Time is Money, and Art as well?
By Dadara on April 25, 2011
Time banking is a tool by which a group of people can create an alternative economic model where they exchange their time and skills, rather than acquire goods and services through the use of money or any other state-backed value.
The recent economic crisis, which causes increasing distrust of our monetary system, in which banks are being kept alive by huge bailouts from the government, has spurred interest in alternative currencies.
But time banking is not something that was invented recently: The origins of time-based currency can be traced both to the American anarchist Josiah Warren and to the British industrialist and philanthropist Robert Owen, who founded the Utopian “New Harmony” community. Josiah Warren’s currency was explicitly pegged to time as a measure of specific goods or labor. He believed that goods and services should trade according to how much labor was used to produce them and bring them to the market. To charge more labor for something that entailed less labor was “cannibalism,” according to him. For example, 3 hours of carpenter’s work would be considered equivalent to 3-12 pounds of corn. Meanwhile, Robert Owen’s currency simply bore an inscription referring to a number of hours, which presumably could be exchanged for however many pounds of corn a farmer would deem adequate or labor of any kind.
The most successful system of time banking nowadays are the Ithaca hours , a local currency used in Ithaca, New York.
In 1991, Ithaca Hours began developing a legal currency for their town. Today, there are over $100,000 worth of Hours in circulation.
Julieta Aranda and Anton Vidokle’s Time Bank is not geographically bound and is more interesting from an artist point of view.
In 2009 a group of artists, architects, writers, activists and designers were asked to suggest the best representation for the exchange of time, and to design a symbolic currency backed by trust within a cultural community, rather than by gold or state authority. Some came up with aesthetic solutions, some ideas are very conceptual (such as heavy currency in the form of stones) for this Project 0 – Time Currency, Current times project.
Bills shown here are by Raqs Media Collective, Lawrence Weiner, and W.A.G.E.
Rather than designing a new currency Niklaus Hirsch and Zak Kyes for this project proposed an additional layer of value to existing currencies. This time-value layer takes the form of a blackout, which can be easily applied to any existing currency.
I really like the Time/Bank currency denominations: half-hour, one hour, six, twelve and twenty-four hour. I guess if you want minutes and seconds you’ll have to start using Time/Bank coins.
The first bill I designed for the Exchanghibition Bank project has denomination zero. It could have been an interesting experiment to add a zero time bill to the Time/Bank currency as well, as in: “No, I don’t have time for you”. It actually might have become the most used bill in our so very busy society.
Since the conference of Bretton Woods in 1944 our money bills are not backed anymore by gold. Maybe time has become so scarce and thus valuable that instead of the pre-war gold standard, we could device something as a post-war time standard. And build a huge vault where we’d keep the majority of our time securely locked up, just as Fort Knox securely guards the majority of U.S. gold. All the gold in the entire world brought together would form a cube with sides of approx. 20 meters. How big of a vault would we need to contain all the time in the world?