talentOne of the most difficult concepts that new members have to get their heads around is that you don’t need to have anything in your account before you can start trading.

Talents, the name of our ‘currency’, is a unit of measure like a kilogram or a kilometre. Instead of measuring weight or distance it measures the value of the goods and services sellers provide or buyers receive. In the same way that you can’t put kilograms or kilometres in your wallet, you can’t put Talents there. You can only say my services or goods are worth a certain amount in Talents, and when your offering is delivered that number of Talents is recorded against your name as a credit and against the buyer as a debit. It simply measures the values that have been transferred.

Because you cannot ‘own’ or ‘possess’ Talents, as you do money, it doesn’t make sense to think you have to have a supply of them in your account before you can begin trading. Every Talent (credit) has to have an equivalent debit. For this reason you can begin trading immediately with a zero balance. As soon as the seller registers that you have received something, your account is debited. A negative balance in your account carries no stigma, as it does with Rands. It is not a debt in the sense that you owe the seller something. Your negative balance simply means that you owe the community goods or services to the value of the debit. When someone purchases something from you, that debit will be reduced and could turn into a credit balance if it is more than the original debit.

A healthy balance is one hovering around zero over the long term (provided you are doing some trading!). This means you are receiving from others as much as you are giving. A large negative balance is not healthy if it remains in the red for a long time. This could mean that you are exploiting the system. Likewise, a large credit balance is not healthy as it means you are giving more than you are receiving. It does not mean you are ‘rich’; it just means you have a large claim on the community and that you are not giving others the opportunity to be credited.

A large credit could be considered as a ‘saving’ – a deferred claim on the community. But as the concept of interest is completely alien to the CES, you can not ‘grow’ your ‘saving’ so there is no point in keeping a large credit balance. Likewise, it is not possible to ‘borrow’ Talents, and no need for it either. We are trading our skills and goods directly, without an intervening exchange medium.