Archives for the month of: October, 2012

In his bookFlow: The Psychology of Optimal Enjoyment, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says, ¨Twenty-three hundred years ago Aristotle concluded that, more than anything else, men and women seek happiness. While happiness itself is sought for its own sake, every other goal – health, beauty, money, or power – is valued only because we expect that it will make us happy.¨

In our current economic paradigm, the goal is seemingly to accrue financial wealth, or to at least gain a sense of fiscal security so that we may go about the business of then attaining happiness. Though it has largely been proven that money cannot buy happiness, we are still somehow predisposed to seeking after this illusory currency in a madcap attempt to prove it for ourselves. Nevertheless, it is becoming abundantly clear, based upon our economic instability, that we need to redirect our focus from the acquisition of money to the realization of happiness. The system of time-banking is proving itself to be a worthwhile tool in doing just that.

Time Dollars aren’t a substitute for money,¨ says Edgar Cahn. ¨They are a way to do things that money can’t do and to claim back the realm of community that money has invaded.”

While there is a certain sense of satisfaction in accruing monetary success and being able to purchase whatever one may need, it can hardly compare to the sense of security one gains in having a supportive community where those needs are met simply through participating in the community. Money does cultivate an individual´s independence and can often ensure the fulfillment of security needs, however, it does not offer the same depth of fulfillment that one may find in an interdependent community which meets those basic needs and goes beyond them to also cultivate the belongingness and love that human beings require.

When we cease to use money as our only ruler,¨ Cahn continues, ¨we begin to realize that we live in a world of two economies, not just one. One is the formal marketplace measured by-and consisting mainly of-monetary transactions. This is the realm of supermarkets and shopping centers, offices and factories that the media calls economy. The other economy is the informal networks of helping in families, neighborhoods, volunteer groups, and the like.”

Time-banking offers the possibility to move beyond the paradigm of competitive capitalism and into the realm of collaborative participation. By encouraging people to participate in their community development rather than simply throwing money at it, citizens are able to gain a greater sense of fulfillment, and thereby a greater measure of happiness, because they become part of something greater than themselves.

This is uncharted economic territory,¨ Cahn says, ¨a currency that makes people feel good about themselves for helping others.”

When all is said and done, don´t we all just want to feel good?

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

A healthy economy is one that meets the needs of the populace. According to Abraham Maslow, the needs of people can be seen as a hierarchy, starting with safety, health, and security, moving up to belongingness and love, reconciling the need for a healthy self esteem, developing the cognitive needs for understanding and knowledge, creating aesthetic needs for the enjoyment of beauty, and encouraging them to become self actualized. Unfortunately, in the climate of competitive capitalism as the sole economic system, many of these needs go unmet when citizens are unable to appropriately compete due to lack the lack of resources that the competition demands.

Even in America, highly touted as the most wealthy nation on the planet, many people are unable to provide their own safety, health, and security to an adequate measure whereby they can address their other needs. In this competitive climate, where people are directed to appreciate independence, the need for belonging also goes undernourished. In more collaborative cultures, where interdependence is more adequately celebrated and applied, although the communities may be less materially affluent, there is a larger Gross Domestic Happiness factor. If we can address these discrepancies in our economy, we can then realize a more robust and wealthy community.

Time dollars do more than meet human needs,¨ says Edgar Cahn. ¨They do more than rebuild trust in a world of many commercial predators. They provide the kind of new economics that can support sustained citizen action on the scale society needs. The Time Dollar represents a strategy to generate tremendous resources and to involve thousands of people on a sustained basis.”

By integrating time-banking into our economy and sharing our wealth on a more communal basis by encouraging interdependence and collaborative, participatory economics rather than only a competitive model, we will be able to help each member of our community meet their needs, thereby enabling society as a whole to actualize our unity and develop greater overall wealth.

 

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

“The kitchen table was also what economists might call an information system, where needs and resources were matched. To this day, the kitchen table survives as a symbol of social cohesion. The neighborhood was an extension of that table.

“The things the kitchen table represented-companionship, entertainment, security, intimacy, even gossip-turned into things people buy for money. Families and neighborhoods were taken apart function by function and sold back to the people who missed the things these once provided. Massive social problems ensued, as the glue that held people together no longer seemed to be there. Then government was forced to try to patch up the damage with programs and services bought for money. It happened in two main stages. First, enterprises became disengaged from the core of community life. Production moved out of the home and small workshop and into the large factory, owned by a corporate entity with no local roots. This disrupted the world in which commercial dealings were entwined in a web of larger community concerns. And then, the economy redefined people as consumers, so that things bought seemed more desirable and modern than the things to be had for free. The common denominator is that people came to relate increasingly through the medium of money.

