Saturday, December 7, 2013

On Money

The following is an excerpt from "The Root of All Evil" which is available in my new books, Hyperexistentialism and No More Suffering Fools both released Dec. 16, 2013.

On Money:
Money is the root of all evil, (if I may paraphrase the quote from Timothy.) If you have no shelter, water or food; If you have to suffer under a tyrant, if you are in the grips of a war, if you are in any way suppressed on this ridiculously resource rich planet, it is due to money. Perhaps your problems are caused by a lack of money, but more often than not they will be caused by the fact that someone else is able to make money at your expense. Money may not be the cause of all our problems, but getting rid of it would solve them all. 

A few years ago, when I became a commentator and social critic, my studies lead me to the belief that if we could somehow "get rid of money" everyone's problems would go away. I brought it up with my Mother, who was a bright lady, (maybe she still is, that's a topic for another essay.) She agreed with me and Timothy that money was a vehicle by which all evil is expressed, if not the cause of it entirely, but she asked, like so many others have over the years, "What are we to do about it?" The only answer I had at the time was, "Get rid of it." I explained to her how I thought this might play out: First, in my scenario, there is no money. Money does not exist. It has not been replaced by "credits" or "digital digits in a bank somewhere." I'm not talking about getting rid of cash, I'm talking about getting rid of every form of currency for trade. (Money is an institutional, imaginary reality anyway. We simply made it up to form the basis of all control. So why not just drop it?) Mom said, "How do you get your groceries, pay your rent, fuel your car, etc?" I explained that in my imaginary solution, everyone simply went about their lives exactly as they were, only without money. We would still go to work, although now we might only work at things we enjoyed doing. If we needed groceries, we would walk into a grocery store, where people who enjoyed working there would greet us and we would simply get the food we needed and walk out. No transaction, except for the possibility of taking inventory, we don't need to be running out of any particular item. We would go to the gas station and pump our gas and leave. Mom said, "But it cost money to get the oil out of the ground." "No it didn't," I reminded her, "money doesn't exist anymore." Everything is essentially free. (I know, it sounds ridiculous, but hear me out, it is the purpose of this exercise.)

Mom thought that without money there would be no incentive for people and this is, at least in part, true. Nobody I know wants to work at the sewage plant, for instance. (Until their sewage backs up.) Everybody wants to be movie star. Well, that might be true too, but no one is going to be continuing to do things that they are poor at, because the only reward you're going to get out of labour is pride in a job well done, or perhaps recognition for it. If you're a crappy lounge singer, there's going to be nobody to listen to you and you'll need to find something else to do, that provides for you the things you need from this life, love, attention, friendship, camaraderie, the satisfaction of a life lived well. In my moneyless world there would also be a transitory stage where everybody went bananas, going into the Porche dealership, putting a diamond ring on every finger, eating half a pound of caviar and letting the rest rot. This too, I will put off as growing pains. If everything was free, there would be an initial free-for-all that would need to plateau, I believe it would because people's greed ultimately would become problematic for them. (Also, for every asshole collecting leather couches there will be ten starving people happy to have food and water.) Things of value have been determined by those who create that value. If you think your $3000 leather couch is better than my $300 hand me down, it is, but once both those couches are free, they're of exactly the same value. So now all you are left with is your belief. If your two year old spills orange juice on your leather couch, you might get excited, but not in the new world, you simply go get another couch. Now not only are the couches of the same value, you and I are of the same value. If you stuff your house with one hundred leather couches, there's going to be no place to sit. 

Let's consider some facts about the amount of money earned by a lawyer vs a ditch digger. Which one works harder? It's a question that needs definitions clarified to answer. What does "works" mean? What does "harder" mean? If we're talking about physical labour, it's clear that the ditch digger sweats more than the lawyer. If we're talking about the amount of time and training put into understanding, the lawyer works harder. The lawyer had to go to school for many years to get to a position where he could make $300 an hour. The ditch digger had have a strong back and pick up a shovel to earn his $20 an hour. The reason the lawyer makes more than the ditch digger is because he had to spend a fortune to get his degree. His work is also more specialized than the ditch diggers. It is not, however, any more important. If both these men didn't have to pay for their educations and no longer made any kind of wage, would they not be created even more equal in our eyes? Now presume you need a ditch dug, who are you going to call? Suppose you need a will drawn up, who are you going to call? If everyone could be "used" in the way they chose to, regardless of the value they put upon the work they did, wouldn't they benefit in mere terms of satisfaction? Wouldn't we benefit in terms of fairness and equality.

