'The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify… into every corner of our minds' - John Maynard Keynes
Our world has become a place where we have witnessed big banks, global corporations and even governments selfishly pursue paths of greed and short-term financial gain despite the fact their actions have contributed to harming the livelihoods of thousands if not millions of people. The consequences of their short-sighted actions have destabilised economies, contributed to recessions and pushed governments to their breaking point. Yet despite these appalling crimes, for the 'greater good' these institutions have received bailouts in the billions. Bailouts paid for with the lifetimes of innocent citizens forced to live within the limits of the newly implemented 'austerity measures', some of them victims twice over due to the culprits' actions in the first place. We live in a world where the intrinsic values of the dollar and the Euro waver as the governments that back them bicker endlessly over their fiscal quagmires. We live in a world where the private and public debt of nations has risen to levels over five times their total GDP; and where being able to use precious metals as an equivalent form of payment is no longer possible. The promising system of commodity money that began in ancient Greece over 2700 years ago has been reduced to this...debacle.
Despite its numerous flaws - and with no other options granted to us - every one of us have been forced to accept the supremacy of money over man. Money has the power to decide the standard of living for each person on the planet; to prevent or allow access to education and health care; to obstruct or grant justice; to decide whether we starve or overeat. It is biased from the start, depending on what country one is born in and to what family. None are chosen to enjoy a 'good' life based on their merit or individual worth, it is a random fate. Unjust. Unkind. Unfair. It is a terrible thing. It is long past time to question the efficacy of money in a future global society. It is time to think about the future of man and of the planet. It is time to think about humanity's long-term goals. It is time to plan for a society that is driven by a purpose other than money.
All of our paradigms based on a society driven by the concept of money are flawed in one essential sense - money itself only exists as a certainty in the present. Saving money for the future is merely the setting aside of present money into a place where it can be accessed in a future present, with the awareness that the value of the cash saved today may be eroded more by inflation than the interest it will gain, paradoxically making it worth less in the future than it was when it was put away. Furthermore, there are limitations to how much we are allowed to save before we must begin to pay tax on the interest accrued on our 'unprotected' savings.
For the average saver, banks and governments do not make it easy to beat the inflation game so many have chosen to make their home their nest egg for the future. Before the recent recession, banks were allowing people to borrow up to six times their annual income to purchase property, and many did. Bigger was better. However, when the property markets collapsed during the last recession, homeowners were left mired in negative equity, or worse - lost their homes completely to bank foreclosure. In the long run - at least for these unlucky ones - renting would have been a more prudent use of their money. Stock market investments, funds and bonds are all equally volatile. They are only worth what the market and the governments can value them at when they are cashed in against current market conditions, and these numbers can change very quickly. Because money is no longer backed by anything of real value, such as gold, it can also become worthless overnight. Therefore the very act of saving cash for the future may turn out to be a fruitless endeavour, as many who have had their entire pension funds wiped out in times of economic crises have learned.
Whether one wishes to estimate their savings balance, investment portfolio or the value of their home ten or twenty years in the future, none of these numbers can be depended on with any certainty, the economic world is too volatile. The 'true' worth of any of these things can only be known once that future point is reached, and will be completely dependant upon the economic environment it is compared against. It is not impossible that in fifty years' time property and investments may have no value at all if the world is on the brink of starvation. Perhaps by then the only thing of value will be heirloom seeds.
Our current short-term profit driven paradigm makes it difficult, if not impossible to effectively plan for man's long-term goal of a sustainable, technologically advanced future society. We urgently need to prioritise how we will sustain our growing and demanding global population as our resources dwindle in counterpoint. We need to divert our attention away from the world's economic crises and instead develop a framework for a new global infrastructure which will take man into a new age of science, technology, medical advancements, space travel and colonisation. Paradoxically the concept of money is holding us back from taking advantage of the opportunity to move into an enlightened future - without money.
And here lies the challenge - to consider a new paradigm which is designed to protect Earth's resources instead of exploiting them for profit. To remove racial, cultural, and national boundaries and become one race of humans working first to survive our current tipping point of rapid resource depletion, and second to become a technologically advanced and enlightened race of beings capable of travelling far into space to explore and colonise other planets. Every person on Earth would be freely entitled to their equal share of the essential resources of life. Clean air and water, healthy food, access to clean energy, health care and education.
But how could it work? It is hard to imagine a world not controlled by money because it is so far from the reality embedded into every aspect of our existence. But for the sake of our survival we must be brave and consider it. If every man, woman, and child were to live in balance with the Earth whilst making a useful contribution to the world based on their abilities or talents, we would have begun a significant change, a sustainable change. In this non-monetary society each person would have free access to an education they are interested in or enjoy. No more would people be forced to labour at jobs which undermine their worth just to put food on the table. No more would brilliant minds fall by the wayside just because they could not afford tuition fees. Without money to divert us, we would be busy investing in ourselves, our planet, and our future. Without corporations and banks manipulating us to secure big bonuses at our (and the Earth's) expense, the way we consume would be completely different. No longer would we mindlessly consume, unaware of the cost the Earth - our home - paid for it. Rather we would become much more selective of the things we would acquire, measuring them against their longevity and usefulness. We would farm responsibly, nurturing the soil to keep it healthy instead of depleting it of all its nutrients just to make a quick profit. We would question the sustainability of eating animals when they yield so little food against the resources they cost - resources man could put to better use for the benefit of all. We would ask ourselves what a society of the future would look like, and we would courageously begin to design it.
Imagine a world where the cost of an item is based not on a seller's profit margin, but on what the Earth paid for it. Meat would have a high 'cost', while vegetables would be considerably less with homegrown vegetables being free. No one would have more resource access than anyone else, all would be citizens of Earth, and all would be equal. Whether one person works in physics and discovers a new form of clean energy, or another is a librarian, making sure all the precious books of man's past are safely stored and preserved, everyone would have the same equal access, calculated against the Earth's population and the resources she has left to spare to us. Each person would have the power to decide how to 'spend' their daily allowance, taking into consideration the daily 'price' of their water, electricity and fuel consumption. In this context, fossil fuel guzzling cars would become very undesirable because they would consume many credits, suddenly putting electric cars and the incentive to develop its technology into high demand. The same would apply to heat, hot water, and electricity. The motivation to install equipment which can harness renewable energy would give one more freedom to spend on other things.
In a world such as this, man would be an incredible force, innovating, researching and striving towards a future of smarter and greener technologies. He would invest his energy and human resources into space research and exploration, so that perhaps in the not so far future he could leave Earth to travel into the galaxy on a mission of research and discovery. Earth's flagship would be filled with the best and brightest minds gathered from all over the planet - minds freely educated, without boundaries or prejudice. Instilled with the values of responsibility, conscious consumption and vision, these space pioneers would represent the culmination of man's united effort to break the shackles of his enslavement to money; to overcome the destruction and obstacles of a world controlled by money, and to create a new paradigm of living which belongs to all of us, not just a mere few.
May we all bravely go and begin to create that world. Today.
Originally published on Paradigms Bend May 29 2012