TimeBank Hours are what you might call a designer currency. Someone – Edgar Cahn, in this case – made them up. And what he made up was glaringly, almost alarmingly simple: an hour’s contribution earns just one unit of exchange.
Give an hour; get a credit. Spend the credit, receive an hour of service.
So totally inflexible is this currency that it fails even the barter test. Would doctors trade an hour of medical advice for an hour of babysitting? Would lawyers trade, hour for hour, with a person willing to weed the garden?
They won’t. They don’t.
It has taken close on a quarter century of intense effort for TimeBank Hours (also called Time Dollars) to gain any attention at the national level. And it is really no wonder. This currency lacks the usefulness and the raw power of regular money. In the calculus of economics 101, it makes no sense at all.
But with its rough-hewn simplicity TimeBank Hours have, it turns out, a certain magic.
In the social zones laid waste by the cold hard logic of economics run amok, it links one good turn with another to create, in the end, an ever-evolving web of trust.
So a doctor may just choose to offer one hour a month of medical advice to the community pot. And receive, in return, a session in the weekly TimeBank scrabble group. A lawyer may also be a great pastry maker, and make an offering of pies to the community pot. And seek out in turn…some gardening advice? Thereby opening the way for a person passionate about gardening to share that love.
One equals one is simple math that in this case does more than add up. It multiplies opportunities for all to give. It joins giving acts into ties that bind. It builds trust and caring and community.
TimeBank hours, it turns out, reweave community.
That may not say much in the world of contracts, utility, and efficiency, or even maximizing value. But as a complementary currency – an addition to money – a TimeBank hour is, quite literally, priceless.