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CASH ATTITUDES vs LETS ATTITUDES
It is a serious mistake to think that approachs and attitudes customarily applied in the cash economy work equally well with LETS. Here are four points to notice:
1. While anyone being paid cash to do some work is at their employer's disposal, anyone being paid LETS units is at their own. LETS members tackle jobs as friends wanting to help out, not as people in financial difficulties prepared to do anything to be paid. This means that they must be allowed to arrange a time to do the job that suits their convenience as much as yours. And if they need to be collected from home because their partner has the car, you have to do it: only if you were offering cash would it be reasonable to suggest that their partner be inconvenienced. And, naturally, you offer your helper coffee and biscuits and make a good lunch. If someone doesn't like working for you, they'll never offer to help you out for LETS units again.
2. A LETS is just as much a social organisation as it is an economic one. If there is a big job such as clearing scrub to be done, dont try to find one member to do it alone over several days. That's too much like paid work. Provide food and drink and get enough people to come together so that the whole task can be completed in a day. This turns the task into a party and its successful completion will leave everyone with a great sense of achievement. This way, you'll strengthen your system and have no trouble recruiting sufficient volunteers.
3. High street banks like customers with large credits in their accounts. LET system co-ordinators do not. In fact, members with large local unit credits in their accounts present a much more serious threat to a system than those who have run up large deficits. This is because those with hefty credit balances are among a system's most valuable members because they must have been providing goods and services which other members like to have reached their surplus position. Consequently, if any member amasses more units in their account than they are able to spend and cuts down the amount of LETS work they are prepared to take on, every other member will find their units less useful and harder to spend. In short, the system will begin to unravel. The top priority of every LETS co-ordinator should therefore be to approach members with strongly positive accounts to find out if they are experiencing any difficulty spending their units. If they are, the co-ordinator must find other members to supply goods and services the members with excessive balances want to help them bring their surpluses down.
4. "Money is a way of finding out who you can trust. After you have established that, it just doesnt matter any more" Edgar Cahn, the originator of Time Dollars, the American system of service credits described in the next panel, told me once. This certainly proves true with LETS units very much more quickly than ever it does with national currency and your relationship with some LETS members you are dealing with regularly will soon begin to seem much more important than the balance in your account. After a little while it feels rather petty to put a value on each transaction and give or receive a cheque. Each party begins to give as they can, confident that they will always be able to take as they need. Mutual trust becomes paramount. The spirit of an old-style Irish meitheal gets reborn.
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