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Brooklyn Starts Printing Money; Shockingly, Not the Counterfeit Kind


Local currencies are getting popular -- but they won't goose the economy.

Some citizens in Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New York, and Arizona ask a basic question as the economy continues to falter: Why should Uncle Sam print all the money?

Governments typically crank up the printing presses to inflate their way out of massive spending, but local currencies are intended to encourage local spending to keep the money at home. The impact of funny money on hairstyles has yet to be determined. But if government-issued money is any indication, this is a big plus.

Stuck for a new look? Nothing good in the magazines? Well then, ape one of these grizzled figures on the world's coins and bills. It may be the end of what you optimistically call your love life, but at least you'll look as stately as Chairman Mao. Take a cue from the $1 bill and rock the George Washington look if you dare (wooden teeth permitting).

Warning! The President Jackson not recommended for kids. But take a look at these doozies:

Ten of the Most Fabulous Internet Failures

There's nothing illegal about printing local currency. Local scrip such as the Brooklyn Torch, the Ithaca Hours, the Detroit Cheer, and the BerkShare in Western Massachusetts don't run afoul of the Feds because there is no attempt to recreate or deface the dollar. However, transactions conducted in local currencies are subject to local, state and federal taxes that, alas, must be paid in greenbacks.

So why bother with legal funny money?

"The Plenty is not going to get siphoned off to Wall Street, or Washington, or make a stop in Bentonville [the Arkansas home of Wal-Mart] on its way to China," B.J. Lawson, president of the board of the Plenty cooperative in Pittsboro, North Carolina, told the Los Angeles Times. "It gives us self-reliance."

That sounds like recycled gripes about Wall Street plutocrats, moneychangers and all those other evil-doers who make the economy run – and it's nothing new. Frank Norris took on the railroads in The Octopus, a novel published in 1901, and offered a similar critique of big money crushing the little guy.

Local currencies enjoyed a brief vogue in the 1930s, when the Depression dried up both cash and credit. The return of local currencies now appears to be a mixture of the downbeat economy and crunchy granola politics. Local currencies are popular in university towns, including Madison, Wisconsin -- known as the "Berkeley of the Midwest" -- and Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University and its ivy-covered walls. But local currencies have also popped up in Mesa, Arizona and Portland, Maine.

In Brooklyn, artists plan to launch the Torch this fall, the New York Daily News reports. The local currency will be exchanged 1-for-1 with the dollar, backers say, and will encourage residents to spend locally.
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