For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a time bank is a form of barter organization where members “bank” credit by doing hours of work for other members and can then purchase other member’s time with those credits. Although I haven’t been directly involved with a time banking organization, my wife has performed some trading this way that has worked out really well. My wife is a nail technician and she often does the nails of a local massage therapist. As you may guess, getting a massage is much more expensive than having your nails done so it would be very lopsided to barter at cash value. Instead they roughly trade their time. A massage takes about twice as long as nails so my wife gives her massage therapist two gift certificates for each massage she receives.
There is also a life philosophy that is lived out through time banks. At it’s most basic level, trading time values everyone’s time equally. Although I would be the first to acknowledge that all people (and their time) have great value and that no one person is any more important or valuable than anyone else, it’s difficult to live that out in the marketplace. For example, I have a hard time justifying a brain surgeon and a landscaper trading hours. It’s not that I don’t value a landscaper or his skills. The truth of the matter is that the surgeon had to invest a lot more time and money into his profession than the landscaper and his skill set is much more scarce in the marketplace.
Bottom line is that I like the concept of a time bank, but I think it works best for folks that are earning and spending hours of approximately the same value in the cash marketplace. It can still work when the values are uneven, but in those cases the member with higher cash rates will need to look at the time bank as his own personal social justice program the same way one might look at pro-bono work.