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Are alternative Ecoins 'anti-bitcoins'?

Apr 29, 2013 at 8:15 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 10, 2021 at 10:42 a.m. UTC

Take it as a sign of bitcoin's growing mainstream visibility: other alternative currencies are being branded with the label the "anti-bitcoin."

Writing in FT Alphaville, Joseph Cotterill last week featured a link to a post by Barnard College economics professor Rajiv Sethi about a local currency project in the US called Macon Money. Along with the link, Cotterill added in parentheses, "(the anti-Bitcoin?)"

Sethi later noted Cotterill's comment, adding, "Exactly right, and very well put."

So what's Macon Money? Funded with $65,000 from the Knight Foundation, the project backed the issue of "Macon Money" bonds throughout the Macon, Georgia, community. People who got a hold of half a bond (bonds were cut in two to provide a social incentive for holders to engage with others in town) and found someone with the other half could redeem the bond for Macon Money that could be spent at local businesses. Participating businesses could exchange the local money dollar-for-dollar with US greenbacks.

Readers at the economics blog naked capitalism, which reposted Sethi's article, didn't necessarily agree with the "anti-bitcoin" label, though many cheered the Macon experiment.

"I'm not sure if it's the 'anti-Bitcoin' exactly," responded reader YankeeFrank. "In some ways perhaps: bitcoin is globally,  rather than locally, traded and spent, and is not tradeable at par with a fiat currency. But bitcoin has allowed markets in products arbitrarily deemed illegal to flourish, and it is exchangeable for fiat currencies, albeit at wildly fluctuating rates. There is also a large bitcoin ecosystem of companies springing up to perform just the sort of currency trading described in the variation of the 'Macon-Money' scheme proposed herein."

Commenter Mitch Shapiro added, "A key here is how the (alternative) currencies are designed and managed and what their purpose is. Bitcoin is one version, which I’d consider a libertarian techie attempt to recreate the gold standard ... a bad idea from the start."

Still, Shapiro noted, "if there are other steps that can be taken to build a bottoms-up system of exchanging real value than I’m all for it."

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