“This process was especially marked in the United States, a new society established during the transition to a monetary age (commemorated in the Latin inscription on the dollar bill, novus ordo seclorum– a new order in the world.)

“While community ties were turning into monetary transaction, the work of caring for others was doing so as well. The factory took work out of the home and community , swept it into the vortex of the national and international marketplace. Soon, traditional functions of care were drifting out of the domestic sphere and into institutions supported by taxes.¨ – from the book Time Dollars

In the push toward globalization and the outlandish fiduciary system that uses more resources than necessary in order to produce a lot of stuff that we don´t need resulting in half of the world being unfulfilled and the other half being ungrateful. Let´s start being grateful with what we have, starting with the people around us. We have the power to ensure they have every opportunity possible to reach their greatest fulfillment. That is the power of localization.

Stephen Covey talked about our ¨circle of concern¨ and our ¨circle of influence.¨ Successful people focus on their circle of influence so that their circle of concern will grow smaller. By supporting those within our sphere of influence, the people we see every day, our local economy, by utilizing a currency system that helps ensure that needs are being met around us, encouraging others to invest in that currency, our collective spheres of influence will grow. If we continue on the path of globalization, where most of the decisions that most greatly affect us are made outside our sphere of influence by people who may not even hold us in their circle of concern, we´re not going to have as much success developing the world we truly want. As much as I appreciate the new world order of the Federal Reserve Bank, I much prefer the old world order of Family Without Reserve.

Simply put, time-banking is a way to economize the ¨Pay It Forward¨ principle while also ensuring that every member of the community feels valued and a part of something greater than himself. Basically, you set up a profile and write ads for the services you provide as well as the services you need. For every hour of service you give to anyone in the community, you get a time dollar, which you can then use on any other service offered in the community. Instead of the individual to individual exchange you get with in a normal monetary transaction, time-banking is based on a more individual to community model.

Time Banking is ¨a medium of exchange designed to reward altruism by recognizing, validating, and rewarding the contributions that help to strengthen and rebuild the “core economy” of home, neighborhood, and community. The Time Dollar approach is based on the belief that every member of a community is a valuable resource (not just a “giver” or a “receiver”) and that each community has the capacity to pool these resources for its own social and economic abundance. ¨ – from Building Community with Time Dollars

 

Time dollars are far more than a tax-exempt, barter currency. When strangers start acting like neighbors, and neighbors start acting like extended family, communities are invigorated. In an age of mobility, family breakup, neighborhood decay, and widespread drug-related crime, that is no small achievement. Indeed, in an era of white-collar crime, S&L fraud, personal greed, and government default, the need for an innovation that successfully promotes basic moral values of mutual assistance is enormous.” – from Time Dollars

Time-banking began in the eighties when Edgar Cahn was trying to find a way to ensure that the older generation was valued and cared for. Since then, it has blossomed as people have realized that the monetary system doesn´t account for the entire economy. Because the monetary system finds value in those things that are limited, such as energy and our natural resources, time-banking helps help to account for that which is in abundance, such as compassion, creativity, and community development. Now, time banks have popped up across the country and in many places around the world.

Time dollars don´t play by the same rules as Federal Reserve Notes. They aren´t meant to be hoarded, and all profit is intrinsic. Earning time dollars doesn´t provide you with a nest egg to be able to provide for yourself in the future. Earning time dollars helps build the nest so that we assure that everyone is taken care of presently and for years to come.

I think the greatest service that time-banking offers is merely its function as a conduit through which people who truly want to participate in the life of their community can communicate their needs and services, and work toward aligning them in such a way that they produce the greatest output of win/win situations possible. I think that by appreciating the Core Economy and honoring the value of work that often goes unheeded, and by offering greater opportunities for people to participate in meeting their own needs while simultaneously meeting the needs of others, the Common Wealth Time Bank provides the service of simply realizing the power of service. Once we start to recognize that we are not merely a bunch of individuals out competing for our own survival, but we are also, and even more greatly so, a collective, a single unit of diverse talents, gifts, skills and resources that multiply with appreciation, then we will more fully realize that every gift we give is also given to ourselves, and thus increases our common wealth.

 

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Participating in the time bank is not volunteering, at least not in the traditional sense. The way our economy works now, you either make money from your service or you don´t. You´re either a capitalist venture or a non-profit. You´re either profiteering or benevolent. You´re either an employee or a volunteer. And by only using the financial system to operate the entire economy, there doesn´t seem to be any other alternatives. Basically, according to a system of binary exchange between buyer and seller, you´re always either a giver or a taker. Operating in full abundance requires both giving and receiving.

