Building the commons economy
Lowimpact.org are working closely with Mutual Credit Services, the Credit Commons Society, Island Power and Local Loop North West to help build commons institutions / a new, commons economy. New ideas are emerging that are summarised here. These new ideas allow us to take infrastructure into common ownership without incurring debt – which I think is the main reason that (much as we love them) co-ops / mutuals aren’t challenging capitalism, and are now being absorbed into it. Also, these ideas work well for working-class communities, which is essential for real change. Below is an outline of these new ideas (just strapline and elevator pitch, with links to more info). The groups above will run co-design workshops in any town in the UK (and via zoom if overseas) and are happy to answer questions face-to-face or online.
1. Credit clearing
Strapline: reducing the need for money and banks.
It’s something the banks do, to reduce the need for money to pay debts. But we can do it too. Imagine A owes B £10; B owes C £10; C owes A £10. If everyone has all the information, it can just clear, without needing money to pay debts. For networks of trading small businesses, this can be done with algorithms, covering larger and larger areas.
More info: https://www.lowimpact.org/categories/credit-clearing (put questions for specialists into comments).
2. Mutual credit
Strapline: the means of exchange in the commons economy.
A way for small businesses to trade without needing money or banks. Members get an account, set at zero. When they sell, they get credits, when they buy, they get debits. There are limits to how far anyone can go into credit or debit. It’s a means of exchange, but not a store of value, so it can’t be extracted from communities and concentrated.
More info: https://www.lowimpact.org/categories/mutual-credit (put questions for specialists into comments).
3. Use-credit obligations (UCOs)
Strapline: the means of storing value in the commons economy.
Allows infrastructure to be brought into the commons without incurring debt, by issuing vouchers sold at a discount. Imagine a community energy group wanting to put up a wind turbine. At the moment, to get the funds, they need to go into debt or give away equity (which means the infrastructure will be in the hands of capitalists before long). Instead, they issue energy-credit obligations – vouchers denominated in kWh, not £ (which makes them inflation-proof). People will want them because they’re sold at a discount, and they provide a store of value – interest-free security for old age or sickness. UCOs can work in every sector of the economy (starting with housing commons, because everyone needs housing, and the housing market is so broken).
More info: https://www.lowimpact.org/categories/use-credit-obligations (put questions for specialists into comments).
4. Credit Commons
Strapline: going global.
All these monetary projects can be connected together via a protocol – a ‘language’ that they can all speak that allows them to trade between each other – but in a federation, with no centre. Each local group retains full autonomy, but in a way that can form the basis of a new global commons economy. Everything is interoperable – so people can pay their rent, energy bills etc. (and get paid) in mutual credit.
5. Global commons economy
Strapline: to replace capitalism, not reform it.
Doesn’t require money, banks, interest, debt, corporations or the state. The essentials of life, including housing, energy, food, broadband, transport, employment, credit, care and governance can be owned and controlled in common.
More info: coming soon.
The ‘rock’ on which all this can be built may well be the housing commons – everyone needs a home, houses are relatively non-technical and the housing market is in a mess.
If you’d be interested in initiating this in your town, contact us.