Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Eradicating the Monetary System

Ask yourself this: How did we arrive at a state where even efforts to 'save the planet' hinge on the requisite of money? How has the economic social mechanism we use to distribute the earth's products become so far removed from the physical nature of earth?

Once we lived in balance with nature, but with the development of agrarian practices humans began producing more than they needed. Enterprise became too cumbersome for simple 'bartering'. Thus a new medium of exchange, money, was selected, desirable for its scarcity. It was no longer tangible goods being distributed, but still something one could 'touch'. With each development of money - from tangible metals, to coloured bits of paper, to plastic credit cards, the money system has been removed from anything physical. It has been so far removed that now the system relies on confidence in the capability of money to compound on itself. Debt fuels consumption created at a computer screen. We adhere to a paradigm of growth and consumption which is no longer appropriate. The magic of 'buy now, pay later' has accelerated consumption far beyond 'pay-as-you-go'. Retailers clear out land, erect huge depots, then close shop and do it again a couple of miles down the road to engage in 'competition' with another retailer offering the same merchandise across the street. Duplications, redundancy and waste abound.

So, what do I propose instead? A 'Technocracy' or 'Resource-Based Economy', which in theory provides every citizen an equal share of resource-conscious production. The social and environmental ramifications are enormous, but living things, animal or human would cease to be cash crops. Not a single tree would be chopped down, car or missile produced for the sake of sales or job creation. Technology is not a tool for domination, but management, an enhancement of the human being. Computers which now monitor the flow of debt will turn their attentions to monitoring the flow of energy and resources. Consumption is instantly recorded and production set accordingly, eliminating the need for excessive warehousing. Ironically, machines that lead to the rise of the monetary system may well make it obsolete as technological abundance drives prices down and technological production eliminates wage earners and tax payers.

Now here's the part you may need to get your head round; all goods and services will be available without the use of money, credits, barter or other system of debt servitude. This premise is based on the notion that earth's resources are actually plentiful; the current practice of 'rationing' through monetary methods is both irrelevant and counter productive to our survival. At our current level of technology we can make available food, clothing and housing as well as create limitless supplies of energy. Through an efficiently designed economy based on resources, not money, we can easily provide the basic necessities as well as a high-standard of living for all.

If you doubt this, consider an analogy by the philosopher Jacque Fresco. At the start of WW2 the US had only 600 front-line fighter aircraft. They overcame this shortfall by, at peak development, producing 90,000+ aircraft a year. The question was "do we have enough funds to produce the required implements of war?". The answer was 'no', there was not enough money or gold. But, there were enough resources. It was these available resources which enabled the US to achieve such feats of production and efficiently win the war. Unfortunately, this way of thought was only considered in times of war.

The new measure of success in such an economy would be the fulfilment of one's individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property and power. Scarcity precedes crime, greed and violence. By overcoming scarcity it is conceivable that by and large, these things would be eliminated. Technology is well within its ability to overcome scarcity by applying it to renewable sources of energy, computerizing and automating manufacturing and inventory, designing more energy-efficient cities and above all generating a new incentive based on human and environmental concerns. Machines wouldn't displace people, but free them by easing their workloads whilst simultaneously increasing the availability of goods and services while lengthening holidays. Technology would be used to raise living standards rather than threatening human existence.

Under such a system designed to eliminate scarcity, everything is thrown at creating efficiency by conserving energy and reducing waste. Thus energy requirements take primacy as resources would be thrown at providing alternatives to burning scarce resources like oil. Such energy sources to consider include; geothermal, controlled fusion, solar and hydro technologies. Energy in unlimited quantities is well within our technical capabilities, but the only reason it is not available is because there is not profit in it. If you can't sell it, why do it? It's a small wonder that the largest energy companies in the world own all the patents to such technologies and are merely sitting on them. Energy would also be saved by eliminating the duplication of competitive products such as tools, kitchen utensils and household appliances for example. By all means, choice is good, but instead of wasting resources on hundreds of different manufacturing plants, the bureaucracy and the manpower required to turn out different versions of the same product, only a few of the highest quality would be needed to serve the whole population.

Capitalism is self-perpetuating, breeding a vicious cycle of selfish individualism, waste and slavery. It is a wonder that everyone accepts Capitalism as the pinnacle of human advancement, as if this is it, we cannot go any further. Do you think those a thousand years ago ever saw anything superseding feudalism? Probably not. Capitalism perpetuates a perceived need for power and materialism because of 'scarcity'. Eliminating the monetary system eliminates debt and fear of unemployment with it. A system based on cooperation would see both mental and physical stress decline sharply, leaving the individual free to explore and develop their abilities. Money is not necessary to survival. Money, gold, diamonds - all are irrelevant to your survival, unlike air, food and water. Only if resources are scarce can money be used to control their distribution. You cannot sell air or water because they are naturally abundant. If it is abundant, you can't sell it.

Work essentially amounts to nothing more than paid slavery. This misnomer that 'making a living by the sweat of your brow' holds people back. What a resource-based economy proposes frees people from drudgery and their repetitive jobs which make them ignorant. The monetary system robs them where machines free people. The only reason a world without money is inconceivable to you is because you've never known such a world. It's funny when machines have been replacing human labour since time began. This shows a clash proving the falseness of the monetary system. Human employment is in direct competition with technological development. Given the fundamental priority of industry is profit, people through time will continue to be replaced by machines. In a monetary system you have every right to fear this; if a machine replaces you, your ability to survive in the system diminishes. You NEED a job in this system to earn money to survive. In a resource-based economy machines don't make you redundant, they free you from servitude. This is the point of technology, to make human life easier. Labour for income hinders progress. As long as such a system survives, humans will never be free from their caged cubicles and technology will remain paralysed. Machines should be viewed as an extension of human performance above all.

So what's the incentive I hear you ask? What will motivate people to do anything? Surely, if people have access to all the necessities of life without servitude, debt, barter, trade, man will just lay around in the sun? This is a myth perpetuated by a conditioning in our culture. We are trained to believe the monetary system produces an incentive. This is what you've been taught to support the monetary system. The reality is people would behave very differently if they wanted for nothing. Incentives would be different, new incentives would arise. A new environment based on cooperation might perhaps point you toward space travel, or something as simple as creating something you enjoy? In turn you'll probably enjoy sharing your creation with someone else rather than having done it merely to sell it on. The problem is most education today merely produces people for jobs. You are taught to specialise. People are not generalists, they do not know a lot about a lot. Such narrow-mindedness leads to disasters such as wars. We are not given the necessary tools in education to either think critically or solve problems adequately. The smarter you are however, the richer the world is as everyone becomes a contributor. The greatest untapped resource on earth is human ingenuity and potential.

If market economics persists, it would be some wonder if it does not result in vast populations warring over dwindling resources. If at some point in the future, scholars of a post-monetary era will wonder how we survived for so long trading our real wealth - our natural resources - in diehard subjugation to something as insubstantial as the flow of imaginary 'I.O.U's'. Patriotism, weapons, militaries - all are signs that we are not civilized. The same scholars will ask "did you not see the necessity of machines?" or "was it not obvious war was inevitable if you produce scarcity?". I'm not saying this is some vision of a perfect utopia. It's not. It is impossible to reach perfection. But it's a darn site more appealing than what we've currently got.