Stimulus Writ Small: Tiny California Town Prints Its Own Currency

Josh Freeman of North Fork, CA sure took President Obama’s talk about providing help to “Main Street, not Wall Street” seriously. The tiny town of 2,400 people, located near Yosemite National Park, sits in a county with a staggering 15.7 percent unemployment rate. Seeing his town struggle, Freeman did what any red-blooded American would do: create his own currency. North Fork Shares, emblazoned with pictures of a butterflies and hummingbirds, are worth $12 per share, and are available in half and quarter shares.

This idea actually isn’t new; Ithaca, NY has its own currency, Ithaca Hours, which it launched way back in 1991. There are plenty of other local currencies around the United States: BerkShares in Massachusetts, the Plenty in Pittsboro, N.C., etc. The idea is to keep money in the community by encouraging spending only at local vendors who accept the money, like Disney Dollars, except less evil. Freeman explains his motivations to the L.A. Times, stating that “In a small town, you tend to look out for each other …. With the changes in economy, the more we support each other in positive ways, the better the quality of life is for everyone.”

It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea, but it’s definitely a smart way to keep things local. If you had, say, a wallet full of $6 North Fork half-shares and you were trying to decide between the local coffee shop and Starbucks, chances are you would head over to the local coffee shop to spend your cash. Each bill is legal and printed on washable, synthetic paper called yupo.

Will North Fork Shares help revive the local economy? Only time will tell; if anything, the residents of North Fork will have undertaken a community building exercise and in this economy, hey, anything is worth a shot.

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About Keith Wagstaff

Keith Wagstaff is a journalist living in New York City. He received his degree in print journalism from the University of Southern California and his work has appeared in such publications as The Village Voice, Newsday, The Huffington Post, Kilimanjaro Arts Journal, The L Magazine and others.

117 thoughts on “Stimulus Writ Small: Tiny California Town Prints Its Own Currency

  1. What is to stop Starbucks accepting the shares? After ll, it could pay its staff in shares/coupons and keep it in circulation. What stops them is that the local shares/coupons are not (apparently) convertible into the more widely accepted US Dollar. But if the local economy grows, so must the local ‘money’ supply. At some point someone is going to have lots of share/coupons. If they are not convertible, what happens? If they are (ie you go back to the store/mint), then at what rate? Could Starbucks et al make even more bucks? Does the IRS take coupons?

  2. @CarlOttersen:
    Who gives a crap about the IRS? They are are a part of the FED (not to be confused with the US government). Too many people have given power to the FED. Doing things like this weakens the FED, and it’s about time!

    1. The IRS is not a part of the Federal Reserve. The IRS deals with income taxes, while the Federal Reserve handles US Monetary Policy. They were both created around the same time, but are separate entities entirely. The IRS is a service within the US government, while the Federal Reserve is a privately owned bank.

      Doing things like this does not weaken the Fed. They said in the article that each of their bills is equal to $12. Thus, the currency is tied to US currency. Whatever inflationary/deflationary policies the Fed puts in place will have the same effect on their currency as it does the US dollar.

      If $12 buys a loaf a bread today, then 1 North Fork Share will also buy that loaf of bread. If the Fed prints money so that $12 will only buy half a loaf of bread tomorrow, 1 North Fork Share will also buy a half of a loaf tomorrow.

      The only real economic effects this will have are the ones mentioned in the article- that there may be a psychological effect causing people to shop at local, non-corporate owned stores. Whether or not that helps their unemployment rate is yet to be seen, but an interesting experiment nonetheless.

      1. …the irs and the fed are the same entity… study the connections to the city of london and the imf and you will understand that the fed and irs are one and the same…. no one has connected the dots because that would blow the whole concept wide open to scrutiny…. it is intentionally left confusing and lies have been told since day one about it all… heck why are they collecting money when 2/3 of the States never ratified the amendment???

