What is Fourth Corner Exchange

The Fourth Corner Exchange is an alternative monetary exchange system based in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Its currency consists of the life dollar, which equates to an hour’s worth of time.

BREAKING DOWN Fourth Corner Exchange

The Fourth Corner Exchange uses a time-based currency as a way to foster a cooperative economy that thinks differently about the nature of value. In effect, standardizing on a unit of time creates a type of barter system where individuals exchange life dollars in return for goods or services they provide to others. In valuing a good or service, the exchange encourages its members to consider the amount of time and energy they have taken to provide the good or service and the amount of someone else’s so-called life energy they feel comfortable requesting in return.

While life dollars have no set ties to any international currency in the sense of a traditional peg, the exchange does suggest a connection between a basic living wage within a given community and the value of the currency, which it currently estimates at between 10 and 12 U.S. dollars. The one-hour time value of a life dollar does not necessarily translate into an equal number of hours spent on a pair of tasks, however, as the exchange encourages members to recognize “hidden” hours spent on producing something, such as time spent learning or perfecting a skill. Transactions must take place among members but may include any combination of life dollars and U.S. dollars.

Life dollars’ connection to time also means they are not subject to inflation or deflation, and therefore hold their value indefinitely.

History of Fourth Corner Exchange

Since its establishment in 2004 in Bellingham, Washington, the Fourth Corner Exchange estimates its members have exchanged services equivalent in value to over $1.5 million. Since that time, the group has opened additional chapters in other areas under an umbrella group called the Life Currency Cooperative Exchange. All trade the same currency, known as life dollars in the United States.

Complementary currencies

Life dollars fit loosely into among complementary currencies, which function alongside national currencies without being recognized as legal tender. Because of this, complementary currencies only exchange among businesses or individuals who agree to accept the currency. These currencies appeal broadly to individuals who find traditional economies unworkable or intolerable in one way or another. For example, the founders of the Fourth Corner Exchange find the traditional monetary system in the United States dysfunctional and unnecessarily competitive. Similar currencies include Ithaca hours, founded in 1991 in Ithaca, New York.