The following are some of the most frequently asked questions about the Community Exchange System (CES).

Q. What is the CES?

The CES is essentially an exchange system. It allows us to exchange our narrow specialisations for the narrow specialisations of others. The regular money system, of which we are so familiar, is another exchange system. Throughout history there have been many different exchange systems. All of them assist us to overcome the inconveniences of direct barter. While the monetary exchange system uses a value representation to mediate exchanges, the CES has no such medium. Instead it uses information as the organising principle. Value is transferred from sellers to buyers and a record is kept of it. These records ensure that buyers ‘pay’ for what they have received by doing or selling something for/to someone else. This works just as well as money but sets up a completely different relationship between people. In the monetary exchange system production is geared towards maximising the amount of the exchange medium that can be obtained, whereas in the CES production is geared towards the satisfaction of needs. This imparts a completely different logic in our relationships with each other.

Q. What does joining the CES mean for me?

The CES is not a club or organisation but a new exchange or ‘money’ system. Therefore you do not ‘join’ and become a ‘member’ of an association. You register to use the CES as a new way of trading, without using your national currency. You will feel that you are part of a community but this is because you will experience a different spirit among the traders of the CES. The CES is characterised by openness, friendliness, honesty and trust, which is quite different to what your are likely to experience in the ‘old’ money system.

Q. Does it cost anything to join the CES?

There are many CES exchanges. Some charge an annual subscription fee in the national currency, others have no charges in conventional money, or any joining or membership fees in the exchange’s own currency. Where there are no subscription fees, administration costs are covered by a small transaction levy (in the CES currency) that is added to all transactions, but such levies only become effective when you begin trading. Administrations require an income for running and promoting their CES exchange groups.

Q. How can I begin trading without any money in my account?

A. The CES does not require that you have anything in your account to begin trading. As ‘money’ in this system is just a book entry or ‘point scoring’, there is no need for a supply of it. You begin either by going into debit (not debt). This means your account has a negative balance but unlike with conventional money you do not have to pay interest on it and there is no stigma attached to it (unless it gets large and is never reduced). Your debit simply means that you owe the community goods and services to the value of the debit.

Q. What is to stop me just entering payments into my account so that I get lots of credits?

A. You don’t need credits to trade so there is no point in this. In any case, your credits are someone else’s debits, and they will question your false trades with them. Your balance, which is open for everyone to see, will also reveal what you are doing. There is no need to cheat in the CES because you can simply go into debit and ‘pay back’ what you have received by delivering goods and services to others at a later time.

Q. What if someone exploits the system and then leaves the community without giving anything in return?

A. This can happen but equally someone who has given more than they have taken can also leave the community. If someone exploits the system it is the community that bears the burden, not any particular user.

Q. What if someone doesn’t pay me for work I have done for them?

A. That is impossible. You – the seller – are responsible for entering or getting entered the transaction information and you will be immediately credited for it. In the CES the buyer is the passive party.

Q. Is this just a tax dodge?

Definitely not! Our motives are noble. We want to create a more equal and just society where wealth is distributed according to contribution, not according to your ability to ‘make money’. In other countries where these systems have become big, the state has either ignored the tax angle because it saves the state money on welfare payments, or there is an agreement to provide services to the state. Our approach is that when we become big, the state should become a member of the CES and participate in the normal way. In this way the state could credit itself through the services it provides to all members and debit itself by purchasing the services of CES members.

Q. What if someone takes more from the system than they give back?

Before agreeing to trade with someone you should check their balance. If you see they have made a lot of purchases and are running a large debit, then refuse to trade until their standing has improved.

Q. What if my service is popular but I can’t find anything I want? What is the use of a large credit balance if I can’t spend it?

A. Don’t trade unless you feel there is something you can get in exchange. As more and more people join the community the more likely it becomes that someone will have something you want. Encourage others to join.

Q. What is the currency called and what is it worth?

A. Each exchange has its own name for its currency. A common name used in the CES is ‘Talents’. One Talent (or other name) is usually equal to one unit of the national currency (Dollar, Rand, Pound). This is purely to give it reference. CES currencies are not linked to the national currencies so could deviate over time. CES currencies are also not subject to inflation. Some exchange groups base their unit of account on time (e.g. one hour, one minute).

Q. How are goods and services valued?

A. Traders value their own goods and services, using the 1:1 relationship between their exchange’s currency and the national currency. The ‘law’ of supply and demand applies, but within the context of a closed group. This frequently differs from the situation ‘outside’.

Q. Is there just one CES exchange?

A. No, there are many established CES exchanges in different parts of the world, with new ones being introduced all the time. If you would like to start one in your area go to the registration page and fill in the form.

Q. Is it possible to trade between the different CES exchanges?

Yes! All the CES exchanges are linked and inter-exchange trading is possible. The CES currencies are as versatile as the national currencies. This means you can trade with any participant nationally or internationally, and your offerings are internationally accessible. Currency earned in one place can be spent in another.