Free Money

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"Given the determining role of interest, the first alternative currency system to consider is one that structurally eliminates it. One such system, called Frei Geld or "free-money" was proposed in 1906 by Silvio Gesell in The Natural Economic Order. Gesell's free-money bears a form of negative interest called Demurrage. Periodically, a stamp costing a tiny fraction of the currency's denomination must be affixed to it, in effect a "user fee" or a "maintenance cost"; another way to look at it is that the currency "goes bad" – depreciates in value – as it ages." (



"The best-known example was instituted in the town of Worgl, Austria, in 1932. To remain valid, each piece of this locally-issued currency required a monthly stamp costing 1% of its face value. This anti-hoarding measure spurred citizens to spend their money quickly, even to pay their taxes early. Instead of generating interest and growing, accumulation of wealth became a burden—much like possessions are a burden to the nomadic hunter-gatherer. Worgl's economy took off; the unemployment rate plummeted even as the rest of the country slipped into a deepening depression; public works were completed, and prosperity continued until the Worgl currency (and hundreds of imitators) were outlawed in 1933 at the behest of a threatened central bank.


A similar story transpired in the United States. With national currency evaporating through an epidemic of bank failures, citizens and local governments created their own. By 1933, several hundred cities and even states were preparing to launch, or had already launched, "emergency currencies." Many of these were stamp Scrips like the Worgl currency. Despite the vigorous advocacy of prominent economist Irving Fisher, Roosevelt banned all emergency currencies when he launched the New Deal and declared a bank holiday in March, 1933, fearing the new currencies' decentralizing effects." (