“Only after the last tree has been cut down, only after the last river has been poisoned, only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that you cannot eat money.” –Cree Indian Proverb
What the hell is money anyway? I think that Charles Eisenstein put it best when he called money an “agreement” in his book, Sacred Economics. We agree on a price. When we are employed, we agree on the money we’ve been paid for our time for doing some sort of task. Maybe we think we are worth more for our regular tasks but we acquiesce our agreement when we continue those tasks for whatever exchange we receive. In return, we further such an agreement. We agree that some arbitrary price warrants what we are paying in exchange for some other task, otherwise known as a good or service.
Money replaces time. It replaces relationships. It replaces community. It replaces religion. Money is exchanged for advice. It is exchanged for art. It is exchanged for beauty. It is even exchanged for sex and/or salvation.
Today, money has replaced almost every segment of basic humanity. For many, money has even replaced friendship. Just ask a member of congress.
Money is bullshit.
Oh wait. No. Because bullshit is worth something. As a farmer, I of course know that. I would spend hours transporting bullshit because it’s a wonderful nutrient for the soil and it helps plants grow. Money is less than bullshit.
Money is a fallacy.
It is a way for the current paradigm to reduce all of us to something less than human.
Money is worthless. It’s not just that Nixon abandoned the gold standard by signature on August 15th 1971. As someone who lives in shouting distance of the Golden Highway in California, I can tell you with certainty that even gold is worth more when it is in the ground. Because of the area’s legacy of gold-mining, we can’t eat the fish from our rivers. Our local electeds refuse to designate any land for a community garden because the soil might be too toxic to reasonably grow food. This is the legacy of “money.”
Fiat currency has created quite a stir politically both here in the United States and internationally. Fiat currency, or fiat money, is money that only has value because a governmental body deems it so. There is no backing, or real value, attributed to the money we exchange. Our faith is what gives money any value.
As an asset of simple paper, there is no real difference between a one dollar bill and a hundred dollar bill. If a person set either on fire, they would each burn at the same degrees Fahrenheit. (Similarly, if those same bills were burnt in a country using the metric system, the bills would burn at the same degrees Celsius.) By that, it might as all well be scrapbooking material.
But most money in the world isn’t even paper. Most of it is just an idea, a blip on a computer screen or some digits displayed at the ATM. It’s traded and tracked, transferred and travelling at speeds and amounts unfathomable.
Money is supposed to represent something. That’s why we use it. It is supposed to be a convenient marker of productivity, of work that has been done and/or of goods that can be exchanged. But let’s think about how strange that is for a moment.
Take the housing crisis, for example. Many families bought homes from 2002-2005. By 2008, the homes that people bought were worth less money than when they had purchased them a few years prior. It wasn’t that millions of homes across the US suddenly had termites and leaky roofs. They were still viable shelters. The homes were just worth less money.
Another strange case study for money is the jobs crisis. Millions of people were suddenly told that their job had been eliminated. Poof. Gone. But was the job necessary in the first place if could so easily be eliminated? I think back to what I used to do. I was a case manager in social services. I pushed paper around and entered data so that the state could follow up on whether or not the rules for their programs were being broken. Did the world stop spinning when I lost my job? Nope.
There are actually very few people in this country and worldwide who are participating in a job that makes any sense and is necessary to further humanity. I’m not talking about machines or technological advances. I am talking about working for an endeavor that is actually worth something. Most people are just working for money.
For now, money is still a convenient means of exchange. It is still something that folks subscribe to and put faith in. It is still something that can be exchanged for food. It is something that can be exchanged for electricity. It is something that can be exchanged for livestock, for a blanket, for a shovel and for transportation.
For many, that reality is changing. For people like me, money is becoming less and less a means of exchange. I am one of the millions of people living in poverty in this country. I don’t have a lot of money.
I used to spend my lunch hour shopping for things I didn’t really need. I have two boxes of seasonal table linens in the garage. When I had money, the exchange of money for something like a place mat, seemed a perfectly reasonable endeavor. My priorities have changed.
In the days when I used to have money, if I needed something, I’d just go buy it new. And when I did so, I was participating in the moneyed paradigm and helping the economy “grow”. (Some help that was.) What a lot of people are waking up to is the fact that the mindless participation of exchanging money for products isn’t necessarily beneficial.
For example, many people own a lawnmower. But most people only use it once a week or less. If a community got together and agreed to share a lawnmower, the additional resources that were used for the extra 20 or so lawnmowers could have been put to better use. Or, for the environmentalist/conservationalist, those extra resources could have stayed underground.
But that’s not the way that money works. As Charles Eisenstein points out in his article, “Money and the Crisis of Civilization”, “Money seeks interest, bears interest and indeed is born of interest.” He further explains, “Interest drives the creation of money today. Any time money is created through debt, a need to create even more money in the future is also created. The amount of money must grow over time, which means that the volume of goods and services must grow over time as well.” Money’s existence is dependent on infinite growth.
As Michael C. Rupert says, “There is no such thing as infinite growth on a finite planet.” Our earth has a limited capacity.
If money were truly congruent to goods and services then inflation would be impossible. A flower is a flower and an apple, an apple. A tree is a tree. I’m not trying to be poetic. I mean this very literally. Sure, things develop. I believe the science of evolution. I understand selective breeding and hybridization. I understand that some resources have been used to the point that they are becoming scarce. But in general, our resources, at their genetic and molecular levels, have not changed very much at all in the last hundred years. Money, by contrast, has developed in a way that only makes sense in spiritual doctrines.
Resources are tangible. Money isn’t.
I can plant a tomato seed in the ground a get tomatoes a few months later. I cannot do the same with money.
Some people will read this and think, “But I can go buy a tomato with money at the grocery store.” For those people, I will pose this question: what in your life do you have that you would never sell for money? Your spouse? Your children? Your dog? I’m not being rhetorical. There are people in this world who have sold those things.
What would you never sell for money? Your great-grandmother’s china? Your grandfather’s bible? Your great-uncle’s pocket watch? A record signed by John Lennon? The quilt your mother made for you? A love letter from when you and your spouse were dating? A plant that you’ve kept alive for 14 years? Your grandfather’s clarinet that he played in Carnegie Hall? The camera that your father gave you before he passed away? The flag that was draped over your great-grandfather’s coffin after he died in WWI? A hand-written set-list from a memorable concert? A seafoam-green tea cup from your step-father’s family? A first-edition Hemmingway? A small cross from your baptism? An abalone shell from the last dive your cousin went on before drowning? The book that you were carrying when you left the civil war in Guatemala? A signed poster from your hero? Your wedding ring?
Humanity is non-negotiable. Money absolutely is.
The only thing that should make the price of resources relative is our attachment to them.
Steel is steel. And gold is gold.
We will pay $3.47 for a gallon of gas. We will pay $84 per month for a cell phone bill. We will pay $2 for a loaf of bread.
For me, you couldn’t pay me enough money to sell my cats. And you couldn’t pay me enough money to sell the letters that my great-aunt wrote me before she died. And you couldn’t pay me enough money to sell my mother’s piano.
The things that we truly need are priceless. The things that we need don’t ask for money.
Money is a fallacy.
Society is continuing to grow with money. We are continuing to make agreements.
Imagine a world without money. Imagine a world where everything has as much value as grandpa’s watch. Imagine a world where things are non-negotiable.
Many people are facing that reality today. Many people are living without money. We trade a dozen eggs for marmalade and we get by.
Money doesn’t make the world go round. We do.
As more and more people are working within the monetary crisis every day, more and more people are realizing that they can live without money. Humanity trumps money. `Money is just a convention. Money is a fallacy.