Giving a bit more respect and conscious understanding to the human condition and the development of sustainable civilization, time banking allows us to recognize and implement the fact that we need not be merely givers and takers, but that we are participants, and there is more worth in that than a system of limited exchange can negotiate. If we are to realize full abundance in our lives, we must recognize that our wealth exceeds our methods of exchange. As we move from a competitive economic system, where there can only be winners and losers, to a collaborative economic system, where there are only winners, our methods of exchange must be able to adequately account for our abundance.

As Laurence G. Boldt writes in Zen and the Art of Making a Living, ¨Starting from wealth, we can expand by opening to the recognition that mutual support is the reality of our lives. Every day, we enjoy the gifts of nature and of other people´s talents and energies. Even our clothes, food, and shelter are not the products of our own hands but the gifts of nature and of other people and, if one sees it, of a Great Spirit in life. As we recognize mutual support, we open ourselves to the full joy of living in giving and receiving.¨

Time banking recognizes that that there is value outside of the monetary system, and that the monetary system is simply a human construct designed to account for and exchange our resources based upon our agreement of what is valuable. Being a man-made system, it has certain limitations. Being as it has been designed largely on a debt-development model, it is proving to have severe limitations.

Time banking understands the fact that each one of us has 24 hours in each day. My 24 hours are certainly just as valuable to me as yours are to you. In order for both of us to feel adequately valued, you should have the opportunity to participate in activities you feel inclined to do, as should I. And because we live in a community, chances are great that what we want to do is going to be of benefit to someone else, if not for a lot of people.

In ¨Keeping the GP away : A NEF briefing about community time banks and health,¨ there is a time dollar success story about, ¨One of the most successful projects in the USA, is Elderplan, a social Health Maintenance Organization in New York City. In their first 12 years, mutual volunteers from their Member to Member project have put in over 100,000 hours helping each other, teaching each other and supporting each other to be independent. Member to Member enables volunteers to earn and pay time credits for giving and receiving non-medical services like, shopping, friendly visiting, bill-paying, hospital visiting, home repairs, walking clubs, support groups, self-help courses and others – all funded by time credits earned through the scheme.

“´Often you can’t buy what you really need,´ says Mashi Blech, Elderplan’s director of community services. ´You can’t hire a new best friend. You can’t buy somebody you can talk to over the phone when you’re worried about surgery. But by getting people helping through the time bank we want to involve people as co-producers of their own health care.´”

The infrastructure is now available to provide for ourselves in ways that we haven´t regularly practiced in decades. Time-banking is really about teaching us how to be good neighbors again. Basically, the only way for us to realize our value is for us to realize our value.

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Why do we proclaim to have a free market economic system yet relegate its use to a monopolistic currency? To truly recognize and embrace our abundance, isn’t it time that we realize our value and the value of the world we inhabit beyond the limitations of the Federal Reserve Bank? This is not to discount the validity and value the Federal Reserve Bank brings in accounting for scarce resources. However, in accounting for the unlimited potential of human creativity, compassion, ingenuity, and drive, how much do we really need to hold in reserve?

A new currency,¨ as Edgar Cahn points out in Time Dollars,¨ with the potential to tap a vast new pool of time and motivation, opens possibilities that can be exhilarating. If governments and institutions ever embrace the concept of Time Dollars, the whole arena of public services can become a kind of bustling enterprise zone. The result could be a society in which people discharge their obligations by helping one another, rather than just by helping one another, rather than just by exchanging pieces of paper or bits of plastic. There could be cohesion in place of the rootlessness and disintegration so common today. A heady prospect to be sure, but who could claim that the current money system is functioning so well that we should ignore a new one that is actually working.”

I´ve been living without the use of money for over eleven months now. There are times that I miss it. I miss the convenience. I miss being able to get something from a complete stranger without having to worry about feeling as if I´m taking advantage. I miss not always being able to choose what food I´ll eat and the freedom to fulfill my most simple urges of appetite. However, the experience has also truly opened my eyes to what is really valuable in life. It has enabled me to form deeper relationships, to realize resources I didn´t know were available, and to learn that there´s always a much better way than the direction of the herd.

I´ve realized, most importantly, that my greatest commodity is time. It´s priceless to me. It amazes me that I used to sell it for such a pittance. Yet when I get to spend my time doing something that I love, that helps someone else, and that makes me feel good about the life I am living, I realize the true value of my time and I appreciate it all the more.

