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  • Writer's pictureSome Old Guy

The REAL cost of Money

We seldom think about what money is. It's not the coins or paper we use, it's not the numbers in computers. If all the people in the world disappeared tomorrow, so would all the money.

Money and who has it, is the issue in the "occupy" protests around the world.

Money is an idea and a tool used by almost every culture. How can some people have so much of this idea that they cannot 'use' it all, while others have so little they cannot survive?

For thousands (or millions) of years our race lived in small tribes that were self-sufficient in providing themselves with human interaction (relationships), food and shelter. There was no need to have money when all your needs are met by yourself and those around you. In family and tribe you had deep and complex relationships and obligations. They were successful because you and I are here, now.

Our tribes were (and are) a constantly changing web of relationships. Everyone made age and ability appropriate contribution to the on-going life of the group. The "common coin" of our tribes are the relationships. Relationships imply obligations to support one another. Gossip, skills, labour, love, food, our physical presence, shelter - these are the things we freely share with our 'tribe'.

Now there are 7 billion of us. To provide ourselves with relationships, food and shelter the time and the things we produce in it to contribute to our society, are very specialized and often abstract.

We invented money as a way to MEASURE our obligations to people with whom we don't have relationships. In our small tribes, our obligations were to the tribe, to support it with what food, shelter and relationships we could provide. Now we don’t grow or gather our food, or build our shelters. But we still have relationships and obligations, so our tribes consist of family and friends - the people for whom we would do anything, for no money. These things are by definition, PRICELESS. For everything else there's ... credit cards, debit cards, cash, cheques, etc. to measure our obligations to strangers.

The old saying, "I wouldn't do it for love or money", sums it up perfectly. Anything we do, we do for love (human relationships), or money.

For instance, if your child or parent asks you to help them move house, would you ask for money? If a stranger asked the same thing, would you ask for money? Getting money for giving takes the service or goods from the realm of relationship and obligation, to the realm of "Work".

Let’s think for a moment about the cost of money. What percentage of our population spends their whole career tracking and managing money? Every clerk in every store, every bookkeeper, accountant, banker...

You get the idea. Imagine resources could we contribute to the welfare of the homeless, the mentally ill, if all those people now managing money were not doing that? Is 30% of EVERY cultures time spent in the tracking of who has what money?

If we all woke up tomorrow and realized the harm money does, perhaps these things would be true:

1. No one would have to do a job they hated just for the money.

2. The billions of people who spend their lives managing money, could instead contribute or free up others to house the homeless and the mentally ill, feed the hungry, go to Mars, or whatever someone with the right relationships could convince others to help with.

3. The "rich" would be those with the most deep and authentic relationships.

4. The meaning of "work" would change, from something you do to get money, to something you do because it provides fulfilling relationships and a sense of contribution to the well being of the race.

5. There would be no "cheap" products. "Good enough for the price", would become meaningless.

6. There would be nothing to steal. If you wanted or needed something you would be as free as anyone else to have it. Over burdened justice systems would find their load lightened because there would be fewer reasons to steal things.

If you believe that some people have no money, because they don't work for it, so they don't deserve adequate shelter and food, love and relationships, then you probably believe that having money is more important than having quality relationships.

If you believe we are all created equal, why do we believe that it's OK that some people cannot share equally in the resources of the planet that created us? Shelter and food are part of the "commons" of human life. Yet we deny them to those who will not spend their time (their lives) doing poorly paid and tedious "work".

How is it right and just that sitting at a desk, talking to people, clicking a mouse, and typing can give some people hundreds of thousands of times more money than someone who plants, grows and harvests the food you eat each day?

The idea that the common resources of the world can be "private" property has made us more efficient at extracting and managing those resources. It has given the people who control those resources power over many people in the form of a lot of money. It leads the people who control resources to think that the accumulation of money is the main goal of the process. So they also think that the lowest money cost extraction of those resources is the only logical thing to do.

It does not lead them to think how the extraction of those resources supports or damages the environment. Yet the environment is WHERE WE LIVE.

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