It is perhaps ironic that the one thing which enables anything from happening is an illusion. Its value does not arise intrinsically, but instead from a collective belief that it can be used to acquire real things. To create it, governments and banks use an extensive system of inter-exchangeable loans: they, too, accept a belief that more of it will be returned to them in the future, often decades ahead. When that belief comes under question, entire economies come crashing down.
Yet the illusion of money does not just underpin economies; it shapes individual lives on a daily basis. Basic necessities like food, warmth, medicine and housing are all dependent on it being given to the providers. Nobody within society can escape using it. All are likewise ensnared in a never-ending game of competition to accrue more of it than their peers, which applies as much to non-profit organisations as to businesses. Instead of profits, charities look to funders to cover the costs of their work and operations, competing with others who want the same. Organisations also base their strategy and plans on the wider system that pursues ‘growth’ at all costs, instead of thinking how they can make the greatest possible impact with the least possible resources.
And, barring a few examples of voluntary networks, no actual work can be done without money. It doesn’t matter if this work fulfils a critical need that is obvious to be met: fighting climate change; providing housing to those who are homeless; giving a voice to those who find themselves subject to systematic discrimination. No, all that matters is the dosh.
Money also begets money. Those with more wealth can secure means to generate more of it, such as through rental premises, or simple crude interest in bank accounts. In this way, across centuries, extremely wealthy circles have gained almost unlimited power and influence – successfully opposing anything that may challenge their authority. Through power comes legitimacy, right to the point of laws themselves being shaped by and for the wealthy. The standard model of wealth accrual, stemming right back to the age of colonialism, has been where people and the environment are exploited to extract as much as possible. In the process, steps are put in place to ensure minimal – if anything – is given back to the community and ecosystem from which the extraction occurs. It is a model that continues in full force today: from tax evading CEOs and shareholders, to global corporations that outsource their operations to places where the social and environmental damages don’t have to be accounted for.
We all know this system is unjust. Many, however, claim there are no alternatives. Life is cruel and vicious, they may claim, with competition being an unavoidable fact. Yet, this isn’t quite true. Humans seem to be the only species that extract from their environment more than it can naturally rejuvenate from, causing irreversible destruction. And this has not always been the case, either: although present day examples have almost been entirely eradicated due to centuries of aggressive colonialism and globalised oppression, there are alternative systems. We see them, to varying degrees, in the networks of eco villages that have sprung up in different nations, in turn taking their models from millennia-old indigenous societies. We see them, also, in the simple questions that children can ask within our own society. Questions like:
- Why are some people so rich, and other people so poor?
- Why are problems that can already be solved by existing science and technology just being left to continue?
- Why are not everyone’s basic needs already met within the capacity of their natural environment/community?
- Why is money really so important?
The answers to these depend on how strong your beliefs are – or, to put it more bluntly, how deeply you have been indoctrinated by the present socio-economic model. There are no logical, scientific justifications for the huge inequalities we are witnessing; for why so many still die and suffer for lack of basic needs, and why the entire planet is heading deep into an environmental crisis. The solutions for these things are right before us. We need only imagine them, to create the ideas for alternatives, and then put them into practice.
What are YOUR ideas for a moneyless world? What do you think is possible?
We are looking to collate and publish the ideas for a world without money. Going further, we also want to TEST and PROVE the most promising ones, as voted by a community of people. For those selected, you can take a leading role in developing and implementing your idea, as well as being rewarded in exactly the same way that your non-monetary idea offers as an alternative.
To help give you some ideas, below are a few things that have already been suggested or practiced. Perhaps you can think of variations, a blend between them all, or completely different concepts!
“Use the system to build more…”
Once you reach a monetary threshold, you can acquire or do things that consistently generate money without any action being needed. With that generated surplus, you can put it towards actual productive work and activities. For example, you could buy and rent out properties, then use the income from that to fund charitable activities. In this way, you are still part of the monetary system, but you no longer have to worry about making money.
Everyone is provided with a basic allowance to cover their needs around housing, food, energy, etc. They don’t need to pay for that. In order to continue, they must meet basic obligations to their community that are within their individual abilities: for example, to vote and participate in democratic decision making processes; to keep their neighbourhood clean; to care for vulnerable people, etc. If they can’t meet these obligations, they start to accrue a ‘debt’ (which can be a form of token similar to money). And if they go over their obligations, such as doing more for others, helping the environment, they are given these tokens – perhaps nominated by a community – which they can use for exchange to get more than their basic allowance.
Form smaller communities that are self-sufficient. If someone needs something, they will have the means and skills to get it themselves. If they need help from other members of the community, they can ask for this also in exchange for similar help, or providing later goods/services. This is how it worked for millennia in indigenous societies, to various degrees. Base the economy on cooperation and circular systems, rather than competition and growth.
Humanity has surrendered the idea of money, but in its place are ‘credits’ that are similar to old currencies – only instead of just being selfishly accrued, they are instead allocated based solely on a person’s needs arising from their role and level of contribution to society.