We live in a time of great turmoil. Human civilization and population have increased exponentially, and we are close to the point where our demand for resources will outgrow the capacity of the planet. I predict that our economic system, which depends on competition and constant expansion, will collapse because it does not factor in the concept of finite resources or complex biological interdependencies.
In order to prevent great suffering and destruction, fundamental changes to our lifestyle must be made in time.
Over the last couple of years, taking notice of certain things in our current society- such as inequal access to food and medical support, homelessness, prostitution, corruption of politicians and media, and environmental destruction – troubled me so deeply that I decided to invest some serious thought into finding a solution. At first, these problems didn’t seem connected, and I was overwhelmed by the worry about so many things I could never fix. But soon I realized that almost all of them were a direct or indirect effect of the pursuit of money.
At first, I demonized the people directly responsible for these problems, such as CEOs, bankers, and politicians. But then I remembered that virtually everyone who lives in this society is subject to the pressure to make money, because money is directly related to basic needs and survival. So I couldn’t really blame anyone who was acting according to what the system told them to do. Their behaviour is a by-product of the economic system they live in.
And without those who originally invented this system, each old generation indoctrinates the new one into the rules of the game, and thus it remains unquestioned for centuries.
I believe it is pointless and a waste of time to point fingers and demonize individuals, trying to punish a handful of old men for crimes they committed in the past. Instead, we must direct our gaze towards the future and intelligently re-design the framework we live in to preemptively encourage better behaviour in everyone and to ensure a better life for generations of humans to come.
The premise of this book
Money, and the consequences of living in a monetary system, currently exert the single most detrimental influence on human behavior, encouraging selfishness, deceit, and blackmail. By shifting towards a moneyless, trade-less society, we would vastly improve many social, resource-related, and environmental problems.
In the pursuit of money:
-humans deny other humans access to food and shelter they clearly need
-humans destroy rainforests and mountaintops to mine resources
-humans enslave other humans to work in huge factories, creating millions of objects with planned obsolescence
-humans dump toxic waste into the ocean and landfills
-animals are going extinct from the environmental pollution that humans cause
-animals are being systematically imprisoned, experimented on, and killed by humans
Money is a game of numbers we humans play in our minds. No other being on the planet cares in the slightest about how much imaginary money we have. The inner workings of our economy, with its obscure and abstract transactions, are completely invisible to anyone but our species. All we are doing in the real world is unwittingly causing irreperable damage to our ecosystem.
I believe we should be humble stewards of the planet, carefully maintaining its balance and diversity. We depend on this precise composition of air to breathe, and cleanliness of water to drink, and nutritional value of food to eat, and precise balance of microorganisms inside and outside our bodies. To destroy these things in the name of “profit” is both foolish and tragic.
A systemic solution
The more I began to see the monetary system as a whole, with all of its indirect social and environmental effects, the more I realized that the monetary system itself was the root of the problem. Of course, many people over the last centuries have realized this, and there have been plenty of attempts to change or amend the monetary system to iron out these injustices, such as communism, socialist versions of the market, new currencies, or trade economies. But in my opinion, none of them have been successful in truly addressing the root problem: I believe that the only solution is to remove the entire framework of debt and exchange from the ground up!
You may be asking yourself: “If there is no payment, why would anyone go to work? Wouldn’t everyone just sit around and do nothing?” My response would be: in the current system, many probably would. But a system that tells you from day one: “if you don’t make money, you don’t get food, shelter, or medical help” doesn’t let your creativity, empathy, or sense of responsibility develop very far. People are so caught up in their own battle to survive and repay their countless debts that one can hardly blame them for not working unless they get paid!
I believe that if we were indoctrinated into a moneyless society instead of a society with money, we would develop entirely different considerations and motivations. By empowering citizens to be self-sufficient in their basic needs, we could break the link between making money and survival. And by re-evaulating the idea of compensation, reparation, and symmetrical debt cancellation, our minds would be opened up to considering more common sense questions such as: “what can I do that would help others around me?” and “what am I able or willing to give?” rather than “how can I blackmail this person to give me what I want?”.
The great problem of living in the current system is that it offers no alternative: even if we know of the injustice that money creates, with all of its secondary effects such as environmental destruction and human corruption, we are still unable to do anything about it. We cannot stop going to work, because we need to ensure our survival and that of our families by paying our countless bills. A company that has thousands of employees also feeds thousands of employees and their families. We cannot expect humans to act diametrically opposed to what the system expects of them, and what they need to do to survive.
