The Money Power can be Defeated: The Swiss “WIR”

by Anthony Migchels – April 19, 2012

For eighty years, a major not-for-profit, private currency has been operating in the heartland of Europe. In Zurich, almost next door to the Bank of International Settlements in Basel, there is the WIR, turning over the equivalent of almost 2 billion CHF per year.
WIR are the first three letters of Wirtschaftsring-Genossenschaft, which means something like “Cooperative  Economic Ring”.
WIR was founded by businessmen Werner Zimmerman and Paul Enz in 1934. It was a direct response to the Great Depression. They built on the legacy of Silvio Gesell, whose thinking also was the basis for the famous Wörgl Scrip and today’s German Regional Currencies, like the Chiemgauer.
Silvio Gesell is in fact the Patriarch of what I suggest should be called ‘German Economics’ or ‘Interest-Free Economics’, the theoretical basis for the anti-usury movement. His analysis of Usury inspired both Gottfried Feder and Margrit Kennedy, two other leading lights of the European anti-usury movement. He also had interesting and much needed ideas about land reform.
Where the Wörgl and the Chiemgauer were/are backed by national (banking) currencies, the WIR goes where nobody before dared to go: it is basically Mutual Credit.
Mutual Credit based currencies are now used in barter organizations world wide. Barter in this sense is a misnomer, they do use a means of exchange but not the national currency.
 WIR is proabably the first Mutual Credit facility in the world and most certainly the longest surviving one.
Nowadays WIR turns over a little less than 2 billion WIR (1 WIR = 1 CHF) per year. Because many transactions involve maybe 25 to 50% in WIR while the rest is settled in CHF (Swiss Francs), real turn over generated by WIR is maybe up to three times higher. It has 1 billion of WIR in credit outstanding.
Transactions are settled with the use of debit cards or with their on-line banking system.
WIR is operated for the common good and not for profit. About 62,000 small and midsized businesses participate. There are six regional offices through the Swiss republic.
WIR is especially important during downturns. Deflation and capital scarcity make businesses more creative and more willing to deal with WIR’s limitations.
For our purposes WIR is important because it proves that Mutual Credit facilities have a viable business model. It proves currency can be offered at very low cost while maintaining a prosperous and professional organization over the long term.


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