10 alternative currencies, from Bitcoin to BerkShares to sweat to laundry detergent

Originally posted on TED Blog:

Paul Kemp-Robertson talks about how non-government currencies are gaining consumer trust at TEDGlobal 2012. Photo: Bret Hartman

Paul Kemp-Robertson talks about how non-government currencies are gaining consumer trust at TEDGlobal 2013. Photo: Bret Hartman

“Is there a reason for governments to be in charge of money?” asks Paul Kemp-Robertson in today’s talk. Judging by the new raft of alternative currencies—from digital coins to point systems that reward customers of a certain brand—the answer might someday be “no.” Again.

[ted_talkteaser id=1795]As Kemp-Robertson suggests, many people seem to trust brands more than governments these days. Since currency is, in a sense, an expression of the brand value of a government, why shouldn’t commercial brands also make currency?

Kemp-Robertson reminds us that, once, they did. As an example, before the US Civil War, 1,600 different corporations, mainly private banks, issued paper banknotes. The government only issued coins, a mere 4 percent of American currency. The Civil War upended that system (read more) and eventually led to the…

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