Bristol Pound views: Genius or doomed to fail?
The Bristol Pound could be a safety net in the event of an economic disaster and the first step towards a more localised world, but it is vital that it circulates beyond “green sandal-wearers”.
That is the view of local currency author Dr Peter North, who in 2010 wrote “Local Money: how to make it happen in your community”.
Dr North, a lecturer at Liverpool University who gained his PhD from the School for Advanced Urban Studies at the University of Bristol, spoke to This is Bristol about the criteria required for a local currency to be successful.
“The key issue for a local currency is what does it look like?” said Dr North. “Does it look like monopoly money or is it something genuinely well done? Has it got a value on it?
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“There are many local currencies and some of them are really beautiful and well produced, and they give value to the town.
“The second important thing is, are people proud of their heritage and does the local currency celebrate it?”
Turning to the geographical aspect of local currencies, Dr North said: “With too many local currencies, the area they circulate in is too small.
“People can spend it at local shops but the shops cannot source the things they are selling with it, so it goes from customer to business and straight back to the bank. What is the point?”
Asked if Bristol met the circulation criteria, Dr North said: “I think it’s close enough to being a big enough area to circulate widely. I would like to see people focusing more on production in the town, talking to councils and the Chamber of Commerce.
“Can it be used up Park Road, in Bedminster and St Andrews?”
Asked if he was surprised a city like Bristol had launched its own currency, the author, whose book explores local currencies over the past 20 years, said: “No. It’s the kind of community you would expect to do it, it’s full of greenies.
“It’s like somewhere like San Francisco, where there are a lot of alternative-minded people congregating.”
But, Dr North warned, the Bristol Pound must circulate beyond “green sandal-wearers” if it is to be a success.
Turning to the advantages of a local currency, Dr North said: “A local currency can be a safety net, especially if the coalition carries on with austerity or there’s the breakup of the Euro.
“If the Euro were to breakup you can see ATMs ceasing up, but if you have an alternative currency that’s fantastic.”
Asked what else a local currency required to be successful, Dr North said: “You have to get people to realise it works; that money keeps its value and there’s no mass inflation.
“You have to disconnect it from UK money, then you’ve got the opportunity to fuel and support the sorts of work and business you want in your community. Then you can think about production.”
Reflecting on the road ahead for the Bristol Pound, Dr North said: “It should start to work. I wish them well.
“We live in a globalised world where nearly everything is made in China; an industrialised world. If we did move to a world where we made more of the things we use, if more was produced locally, local currency can be a step towards a more localised world.
“No local currency has yet made that jump, a structural change in the economy from a deeply unsustainable to sustainable.”
Do you think the Bristol Pound will be a success? Are you excited about it? Here are some of your views: