Why Abolish the Use of Money?
[This is adapted from a section of Thinking About Revolution]
[To see a video about this click here]
["The Myth of the Barter Economy" is about what people did before money: they didn't barter, they shared, as is proposed here]
"Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal—that there is no human relation between master and slave.”—Leo Tolstoy, Russian writer
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and money system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”—Henry Ford, founder, Ford Motor Company
“We may have democracy in this country, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.”--US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis
Perhaps the most surprising feature of an egalitarian society is that money (of all kinds, from cash to checks to credit cards) is abolished. Why is this necessary and how does it make sense?
The economy of egalitarianism is based on the principle of “From each according to ability, to each according to need.” It is a “Contribute what you can and take what you need” economy (sometimes called a "gift economy" or a "sharing economy") not a ‘If you give me this I will give you that, of equal value” economy (sometimes called an "exchange economy.") This means people provide products or services for free according to their reasonable ability and in turn take what they need or reasonably desire for free. Money, which is indeed a means of exchanging things (equal value for equal value) more conveniently than barter, is therefore not necessary or even useful in an egalitarian society because an egalitarian economy is not an "exchange economy."
Furthermore, buying and selling is not an equitable way for the wealth of society to be distributed. Goods ought to be shared on the basis of need. If someone who contributes to society is in need of food or shelter, he should receive them, whether he has money or not. (Most homeless adults in the U.S. have at least part time work and are looking for steady full time work; but many fulltime workers have jobs that pay too little to afford them a home.) If somebody is sick and needs care, it is immoral that she should only receive as much health care as she can buy. The Golden Rule is to share, not buy and sell.
Money may not be necessary in a good society but it is extremely important for a society based on inequality. In a society based on money a single individual can accumulate a great deal of money and use it to buy many things and pay many people, and thus control the use of things and the behavior of people on a vastly greater scale than would other-wise be possible.
Money thus makes inequality easy to impose because it makes it easy to concentrate power in the hands of a few, even in a society like ours today that purports to be a democracy. Money enables wealthy people to buy the votes of politicians, make laws to benefit themselves at the cost of society and sway public opinion through their corporate media. A society based on money is incompatible with genuine democracy and equality. As long as a society is based on money and buying and selling things to make a profit instead of sharing them according to need among those who contribute according to ability, that society will eventually become unequal like ours today. This is discussed further here and here and here.
Without Money, How Can New Enterprises Get Start-up Capital?
On the surface it might seem that without money there would be no way to accumulate capital for investing in new enterprises. But if we look closely at what “capital” is, we see that capital accumulation for new enterprises does not require money in a society based on sharing.
Today, when a businessman wants to start a new enterprise, he needs money to buy or rent the necessary equipment and to pay wages for the necessary labor. In the new society, when people decide to start a new enterprise and the larger society democratically approves of it, then the people who carry out the enterprise may freely use the required land and natural resources and machinery, and the workers may freely take what they need to live on. The point is that in a money-based society, money is indeed important, but in a moneyless society it is not.
There remain two additional major reasons for not using money: money is an instrument of elite social control, and money poisons social relationships.
Money Is an Instrument of Elite Social Control
In an earlier time in America, the rich landowner or bank would extend credit to the tenant or farmer for seeds and fertilizer and food to sustain his family till harvest. At harvest the farmer would often find that his debt combined with the interest owed exceeded the value of his crop; with each passing year he would sink further into debt peonage. In current times in the United States, a young person graduates from college saddled with gigantic loans, which by law he can never escape, not even through personal bankruptcy. He is in debt peonage to the bank. He is forced by his debt to seek out the highest paying job he can find, no matter what career he would prefer. Economic pressures make him work at an unfulfilling job for a boss he may despise. The more successful he is at finding that high-paying job, the more pressure he is under to conform to capitalist values and keep his mouth shut.
At the same time his parents may carry a mortgage on a home worth perhaps half of what they paid for it. They are in debt peonage to the bank. Someone with a car loan or needing health insurance is under similar pressure to find and keep a job and make the daily compromises necessary to stay employed in a corporate dictatorship. Young people under economic stress join the military and are trained to kill their class brothers and sisters on command. As the rulers crank up the economic pressure on families, more parents are forced to work two or three jobs and barely have time to share with their children. Money reduces life to a rat race.
The banks gain and exercise their power in society through the power of money. The power of the banks looms over all our life choices. They hold our lives in their hands. A society based on money enables the few who are wealthy to control the many who are not.
Money Poisons Social Relationships
In a society based on money, many human interactions are mediated by money, with one person using money to exert power over another. The more money plays a role in society, the less of a role is played by the Golden Rule: moral persuasion, mutual agreement, or reciprocity of good deeds among equals. Money suppresses the role of positive human values and replaces it with greed and domination. In a money society, money confers on its possessor an almost magical power. If the owners of a corporation want a manager to fire long time employees in order to increase profits, they just pay the manager to do the nasty deed. No need to persuade the manager that it is a morally good thing to do. The owners of the corporation have a perverse power over the manager.
In the absence of money, social power comes from one’s ability to persuade others that doing this or that is morally right or at least that it benefits them. It also comes from having relationships of mutual support: because one has helped others in the past, they want to return the favor. In the absence of money, social power is not power over people but power to act with people to accomplish goals that are shared.
It has long been said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Only in the absence of the power of money will people’s moral feelings and their best values truly shape society. Click here to read more about this most important reason for abolishing the use of money and the class inequality it makes possible.
Have People Ever Lived Before Without Using Some Kind of Money?
According to the anthropologist, David Graeber, yes. In his book, Debt, the First 5000 Years, Graeber shows that for a very long time people lived without money. What people had were relationships of mutually acknowledged debts that were not quantitative but qualitative. It is money, not the absence of money, that is the source of harm in human society. Money was introduced by kings as a better (for the king) way of forcing peasants to provide food to soldiers. It worked like this.
The king created some kind of money (coins typically) and paid the soldiers with this money. Then the king declared that the peasants had to pay him a tax, payable only with money. The only way peasants could get the money they needed to pay the tax was by selling food to the soldiers.