10 Feb '13, 2pm
Competing Currencies. A new book draws the wrong lessons from privately issued money. (..and omits Bitcoin)
In the charming town of Great Barrington, among the hills of Berkshire County in western Massachusetts, you can buy antiques, organic produce, and gourmet pizza. If you want, you can pay for them with the most successful local currency in the United States, the "Berkshare." Denominated in U.S. dollars and accepted at more than a hundred establishments in and around the county, Berkshares are issued by a local non-profit group and can be exchanged for dollars at the branches of local banks. Anyone who recognizes that money is naturally a creature of commerce, not government, has to admire the way that the Berkshares project keeps some of the profit on currency from going to the Federal Reserve System and the U.S. Treasury. Private banknotes circulated just about everywhere in the 19th century. Like the private notes that continue to circulate today in Scotland, Northern Ire...