    2. @CarlOttersen
      ShabbaRanks is correct the only reason the IRS is in place is because of the FED. Because every US dollar you continue to use there is a debt on it. In short the only way to collect that debt is to strong arm a person into paying! The only way around that is for states counties or cities to print their own money backed by real tangible things.

      1. The IRS is under the US Treasury. The US Treasury is independent of the Federal Reserve which is really a private banking monopoly. Our Fed is Under the Bank of England. The Fed is, of course, totally un-Constitutional. The US Treasury should be printing our greenbacks, not some private entity. The Fed is not needed at all and should, as Ron Paul says, be eliminated. It is a huge parasite that is sucking our country’s wealth dry. It is the cause of all wars and the boom/bust cycles.

  3. This idea is so dumb. There is only one way a smart and logical person would buy into this; if converting your hard earned US dollars into this local currency somehow allows you to purchase goods or services at a competitive rate compared to where the townspeople are obviously buying their goods and services at the moment, I’m guessing at the Wallmart one town over. Examples being if you can purchase the local currency at below face value or the local merchants charge a lower amount in the local currency than in US dollars. Because if not then why would I want to convert my money in the first place? I want to be able to take my money to the Walmart the next town over for the cheaper goods and services. The only way people will actually buy a decent amount of this near worthless local currency is if it somehow lowers the price of the local goods and services to compete with non-local goods and services.

    Don’t sugar coat it, just come out and say “Our town has crippling unemployment, we know there is a Walmart 30 min away but PLEASE spend that extra 20-30% markup on the local goods so our town doesn’t turn into mini Detroit”. You’re basically just one step removed from begging the people in the town that have money to freely give up some of it to support the people that don’t have any money.

    Unfortunately that’s not the prevailing mentality of people in the USA who have been force-fed lies about this every-man-for-himself “free market” their entire lives. A global free market has no conscience. Unbridled capitalism makes no concessions for the quality of life of the lowest 20% of our population. You will never outsmart it without REGULATION. Your competing against Chinese companies that can pay workers 1/4 what is legally allowable in America and have almost no regulation on the pollution they spew into the air. Americas downward spiral will continue until China’s wages rise and our wages fall until they are equal, I don’t know about you but i don’t want to meet China half way on the quality of life scale.

    If you want to reverse Americas decline then we need a “Value Added Tax” or VAT tax. It’s a tax or tariff on imported goods that makes them as expensive as a local produced competing good or service. The tax is then pumped back into the local economy in the way of investment in education and infrastructure. Republicans HATE the VAT tax, they say its socialism and it tramples on the free market. What they don’t tell you is that the only thing it tramples on is the profit margins of the companies their donaters and themselves own. Republicans think having 20% of the population living in abject poverty with no health insurance and no social safety net is just fine, mostly because the vast majority of them grew up in middle or upper class families during a time when America had the upper hand on everyone and money came easy and have no idea what it’s like to be a poor uneducated person in Ameirca.

    We also need to regulate a conscience into capitalism. You don’t serve your company, your company is allowed to exist because it serves YOU. Don’t let them ship jobs overseas, force them to offer health insurance like they do in Hawaii (or do what EVERY OTHER WESTERN NATION DOES AND HAVE SINGLE PAYER HEALTH INSURANCE), and raise the overtime cutoff to 150,000 per year and regulate vacation days so parents don’t have to choose between their careers and spending time with their children.

    I fear the American mentality towards regulation won’t change until a cataclysmic event happens or 51% of the population falls into poverty.

    1. You obviously don’t know what money is.

      A medium of exchange. End of story. Everything else is financial God-priest jargon.

  4. I think the state of Virginia does this as well. I’ve heard of other small island towns doing this too. Seems like it could be useful if the dollar ever collapses.

  5. He says there will be another global financial crisis.

    This is in essence saying the dollar will collapse, as it will not be able to survive another global crisis. Like I said, if you think it will..I have a skyscraper for sale on Jupiter.

    I never offered my opinion of the system of California, beyond advocating community driven efforts. I also mentioned that flaws in them will need to be fixed and improved upon.

