LETS Schemes?

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Ramona's picture
Joined: 19-09-03
Nov 25 2004 17:09
LETS Schemes?

Ok we've been talking about LETS schemes in my politics and economics class, and it's sounding pretty interesting. At face value, it's a wicked idea promoting community involvement and non-capitalist exchange, but if they're so great, why don't people make more of a fuss about them? I have a suspiscion that it's all a load of liberal wank, tho I'm not sure why.

Anyone know any more about this? Been involved in one? Are they good, or liberal wank? And why?

I mean, my only experience is when I was a kid and my mum set up a babysitting circle in our neighboorhood, except it just ended up with her minding everyone else's kids whilst they went out and got plastered, and then no one could ever find the time to return the favour...

Joined: 20-02-04
Nov 25 2004 18:11

Yeah it is pretty wanky. It gets discussed a bit here:


Joined: 31-05-04
Nov 25 2004 18:29

it sorta tends to be people swapping stuff like head massages rather than something really useful like plumbing skills..

possibly cause plumbers have tons of work and earn shitloads of money?

Jason Cortez
Joined: 14-11-04
Dec 1 2004 14:03

Actually the problems with Lets schemes are generally not lack of plumbers etc per se. If i was a plumber, i wouldn't want to do more plumbing outside of work unless i could exchange it imediately for something else this frequently isn't going to be the case.

The size of the schemes aren't able to offer a big enough range of options. So after the initial flurry of activity they start to stagnate (the number of exchanges falls). Strangely enough as the size of schemes grows beyond a certain point they also start to stagnate. confused Yes, i know this contradicts my previous statement, i think it's got something to do with the scheme's growing numbers tending to mean an expanding geographic area. Or maybe they age quickly( the number of exchanges of each member tends to slow down over time. the volume of exchanges is maintained by recruiting new members) i not sure.

Although Lets offer the oppunity to 'value' stuff which would not be reward in the wider ecomony(which is important) and in some cases (the original scheme happened in a economically depressed Canadain fishing) has enabled a focus for communities to orangise to meet more of their own needs and give a better quality of life it's members. This tends to happen in particular cirumstances only, e.g. the canandain fishing communtity was a fairly small geographic area with a strong sense of identity and had high unemployment and low wages, the scheme grew as an attempt to meet the needs of members of the communitity.

They generally tend to replicate the wider ecomony in many ways: the Lets currency is usaully pegged to 'about a pound'; skilled workers, professionals charge more than unskilled; work that is traditionally considered 'womens work' receive less than 'male' work.

Most offers are for services you can buy in the wider ecomony, at similiar prices, if the skills you offer are not in demand you still can't access them. In theory this shouldn't be true as you can into debt (they call it commitment) without having to 'repay' this in any time period (plus no interest) the idea being that eventually someone will want your services and it will all even out over time. In my experience this dosen't happen in the longer run some people whose services are in greater demand accumulate currency and those aren't either do little trading or end up in a lot of commitment.There also the problem of people leaving the scheme with their account not at zero, different schemes have used various solutions, but all entailed problems of their own.

I think, a lot of this stems from the idea of equal exchange. If you want to facillitate equal exchange (rather than say gift) you need to quantify, to determine the value of work. As soon as you this(despite some idealism by members valuing some work that wouldn't realise value in the wider ecomony) you replicate/reproduce the 'outside' ecomony. Equal exchange is at the heart of Liberal ecomonics, it is a 'real' illusion in that it affects people's perception and behaviour, but no exchange can be equal under capitalism.

Despite what the anarhco-purists say about it being middle class, wanky bullshit, it has enble me get services i could not of accessed otherwise.

It offers a model for meeting each others needs 'outside' the marketplace and with the replacement of the currency with units of time, it might may be able to avoid some of the worst ascepts of the wider ecomony.

It is not solution to our problems, but can be a useful addition to our survival kit (it can also be a waste of time).

My comments come from personal experience or from talking with people who have been invovled with Lets schemes. I hope i have been helpfula nd not too confusing. I find it differcult to compose my thoughts and type at the same (a bit a of problem,if posting here). embarrassed confused eek neutral smile