While diversity and experimentation has its value, we live in a time when we can no longer afford to be distracted solely by peripheral currencies that have marginal impact on the global economy as a whole. A central emphasis must be placed on making qualitative judgments about which monetary systems are most appropriate in the context of solving our most pressing problems. The more the alternative currency community as a whole is able to coalesce and integrate new ideas and collectively focus their energy like a laser beam on the challenge of transcending national fiat currencies, the more powerful and lasting impact it will have.
Jordan MacLeod thinks the time of play is over for alternative currencies:
“I define monetary relativism as the belief that all forms of currency are equally valid or appropriate; and that no monetary design can be deemed better than another. As a consequence of this belief, the notion emerges that money can be arbitrarily created at the whims of an individual or group, that anyone and everyone should have the right to create money according to their personal desires and impulses.
As we have seen above, the problem with this position is that it ignores the context of economic, social and environmental life conditions and the impact of currency design on our ability to address what we deem the most critical and relevant challenges of our times.
I would suggest that monetary relativism emerges as a consequence of reacting against national fiat currencies, which are inherently monopolistic, arbitrary and concentrated forms of power that are also widely recognized, at least in the alternative currency movement, as imperfect (if not fatally flawed) for solving the challenges we face. Yet, rather than firmly state that only specific and more conscious monetary tools can address the complexity of global life conditions, monetary relativists react against this reality by stating that everyone should be able to produce the kinds of currencies that they see fit.
This position, unfortunately, does not lead to liberation and the good life, but rather to economic anarchy and the dominance of ego in social affairs. Why? Because it abdicates the responsibility for, and denies the possibility of, making value judgements about money and the context of life conditions on our planet.”
As an example of monetary relativism, Jordan takes to task a statement by Stan Stalnaker, the founder of Hub Culture and its digitized social currency, Ven.
“Hub Culture is a brilliant social enterprise and the Ven is a solid example of how complementary currencies are performing important functions where traditional, national currencies are not. Stalnaker rightly compared the emergence of new digital currencies as part of a process where money is shifting its qualities, comparable in its nature to a shift from stone to pebbles and now to sand. What he essentially means by that is money is becoming increasingly accessible, liquid and decentralized. It’s increasingly including more people into an integrated economy in new and innovative ways. Sand can seep into the cracks that stones cannot. His conclusion, however, of where this sand-like currency was taking us almost jolted me out of my seat:
“So we think at some point there will be millions of different currencies, essentially everyone will have their own virtual, personalized currency, and we’ll trade on some sort of, you know, NASDAQ for personal currencies.”
Here, Stalnaker makes a significant error in understanding how money really works. He is literally missing the beach for the sand, the forest for the trees, the ocean for the raindrop. Why? Because he is reducing currency to the idiosyncratic whims of personal taste, and thus overlooks the critical importance of a currency’s relationship to, and appropriateness within, the context in which it operates. It also misses how a single currency creates its own interconnected ecosystem, an ecosystem with unique and distinct properties, that could only possibly function when several people come together to co-create a shared vision of reality.
Currencies are inherently social and cultural creations. Ironically, Ven is a perfect example of the redundancy and pointlessness of individualized, personalized currencies.”