  6. If the dollar collapses, it is due to US politics and you have nobody but yourself to blame.

    Not that any fake currency like this will do you any good when the dollar tanks but you probably don’t understand why.

  7. Whatever you call money, whether it is United States Dollars or North Fork Shares, it is just a representation of debt; which is the identification of resources expended.

    Since Dollars and Shares are all fiat currency it is simply the agreement between the people involved in the exchange that matters concerning the value of the currency. Since it is only the agreement of two parties on the value of an imagined item it doesn’t really take a whole lot of effort to “buy into it”.

    Here is a great explanation of the entire process of local currencies.

  8. With the dollar crashing and controlled by the Federal Reserve, I think this is a great idea! Be independent, and don’t depend on the government that does not have your best interest at heart! People need to stand together helping each other!! They are spraying us like bugs, with chemtrails, and we need to stand strong in numbers, and remove everyone from office that is against GOD, and HIS children!! We have strength that we have all never realized, and we can bring our talents together to honor GOD, and help each other!

  9. HALLELUJAH! The Liberty4 are still wading through their June 2009 bust. One of them has been jailed all of this time. The Liberty Dollar – was in circulation for ten or eleven years. The World Management Team doesn’t know how to proceed with this case.

  10. seems alot of folks don’t know the old story about confederate dollars…fake money and real money have one thing in can waste it on things like a cup a coffee and donut or or if you can purchase something tangible and lasting like a coat, land, etc..then it makes sense. i don’t hear of anyone using fake money on tangible assets! and there were alot of confederate dollars that have rotted in attics and underground.

  11. Most smalll towns that are unable to survive, have double-didgit unemployment rates, retailers closing all have one thing in common: they are run by Democrats. Democrats put in parking meters to raise the city fund, guess what? No one goes downtown anymore becuase parking is free in the town next to us. The Democrats who run our town love the homeless. Not one homeless is chased away and they panhandle at every corner. Guess what? No one goes downtown but the homeless. If you want to destroy an economy then elect a Democrat to run it.

  12. This is a great idea! If it does nothing but create community involvement, then it is successful. The government is full of wealthy elite assholes and they don’t care about any of us. We all need to be visionaries for the future. Ever ask yourself why we buy into what the wealthy want-no taxes, rewards for outsourcing, etc.? Do some research and you will be disgusted by what you find out! It is amazing that the top 74 money-making Americans’ income combined was more than the lowest 19 MILLION Americans’ income combined in 2009. Pure Capitalism without any regulation is Pure Evil! People actually have to be honest and not greedy for it to work. Free markets are free for the wealthy to take advantage of the rest of working class America.

  13. This is a great idea–however, this alternate currency should be backed by gold or silver and tied to the value of gold or silver that is safely stored. Without this backing such a currency wouldn’t be worth a continental dollar when the U.S. dollar finally collapses. The only other problem that may have to be dealth with would be potential counterfeiters. But hey, why not just use gold and silver in the first place?

  14. Why not just accept silver as payment for goods and services? Any medium of exchange that has been in circulation for the past 4000+ years is good enough for me.

  15. Thank God people are taking a stand against the corrupt private Federal reserve. This is a great inspiration to everyone across America who seeks to be freed from the bonds of debt slavery!

  16. The banks own the “new” money they issue by making a computer entry for each loan to the borrower. These Federal Reserve Notes are not federal, that is the government could and should but does not make money. Money is privately own by banks and wall street and the rest of the thieves who control and enslave us in pursuit of more money. So we should go back to President’s Lincoln’s “greenbacks” federal notes. Please read “Web of Debt” by Ellen Brown.

  17. The banks own the “new” money they issue by making a computer entry for each new loan made to the borrower. This new loaned did not exist previously. These Federal Reserve Notes are not federal, that is the government could and should but does not make money. Money is privately own by banks and wall street and the rest of the thieves who control and enslave us in pursuit of more money. So we should go back to President’s Lincoln’s “greenbacks” federal notes. Please read “Web of Debt” by Ellen Brown.

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