The LETSystem Design Manual

2.1 Local registries


Summary

The needs for local currencies are many and varied. This will be reflected in the number and variety of the systems which people will set up. The Registry:

  • is a design for operational support of multiple currencies in local areas.
  • provides facilities for registration and account recording facilities.
  • supports a primary community currency through a LETSystem which provides accounts to all those registered.
  • enables registrants to associate and form multiple special systems with a minimum of effort.

Meeting local needs

Much energy has been wasted on discussions about the RIGHT way to operate a local currency. This seems to derive from a belief that one local currency can in itself correct the problems caused by the dependence of an economy on a single national money. When you think about it, this is totally unreasonable. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that any one formulation of a local currency will optimally meet everyone's various needs.

On the contrary, there will be as many systems in any community as people find useful: large and small systems, some related to sterling and some based on hours, some charging "tithes" and some not, some with "credit" limits and others without, and so on.

The task at present is to open channels through which all sorts of systems can co-exist in the same community with the minimum confusion and maximum benefit. We do not have to argue what is best; evolution will show us what works. It's likely there will be a broad spectrum of systems ranging from the mainstream, sterling based, tax accountable systems serving large and small populations, through equal hour networks like those promoted by Ralph Nader in the USA, all the way to others almost totally informal but very friendly. How much of our energy we circulate through each of our accounts will depend only on our personal needs and interests.

This leads us to the design and implementation of what we have termed multiLETS, which includes the introduction of registries to meet the diversity of needs within the community.

This is not simply a matter of choice, in the sense of it being a proposal that may, or may not, be adopted at some stage. Whether we initiate them or not, registries will happen in some form or another and by some name or other. Our recommendation is simply that we prepare for the inevitable. There is only one issue of practical interest: what sort of accounting services will emerge to meet the needs for maintaining multiple accounts?

Recent work in Australia and even more recent work in Canada and the UK has generated the following recommendations for the various components of Registry operations.

LETSystem Registry

The Registry design presented here will manage multiple currencies in a village or a town straightaway. It is sufficiently malleable and lightweight that it can accommodate future developments. The arrangements are considered to be those most generally and immediately applicable to the mainstream economy. Comments and questions are invited.

In any area, there will be a Registry, through which individuals and organizations declare an account identifier which they can use in whatever systems they choose to join in that area. Thereafter, anyone who wants to start a new system can easily do so, announcing the terms of operation, conditions of membership, fees, names of stewards, etc. Those who see additional benefit from another account will join. Others will not. Systems will thrive, indeed survive, only if they do actually fulfil a need in the community.

The functions of the Registry

The Registry provides operational support for :

  • registration: a record of local identifiers
  • a primary community currency - through a LETSystem which provides accounts to all those registered
  • multiple special systems (supporting many forms of personal money).

(The distinction between the LETSystem and other local and/or personal currency systems is laid out in the Fundamentals of the LETSystem (see Section 1.3)).

The functional elements of the Registry are as follows:

  • Registration of individuals and their identifiers
  • Organisation and supervision of account recording facilities - authorisation of competent transaction inputters/recorders - monitoring of those recorders - co-ordinate multiple recording channels for the internal systems - report to external systems regarding records kept for them - provision of statements to account holders
  • Stewardship: maintaining the authenticity and integrity of Registry activities

The Registry confines itself to this operational support for the local currencies associated with it, together with any other recording/accounting services which registrants may request. It restricts its activities to the functions outlined above and can therefore recover its costs with relative ease.

What the Registry does not do

The Registry does not get involved with promotion and induction. That is the work of the associated Regional Development Group (see Sections 5.0 and 5.1 ).

The Registry does not get involved with noticeboards, listings and other community information systems. This is the work of separate groups within the various systems. It may also be taken on by Regional Development Groups during the early stages of development.

Regional Development activities require separate funding. If they are charged to small numbers of account holders, charges will become punitive. The "cost-of-service" principle will also be undermined. But if the activities are not charged at all, the results will be unsustainable and the activities maybe taken over by someone else (see Section 5.1).

Choosing an identifier

The Registry maintains a list of people who wish to maintain their personal money accounts by using the services of that Registry. The list includes name, contact address, phone number (where appropriate) and a short name tag to help with reporting and recording of transactions.

Each account holder registers under a unique "tag" or identifier. You use your tag instead of an account number (who wants to be a number?). When you register, you choose your own tag, but it must be:

  • unique - not in use by anyone else who has already registered
  • and it should be:
  • short - not more than four letters long. You are going to use it a lot, and so are others, so it helps to keep it simple.

For instance, J G Brown could register as jb (or jill). If both those tags are already in use, she could go for jgb, or whatever. You choose something which you can remember easily. Then it will be your identifier, unique to you. And if you want to take out accounts with other LETSystem registries, you can take your tag with you. Just add it to the tag for your "home" Registry. In our example, if Jill is registered with a Registry which has the tag "@shp" she could use jill@shp if she goes elsewhere. The "@" distinguishes between the account and the Registry address.

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Landsman Community Services Ltd Paper No. 2.1 Version No 1.3 17 August 94
Written by Michael Linton of Landsman Community Services Ltd. and Angus Soutar of Robert Soutar Ltd.
Compiled 10-01-95 by Andy Blunt and Adrian Steele of LETSgo Manchester