LETS get real: constraints on the development of Local Exchange Trading Schemes

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Abstract

Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS) are widely promoted as a new tool for local economic development, but until recently the focus has been on their alleged ‘potential’ rather than the realities of their operation. This paper assesses the practical economic role of LETS by examining the amount of trading conducted, and demonstrates that both the volume of trading and the value of the trades are very low. Drawing on an intensive case study of the first UK LETS created explicitly as part of a local authority's anti–poverty strategy, explanations for the low levels of participation are suggested, and significant structural constraints on the development of LETS are identified.

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