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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

2/11/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In the new economy, time banks are gaining popularity.

Alternative currencies such as Bitcoin and BerkShares are gaining popularity as people look for ways to escape what they see as a rigged and flawed system of monetary exchange in government currencies. However, the idea of banking time as opposed to money is also making a comeback.

In a time bank, time is the money.

In a time bank, time is the money.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/11/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Business & Economics

Keywords: time banking, bitcoin, currency, alternative, christian, volunteer, service


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Throughout history, people have exchanged many things as currency. Yap islanders once exchanged ownership of stones that were too large to move, but accepted them as payment. Today, people exchange virtual currencies such as bitcoin. However, there is another form of currency with a very fixed value -time.

Time is money, as the old adage goes and with time banks, people living in close-knit communities can exchange hours of service to one another, banking the hours they give and redeeming those hours for other things they need.

St. Joseph, pray for those who labor.

How it works is a person may have a hobby or a skill they can share with others. It does not matter if that skill is accounting or counseling or even some form of manual labor. In a time bank, all hours are equal, no matter the work. The hours of service are provided but no cash is exchanged. Instead, a person can "bank" their hours at a time bank, verifying with their customer that the hour of service was provided.

With the credit of an hour due, a person can redeem it for an hour of something else. For example, a mechanic could spend an hour repairing a car for one person, and in exchange buy an hour of piano lessons for his daughter.

Time banking was first developed by Robert Owen, the British industrialist and social reformer. The system failed because people produced too many things that others had no interest in having, but the labor supply he had to work with was much less diverse than today.

Today, people from many walks of life are contributing to time banks, including professionals such as business consultants, psychologists, and art critics. There are also many people who are poor, and who earn very little, but still have marketable skills. The time banks allow them to exchange labor for things, such as lessons or services which they would not be able to afford with cash.

The idea of time banking is popular politically. Liberals like it because it provides access to services for the poor. An hour of work cleaning something can get you an hour of tax preparation or auto repairs. Meanwhile, fiscal conservatives like the idea because it makes people less reliant on the government to provide services to others at steep government prices.

The entire scheme, when it works, works beautifully, allowing each person to contribute their talents to the community while taking what they need from the common pool of talent.

It is, quintessentially Christian.

Until recently, time banks have been local, community affairs, more akin to community charity organizations. They are also rare, found in large cities such as New York and in poor communities where there is plenty of work to do, but no money to fund it.

But now, time banking is hitting the mainstream with several websites dedicated to time banking and the exchange of hours. Now people can do work for time as opposed to working for free. It provides people who need services but have no income to pay for them to access those services. It also upholds the integrity of work, making a person less dependent on charity.

Time banking isn't intended to replace the traditional exchange of money for work, however it can provide a powerful supplement to it, and it can empower people while fostering a sense of community and service to others.

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