MoneySaturday, Jun 27, 2015 · 1700 words · approx 8 mins to read
I’ve thought about how to write this blog post for over five years now, since before I even restarted blogging, and I’ve been thinking about the basic problem since I was able to understand the concept of money and its effects on life, as a young kid. Because my family was below-the-poverty-line poor when I was really young, and because I now earn really good money, I’ve run the gamut of relationships with money and I’ve seen its effects first hand, from having none at all, to having plenty, and everything in between.
What I’ve really wanted to write this whole time is my perspective on how I think the very idea of money negatively affects humanity, and how I believe that effectively just switching it off to find new ways to live is probably the most liberating thing we could all do together, to progress as a species. I’ve thought about ways to justify my perspective in essay form, where I legitimise what I’m saying by providing the financial backdrop to my life, so you can understand that I understand money as much as I possibly can.
I’ve never really found a good way to write it all down that made sense, and I think I’ve come to understand why in the last few years. The systems in play today that govern money are outrageously broad, completely impenetrable and impossible for any one single person to understand. There is no single human being alive that is able to understand all of the financial systems and instruments in play today, globally. Management of money is not formally taught — probably on purpose — at least in my society, yet it’s what governs everyone’s lives, no matter how much they have.
Despite having what most people would consider as more than enough money, I find myself thinking about it all day, every day. It dominates my thoughts, overwhelmingly so sometimes. It’s not enough to have enough, because what about making sure me and my family always have enough, until I’m no longer able to earn it by myself any more? What about when I can’t earn it any more? Will there be enough to make sure me and my family are OK? Worries that are further in the future than I’ve existed for years alive. Every day. All day. I bet most people in a developed country feel the same way and think about money, or the effects of it, almost none stop.
I can’t even begin to understand the financial problems of people in less well off countries where not having money is a real matter of life or death. Here in the UK, if I run out completely and it causes me societal problems, social security will give me some so I can exist and not die.
In short, I’ve come to believe that almost everyone’s life is dominated by thinking about it, and that the twin effects of having to think about it all the time, and to be held back by not having enough, are an immeasurable drag on a great many people alive today. I don’t know how to write an essay that discusses those basic themes in more detail. Instead I’m going to write down a list of all of the things that would be possible if money wasn’t how we apportioned the things we create, or how we decided what we can do next, especially the things we need to survive and make strides as human beings. I’m imagining what we could do if we stopped using money and just got on with things otherwise as normal. Imagine waking up tomorrow and money was just gone, but everything still carried on as it were, just without the need to earn it or spend it on anything.
So everyone who helps to make something, keeps making it. Anyone who teaches someone else, keeps teaching. Anyone who doesn’t do anything, carries on doing nothing. Then after a while of us carrying on so things don’t go dark and horrible, we all decide to do what we really want to do instead, not what we’re doing because that’s all we can afford. So those who want to make incredible machines, go make them. Those who want to write, write. Those who want to paint or make music, paint and make music. Those who don’t want to collect anyone’s garbage any more don’t have to. They can do whatever they really want to instead. Those that still want to sit and do nothing can carry on sitting and doing nothing.
To eat and drink, you just go to the supermarket to get what you need to eat and drink. Those that make the food and drink would still make it. Those that still help it get from source to consumer still do that. If they decide not to any more, because they want to do something else, someone else will help because we need to eat and drink, until we’ve automated it enough that we don’t need the help and those people can do something else.
To find somewhere to live, you just find an empty house that someone built and you take the keys and you live in it. Then knowing that someone worked hard to make that house for you, you go and work hard to make or do something else great for other people, that they need or would love or could enjoy. Need a car? Go to the car people and find a nice one and take the keys. Need to get on a train to go somewhere to see someone or something? Get on the train. Get on the plane.
Enough people will love to build and make the things we need to survive that we will survive. Freed from the shackles of earning money, we’d just go take food to every starving person, and help everyone homeless find shelter. Because it won’t matter about the money any more, which is overwhelmingly what stops us solving those problems already. It’ll take a long time to complete, but it’ll take a very very short time in the grand scheme of things. What’ll matter is just doing great stuff for each other, be that making, teaching, providing, crafting, creating, caring and more, all without the worry about how much it costs, because nothing costs anything any more.
We’d automate away the bad and dangerous jobs. People who absolutely love to program computers, build robots, assemble machines and manufacture things will make that happen.
Anyway, here’s what I think could happen in a relatively short period of time after we just stopped having money as a concept and thing, completely globally, in favour of just doing what we love and want to do and what’s right for everyone instead.
- Feed everyone so nobody ever starves, and waste much less food
- Cure many more diseases and give everyone access to all the existing medicine they need
- All have somewhere comfortable to live with plenty of clean water and energy
- Make Internet access available on every square mile of Earth
- Make personal and mass transit ubiquitous to everyone alive, so anyone can go anywhere at any time
- Teach anyone anything at any time, and learn anything new at any time
- Visit the rest of the Solar System, in person
- Drastically reduce crime
So, feed, clothe, provide shelter to, educate, and provide excellent health care, to everyone, everywhere, enabling us all to visit and belong on every part of the Earth if they want, in relatively perfect peace.
If we didn’t have to pay to produce and consume food, nobody would starve. We’d still have to make the food anyway. Everything else follows on from that. We need to live in homes anyway. We need clean water and transportation anyway. We can’t go back to not having the Internet, without free access to the World’s accrued knowledge and history. And with money the number one cause of localised crime worldwide, we’d have relative peace. Why steal anything, to pay for anything else, when you can just have the thing you wanted without anyone caring?
Then, if that all worked out OK, we could focus on making what we needed to go exploring elsewhere. We could have gone to Mars already, because the vast majority of the technology needed to go there safely was invented before I was born.
I’m well aware that the above is reasonably utopian, but it’s also feels incredibly sensible and overwhelmingly simple. If we really are consumed so much by the pursuit of money, which I think a majority of people alive today in societies and countries like mine are, then the above is what I think we could do if we just abolished it as a thing. The common argument is, “well what decides who can get thing X, if we don’t have money?”. The answer is it wouldn’t matter and nothing would decide. You could just have thing X.
Living wage or other welfare reforms that revolve around access to money solves the problem in the wrong place. I think almost every meaningful aspect of life would be unbelievably better if we stopped measuring and metering out access to resources with invisible values in a computer or pieces of paper in our pockets. It doesn’t make any sense that anyone, in the history of humans, died because they couldn’t afford food, or somewhere warm, or we hadn’t put in place a system to get them clean water or access to life-saving medicine, because somehow those things had a cost attached that we weren’t willing to pay for one another.
This isn’t how I’d planned to write down my feeling about money, but after 20 years of thought it’s about time I wrote something, at least so I can free up my brain from thinking about it so much. Back to worrying about having enough money, rather than writing about it.