When people talk about ‘THINGS’, objects, ideas, or even time, these are measured in terms of value in money. All that is exists now has a theoretical value placed upon it, from the water and food we drink to the star registry. One man even offered to sell his soul for money(1). At the same time money is used, it is constantly changing value. All things are for sale, but did you ever stop to consider why money exists at all, the circumstances that created it and shape this amorphous thing which all else is relative to, how did money come to exist?
An economist will tell you money is part of a natural progression of economic history, that it allows an individual to divide the relative value of an object into an abstract thing- money. But what IS money? money in a practical sense should be easily divisible and portable, but also must be able to represent the value of all things and be trusted. But this hasn’t always been so, money as we think of it is a modern construct is not just some utilitarian object of service- like a shell used as a medium of proportional object division.
Has money always existed? NO! Money is a modern concept, units of exchange are present only with the rise of urban settings and following the crop/animal domestication. The use of exchange currency was not necessary even in many early periods, as one knew one’s neighbors and could establish trust and debt enough to compensate for any differences in the value of barter. The barter system also allowed for individuals to exchange at the value they felt the product of labor was worth. The Spartan society of ancient Greece was so adamant of refusing currency that they abolished all currency within the city-state of Sparta. Local Greek kings would print their faces on the money and as the kings changed, so did the money, Spartans rejected this as absurd and corrupting way to live (some soldiers did however, keep treasures and spoils in banks on the borders of Sparta).
Let’s be honest, modern money has taken on a value all its own, an object to be desired and hoarded. Sometimes if one has enough of it, it becomes an investment with which to earn more money. In fact it is so abstract from its purpose of being a unit of division that it is thought of as a object in its own right. How money transitioned into this object of inherent value is unclear, but it may have some roots in the transition to modern banking. The advent of banks allowed for ‘book keeping’ which led the sketchy practices of interest, investments and loans. The modern banks and State economies, now electronic, can create artificial money without ever needing to print a paper or mint a coin. The large abstraction of millions, billions and trillions creates a world without limits, where money is infinite and commanding.
This abstract money, the modern money that we think of is problematic in it’s very nature for two reasons. ~The first problem is that unlike any other object it has no relative cap- for instance; if you have one thousand couches, dogs, beds, etc, you have no conceivable need for any more. In the case of money there is no limit to its capacity, one person could have one thousand of any currency, ten thousand currency, one million, one billion or one trillion and still desire more- this is the only object that inspires an infinite level of greed! There is no possible end to the level of greed, because an electronic bank can simply add more zeros. Nothing in the universe, save the universe itself has ever been truly infinite, therefore the unending greed for this money will know no limits to the exploitation and suffering created to attain this money. Unlike Adam Smith’s prediction there will not be any division of wealth as there is a division of labor, instead there will be just great hills of money and great poverty. Without the ability to constrain money, there can be no hope of constraining the greed that will follow the pursuit of it.
~The second problem related to the use of money is its usage- that money does not unite communities, it destroys them. Money requires that you are dependent on it, needing it for every necessity- because someone can be paid to do what you could do for yourself. This process disempowers every individual who uses money. From the peanut butter we buy for the sandwhiches, to the dyes in our clothes, all aspects of life an living will become commercialized. This effect will distance the places of production from consumption, from the first to the third world. From the seen to the unseen. The use of money will spread the effects of worst elements to farther regions. Wars for instance, will not be fought will soldiers you know, but with mercenaries from abstract regions- paid to kill and to die. This removal is observable in every shut factory door, in the closure of any effective cooperative enterprise. That is to say we are to be displaced from the production and the customer, we are be so separate that we cannot relate to the person on the other end, they are just a part of the monetary exchange- as much as a machine or plant. This process has terrible social effects, making humans disconnected, from one another.
The use of money will not set us free. In fact it will crush us. The blows need not be physical, but a simple denial of work. Even if you can find work, your work will be as a part of a machine. There will be no escape. As in China, even if you try to jump from the system and die, they will catch you and put you back to work. This sounds deeply hopeless, it is not. But the resistance must mount quickly. The first step is to break the latter then the former problems of money, in that order. We must know the people around us, recognize the suffering and dissatisfaction, collectivize and reject money over time from our communities, in favor of local production in the name of our needs. We cannot function in any meaningful way under this oppressive system, for the few granted passage into the upper echelons of society, you must ask what is the cost of your status, who is suffering to get you there. All the workers in the first and third world must recognize that we are part of a system oppressing us or part of a system that is causing that oppression. We must reject this system. Not all at once, but with a plan that dislodges these system of oppression.
Perhaps we will be attacked and money will be willed as a product to weigh upon all our heads. But I ask which is worse, the weight of money on your head or the price of blood on your hands? Which is more painful, the hard work of making your own shoes and farming fields or being a participant in the decay of our world and the destruction of our sense of self?
Why money? There is no good reason.