The Washington Post has an article on local currencies in use in Baltimore and Washington, DC. Local currencies are a form of free banking on a very limited scale. Use of the currency is voluntary; there is no element of forced tender, or even legal tender (that is, local currencies are not the default means of settlement for any obligation, in the eyes of the law). Local currencies tap local willingness to grant credit, through holding currency, that might not be tapped through big financial institutions. I view them as miniature models of certain aspects of free banking, from which some lessons might be cautiously drawn, but not as the basis for any future free banking system precisely because they are so small and determinedly local. A modern financial system implies large financial institutions, though not necessarily not gigantic ones and certainly not ones that are too big to fail. Small institutions can exist as well, but their influence in the system is no more than proportional to their size.
This archived content originally appeared at Freebanking.org, the predecessor site to Alt-M.org, and does not carry the sponsorship of the Cato Institute.