[MUD-Dev] More on LetsSystems

J C Lawrence claw at under.engr.sgi.com
Mon May 11 12:54:20 New Zealand Standard Time 1998

Another good source for LetsSystem data:


Supporting article in the Wall St Journal from:


Sure as heck sounds like a MUD, let alone some of the UOL tales we've
read here:

"As Pound Sinks, Britons Turn To Alternative

LETS Article in the The Times and The Wall Street Journal; Interview
with Liz Shephard by Gerrard Raven; Story on the Reuters wire February

WARMINSTER, ENGLAND: In this west of England town, second hand cars
change hands for Links. A few miles to the north, patrons of one cafe
settle their bills partly in Strouds. In Totnes, Devon, some shops
advertise 'Acorns accepted here.'

Local currencies are proliferating fast in Britain's faltering economy
as people struggle to free themselves of the shackles they say the
conventional pound imposes on them.

Liz Shephard, who runs Letslink UK, the national LETS (Local Exchange
Trading Systems) Development Agency in Wiltshire, says the reason is
simple - household debt.

'One in six UK households is experiencing severe debt problems because
of high interest rates and recession,' she said in an interview. 'An
interest free non-profit making system has great appeal for them.'

LETS schemes, using currencies with names chosen to give a local
flavour, allow people to trade goods and services with each other via
a system which avoids some of the problems associated with debt, yet
is more flexible than simple barter.

A craftsman may offer to service a fellow member's television or
repair a car, receiving a 'cheque' which results in a credit in the
accounts kept by the local LETS organiser. A few weeks later when he
takes his wife out for a meal, he can 'pay' a third member to babysit
or provide a taxi service.

LETS, she added, is an advance over simple barter where two parties
have to find goods or services of an equivalent value before a trade
can take place. Payments are agreed between members. In some LETS the
basis is that one local currency unit is worth a pound while in
others, a unit is worth a certain number of minutes' work.

The number of LETS in Britain has mushroomed to 45 with around 4,000
members, from just six in 1990, and many more schemes may be launched
soon if the level of enquiries Shephard has been receiving lately is
any guide.

'Sometimes the phone just doesn't stop ringing,' she said, switching
on her answerphone which plays a message explaining she is deluged
with inquiries and asking people to write in for further information.

For many people who have joined their local LETS, it is a way out of a
crisis. New members are allowed to go into debt immediately, so for an
unemployed person, it may, for instance, be the only way to get a
local plumber to fix a central heating boiler before the onset of

Instead of going into (bank) overdraft and paying a lot of interest,
people can use a craftsman in their local LETS, pay in Links or
whatever, and then get back into balance when they are able to, said

For a skilled craftsman, LETS brings in work at a time when it is hard
to find, and for someone with a hobby, it provides a way of finding
out whether it might be developed into a business.

LETS are small - the biggest in Britain, in Stroud, Gloucestershire,
has only about 250 members. This means there are ways of discouraging
members from freeloading or running up enormous debits.

For instance, the Warminster LETS publishes the balance position of
each member twice a year. It has found so far that the 'peer group
pressure' this produces has been sufficient to persuade members to
trade responsibly.

Although many members join LETS schemes out of necessity or to improve
their own lives, Shephard regards them as a civilising influence in an
increasingly impersonal world.

'There is something wonderful about LETS in the sense of rebuilding
communities, bringing people together in a way that nothing else
does', she said. As an ecologist, she also hopes LETS can provide
capital for small-scale 'green' investments which bankers reject as
not likely to provide an adequate short-term return on capital.

But could LETS ever become a national network under which, say,
Shephard could pay for a holiday in Totnes by taking her stocks of
Links, converting them into Acorns and paying bills with them?

'Inter-trade between nearby systems can be managed, but we strongly
advocate keeping LETS local to benefit local communities,' she said.

J C Lawrence                               Internet: claw at null.net
(Contractor)                               Internet: coder at ibm.net
---------(*)                     Internet: claw at under.engr.sgi.com
...Honourary Member of Clan McFud -- Teamer's Avenging Monolith...

MUD-Dev: Advancing an unrealised future.

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