Market economy invented in Greece!

A couple of years ago I wrote about a local currency project in Helsinki. People in Kumpula are exchanging work to credits called kumpenni. This is nice, but there's the little issue that if the scheme actually becomes in any way significant, it will be stamped down by tax authorities because those local exchange money units are still taxable income.

Now, with the financial collapse of the Hellenic state, a bit similar system is gaining ground in Greece, as Guardian reports about the local alternative currency system called tems. Apparently on a somewhat larger scale than the tiny bartering system in Helsinki.

What is funny here is that Guardian is usually very strongly againts tax evasion. Now it has no problem:

Tems has been up and running for barely 18 months, said Maria Choupis, one of its founder members. Prompted by ever more swingeing salary cuts and tax increases, she reckons there are now around 15 such networks active around Greece, and more planned. "They are as much social structures as economic ones," she said. "They foster intimacy and mutual support."

Fine. But I do have a problem. What about employment insurances, income tax, VAT, all those taxes that The Guardian would normally think are definitely due to be paid by the employer and employee, and if you don't pay, you're a baddie? (Unless you are Ken Livingstone, that is.)

I'm the guy in Finland, one of the least corrupted countries in the world. I'm supposed to pay my taxes. I'm actually supposed to pay higher VAT (24 %) soon, now that the government wants to balance its budgets - so that it can afford the bail-outs given to Greece - and pay a higher membership fee to the EU (which takes a proportion of the VAT intake). And I'm supposed to pay a hiked income tax.

The Greek government is getting guaranteed bail-out money from my government, while it provides an official non-profit status for this barter network:

The Greek parliament recently passed a law encouraging "alternative forms of entrepreneurship and local development", including exchange networks such as Volos's, giving them official non-profit status for tax purposes.

And The Guardian is actually admiring this  way of showing practical solidarity – of building relationships. This is mind-boggling.

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