By Grace Maselli
Of course, our TBT and Florida-wide timebank members totally get the value of timebank exchanges—where everyone’s time is valued equally, no matter the type of doing being done.
Nonetheless, dear reader, you may have also caught wind of what’s rattling the U.S. middle class. According to real data, it’s taking an economic hit to the sternum. For example, in May 2018, the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit public policy group in Washington, D.C., published an article, “Seven reasons to worry about the American middle class,” where it also referenced the start of its initiative, the Future of the Middle Class and the notion that people are getting banged up in their chase for the American Dream.
Specifically, data points to all things stagnant: “Despite gains in national income over the past half-century, American households in the middle of the distribution have experienced very little income growth in recent decades.” Couple stalled incomes with “falling wages,” and the effect is “fewer Americans are growing up to be better off than their parents.”
Enter Sustainable Lifestyles and the Quest for Plenitude: Case Studies of the New Economy, published by Yale University Press in 2014. In it, the book references the “sharing economy” in the collection’s “Chapter 3, New Cultures of Connection in a Boston Time Bank.” The sharing economy in 2013 dollars was “estimated at 25 percent annually and…predicted to exceed $3.5 billion.” It’s also given rise to “connected consumption” and includes everything from sharing goods and assets between peers and neighbors to “reuse of goods” (carbon footprint reduction) and many things in between, including (drum roll, please), “time banks, which are service-exchange communities that operate without money according to principles of equal time exchange.”
In other words, by virtue of necessity, a timebanker might argue, the squeeze on the middle class has given rise to connectedness. Not to mention, innovation. (You know, the proverbial Mother of Invention phenomenon.) Peeps are renting out their cars (Relay Rides). Their houses (Think Airbnb). And they’re timebanking. The authors of Chapter 3 declare, timebanks are all about forging “informal social ties.” They fit right in, perfectly. “We have found that while the sharing economy is by no means confined to young people [italics, mine], they have been its innovators and early participants. They’re more digitally connected and more open to strangers and lifestyle experimentation,” the authors say. The moral of the story? The 30+ year-old timebanking idea is still capturing the hearts and imaginations of youth culture and way beyond, to align with the “new” sharing economy.