One of the many possibilities opened up by the LET system is the
establishment of a realistic value for the many skills & services
which are currently either unpaid( therefore non-existent in terms
of the National economy) or badly underpaid(therefore not considered really valuable).
This includes the possblity of negotiating a realistic rate for one’s time.
So many forms of cheap labour and exploitation can be avoided if LETS members use the system, not just to reduce the need for 'Legal Tender', but to establish a value system no longer linked to the current view of economics.
A common example is baby-sitting.
The sitter takes a great deal of responsibility, & requires, at least in potential, a wide range of skills, yet is invariably underpaid.
Many parents do, in fact, value their sitter, but cannot afford to pay in cash for the time required.
Using LETS units, a reasonable return can be negotiated without having to add $45-$60 to the bill for a much-needed night out.
Also, with higher returns, people will be more willing to babysit, & more willing to carry out ancillary tasks, such as preparing & serving the children’s meal, putting them to bed etc. thus enabling parents to really relax & enjoy their outing.
A different example is craft work. It can take between 6 & 10 hours
to crochet an attractive shopping bag. Yet even $6 would be considered
too high a price for such an article, if paid in cash, although this
represents a return of less than $1 per hour for labour, not counting the cost of materials used.
Even if these hours are ‘spare’ time, why should such time & skill be de-valued?
Large crocheted, knitted, or woven projects are simply not a profitable proposition in this country.
(Though we happily add to the Balance of Payments problem by importing large quantities of such goods made in deplorable conditions, often by women & children, for a mere pittance.)
As for crafts such as pottery, woodwork, basketry & others definitely not carried out in ‘spare’ time - ask the craftsperson about their hourly rate of return, & they will either look stunned, or burst out laughing.
Some will tell you that they do it for ‘love’.
I see nothing virtuous in doing such things 'for love' in a society which so rigidly classifies people according to their economic status, & exploits for profit those who are without the means to change that status.
Nor am I taken in by the myths promoted by the rich & 'successful' in order to ensure their place at the top of the heap.
Financial rewards are NOT commensurate with the amount of effort put into a job or project.
It is NOT the fault of the poor, the tired, & the harrassed that they are where they are.
It is the fault of a system which is designed to make profit, regardless of ethics or human or environmental cost; which, when its victims complain, blames those victims; & which, if the complaints are loud enough to pose a possible threat, turns the complainant into a scapegoat.
LETS can be used to bring about real change in society.
So please don’t
undervalue your time & your skills when you offer them -
& please don’t expect to get something for nothing when using someone else’s services.
After all, you must be questioning the validity of the existing economic system already, or you wouldn’t be in LETS in the first place.
So LETS make it more than a facsimile of the current dog-eat-dog system, & use LETS as a vehicle for real social change.
Margaret RainbowWeb - first published in 'LETStalk' in 1990.
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