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LETS = Local Exchange Trade System
The LETS and similar exchange systems like Ithaca Hours or ROCS present themselves as an opposing, and thus fairer, trade system than conventional national and international capitalism.

Characteristics
It is intended for local and regional communities and based on trade of hours of service ("I work x hours for you, you x hours for me") or, more often, mediators like the "Green $" (like money, but then different, see below).
Other characteristics are the way of issuing that: conventional (inter)national currencies are debt-based, bearing interest and therefore promoting competition; most important authority is the Central Bank; e.g. influencing the Euro of the EMU zone with some foreign currency trading. The LETS and similar systems work with a mutual credit, which is a system where the currency necessary to mediate a transaction is created at the time of the transaction as a corresponding credit and debit in the balances of the two parties involved. There isn't a third party involved who wants to gain profit from your trading activities, nor dictating what you must do to please them.

Effects
The alternatives are based on sufficient currencies and tend to be oriented towards a gift economy and social bonding, whereas the so-called scarce currencies support hoarding. This in turn increases the value of a currency because of the scarcity: "making money" by doing nothing with it. The LETS system on the other hand sort of promotes the use of your currency (e.g. your ROCS): it doesn't increase, nor decrease, in value if you store more of them, thus spending is good for your economy.

An example
I've been a volunteer for the Wageningen Student Organization which is a member of LETS. The average student doesn't have money, but has time. We were offering copy facilities to other student organisations, who in turn gave us a certain amount of ROCS. However, if we would have kept the ROCS, nobody would have been able to use our facilities after a while, which certainly wasn't the intention. In the (inter)national currency system you take a loan and speculate, more often resulting in higher debts and/or financial dependencies to the one institution that "offered" you the money. But instead spending our scarce money in a fancy restaurant, we went over to their student organisation canteens for our biannual dinners, or they were distributing our magazines etc.; many hands make light work and nobody is useless in this system. At the end of the day all parties involved gained from the trading. And all participants are equal, not like in the big wide world that people who already have a considerable amount of money gain even more and the vast majority stays at the bottom.

More information and alternative theories about money can be found doing a Google search on LETS, Ithaca Hours, Time Dollars and/or ROCS.

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