Let's return to incentive. Let's attempt to answer the question, "If everything was free, why go to work?" I say because everyone wants to have a purpose in this life. You would simply get bored with doing nothing all day every day. I suspect that there are people who would give this theory a concerted testing: Sitting around, smoking pot, watching reruns of the Simpsons and I'll admit, that sounds pretty sweet, but I'd wager that anyone who would exhibit such behaviour on a long-term scale probably would have been acting like that anyway, back in the days of work and money. The only difference is now they're not showing up for their shift at 7-11. In the grand scheme of things, would their absence matter? I'd further wager that sooner or later, said lazy pothead would pick up a paintbrush or a guitar and make some other person happy. Even if they didn't, even if they sat on their couch the rest of their lives, it would make less of a difference to the lives of everyone else, than if money existed. "But that's not fair," you say. Why? Is it unfair because that person is not pulling their weight? Were they pulling their weight dishing out slurpees and cigarettes? Why do you even care? It must be because now the lazy pothead has access to everything you have access to, but you work hard and he doesn't. Perhaps you're right, so enjoy the pride you feel at a job well done and take comfort in the fact that you will be able to look back on your life and feel you've accomplished something. Perhaps the pothead will not. At any rate, the pothead had no influence on your life before and has none now. Ask yourself, why do you care? It must be because you still haven't wrapped your head around the fact that money doesn't exist anymore. Have you ever thought, "Man, those professional athletes/musicians/movie stars get paid way too much for what they do. I'm out there working my fingers to the bone every day just to make ends meet." Well, now you're all the same, the superstar, the pothead, you... Feel better?

"Yeah, but how do you reward people for hard work? How do you know if you've made it?" Wow, uh... How do you know if you've made it now? Are you measuring your success by the amount of money you have? If you are, that's really sad. How about measuring your success by how happy you are? Then if it's belongings that makes you happy, you'll be able to have them anyway. "Yeah, but they'll no longer be special because everyone can have them." Yes! Now you're getting it. "But that devalues everything." No, it means that you alone create the value of something. (Which is exactly the way it is now.) Maybe your Faberge egg collection is worthless to me. It just doesn't matter in our new world.

"This sound ridiculous!" Yes, it does. I agree. Suppose it comes to pass anyway. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where any particular currency becomes "devalued" to the point of being useless. (Ask your Russian grandma.) Now the citizens of said country are forced into this scenario anyway. However, in the real world of today's money paradigm, the citizens would likely come up with a replacement for money, rather than simply go on without it. Bartering would go up, as would the use of other, traditional forms of currency, like gold, or perhaps grains. Hell, they would probably also start using another country's currency. These folks would be missing out on the opportunity to simply go about their business as if nothing ever happened, but they wouldn't, because money is power and without it the reality we've built up crumbles. So ultimately, having accidentally been freed from the chains that bind the vast majority of us, we would willingly put ourselves back in fresh chains: That, my friends, is ridiculous.

The reason you think such an idea ridiculous, or too radical to succeed is that mankind has instilled a judgemental value system upon itself. Fairness, in terms of justice, is an appropriate system. If, for instance, you kill my dog because he won't stop pooping on your lawn, this should be considered a crime and have a punishment appropriate to the crime. Such a punishment, logically should be lesser than what would be considered justice if you had killed my son for getting your daughter pregnant. A human life should be worth more than a dogs. (Apologies to those who disagree, there is a lot of room for argument in this scenario.) However, this fairness is in judgement of negative human action, not the human him or herself, nor a positive human service. In our previous statement that the lawyer and the ditch digger are of equal value, we may or may not agree that as people, this particular lawyer or that particular ditch digger are of equal value, this is a question of liking or disliking a personality, not services rendered. In terms of what each of them has to offer the world, what we formerly would have had to pay for, we can only measure such value on a case by case basis. As I said, sometimes you need a will drawn up, sometimes you need a ditch dug. But fairness, in terms of reward for services, is solely built upon the concept of money and money is imaginary at the most and arbitrary at the least.

"You're describing Communism." Really? Are you sure because every "communist" country, past and present, uses money. This idea is beyond any "ism" I'm aware of.

"Alright, but how do you start such a change?" Well, that's the tricky part. We all have to be on board for this to work. If, for instance, we in Canada decided we we're going to abolish money, it would also mean abolishing all trade and commerce. That would mean no more kiwi fruit or bananas, because New Zealand and Ecuador still want their dollars. We would be unable to provide those dollars, and as we've eliminated the concept of currency, we wouldn't be willing to trade anything for it. This abolition of currency must therefore become total, species wide. Now, as the vast majority of people on this planet, (remember now, we're looking at everyone on the planet, not just "the rich westerner,") are impoverished, meaning unable to provide the basic necessities in life comfortably, I've got to ask, "Who do you think would be the least likely to accept our scenario of killing currency?" Once you've got that answered, ask "why?" Now you know who doesn't want to save the world, (those in power,) and why, (because they'll lose that power.) Now realize what it took for that power to be exercised in the first place, money. Therefore, getting rid of money will level the field of all human beings to being valued by their actions alone, on a case by case, action by action basis. 

