Green ‘Win-Win’ Economics: Tourist Exchange Punts in Wales

    By David J Weston

    Money is a marvellous invention, enabling people to exchange
    their labour and energy with others. When used with wisdom, it
    can enhance a community; used foolishly, it can destroy a
    community.

    Currencies reflect exchanges at different levels of society, and
    depending on how the currency is designed and used, can enhance
    or destroy value. Some are centralised; others decentralised.

    What effect do centralised and decentralised currencies
    have on economies?
    A great deal; for currencies act as
    feedback loops to the area they serve, monitoring where energy
    is needed. Centralised currencies extract value out of
    hinterland communities into centralised banking systems in the
    metropolitan cities. Allow a pound to be extracted out of your
    community, and that is one less pound that someone in your
    community could have spent in your community. It could be called
    the ‘divider effect’. Centralised currencies usually benefit
    elites in elite places. Decentralised currencies give direct
    feedback, generating and regenerating local economic activity. A
    decentralised or local currency will stay in a community
    creating the ‘multiplier effect’ whereby the local currency
    circulates and recirculates value. A local currency benefits
    local people.

    What lessons are to be learned from that analysis in terms
    of the situation in Britain today?
    The English (rather
    than British) pound holds sway on these islands, with the
    exception of Eire, which has its own Irish pound, the ‘punt’,
    which floats against the pound (but not the Euro). What would
    happen if a community or series of communities, say within
    Wales, were to create a Cymru punt for tourists to buy at a
    discount with their English pounds? From the writings of Jane
    Jacobs we learn that the lower value of the regional/local
    currency would encourage exports, and because imports would be
    more expensive, would increase import replacement, leading to
    generation and regeneration of local industries, and of
    Lexports exports of locally created products and
    services. The Cymru punt would activate the ‘multiplier
    effect’ leading to a revitalised Welsh economy.

    Can such a currency be created by a municipality?

    Yes, any community in Wales, or even better a consortium of
    municipalities, could resolve to create legal tokens to sell to
    tourists to enable those tourists to buy punt funded, locally
    produced, goods and services.

    Depending on the commodity, some businesses might even
    sell goods imported into Wales from the pound economy. The
    implications are significant, and exciting. Such a model could
    inspire more.

    But the fear of those who control the centralised money system
    is financial insubordination and independence, and they will
    attempt to undermine our creative instincts. But that should not
    inhibit us, for the history of mankind is the history of the
    struggle between centralist and decentralist forces.
    Paradoxically the centralised state put up the research money
    which created the decentralised Internet by which we can
    disseminate decentralised ideas. If we can implement these ideas
    we will all gain. It will truly be a ‘win-win’ game.

    CURRENCY DETERMINES SOVEREIGNTY

    Throughout history, whomever has controlled
    currency has determined sovereignty, where ‘sovereignty’ simply
    means the ability of a community to make decisions at the
    appropriate level, in the interest of its citizens.

    Where the currency that circulates within a community is
    an external one, there is an inevitable leakage of value and
    energy. Thus the pound sterling, controlled by the Bank of
    England, currently determines the economic fate of the countries
    of the UK. In Scotland, the distinctive notes issued by the
    Scottish private banks are tied to the pound sterling. When the
    Bank of England sneezes, Scotland gets a cold….

    Where the currency that circulates within a community is an
    internal one, there is a retention of value and energy, and a
    constant renewal of that economy.

    So, how do we create and retain local and community
    self-reliance? And how do we stop the
    haemorrhaging of wealth from our community?

    It is important to first analyse the way the leakage has
    been, and is, happening, and thereby devise means of stopping
    it. Understanding the role and flow of money is key, as ‘money’
    is the energy symbol which represents the three factors of
    production of labour, capital and natural resources and what
    happens to them.

    Essential to regaining control of the local and regional
    economy is control of both its cheque book and its currency.
    In Worgl, Austria, during the height of the last
    acknowledged Depression in the late 1920s, early 1930s, the town
    solved its unemployment within six months, and became a
    prosperous community within one year. It did so by
    creating its own community currency and spending it into
    existence.

