Imagine a World Without Money

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Charles Eisenstein’s present to the world

The Moneyless Manifesto (pdf)

Excerpt:

Why is the need for money a myth? Take a minute to look around you. Try to find one thing you believe hasn’t been provided by money. My guess is you can’t. Even if you’ve grown your own food, I would imagine you’d be thinking ‘well, I paid for the seeds, and I paid for my tools’. And that is the power we have granted money – we have come to believe that we need it, that we depend on it to survive. The fact we’ve designed this impersonal and destructive economy of ours around it only serves to perpetuate such delusions. The cultural
narrative that is money has such a powerful grip on our minds today that we have come to believe that we could not possibly ever live without it. Through observing humanity’s actions, it would appear that living without clean air, fresh water and fertile soil is considered a more moderate challenge in comparison.

We grown-ups strangely believe that money provides for us when it is actually Nature (which includes humans) that does so. That we must rely on money is simply another delusion, given power only by the fact that we collectively agree to believe in it. Even Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, said that “all money is a matter of belief”.(3) We believe in it because experience has taught us that we can get things in return for it, and every time we enact the various rituals (cheque signing, credit card purchasing) of this story, we strengthen that belief and its grip on our minds.

Fiat currency, money’s most common form today, has no intrinsic value to set alongside its use as a medium of exchange, meaning that unless we believe the socio-political, cultural and economic stories that go with it, it can become almost worthless overnight, as countries who have suffered hyper-inflation have miserably realised. If our culture stopped believing the myths that back money – and the converging ecological, social and financial crises are forcing us to do so – the notes in the bank (which in a fractional reserve system, aren’t many) would have no more worth than their value as a fire-starter. Which, believe me, is much less than a piece of birch bark.

One myth that backs money is that our bank balances will always be redeemable for goods and services with intrinsic value, such as vegetables or a table. However, in a world where almost all of our natural and social capital has been melted down into numbers, with increasingly less of our physical and cultural ‘assets’ left to be liquidated, such beliefs must soon be questioned. When the rivers are devoid of salmon and full of pollutants, when the invasion of our forests and oceans is complete, when our topsoil is fully depleted and
we’ve laid desert to much of the Earth, “all that will be left is cold, dead money, as forewarned by the myth of King Midas so many centuries ago. We will be dead – but very, very rich.”

Another such myth is that you and I are separate. When the illusion of this myth also fades (and one of the aims of this book is the dissolution of this myth), me charging you for the gifts I bring to the world (gifts, remember, that I have originally been given), is no less daft than me charging a tree for the nitrogen in my urine when I pee under it, and it then invoicing me for the oxygen it produces and supplies to my lungs. Nature, like me, abhors bureaucracy and administration, so it simply gives unconditionally, wastes no energy on accounting and surveillance, and instead gets on with doing what it was born to do. In fact, its monumental efficiency is down to the fact that nothing – not the bacteria, not the birds, not the algae – is keeping count. And we should be thankful for that reality – there are so many million interactions going on in every square inch of soil alone, at any given moment, that our entire world would collapse if it ever tried to.

The Moneyless Manifesto (website)

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