Perhaps you or someone you know does not have enough money. And perhaps you or they are artists, since most artists typically do not have enough money—especially in the United States, where art is always the last thing to be funded. And artists are generally so dedicated to art that they ignore profit.
But artists are cultural leaders, and for this reason they can become financial leaders, because money is primarily a cultural product. Money often takes the form of official-looking pieces of paper designed by artists, but furthermore, the credibility of any money rests on cultural messages that validate the institutions claiming power over commerce. And much of our society relies on the cultural messages transmitted through official-looking pieces of paper, from mortgages to graduation diplomas. The graphic, written, and musical arts reinforce the belief that financial institutions are authorized to issue and to control money.
Just as artists are essential to the movement of armies, which gather around music, uniforms, flags, so does the artist have a pivotal role in determining the future of money, and the future of the economy. So why shouldn’t artists create their own money? It will not be Monopoly money, but anti-monopoly money. It will be real money to the extent that people trade with it. Community currency does not necessarily replace national currency, but the lack of national currency in places where it does not reach. Even at times when a lot of money is circulating, it is not necessarily being distributed well.
All national currencies, I believe, are funny money. Regardless of whether the value of a currency is higher today or lower the next day, all national currencies are in debt to nature, because all human economies are extracting resources from nature faster than they can be renewed. This is the ecological significance of local economies: you cannot have an economy unless you have a planet with trees and water, with soil for growing food. Business relies on the environment. For this reason, real money is money that renews nature.
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