The notion of infusing simplicity into our lives can help us to become more thoughtful and in tune with our surroundings. When we educate ourselves and become more conscientious about how our actions and decisions affect others, we begin to see the interconnectedness of life. We each have the potential to make choices that are integral in creating positive transitions for the future.
Economics affects each of us but tends to be a subject for discussion reserved for a selected few. The reality is that each of us shakes hands with U.S. dollars on a daily basis. Becoming more aware of our relationship with money makes common sense.
We live in a society where the dollar seamlessly weaves itself into our daily routine. It is hard to imagine what life would be like without money. We work for it, save it, borrow it, and spend it. The dollar is commonplace in our lives and makes it easy to negotiate for the things we need. As a tool it serves us well. Life might not be so easy if we had to arrange a direct trade with the grocer each time we needed to fill our pantry. Being that life’s transactions are so easy, we often spend our money with a certain level of disconnect. Being more conscientious about how we spend our dollars can bring about not only benefits to us, but to the community and region we live in as a whole.
U.S. dollars have greased the wheels of commerce while the innovation and hard work of individuals have kept the economy in motion. Never before in the history of man has the availability and selection of goods from around the world been so robust. The wonder years of consumption and growth seemingly had no end until last year. A year ago we watched in amazement as the old economy unraveled before us—banks failing, established corporations seeking bankruptcy protection, unemployment increasing, and governments nervously printing currency hoping to buy their way out of these problems. Today, we are still reverberating from the collapse. Basic economics teaches us that economic systems are susceptible to fluctuations and change. Typically these changes are tied to things over which we have little or no control. On a national level, solutions are few and far between. Locally we can find solutions. By working with a few new ideas and tools we can increase the wealth and well-being of our region by making a transition towards sustainable community-based economics.
When you come right down to it, economics is the study of how goods and services are produced, distributed, and consumed. When we refer to community-based economics, we are looking at those same things, but more specifically at the local level. So, how about our local economy? Is it successful? How much reliance do we have on outside resources? How much do we import vs. export? When dollars flow into our area, how long do they stay? Is our local economy sustainable? And then, the big question: how is this important to me? It’s simple. When we understand how our individual dollars affect our entire community, then we realize that we have control over our spending choices. This control ultimately can shape the future into a direction we would like to see.
We all benefit from dollars circulating in the local economy. When we buy locally produced goods, it increases the demand for local production, creating more jobs for people in our community. In turn, when these people spend and reinvest locally, it is likely the money will come back around to pay us to do something that we enjoy doing. Community economics encourages us to consider the effects of our spending within the big picture. When we do, we can interact with the ebb and flow of money and affect what is going on right outside our front door. It’s a change of thought: Think globally, spend locally.
Buying locally isn’t a new concept but the tools that help close the spending loop are. This is where the HOUR Trader springs into action, becoming an asset to the community. It brings the tool of local currency onto the scene. It works by creating a valuable currency that is based on the real resources of people that live right here in our region. These local dollars aren’t intended as a replacement for the U.S. dollar but instead work in tandem as a complement to the system that already exists. Backed by local individuals and businesses, the HOURS currency is only valuable in our region, which means it stays here for us to use. HOURS recycle endlessly through the community making connections, expanding trade, and stimulating new job possibilities. HOURS have a real value that adds to the local money supply, increasing commerce and trade. The network builds new friendships and trust between neighbors and businesses in our community.
Simple changes to how we interact with economics can be a benefit to our community as a whole. When a community is self-reliant, we feel connected to the people and the place in which we live. When a region is self-reliant, we can exercise more control over the decisions affecting our future growth and use of resources. The change in economic patterns enables us to make sustainable choices for our future. It’s a simple idea of shaping a new economy that is fair, sustainable, and takes people into account. It is taking old concepts and creating them anew. That makes common sense.
Christina Calkins, Program Advisor