Pi Attitude Zone: Ethics & Altruism

Exotic Currencies In Brazil [1]

Money is happiness in the abstract. He who is no longer capable of enjoying human happiness in the concrete devotes himself entirely to money”.

So said the eighteenth-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.  According to his philosophy, money and happiness are two alternative forks in the road of life.  You can’t follow both.

But wait.  In Brazil, they seem to have found a way of taking both forks at the same time.  Brazilians have started introducing “happy money”.  And it’s working.

An economist would probably give these new units of tender the more ponderous title of ‘social currencies’.  The Brazilian communities inventing them give them much nicer names, like the “bem”.  The word in Portuguese is tricky to translate directly, but its meaning is clear in the classic Brazilian conversation: “Tudo bem?” “Sim, muito bem”, (i.e. “How are you doing?”  “Great!”). 

So the “bem” is sort of like a form of money called the Cool.  It’s an alternative currency from a local community development bank, Banco Bem, or, if you like, “The Bank of Cool”.  The aim is a social currency that encourages people to keep their money within their community, and to contribute to the development of the local economy. Banco Bem was founded in 2005 by a group of sewing ladies who collectively decided to lend their profits to a group of furniture makers, so that they could in turn start their own group.

Banco Bem is now just one of around a hundred microfinance banks already launched in Brazil. They have been created to promote the principles of a "solidarity-based economy", based on foundations of more fairness and sustainability than the dominant capitalist system they are cheekily challenging.

The idea has snowballed from there.  Customers can already pay their bills in currencies with exotic and fanciful names like sunflowers (girassois), palm-trees (palmas), and kisses (beijos).

So now who says money and happiness are mutually exclusive?

Zone: Ethics & Altruism Country: Latin America Product – Financial