will prevent European governments from borrowing to boost the safety net. It is a recipe for severe social unrest, especially when the costs of the Balkan war have to be counted.

     In the US, prosperity is still based on an over-valued asset bubble which is fueling a hot consumer economy financed by short term credit debt. As soon as the market turns, borrowers will have to stop buying and the deflationary spiral is still liable to kick in with a vengeance.

     As for the Y2K software difficulties, the consequences are still impossible to predict. However, no matter what this month's spin is, the potential for serious disruption and worse is still there.

     Nobody knows how our food supply will be affected. Italy, Spain, Germany and France are all way behind on awareness and it is universally acknowledged that these countries will not have their systems fixed in time. The situation in Eastern Europe, Russia and the Far East is known to be far worse.


     The stories people read in the press hardly ever try to look at the bigger picture. Nor do the software experts who have been charged with "fixing" the trouble.

     But what can we -- should we -- do in the face of such uncertainty? Personally, I believe we should first prepare to help each other on a much bigger scale ... which is what the UK LETS movement is all about isn't it?

     Then I think it is important to think about essential food supplies. Local sourcing, community co-op buying and selling, growing, preserving and trading your own can all play a part.

     If you think at all about the precarious state of the world we live in, these kind of precautions would be considered prudent, anyway.

     There is no shortage of information about what to do and how to cope.

     If governments were prudent and responsible, they would counsel and help people to take these kinds of self-help measures, rather than trying to "prevent panic". Fear coupled with urgent action is the antidote to panic. Becoming aware of serious trouble when it is already too late to do anything is the sure-fire recipe for panic.

     As we all face the huge uncertainties of climate change and the accelerated poisoning of the environment, which sustains us, prudence requires us to prepare for these kind of unknown challenges anyway, if our way of life is to become sustainable in anything but the very short term.

     The pioneers of complementary currencies and LETS believed that they were developing a life boat to save a world drowning in debt and destruction. But then, the powers than be succeeded in generating another cycle of economic destruction (in the name of growth) based on even more debt.

     So six months after the conference, I am still saying that a new economy of thrift and survival is being born out of a crumbling economy of excess and consumption. Y2K may simply be the midwife.

Jan Wyllie was a trustee of LETSLINK UK and is Managing Director of Trend Monitor (www.trendmonitor.com)

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