    With the Worgl schillings, workers were
    able to buy food, local farmers able to sell their crops,
    materials were bought and all were able to pay their local rates
    and taxes in Worgl schillings. The experiment caught the
    imagination of 200 Austrian mayors who wished to emulate it, and
    regenerate their own local economies.
    But the experiment also caught the attention of the Austrian
    National Bank which felt threatened by this example of financial
    insubordination and independence, and through the Austrian
    Supreme Court had the enterprise closed down.

    This should not discourage us from creating a similar
    enterprise. Jane Jacobs, in her Cities and the Wealth of
    Nations
    (especially Chapter 11) highlights the
    effectiveness and efficiency of city currencies.

    A ‘WIN-WIN’ PROPOSAL

    Is there a way that everyone can benefit: both local producers
    and inhabitants, and those from outside a community?
    Yes!
    Here is a proposal to stop the escape of locally created energy
    value, of which money is a key expression, and to enable the
    revival of local and regional economies by way of
    Lexports through the creation of a local/regional
    enterprise currency.

    We propose that since tourism is an export, it should be used as
    the initial basis of creating the local/regional currency which
    will eventually become self-reliant. In order to have a
    distinctive unit of account, and to be able to distinguish
    between the English ‘pound’ and the local/regional currency, we
    propose to use ‘punt’, the Welsh word for ‘pound’, preceded by
    the name of the region concerned ie. Cymru/Welsh Tourist Punt.

    Exporting via tourism, especially if it is ecologically
    appropriate, would seem to be a sensible activity. It has the
    advantage that the ‘products’ the scenery, the local culture,
    history, friendly people etc, and the services are all renewable
    and sustainable.

    So, how to encourage ecological tourism
    using a local/regional tourist currency?

    THE POLICY DECISION

    First, a local municipality needs to make the policy
    decision to create a locally validated, and locally valid,
    currency. This is not difficult, for creating symbols of value,
    other than the pound, is common practice air miles, supermarket
    tokens, green stamps, petrol stamps, barter cards, time pounds,
    local authority repair chits, and others, like the Swiss Wir.
    Many of these are created in addition to pounds, whereas the
    regional and local ‘Cymru tourist punts’ (CTPs) because they are
    exchanged for pounds, would be ‘instead of’, and therefore more
    valid and legitimate than those above. The exception is the
    local authority repair chit whereby some council tenants receive
    two kinds of chits. One for the materials; the other for the
    labour by which the tenants can either do the work themselves,
    or give to a neighbour to do. These chits represent a tradable
    local legal currency and highlight that councils can decide
    politically to create tradeable chits even now.

    Although this decision can be taken by a municipality, it may be
    better taken by a consortium of municipalities. If it can be
    taken in conjunction with, in this case, the Welsh Assembly, so
    much the better, but its not essential. While we envisage
    denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, and perhaps 20 punts, we might
    also consider local/regional ‘smart cards’ or even ‘tally
    sticks’ for transactions larger than 20 punts.

    CULTURAL CURRENCY

    Secondly, because currency can reflect the culture,
    particularly for the tourists, consideration should be given to
    creating truly beautiful local/regional notes as well as coins
    all designed by local crafts people. Each interested
    municipality could hold a competition for a local currency
    design which reflects that locality. Also, a design is needed
    which reflects the larger region eg. Cymru/Wales. For example,
    the local side of the currency could have the picture of a
    famous local person, or local scenery. The other side could have
    a map of Cymru/Wales, a dragon, a flag, and any other symbols
    reflecting the country’s attributes including its language. This
    may encourage tourists to take them away as souvenirs an export.

    DISTRIBUTION METHOD

    Thirdly, it is proposed that the Cymru tourist punt be
    sold to tourists at a discount determined by the local council
    and/or the Welsh Assembly; perhaps an experimental 5% to begin. A
    tourist would receive 1.05 punts for one pound sterling. The
    figure could be higher but should be determined only by
    elected, and therefore accountable, officials, and not by ‘the
    market’ which is unaccountable.

