community currency and trust

When ever I introduce people to the idea of community currencies, I have experienced that the question of trust comes up again and again. This is reasonable, but I’m quite convinced that the breadth and depth of what trust is, is very poorly understood. Trust seems to be a word that, in the case of money, is hiding at least two forms of something that are actually quite disparate. I think this is because experientially, these forms of trust feel the same, but they arise from entirely separate circumstances. Some examples to get at this:

  1. What kind of trust does it take to ride a bicycle? It’s not trust that the bicycle will stay upright. If you are afraid of falling over, and you want to entrust that functionality to the bike itself, that would be misplaced trust. Instead of trusting the bike to not fall over, what we do appropriately trust is that that it won’t fall apart. The former kind of trust you can give to a trike.
  2. What kind of trust is necessary to write a post on the Wikipedia? This might sound like a funny question, but why spend your time writing something that anybody in the world could just erase? Your efforts are certainly not “safe” from being changed, deleted, or even edited beyond recognition perhaps into meanings opposite of the ones your intended. Just like the bike, the Wikipedia is not engineered for certain kinds of stability, in fact, like the bike, its value arises from an intentional decrease in stability, a letting go of a “security,” in this case, that my words won’t be deleted. The value comes from the fact, that by allowing some “insecurity” the whole endeavor will proceed more rapidly and be more adaptable (incidentally that’s exactly the advantage a bike has over a trike).

What I hope that these two examples reveal is that we can gain a sense of safety and security by a stability imposed externally, or by understanding and control achieved internally. The experience of safety and security is identical. The process by which this experience is achieved is radically different, both in terms of external mechanisms or infrastructure and internal education and knowledge.

In the currency world, the same truth is in play. What we want is safety and security. What we need to achieve financial independence is to get off our trikes and learn to use a new machine that is less stable, but infinitely more maneuverable and, fun to ride.

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