UPDATE (Feb 2013): Despite not meeting the target level, enough funds were raised to make the project successful. The official Freicoin client was released in December 2012, and you can read all about it on the official homepage: http://freico.in/.
Freicoin is a decentralized, distributed electronic currency designed to address the grievances of the 99% movement and correct the excesses of the 1%. Whereas inflationary currency like the U.S. Dollar or Euro are controlled by central bankers under rules that benefit the establishment, Freicoin would be completely decentralized and self-regulating, with fees on stagnant or hoarded money (demurrage) paid in proportion to those community members who contribute work to secure the currency. It is an opt-in alternative currency to be used first by Occupy-supporting businesses and supply chains, then spread to the surrounding community across the globe. It includes a downloadable client for Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux, and an electronic network for transferring funds denominated in Freicoin world-wide.
Demurrage currencies like Freicoin align incentives of bankers and financiers with the priorities of working class, forcing the wealthy through their own self-interest to invest in growth, jobs, and ventures with long-term thinking. An economy based on demurrage currency would not fall victim to to the same greed, excess, and short-term thinking that led to the 2008 crisis and financial collapse. Freicoin would instead continuously stimulate global growth through reinvestment, and dis-incentivize the hoarding by the 1% that caused the “credit crunch”.
The current systems of money, including the U.S. Dollar or Euro, are and always have been used to store value--money seen from the point of view of the holders, the wealthy. Freicoin emphasizes instead the view to that of the producer, the proletariat, the 99%: money as a means of buying the goods and services necessary to sustain life. These are contrary purposes--money cannot function properly as, nor should it ever be both a means of saving and exchange; it cannot be both accelerator and brake at the same time. Indeed, this confusion and conflict over the purpose of money is what led to the financial collapse of 2008 and the extended recession that followed.
Demurrage forces the entire stock of money to circulate irrespective of the desire of the wealthy to accumulate and store; banks, financiers, and corporations can no longer hoard money waiting for higher interest rates or a more favorable investment climate as the demurrage acts as a tax on stagnant money. Money is eternally losing value, so the incentive is to spend it as quickly as possible on the necessities of life or to invest in longer-term ventures that also provide stimulus for a growing economy, typically creating real jobs in the process. Real money becomes a sort of “hot potato” that is passed around as quickly as possible, in a virtuous cycle of investment. No longer are there incentives for financiers to withhold credit from those in need simply to what for fairer economic winds.
For the 99% who live paycheck-to-paycheck, the loss from demurrage is minimal and would be compensated for in wages and pricing. For those who manage to accumulate some savings and for the 1% who receive much more income than they reasonably spend, they can either save real wealth (gold, silver, Bitcoins, real estate, artwork and fine wine, for example) and accept the obvious limitations of wealth saving (loss, storage, rot, fire, etc.), or they can loan it out to borrowers at what ends up being near-zero basic interest. With sustainable near-0% interest loans the order of the day, businesses will boom and the economy will grow in a virtuous cycle.
For the past year we have been working in our free time to produce a proof-of-concept prototype based on improved and expanded Bitcoin technology. The prototype is a re-implementation of a generalized form of the Bitcoin protocol which makes possible advanced features like demurrage, multiple currencies existing side-by-side (Bitcoin and Freicoin), and other improvements for future scalability. Extensive unit tests demonstrate the validity of this core component.
- What is Bitcoin? Bitcoin is a decentralized, peer-to-peer internet currency secured by strong cryptography and an open-source development process, and the foundational technology underlying Freicoin. Bitcoin enables anyone in the world to send funds to anyone else with minimal, fair fees on both consumers and merchants. Bitcoin is democratic in that everyone who uses the currency takes part in securing it (making sure the rules are followed and there is no fraud) by running a software program on their computers; they are proportionally compensated for this effort by collecting transaction fees, and in the case of Freicoin, demurrage. For more information about the benefits that come from basing Freicoin on Bitcoin technology, see the Bitcoin advocacy site We Use Coins.
What remains to be done, and what this campaign will fund is the following:
- Integration of bittorrent as the peer-to-peer protocol for efficiently distributing historical block-chain and transaction data.
- Implementation of a block-chain pruning technology, reducing storage requirements and startup time and eliminating a major impediment to wide scale adoption of Freicon (and Bitcoin, for that matter).
- Re-purposing of Armory, the most advanced and user-friendly Bitcoin client, to work with Freicoin in addition to Bitcoin.
- Public-facing website and always-on “seed node” to help new users download the combined Armory/Freicoin core software and get connected for the first time.
- Initial “merged mining pool”--a service for Freicoin users to help secure the currency and receive rewards/compensation for that service.
