WIR: Cooperative Credit and Exchange

The Exeter News, Thursday November 23, 1967: Officials of the International Independence Institute. Left to right: Henry Bailey Stevens, director emeritus UNH Extension Service, Institute faculty member; Erick Hansch, Portland, Ore., assistant field director for Latin America; Mrs. Jean Rau, Stratham, teasurer; Ralph Borsodi, Exeter, director; Mrs. Harriet K. Greeg, Exeter, secretary; and Prof. Richard S. Dewey, UNH sociology department, Institute faculty member.

Erick S. Hansch was a colleague of Robert Swann and Ralph Borsodi at the International Independence Institute. One of the projects of the Institute was the launch of a currency called “The Constant” in Exeter, New Hampshire in 1972. Borsodi, an economist, was in his 90’s at the time and decided to issue the currency as a one year experiment to prove it could be done, rather than just writing another book on the subject.

The Constants were issued by a bank in Exeter and were valued according to a weighted basket of commodities. The intent was to demonstrate how to issue a currency that would not deflate but which instead held “constant” buying potential.

The Institute was also the vehicle for launching the community land trust movement in this country. Erick Hansch was one of the authors with Bob Swann and Ted Webster of “The Community Land Trust: a Guide to a New System of Land Tenure in America” published in 1972, the introduction of which is available here.

In 1974 the Institute hosted E. F. Schumacher’s historic trip to this country. Swann and Schumacher formed a close alliance as a result.

Erick Hansch, Ralph Borsodi, and Fritz Schumacher all died within a month of each other in 1977. Bob Swann continued working with the ideas of his friends and mentors and in 1980 founded the Schumacher Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts which has been a leader in the study and application of local currencies and community land trusts. The Schumacher Center’s current work with BerkShares local currency has grown from this long tradition of economic scholarship and innovative practice.

Erick Hansch had a gift for languages. In addition to English he spoke Chinese, German, and Spanish. In anticipation of the launch of the Constant, he traveled to Basel, Switzerland to study the WIR currency program that has been in circulation in parallel to the Swiss Franc since the 1930s. His unfinished typed report is in the archives of the Schumacher Center Library and is available to read here.