Tenino Wooden Dollar

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Brett Scott:

"In the early days of the pandemic media outlets were looking for uplifting novelty stories that would show people trying out new economic ideas. For example, there were a wave of stories about a US town 'printing its own wooden money'. In reality, this so-called 'wooden dollar' was really just a voucher system printed on thin pieces of plywood by the local government of Tenino in Washington. It was ‘scrip’, a legally-backed form of limited-purpose credit money. In such a system, the token material (and token production process) should take a conceptual back seat to the legal environment within which the token circulates. The Tenino voucher, like any voucher, could have been printed on paper, card, rubber, leather, ceramic tile or pretty much anything.

Nevertheless, in my piece Wooden Promises for Digital Money, I showed how the media (and the public more generally) often fixates upon the visible appearance of money tokens rather than the system that activates them in the background. Our attention - and the visual imagery of money - is often focused on tokens as if they were some kind of autonomous force in themselves. Journalists were arriving in Tenino to snap shots of the voucher's wood, distracted by the somewhat irrelevant ‘commodity’ body."


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