Awhile ago I was involved with a start up that was trying to create a barter driven system for online transactions, leveraging the power of the community rating, meritocracy and subversion of traditional currencies to both lubricate commerce and cut out a number of the middle men" who add drag to commerce,

The start up never really got off the ground – our timing was a little off, the potential investors and partners weren’t too interested and our bandwidth got compressed to a ping where it had to be relegated to the back burner. I still firmly believe in the concept however and so was stoked to read this post over on Aardvark Daily asking whether the time was in fact right for a cyber-dollar, a cross border standard currency, to be introduced.

I have to say a resounding YES. The current economic situation, coupled with the vagaries of our banking and financial system – make the return of barter, but with a web-enabled meritocratic twist, a complete no-brainer. It might be just about time to dust off that presentation from a year ago or so.

What does the community think – a return to barter? Or not?

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

6 Comments
  • It always fails for the same reason. With out something tangible backing a currency you have no way of valuing or securing it. The Aardvark guy is wrong in that balances in Paypal are not in Paypal currency but freely tradeable into what ever currency they are held.

    And if somebody was to launch a new ‘esperanto’ currency who would you trust to administer it? Lehmans? Sure as hell not a private company.

  • I couldn’t agree more. Local currencies flourished during the first world Depression and they are a great way to maintain liquidity and currency circulation during times of stagnation elsewhere.

    This is the kind of project the web was born for – enabling virtual arbitrage with minimal overhead or drag. Like any technological fix, it is based on the premise that we will maintain our access to affordable, ubiquitous internet access in the face of social and economic upheaval, but I’m hopeful.

    The Oil Drum has a great summary article here http://anz.theoildrum.com/node/4633

  • No point creating a virtual dollar as it has no intrinsic value.

    The concept of online barter on the other hand has its merits as long as controls are in place to make it fair and equitable. What happens if the 20 chickens I trade my trailerload of firewood for don’t actually lay eggs? Would the site guarantee I can get the firewood back?

  • Er guys……..sorry to disappoint you but the $ we use now has no intrinsic value either.

    The US national debt is at $10trln………do you trust them to manage your currency?

    Cyber $, if managed properly, will be part of the new process of decentralised democratisation (if as John notes the internet manages to stay up during a system reorganisation).

    In Kenya they have a system where money is transferred and stored in cyber land

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2007/mar/20/kenya.mobilephones

    Community credit is alive and well in NZ with Wairarapa $ up and running also along with Golden Bay Hands.

    See http://www.le.org.nz/tiki-index.php

    and

    http://www.transitiontowns.org.nz/

    for information on local currency systems and ideas for NZ.

  • Scottish banks still to this day issue their own notes – a remnant of the days when they indeed issued their own currency.

    The technology is all there and it works fine, but this won’t happen, simply because those who exercise control over the currency exercise control over the economy, so the government won’t let you do this as you will take their power. Try it and see.

    Oh, and if you’re interested, google Robert Hettinga, ibuc and related links. A bit of crypto won’t go amiss. See also the stories about digiash and e-gold. Lots of patents there.

  • Oh, and check out hawala as well – that’s more of an informal money transfer system rather than a currency, but interesting nonetheless.

    http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/nft/op/222/index.htm

    p.s. on Scottish banks: this means there are physical notes with “Royal Bank of Scotland”, “Clydesdale Bank” and “Bank of Scotland” printed on them, and they are different designs too.Imagine a NZ$20 kiwibank note and then an NZ$20 BNZ note, etc. …

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