Bitcoin, the Poster Currency

Before quoting from a 2013 article by Scott Smith (Bitcoin is just the poster currency for a growing movement of alternative tender), here’s a quick synopsis:

Bitcoin, Scott writes, has “become an object of economic escapism—but the kind you can’t escape from”. Why? We’re becoming more skeptical of global financial systems, many wanting to return to “locally-focused systems of exchange”. Smith notes Keith Hart’s “informal sector” (that’s always been present) becoming “a new kind of ‘formal informal’ market, recognized by many citizens as a valid option for work, earning and exchange”. This “formal-informal connection” is accelerating due to global recession. Alternative currencies are gaining increased interest as local solutions. Not replacing, or threatening, national currencies, but providing local and accessible (wired and nonwired; easy to understand, ease of entry, &c) solutions. Local systems of exchange provide resilient stability, while maintaining social structures, when financial globalization becomes unstable.

Here’s the quote from Smith’s article, with input from Ken Banks’s (meansofexchange.com):

“Most of the action I see is around software development—people getting excited by local currency platforms, or virtual currencies,” Banks wrote. “The problem here is that these are generally being run by techies, and we need to lead with the problem we’re trying to solve, not a cool technology. Most of the software being developed is unusable unless you have a degree in computing, or a server that costs about the same as a small car, and is hard to understand.”

This doesn’t mean technology should be thrown out completely though, but rather used where appropriate to the task. For Banks, and a growing cadre of others looking at the issue, this means using technology as a simple underlying platform to bring various systems together.

“In terms of software and tools development, I’m fascinated by what we might be able to do if we can build a brand around local economic empowerment that resonates with a wide range of people, including younger people,” Banks said. “What we need is a platform—yes, I’d go that far – which can capture the whole range of behaviours and activities which make up a better locally-engaged citizen. Right now we don’t have that, and it’s problematic, and confusing.” [&myemph;]

Bitcoin as the “poster currency” is good, Smith seems to suggest, because it’s not the only game in town. Less attention-getting, alternative currencies may succeed, on the down low, with local, accessible and sustainable solutions.

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