The Alternative Economy

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is The Alternative Economy?
The Alternative Economy is an economic structure that is separate from, and operates largely independently of, the traditional economy.  It will have its own currency and means of conducting commerce, with the goal of creating a high level of self-sufficiency, as well as ample employment opportunities and a high level of material and spiritual well being for participants, while embracing sustainability principles. 

Why do we need an Alternative Economy?
Economies in developed countries have been remarkable successful at fostering the creation of a wide variety of goods and services while simultaneously allowing governments to increase spending on a wide variety of programs and services.  Some of the problems, however, are that the wealth generated by this economic activity has been unevenly distributed, and, as has become increasingly evident, the present model has begun to test limits of sustainability in terms of resource usage, spending and debt accumulation.
 

Why can't we just change and reform the traditional economy?
Powerful, entrenched interests and the forces of inertia make it difficult to reform the traditional economy in any reasonable time frame.  The words of R. Buckminster Fuller apply here: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

This sounds like a very ambitious undertaking.  Do you really think that this is possible, and if so, why hasn't it been done before? 
It is definitely possible but dependent on the participation of a critical mass of individuals.  Up until recently, the tools and resources have not been available to make this a practical undertaking, but now they are both available and in place.  Also, until the recent economic collapse, there was a certain complacency which resulted in a lack of motivation for such a new and different approach.   

I have been hearing about localization and local currencies.  Is The Alternative Economy based on these concepts?
There is a strong element of localization in the concept, and an alternative currency is also an integral element.  An alternative currency can be used for any transaction between parties at any location in The Alternative Economy.  A local currency can only be used locally and as such is very limiting and not conducive to building an alternative economy on a large scale. 

How does an alternative currency work?  Can a paper currency be issued that is legal and that people would trust and also not be subject to problems such as counterfeiting?
First of all, it legal to issue a paper currency (but not coins), but The Alternative Economy will rely on its paper currency to the smallest extent possible and thus minimize the downside issues.  The Alternative Economy will have a strong ecommerce capability and these ecommerce transactions will take place online, securely, using the alternative currency.  (Importantly, this capability is already in place.)  The other key capability that is already in place is the ability to transfer alternative currency funds using mobile phones.  This capability can be used to satisfy in-person transactions, or for that matter, any transaction where alternative currency funds need to be transferred from one party to another.     

So how does this really work?  How can I participate?
The Alternative Economy is built upon a network of local marketplaces.  One such network that has already been set up is called LocalMart (www.localmart.net), so this will be used as an example.  If you lived in, say, Orinda, California, USA, you could apply to join LocalMart-Lamorinda (www.localmart-lamorinda.com) - a LocalMart affiliate set up for Orinda and several surrounding towns.  There is no fee to join, and upon approval, you could purchase an amount of the alternative currency (MartMoney) using dollars.  (If you purchase (or redeem) using cash or check, there is no fee.  If you purchase (or redeem) using PayPal, there is a fee.) 

As a member, you will be encouraged to be not just a consumer, but a provider (vendor) of locally produced, sustainable goods and services.  Even busy people with full time jobs are urged to find some useful product or service to provide, and the aggregate result of many such providers is a significant increase in localization and self sufficiency for that community.  Here is just a small sampling of the types of products and services that could be provided:
--Locally grown produce
--Locally produced processed food items using local organic ingredients
--Organic restaurant
--Energy efficiency audit service
--Green building contractor
--Biodiesel production and sale
--Sustainable furniture manufacturer
--Sustainable clothing design and manufacture
--Bicycle repair
--Computer maintenance and repair
--Printer cartridge refill

By joining www.LocalMart-Lamorinda.com you are joining a social network of local members with the common goal of participating in The Alternative Economy.  The LocalMart-Lamorinda site is really the "Facebook" of LocalMart, and members can post their photos and personal information (viewable only by other members), start a discussion or blog, form and join groups, purchase ads for their products or services which display on the site, and generally interact in ways that benefit themselves and other members.    

Members who are providers can set up their products and services in the LocalMart Store, an ecommerce site where the products and services of all members of a given country are displayed.  (Whereas the LocalMart-Lamorinda site the "Facebook" of LocalMart, the LocalMart Store is the "eBay" of LocalMart.)

All transactions are conducted using the alternative currency (with no fees), and so there is no need for credit or debit cards or merchant accounts.  (Importantly, the absence of transaction fees can have a dramatic effect on profitability, as a provider with a 5% profit margin who is paying 2.5% for credit card fees, can increase his profitability by 50% if those fees are eliminated.)

Contact Us: info@TheAlternativeEconomy.org

View a LocalMart Affiliate Site  
Members only site but many of the features and links are viewable for non members
 
View the LocalMart Store
Members only site but many of the features and links are viewable for non members
 
Better World Workshop
An incubator for conceiving of and developing ideas for sustainable products and services that individuals or small businesses can provide on a local level.