The only way things will ever change is if people lived in a different system where making money were no longer an issue. But the established monetary system cannot be safely removed in our existing society – there are too many obsolete structures in place that would collapse, and too many necessary institutions where there would be nothing. Therefore, I believe the we must focus on designing a new society from scratch – a separate area that people can voluntarily join without endangering their own existence. By forming smaller communities in which each person can develop meaningful relationships with both his providers and his customers, we would develop a new sense of responsibility for each other and be able to follow our occupations without being blackmailed into doing so.
Accepting what has come before, and moving on
Even though I hold the current financial system responsible for many of today’s injustices, I still appreciate the evolution it has undergone and the necessity of all of those steps along the way to finally arrive at its current form. It would be too easy to demonize the people who are in charge now.
In fact, nobody who is alive today had anything to do with the invention of money, or the unjust social construct it creates. I do not even criticize those who first introduced trade, the monetary system, or the highly abstract system of banks as we know it today. Everything that came before was necessary for us to reach this point, and I do not believe it could have happened any other way. But then I ask: why should its evolution stop now? If no one believes in the possibility of a better system, how will it ever improve? Just as great positive change has happened in the past, it can happen now as well.
It is easy to be intimidated by the established ways of our system. But remember: money does not have any intrinsic value. The only thing holding the monetary system in place is a mental agreement. It is only a collection of numbers, saved on computers- and we all agree to award power to people based on those numbers. This could theoretically be revoked tomorrow, if it were our collective decision.
Consider the vast amount of energy that is expended every day to enforce and maintain the monetary system:
-the complex legislature that governs our use of money
-the construction and operation of banks, and the employees who work in them
-the printing of money and constant monitoring for counterfeits
-the building and maintaining of secure ATMs
-the millions of people employed as cashiers around the world
-huge bureaucratic institutions enforcing complicated tax regulations, loans, mortgages, calculating inflation, currency exchange
Maintaining such a huge, overbearing system requires a massive amount of energy which could be put to use in other more needed areas. Instead of adding more layers of rules and sub-clauses to amend an already over-complex system, I believe we can find a path to reduction and simplicity.
A difficult road ahead
We have lived with money for thousands of years and built up a sophisticated codex of subtle rules and phrases about how to deal with money, born out of each generation’s advice to the next. The idea of money has pervaded human culture since ancient times. Every necessary part for a highly functional system is now in place- the system is then constantly fed with personnel who have been indoctrinated into following the rules that have been laid out for them.
Mentally, it would be quite challenging to start an entirely new way of living. There would have to be a completely different set of rules and social codes that would ensure that society “works”, which would feel unusual at first. Certain ideas might start out well, but have to be discarded in the end. The only true teacher is practical experience; and when it comes to moneyless societies, modern humans have almost none. Expecting a new moneyless society to immediately run as smoothly as the thousand-year-old established monetary system would be foolish.
Obviously, our established society cannot be suddenly changed, or it might collapse. Therefore, the only possible approach would be to create a new, separate society from scratch- which is a formidable task. Enough people would have to agree to temporarily give up their normals lives and live together in a small scale, isolated environment, where they could experiment with this new form of society. If it were actually successful, more people would want to join, and the project may grow. Others may be inspired and start their own versions of it on other parts of the planet. Only by the slow expansion of these established mini-societies could a wide-spread application of this lifestyle ever be reached, possibly after centuries.
Even if a large portion of the population agrees with the ideas presented here, I predict there will be a lack of energy towards implementing the concepts of a moneyless society. Because most of us are perpetually distracted, we don’t even have time or energy to think about these new ideas. The urgency of making money in order to afford basic needs and pay our debts, and the ever-present distraction of television, games, and the internet; all of these things combined occupy most of our available brain space, and immediate survival and pleasure always take precedence over long-term, complex issues.
Whenever we watch TV or browse the internet, our brains are forced into a passive state- active thinking is put “on hold” for as long as we are being entertained. In order to think productively and profoundly, one must have the ability to simply sit and think, without allowing the mind to be distracted. And in order to think creatively, one must be willing to question one’s preconceived beliefs and those of the people around you. Especially in today’s society, these are difficult skills to cultivate.
We must regain our senses and strive to attain a clear mind. We must have the courage to make choices that are responsible and wise, and follow through even when they interfere with our privileged comforts and habits. I believe this is the only way to avert the coming social and resource-related crises of mankind.