This is by no means the end of this conversation. I suspect there are aspects of this plan that I haven't yet thought off, roadblocks to success. I'd be willing to bet, however, that every bump on our path to getting rid of money has something to do with the detractors ideas about value, which have been created for you, out of an institutional reality, long since instilled. Over the years we've let other, equally silly ideas fall away to the annals of lore. Let us put money into the category of silly superstitions and misunderstandings, wipe the slate clean and move on to real prosperity.
I'd very much like to hear your thoughts on the matter...


  1. This no money scenario could happen when robotics and artificial intelligence reaches a point where all menial work no one wants to do can be dome by machines.

    What of land ownership though? It would seem this would require all forms of ownership to cease. Otherwise the psychopaths would be grabbing everything to create scarcities so they could again start using this property to again exert control.

  2. Thanks for the question Michael:
    I agree with your comment about the decline in necessity of future human laboring. It reminds me of Jacques Fresco's Resource based economy: whereby, we prudently use the resources and technologies at our availability.
    Ownership, however, is a more complicated matter.
    My immediate thoughts are questions of defining individual rights to food, water AND a roof over your head. So your house should not be revokable, but an empty house can be claimed.
    All corporate concerns would change for the better by way of money not existing. Nestle will only bottle as much water as needed. McDonalds will only slaughter so many cows. Demand will determine production, profit will be of no concern.
    Under the presupposed banner of healthy planetary stewardship no resource should be needlessly, heedlessly exploited.
    We do need water and I do like hamburgers.
    However, your comment makes a key distinction on this matter, for those who have control of things now would not only fight against the idea of ending currency and therefore profit along with it, they would find another way to exercise control over the masses.
    A corporation could, for instance, bottle up all the water in an area before a particularly bad winter set in, then somehow exploit that control of water over a population, perhaps for labor or something.
    Except that this would make both water and labor a form of currency, which we will have already abolished.
    I'm not saying that the psychopaths wouldn't try, but this will be part of the fight to win the battle, not the successes we'd enjoy in victory.
    The idea of abolishing any form of trade must be absolute to work, and obviously I haven't presented any kind of real pathway to it, other than to say, "Just decide to abolish currency and simply give, it can all work out in the end."
    The psychopath's control is based on our enslavement to a system that, without money, crumbles into meaninglessness.
    We as the people that only give this system power by taking part in it can take those meaningless pieces and build them into a real democracy, where the things human history will remember are great rather than terrible, or we can repeat the past.
    It can't work unless we are all, somehow, on board.
    Those who have the power want to keep it. If we take it from them, which is possible and probably coming, it's true that they will just find other ways to keep the power.
    They have to somehow see that it's necessary, and in actuality preferable for our institutional realities and indeed ourselves to work cooperatively rather than competitively.

  3. I'm almost completely in your wavelength :).
    I thought of a path to reach or at least walk toward this outcome, possibly, I hint at hit in a comment I made on your last 2014 post about economy and the general raise of wages.
    So yeah, I also thought, althought not very thourougly, about a world without money and also to implement a ludic motivational component which capitalism already has along with necessity and which is notoriously exploited by the usual smartasses.
    I also thought the same, there is no rational reason, outside the money paradigm which is all about contractual power, for the cropper, which gives us food to earn less (to go to the essential deserve less wellness) than a lawier, an engineer, a painter (to name myself).
    Of course I often think there is still some kind of a worth, even besides speculations as some things are more rare and requested.
    But the current crisis is only due to an artifical scarcity that the concentration of money on a fraction of people, especially in the financial field (the purely money based power, that's why they are not so famous besides being so rich), they only own money, much of it, but little actual resources, they only move them because of the value agreed on their money. That's why I thought of a network of a resistencial scheme, obtained by collectively lowering the prices among the people inside this network. This makes less money worth more and ease their circulation, and the saving are of course reciprocal, and proportional to the number of new "members" acting this way and especially the number of sectors involved in this practice :). That is coherent with the necessity of using the money outside this network, which i think being a problem I have at least partially addressed.
    see you soon.

  4. Thanks for your comments on this and on "A Comment on 'Pitchforks for Plutocrats,'" Anto, nice to see somebody in the world appreciates and understands my blog.


Thanks for commenting.