Market economy invented in Kumpula!
HS runs a story about Kumpulan vaihtopiiri (edit: there is also another one, Helsingin vaihtopiiri, I confused these two but they seem to have the same idea). These are grassroot organizations that enable barter economy of small services in exchange for credits (alternative money). In this system, the credits are called kumpenni, a local penny, 10 kumpennis are worth one hour of work. (In the other one, it is merkkari which originally stands for "pirate coin", in fact a popular licorice candy).
That's all very fine and admirable; this is how communities have worked all along throughout history, and selling and paying for services in local trade through bi- or multilateral barter or more loosely defined gift economy is what keeps communities up and running. These movements pop up and there have been little stories like this in papers every now and then.
What baffles me is that the participants say - according to HS - that "they want to distribute welfare and have alternatives to capitalistic market economy".
Hey guys, wake up. What you have invented is capitalistic market economy: freedom of selling and buying services, freedom of pricing, freedom of who you trade with and who not. It isn't an alternative to capitalism, it is capitalism. There's even a "bank" that keeps track of value of services given, instead of the more traditional way of each person keeping track of who owns him or her what, and who he or she is indebted to.
What the participants seem to forget is that what they do is eroding the welfare state, and that what they do is illegal. I'll elaborate a bit.
1) The eroding of welfare state
Why is buying services with money so expensive? Because you have to pay tax, and because you have to pay for the related bureaucracy (which may be a higher cost than the tax itself). You pay not only the 22 % value added tax, but there are lots of other taxes, particularly the income taxes and social insurance contributions of people who work for each other, and the administrative cost of making these payments. If you hire someone to work for you legally, and pay all the taxes and statutory contributions, often less than half of the money actually goes to the person doing the work. The rest goes to the state to fund the welfare state. And if you have ever employed a person in Finland, you'll know that the process of meeting legal obligations is complex and takes a lot of work to find out.
If you evade those payments, what is that if not undermining the foundations of welfare state? Also, the welfare state has developed mechanisms to restrict worker exploitation, for instance the minimum wage (in Finland, through collective agreements). In local barter trade, all these rules are dodged.
2) The illegality
Yes, I know, it's absurd. It sounds really stupid that if I mow your lawn and then you mend my socks, we should both pay income tax and pay social contributions, and if we do more of it, we should also pay value added tax. But that's the current law; that's the very basic idea of the welfare state. A very large part of the money that the government makes and then uses for various more or less good causes comes from taxing the use of labor, and much of worker protection is achieved through the bureaucracy and the barrier of entry that it creates.
Current law is very explicit about this, and the taxman's guidance in the Web makes it absolutely clear. There are situations where people can work for free - bees (in Finnish, talkoot) for instance. But bartering services is tax evasion.
Even in the case where you and your neighbor work at the same place and only you have a car, giving a ride to your neighbor and accepting half of the gas cost from him is illegal. This is the welfare state.
The development in Kumpula is by no means new. This kind of barter economy movements have spawned throughout the Western world for decades. For instance, in the U.S., the tax code was amended to cover them in 1982.
The ideas are the same ("let's fight evil capitalism and support local communities"), the means are the same ("let's use local money to enforce locality, avoid the taxes and bureaucracy"), and the outcomes are the same (unrestricted small-scale capitalism works for a while, it's generally a nice experience, but people grow up, the key people move away, and eventually the system fades away). If any of these trials were to become substantial, they would face investigations and criminal proceedings.
So, to summarize: the activists speaking here have become completely confused with the concepts of market economy and welfare state. They think they're doing "something else", when they are actually doing "more of the same". They think they've invented an alternative to capitalism, and what they're doing is going back to the 19th century style capitalism, just in small scale. If it stays that way, it's OK.