In times past there was a barter economy. Goods were exchanged for other goods. Yet the exchange did not have to take place at the same time, it could be up to a year later.
A major economic innovation was the invention of money in form of silver, pearls or any other valued, but scarce goods. The advantage was that the payment took place immediately, but also that the seller was not dependent upon what the buyer had to offer.
Nowadays, money is not scarce anymore since most of the money is not backed by a substantial amount of gold. But there are many problems with the money economy as we known. There are large differences in income between people and countries, which this year was one of the major topics at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It is possible to manipulate the money streams as the economic crisis recently has shown. And last but not least, it has led to a materialistic world and a tendency to express everything in “earning bugs”.
What if the currency would be Time?
What if we leave an economy based on exchange of goods for an economy totally based on an exchange of time?
We do not suggest that occasionally a dentist and a hairdresser could exchange half an hour of their time, where they offer each other skilled labour. There are many initiatives of this kind of exchange currencies, especially in countries plagued by the economic crisis. Tax offices have a lot of problems with those spontaneous initiatives, as can be seen here. Often the system provides you with opportunities where you can place your surplus money on a virtual time bank. This means that you do not have the disadvantage of the system where you can only trade in equal amounts of time. For example, someone mows someone else’s lawn for an hour in exchange for a repair of a computer that took two hours.
It would be very interesting to research the relative “price” of the goods and services that are traded, but it seems that the amount of minutes spent by each party is equally valued. The time spend by a plumber is of equal value of that of the baby sitter.
We mean here that all currency is expressed in time, not as a parallel system in a dominant money economy.
It’s mind bogging to imagine what the world would look like, it is also difficult to visualize . Therefore, it is a good exercise in Thinkibility skills!
An interesting aspect is that the (time) value of every product would be expressed in the time it has cost to produce it. An iPad “cost” a certain amount of minutes. Another interesting aspect is that everybody have a limited amount of minutes available during his or her life time. But what will happen when someone has spent all the minutes in his or her life time?
What would be the consequences for crafts? Would an economy based on time as a currency improve the efficiency of time usage for some tasks, or just the other way around? Would the productivity sky-rocket because machines do not consume time, but to design and produce them cost time? Today it is much cheaper to fly from Paris to London than taking the train. However, taking the train costs much less time.
Are there some sub-cultures where actually the currency is time? Some tribe, alternative community or an art collective where we can study the effects?
How can you spend your minutes when your are not working, f.e. on holidays?
Nowadays, employees give time to a company in exchange of money, related to their knowledge, skills, experience and age. If the currency is time, will companies pay in minutes for the hours spent in the company, regardless of the capacity an employee brings to the task? Or will it be the other way around. But why should we spend hours in company if we do not earn more minutes? And could we instead of spending time working, playing with the kids? If you are going to school, you are loosing time. Could you earn more time by meditating?
Would it be possible to invest in time? To give time away for free?
If time is your most precious currency, might it not important to think about what might happen if the new currency would be time. Or is that a wast of time?