Can the Swiss Model of Alternative Currency Help Americans (and Others) Weather the Economic Crisis?

Most people don't know it, but one of the main reasons Switzerland's economy remained stable for so long is that the Swiss maintained an alternative currency system.

Specifically, during the depths of the Depression, when the banks were not lending, 16 Swiss business people got together and formed the Swiss Economic Circle or Wirtschaftsring-Genossenschaft ("WIR" for short). The circle was an alternative system of credit, so that the businessmen and their clients, suppliers, and others in the chain of distribution could keep on doing business with one another.

WIR still operates as a not-for-profit bank in Switzerland. One-quarter of all Swiss businesses now participate in the circle, accounting for approximately $2 billion per year.