I have read a book about alternative money schemes. It is called “Funny Money”, written by David Boyle (who has a Web site at http://david-boyle.co.uk/). ISBN 0 00 653067 2.
The book offers alternative points of view on money – as time, as information, as religion, etc. One of the alternative money schemes has people earn “time-dollars” for helping their elderly neighbors, running their errands, keeping them company, etc. They can pay with “time-dollars” for help to their own grandparents or parents, or even themselves if they themselves are old.
In another section of the book, the author explains that all of us are already exposed to various alternative monies, and he does not mean foreign currency. There are the air-miles handed out by airlines, “points” given by the credit card issuers for purchases (worth in Israel about 1 agora per “point”), etc.
I found two oversights in the book.
One oversight is the Free Software world. You pay for your use of Free Software by adding your pet features to it and allowing the entire world and his niece to use them.
Another oversight is understandable. It was due to the fact that the author wrote his book as an account of his trip in USA, which of course excluded Israel. The book does not cover the economic systems developed in Israeli kibbutzim at intermediate stages of privatization.
The important point I took home from the book is that the meaning of money is – that in exchange of my labor, I get a promise that someone else will work for me sometime in the future, when I need this. Bills or gold bars are concrete manifestations of this promise.
Of course, if someone collects more promises of labor than other people can deliver within reasonable working time, then they would eventually find a way to renege on their promise. This is inflation.
One complicating factor of money as a promise of labor is that an hour of one person’s labor is not equivalent to an hour of another person’s labor. Education, experience, availability of capital equipment (such as hammer and screwdriver or an oscilloscope with voltmeter or a stethoscope or a PC) apply a factor, which can be very large in today’s Hi-Tech based economy. The value also varies over the seasons of a year (or a business cycle). At some times, certain professions are in demand and an hour of their labor is worth more than that what it would be worth at other times.