During a recent visit to Ithaca, NY, which apparently is an island of political liberalism surrounded by conservative up-state New York, I learned about Ithaca HOURS, an alternative, socially conscious currency. Intrigued, I learned more at

An Ithaca HOUR is a unit of currency equivalent to $10.00, since that was the hourly wage of a Tompkins County worker in 1991 when the HOUR was created. There are bills issued in denominations of one, 1/2, 1/4, and 1/8 HOUR. The basic idea behind having a local currency rather than relying only on US money is to encourage people and businesses to invest in the local economy. Paul Glover, the founder, says,

While dollars make us increasingly dependent on transnational corporations and bankers, HOURS reinforce community trading and expand commerce which is more accountable to our concerns for ecology and social justice.

Many local businesses accept some portion of purchases to be paid in HOURS instead of dollars. It is up to the businesses what percentage to accept, since the idea won't work if the businesses can't spend their HOURS soon after receiving them.

HOURS are legal tender and are taxable when accepted for goods or services. See also local exchange trade system.

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