    It is recommended that the currency be sold through public
    outlets such as Tourist Information Centres, local Post Offices
    and local council offices. Consideration should also be given to
    the establishment of other public outlets, like the Treasury
    Branch outlets set up in the 1930s in Alberta, Canada, which
    exist efficiently and effectively to this day. Further and this
    is also essential the Cymru punt should never be allowed
    to be speculated on, in any money market. If it did, it would be
    sucked dry of its value, and all the effort of many years could
    evaporate within days.

    ACTUAL TRADING

    Fourthly, local businesses would be urged to accept these
    ‘Cymru tourist punts’. Those businesses that agree to sell goods
    imported and paid for with pounds sterling will effectively be
    giving tourists a 5% (or whatever is the rate) discount.
    But it also means that they will get that tourist
    business. The tourists would be able to buy goods in shops and
    businesses for a literal 5% discount, by simply using
    their Cymru tourist punts. Businesses would indicate for which
    items and services they would accept CTPs.

    At the end of a day any traders, should they wish, could trade
    in their punts for pounds at a discount of a couple of per cents
    higher than the discounted figure, as a handling fee. But
    this may be unnecessary, as shown in the following….

    BEYOND TOURISM

    Fifthly and this is key as this currency begins to
    circulate, it will increase the possibility of businesses being
    able to pay their staff partial wages in Cymru punts. That may
    at first sound like a cut of 5% in wages. However, as the
    momentum gathers and the circulation increases then local producers
    like farmers, horticulturalists, bakers, cheese makers, beer and
    cider makers, apiarists, wood craftsmen, potters, glass blowers,
    and other local manufacturers will likely, as in Worgl, begin
    to trade between each other in CTPs. Therefore, workers will be
    able to buy those local and regional products at the same price
    as before, because they are using punts. Within Wales,
    therefore, it would be a level playing field. Further,
    locals may decide to exchange sterling pounds for Welsh punts
    and be able to gain from the discount. Businesses which
    do accept the ‘Cymru tourist punts’ are giving a 5% discount to
    the tourists, but that is for those products which are
    ‘imported’ with sterling pounds; but for goods and services
    produced within Wales in punts, traders will not be giving any
    discount at all. The tourists will still be getting a good
    deal. Everybody wins!

    So, commodities produced within the region such as beer,
    bread, meat, could be traded in the local currency for local
    consumption. It also means that these commodities are now
    beginning to be produced at 5% cheaper than using the sterling
    pound. That means that Lexports of these local
    products will increase, bringing more prosperity to Wales.

    IN CONCLUSION

    Currency determines sovereignty, where ‘sovereignty’
    simply means the right of citizens to make their own decisions
    about the rules which daily affect us all.

    This is why, if the Canadian Parliament as they are being urged
    to do by the American government accepts the US dollar as its
    currency and the privately-owned Federal Reserve Bank as its
    central bank, Canadians will immediately lose their sovereignty.
    Likewise, if the British parliament accepts the Euro as its
    currency, Britons will lose their sovereignty to a
    non-democratic, non-accountable central bank.

    Likewise, if the
    countries in Britain continue to accept the English pound
    sterling as their currency, they will be denied the ability to
    make decisions at the appropriate level. A community losing its
    sovereignty is like signing all its blank cheques and then
    giving them away! As individuals we wouldn’t do that, nor should
    we as a community.

    Let cities, regions and countries create their own currency
    which reflect their own culture and their own economic destiny,
    based on the principle that decisions made and actions taken
    should be at the most local level possible, with decisions made
    and actions taken at more centralised levels only as
    appropriate.

    Let Wales invite tourists to exchange their sterling for the
    Cymru tourist punt at a discount which will be mutually
    beneficial. They will be able to buy goods within Wales cheaper
    than using sterling. Through the ownership and control of their
    money the Welsh, in turn, will be encouraged to make and buy
    local products. This will boost their economy, and their
    exports, and provide local employment for local workers. This
    really is a ‘win-win’ situation.

    Copyright © David J. Weston, May 2000

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