A Magazine about the Hudson Valley’s local economy, published by Hudson Valley Current.

The Currency Corner

By: Dr. Leanne Ussher and Dr. Michael B. Marks

Hello Livelihood Readers: This is the inaugural column of what we are calling “The Currency Corner”. The Currency Corner will provide data and information about our community currency—the Current.  

Hudson Valley Current (HVC) membership means you join a local ecosystem to exchange goods, incubate projects, and promote local sustainable businesses—all using a local complementary currency. Using a local currency, in addition to your US dollars, reduces your dependence on scarce national currency. This column will be the place to learn more about the benefits of using the Current, metrics on what our local currency is doing in support of our community, and the limitations of only having a national currency in your wallet.

We start this series with a note on economic recessions, complementary currencies, and the act of “commoning”.  

We are in a difficult period to say the least. With less money circulating, the perforations in our social fabric are tearing and civil unrest is rising. Inequality is set to grow, as some businesses are thriving, others shuttered have no recourse but bankruptcy. Some families have additional spare time, but struggle to make ends meet, while essential workers blessed with job security, face workplace health risks they may bring home to their loved ones, and are often underpaid.

At the same time we have become more reliant on those in our vicinity, and this has made us realize how much we depend on our neighbors and community. We rely on the people we meet in the street or in the store to do the right thing—wear masks, self isolate, restrict travel, report when sick, and get tested if needed. We can’t do this alone, but rather must understand that we are part of a commons—if we all do our part to protect those around us, we protect ourselves. 

Similarly our local economy is strengthened when we buy and interact locally. Joining a CSA, ordering take-out, contracting work-from-home services, volunteering at mutual aid groups, recruiting nearby talent to create learning pods, paying musicians for livestream concerts or online music classes, donating to food banks, advertising at the local radio station, and starting a community garden. By getting involved, communities thrive and everyone prospers.

But these local activities take time and money, and you might have noticed that you have less of at least one, if not both of those. With regards to the latter, during a recession the bank money supply shrinks. Small towns are often drained of dollars as savings in banks are transferred to safer assets in financial centers, rather than relent back into the local economy. With less money to go around, employees are laid off, businesses close, household income declines, borrowing and investing is postponed or deleveraged allowing another round of money shrinking.

In contrast, a local currency can’t leave town. When you earn Currents, you spend Currents, and by definition you are tied to spending locally. Residents and  businesses that work together in a closed network of reciprocity can actually increase income and purchasing power in Currents during a dollar recession, making up for lost US dollar circulation. In addition, a local currency makes the local economy measurable and manageable. (Note: In future columns, we will show in detail how this occurs and present metrics on spending locally and its impacts; also how the local currency can make inroads on addressing inequality.)   

The goal of the HVC is to support local businesses, social entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations and municipalities, to maintain expenditures and revenues, keep workers employed, and generate reciprocal earning and spending circuits. 

Now is the time to support your local economic commons, and spend and earn currents.

Dr. Leanne Ussher at lussher@bard.edu
Visiting Professor in Economics and Finance at Bard College  

Dr. Michael B. Marks at mbmsling@gmail.com
Strategist and Data Support Consultant: Complementary Community Currencies