Thursday, March 17, 2011

Budget deficit? Yawn. Let's make money!

First-term N.C. Rep. Glen Bradley apparently doesn't think the General Assembly has enough work to do. Tackling that $2.4 billion budget deficit, and strategizing to save teachers' jobs and protect other essential services must not be weighing on his mind that much. He's got time to focus his energy, and the energies of others on a bill to develop a plan for an alternative state currency.

That's right. The GOP lawmaker warns that the federal dollars in your wallet could soon be little more than green paper backed by broken promises, so North Carolina should have a plan to issue its own legal tender backed by silver and gold. His bill would set up a study committee with 14 members to consider alternative state currency "in the event of a major breakdown of the Federal Reserve System."

Lest you think Bradley is wacko (an N.C. State economics professor called it outlandish) for giving this matter so much time and attention, he joins lawmakers in at least six other states - Virginia, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire and South Carolina - who've introduced or plan to introduce such legislation. And yes, states can actually do this as long as officials don't coin actual money. Local alternative currencies are already used in some U.S. cities, i.e. Berkshires, Mass., has the BerkShare, Ithaca, N.Y., has the Ithaca Hour and here in North Carolina, Pittsboro reportedly has the Plenty. Who knew?

Still, small cities using bartering scrip for small transactions is a whole lot different from whole states setting up alternative state currency systems. That would be a much more complex matter requiring a lot of financial expertise, we'd think. So far, the General Assembly hasn't shown that much expertise in handling the legal tender we use now. We'd prefer they spend more concentrated time on that before they try to figure out an alternative.