- A Bitcoin/Freicoin exchange to enable supporters to convert existing funds into Freicoin (by first buying Bitcoin and then Freicoin).
- An animated film explaining what Freicoin is, what it does to fix the problems of the financial system, and how people can get involved in using and promoting it.
Once the above objectives are reached, Freicoin will be ready for adoption by Occupy groups and supporters, and other like-minded groups. The work can then begin to get Freicoin adopted as the first “global community currency”. As a peer-to-peer application, once completed Freicoin can be used by anyone in perpetuity without any required ongoing maintenance.
At the completion of this project Freicoin will be ready for individual communities to adopt, for businesses to accept as payment and for consumers to use. The initial freicoins will be in the process of being generated and fairly distributed to community members who participate in securing the network.
This campaign will directly pay for hardware and server time cover the first year of operations, materials used in the logo, branding, film, and initial marketing, and to keep the basic necessities of life as we decline contracting work to focus on Freicoin.
Join us and be a part of the reformation of global finance!
What is “Freicoin”, and how does it work, really?
Freicoin--literally “free money” in German--is based on the principles of economist Silvio Gesell's Natural Economic Order. Freicoin is an electronic currency managed through a self-regulating, distributed electronic network based on Bitcoin technology. The network enforces a continuously assessed 4.4% APR fee on all account holders. This fee acts as a tax on stagnant money, driving up the rate at which money flows through the economy and acting as an economic stimulus, and discouraging unproductive hoarding by the 1%. The proceeds of the demurrage tax are repayed transparently and proportionally to the community members who donate computer time to running software that regulates and enforces the rules of the network.
Besides providing a virtuous cycle of rewarding positive long-term investments, demurrage currencies also reduce interest rates to near-zero (hence the “free money”), providing further job-creating stimulus and helping to reduce the magnitude of the boom-bust business cycle.
Where can I learn more?
Here are some resources:
- Silvio Gesell's Natural Economic Order is the definitive work explaining the value and utility of demurrage currency, or what Gesell calls “Freigeld” (“free money” in the English translation) in fixing the ills of the financial/monetary system.
- The Political Economy of Silvio Gesell: A Century of Activism by Werner Onken is an academic article published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology gives an overview of Gesell's work and it's influence over the 20th century.
- Aberrations of an interest-based economy: An excursion through the covert by Jürgen Probst is a more recent (translated) pamphlet predicting the excesses which led to the 2008 financial crisis, and showing how demurrage currency, among other things could have prevented it.
You've based it on Bitcoin technology. Is this a competitor to Bitcoin?
Absolutely not! The two serve quite different purposes. The properties of Bitcoin make it analogous to precious commodities like gold or silver, and it will always function as a useful store of value. Freicoin, on the other hand, is meant to be used as a medium of exchange only, kept on hand just long enough to provide a cash-flow buffer. The demurrage fee encourages recipients of Freicoin to put their money to use as soon as possible in an exchange (even by buying bitcoins, for example), whereas the deflationary nature of Bitcoin rewards hoarding and serves a different purpose as a long-term store of value.
How is this different from that other Occupy currency?
There have been a couple of monetary reform ideas floated by members of the Occupy movement, but most likely you are referring to “OCCCU”, another demurrage currency created by students at the Vorarlberg University of Applied Sciences and presented to members of the Occupy movement at Davos in January, 2012.
OCCCU's provision of “basic income” and the assessing of demurrage fees is accomplished by means of centralized regulators, the currently faceless OCCCU “general assembly”. This is hardly an improvement over the current system of centralized banking; as the great poet Pete Townshend once said: “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”. It is our firm belief that real monetary reform will only come when the system does not require trust in any individual or organization, and when all operations are made transparent. Freicoin accomplishes these goals with distributed self-regulation and automatic distribution of the demurrage pool on a fair and proportional basis.
Who are you?
There are three of us that have come together to make this possible: engineer Mark Friedenbach, designer Aaron Blumenshine, and project manager Matt Everingham.
In his day job, Mark is a application developer building large data visualization applications as well as web and database backends. Aaron is an accomplished and award-winning photographer and graphic designer. Matt is a systems engineer and project manager, who has designed and built a series of web-enabled robotic systems.
We became aware of Silvio Gesell and demurrage currency through our research into Bitcoin, and for the past year we have been developing the prototype and proof-of-concept mentioned above in our free time.
Will it be open-source?
Absolutely. In fact, the transparency provided by an open-source client is essential to the basic ideals of Freicoin and the Occupy movement. That said, it will certainly be possible to build closed-source software and businesses on top of the open-source Freicoin core.