Time dollars aren´t meant to to replace Federal Reserve Notes or the monetary system. Money has its own role to play in helping us account for our limited resources. Time dollars are meant to simply help us open our eyes at how much wealth is actually at our disposal so that we stop getting so caught up in our limitations and lack. Because when we start giving adequate value to the creativity, innovation, compassion, and courage that is our common wealth, then we allow ourselves to truly develop an economics of happiness.

Time banking can get us back where we need to be because they allow us to focus on what we find valuable.

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

We are a capitalist society. There´s no getting around that. What is… is. We’ve been exceedingly good at celebrating our market capital, expanding our military capital, and using up our resource capital, but we find ourselves now with the urge to give more value to our social capital.

Social capital is about giving and receiving. It´s about being part of something bigger than yourself. Social capital is the development of personal worth through fully being the person that you are and integrating that into your community in ways that bring the greatest benefit to all involved. Social capital is about cultivating the habits that move us from independence to interdependence.

If we´re going truly capitalize on all of the resources that are at our disposal, then we need to provide currencies that enable all that we are to flow as powerfully as possible as possible. To open up the flow of our social capital, we must move into the realm of time banking.

This is not a a move to communism or socialism or any such thing. It is merely the recognition that we are all connected, we are all one big human family, and though our attention is often drawn away from that toward discrepancies and assumptions that take us away from the happiness that is our birthright, we simply must recognize that the most powerful economic system in the world is one that is based in the power of love. And as Khalil Gibran said, ¨Work is love made visible.¨

The Common Wealth Time Bank wants to build on the foundation of that source of wealth. Love is limitless, astoundingly abundant, and has the capacity to create a currency that cannot be hoarded as a commodity, but multiplies as it is shared. The Common Wealth Time Bank seeks to cultivate our members´ love for themselves so that it can expand through the rest of the community. By helping our members to recognize their hidden talents and capitalize on strengths such as compassion and empathy, we are able to expand the abundance of the whole.

As Edgar Cahn writes in Time Dollars, “The power of the Time Dollar idea stems from four basic truths. The first is that the real wealth of our nation is not money; it is the time of the people and the willingness of people to use that time helping others. The second truth is that the United States has two economies, the market economy, which economists all analyze, and the household economy of family, neighborhood, and community. The third basic truth underlying Time Dollars is that people respond to rewards other than money. The fourth and final truth is that money does not buy complete substitutes for what the family, the neighborhood, and community used to provide.”

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

We´ve become so used to the convenience of being able to exchange with strangers that we have largely become strangers to one another. The problem with basing our economy on money alone is that money it is not only a means of exchange. It is also a commodity in itself. Unfortunately, the other problem is that in order to make more of this money the way that the monetary addicts want to, we need to use other commodities, such as natural resources that could be directed toward greater use than merely the development of yet another limited resource.

With an economic system based on money, the theory is that if we can make our GDP bigger, then it appears that the economy is getting better, therefore, ipso facto, our households must be stronger. However, the abyssmal downside to that is that it´s just an illusion. The GDP has nothing to do with how strong our households are. It has nothing to do with how safe we are, how secure we are, how sustainable we are, and it most definitely has nothing to do with how happy we are.

Even Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve said recently and on more than on occasion, that we need to start respecting our Gross Domestic Happiness and making it a greater factor in our operations. This GDH is an untapped part of our economy that, if accounted for and properly valued, offers conduits of wealth unimaginable through mere monetary restraints.

In actuality, according to Nobel prize winning economist Gary Becker, the monetary system only accounts for 60% of the actual economy. The rest is the voluntary participation that makes life possible, the energy reciprocated through the natural symbiosis of individual, family, and community. This is the part of the economy that time banking is designed to account for, value, and cultivate.

To do that effectively, we must empower people to reach their highest potential by following their bliss and finding where the servies they offer through their bliss meet the needs of the community. In the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Enjoyment, Mihaly Cszcknsentmihaly writes:

Despite the fact that we are now healthier and grow to be older, despite the fact that even the least affluent among us are surrounded by material luxuries undreamed of even a few decades ago, and regardless of all the stupendous scientific knowledge we can summon at will, people often end up feeling that their lives have been wasted, that instead of being filled with happiness their years were spent in anxiety and boredom.

Happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultured, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.

Yet we cannot reach happiness by consciously searching for it. “Ask yourself whether you are happy.” said J.S. Mill, “and you cease to be so.” It is by being fully involved with every detail of our lives, whether good or bad, that we find happiness, not by trying to look for it directly. “Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue . . . as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” – Victor Frankl.

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.