Building The Cooperative Economy

The Life Currency Cooperative Exchange

Have you ever wondered why, when millions of people have been working for positive change for so many years, the world is still in such a mess? Does it seem like no matter how much good work is done, the destructive juggernaut of modern culture steams ahead regardless, intent on destroying the planet and the quality of people's lives?

There is an invisible but powerful underlying structure in our lives and our culture, one which supports and rewards anti-social behavior, the destruction of the environment and our communities, and the exploitation of people and resources. At the same time, it penalizes altruistic, social, cooperative and community-oriented behavior. The vast majority of people accept this structure without question, never realizing how deeply it affects their lives and their world.

What is it? The bank-issued money system. The one we use every day.

Surprised? Bank-issued money is something which most people simply accept as a given. It's there, we use it, and it never occurs to us to question it. It seems so simple. The only real issue for many of us is making sure we have enough of it.

In fact, money is far from being a 'neutral medium of exchange,' as it is often claimed to be. The structure of any financial system, the rules by which it operates, inevitably condition the behavior of those who use it. The money system we use directly affects the quality of our lives, our communities, our culture and our world.

Toxic Money

In our present monetary system, everyone is competing for an artificially scarce resource (money). This scarcity-based system inevitably creates a fear of not having enough. It encourages, even forces people to behave competitively, against their natural instincts. Greed, selfishness, competitiveness and antisocial behavior are encouraged and often rewarded financially. Cooperation, altruism, and community-building activities typically go unrewarded, and those who engage in them must often limit them to their 'spare time.' Money is issued by private, profit-driven banks as interest-bearing debt, an inherently flawed and unsustainable model (watch the excellent animated video Money As Debt to see why). As a result, more money must always be repaid than has ever been put into circulation, reinforcing the (accurate) perception that there is 'not enough,' so you had better be ruthless if you want to be sure to have all the money you need.

Some would argue that this competitive attitude is simply 'human nature.' In fact, studies have shown that it is cooperative behavior that is instinctive and natural for human beings, and competitive behavior that is learned (See No Contest - The Case Against Competition). The truth is, if you place people in an environment that demands they compete to survive, nearly all of them will compete. If the influence of the environment remains unseen, such behavior can seem like 'human nature' when in reality it is being invisibly conditioned.

The conventional money system, the one we use every day, intrinsically supports and rewards competition, anti-social behavior, the destruction of the environment and the exploitation of people and natural resources. It undermines democracy, as without economic democracy our political democracy can be sold to the highest bidder. It forces people to behave competitively when they don't want to and would choose not to if they had a real choice. Money is issued through privately owned banks whose fundamental goal is to create profits for their shareholders, not serve the common good of the people. Banks create money as and when they can profit from it, forcing citizens into wage slavery to repay the bank for money it created out of nothing (unbelievable, but true). The expansion and contraction of the money supply locks us into a 'boom and bust' cycle of never-ending, unsustainable growth. At some point, a crash is inevitable and vast amounts of suffering ensue.

Healthy Money

A healthy, sustainable money system would operate quite differently. It would be non-usurious, as any financial system based on interest is inherently unsustainable (See 'Money as Debt' above). It would be based on abundance instead of scarcity, and would place the power to issue currency into the hands of the people rather than banks. It would create a healthy trading environment, giving people a genuine choice to behave competitively or cooperatively, and holding people and organizations accountable for their behavior. It would facilitate the exchange of goods and services between its members and would give people access to the resources they need for the trades they need to do. The amount of currency in circulation would be linked to the actual goods and services being exchanged, not to a scarce physical resource or the creation of profits for a bank.

Fourth Corner Exchange Life Dollars are a sustainable and equitable alternative money system. Using Life Dollars empowers people and communities to take back economic power into their own hands.

Life Dollars

A Life Dollar is valued at one hour of time. Time is a universal currency; an hour of time is the same length for everyone, no matter who you are or where you live. Unlike time banks, however, we do not impose an 'hour for an hour' equivalence on exchanges. We recognize that differences in value do exist, and that the 'hidden' hours someone spends in order to offer one hour of service must be taken into account for a trade to be fair and for an economic system to function universally.

In thinking about exchanging time, we ask questions like: How much of someone else's life energy am I asking for in exchange for what I have to offer? How much of my own time and energy has gone into being able to provide this service or this item? What is a fair exchange of life energy for what I want to buy or sell?

In this way, we move beyond the usual concepts of how much 'money' something is worth to a more just and equitable assessment of value. We eliminate artificially-created inequalities between the currencies of different nations, and normalize economic transactions between communities. We are creating a world of economic justice and sustainable prosperity for all.

Life Dollars are non-interest bearing, sustainable, and completely stable. They are not linked to any national currency and are not subject to inflation or deflation. They are an unlimited supply currency, electronic, cheque and printed, issued by citizens themselves in sufficiency as and when they need them. The trading environment created by the use of Life Dollars is cooperative rather than competitive, and people often remark upon how different it feels. Based on our experience, the overwhelming majority of people do choose to behave cooperatively and act responsibly towards other members and the environment, given a healthy monetary system in which to trade.

A Cooperative Economy

The Life Dollar Cooperative Economy connects people with each other. It facilitates mutually beneficial exchanges, helps to rebuild and strengthen communities, and fosters a culture of goodwill and trust. By removing artificial incentives toward competition, building in accountability, and rewarding expressions of goodwill and socially responsible action, Life Dollars enable our members to remove their support from the dysfunctional financial structures which keep so many destructive practices in our world in place.

Members of Fourth Corner Exchange, the Pacific Northwest organization which developed Life Dollars, began trading in January 2004. We have grown consistently since then and now have many hundreds of members who have made thousands of exchanges, trading a vast variety of goods and services. We are spreading to other communities and other parts of the world.


A world of economic freedom and justice for all, where all communities have access to a fair and equitable universal medium of exchange, issued by the people in sufficiency to meet their own needs and the needs of their communities.


To create this world of economic democracy by rebuilding communities through teaching people how to use our sustainable alternative money system in a socially just and responsible manner

We warmly invite you to join us. Join the revolution! Be part of the solution.

Bring Life Dollars to your community today.

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To learn more visit The Life Currency Cooperative Exchange

This article is Copyright © 2010 Francis & Lia Ayley. All Rights Reserved.