A world without money


IMAGINE: A society without money, laws, unemployment, pollution, crime and unnecessary human suffering …

John Lennon — the man behind the timeless classic ‘Imagine.’

John Lennon — the man behind the timeless classic ‘Imagine.’

I HAD my music player on shuffle mode the other day when it randomly came across the great sounds of John Lennon of The Beatles and played Imagine. There is possibly one verse missing from Lennon’s timeless classic, that being: “Imagine there was no monetary system, it’s a little hard to do. No hunger, greed or crime, humankind living as one.” I’m no lyricist, but I think trying to imagine a world where money doesn’t exist should be an important part of such a song.

For those of you who are not familiar with the great sounds of Lennon, he was basically trying to encourage people to realise that capitalist society is comprised of a series of complex systems that shape our beliefs and values and determine our behaviour. He then encourages us to use a little imagination and envision a world where such systems do not exist. Wise man was Lennon.

I firmly believe that we are a product of our environment. Our behaviour, ideologies and interactions are almost entirely based on the society we are born into, the experiences we have and the media we are exposed to. In other words, our customs, behaviours, and values are by-products of our culture.

No one is born with greed, prejudice, bigotry, patriotism and hatred; these are all learnt behaviour patterns – picked up from the society in which we live – Zeitgeist Addendum

This society has evolved over millions of years to incorporate various systems of control. Today we are bound by systems of law, education, transportation, religion and, most significantly, the monetary system. We take it for granted that these systems are there and find it difficult to imagine living any other way.

In reality, it is these systems that hinder our imaginations, freedoms and human ingenuity. But, we are now entering a new stage of human awareness — a stage which understands that several of these systems are outdated and are in need of serious reform if humankind is to prosper and live as one. And no system is more outdated than our monetary system.

Can you imagine what life would be like if money didn’t exist? Imagine there were no possessions; nothing to kill or die for. Let’s paint a little picture:

An Obsolete Monetary System
money gone forever, because it is no longer relevantThe money-based system evolved centuries ago as a device to control human behaviour in an environment with limited resources. Back then scarcity was something very real, but now we have the technology to produce and harvest an abundance of resources.

Today money is used to regulate the economy, and to say that things have gone a little pear-shaped is an understatement. In truth, all of the world’s economic systems (socialism, communism, fascism, etc.) perpetuate social stratification, elitism, nationalism, and racism, and are primarily based on economic disparity. In other words, so long as a social system uses money or barter, people and nations will seek to maintain the economic competitive edge.

As a result of the imperialistic spread of money-based systems, inequality today is greater than it has ever been. This is because our current monetary system is not capable of providing a high standard of living for ever­yone, nor can it ensure the protection of the environment because the major motive is profit.

Similarly, our outmoded political and economic systems are unable to apply the real benefits of today’s innovative technology to achieve the greatest good for all people, and to overcome inequality. Our technology is racing forward, yet our social designs have remained relatively static. In other words, cultural change has not kept pace with technological change. To make matters worse, science and technology today have been diverted from achieving the greatest good for reasons of self-interest and monetary gain.

The Earth is still the same place; it is just the rules of the game that are obsolete and create strife, deprivation and cause unnecessary human suffering …

So, what’s the solution? Should we simply burn all our decorated notes with a similar vigour as the bra-burning feminists of the sixties? This may be a little drastic, but let’s picture a world where money didn’t exist.

(The following is based on the aims and proposals of The Venus Project — an organisation that proposes a feasible plan of action for social change):

A resource-based economy
To better understand the meaning of a resource-based economy, consider this: if all the money in the world were destroyed, as long as topsoil, factories and other resources were left intact, we could build anything we choose to build and fulfill any human need.

This is because it is not money that people need; rather, it is free access to the necessities of life. In a resource-based economy, money would be irrelevant. All that would be required are the resources and the manufacturing and distribution of products.

Simply stated, a resource-based economy would utilise existing resources rather than money, and would provide an equitable me­thod of distributing these in the most efficient manner for the entire population. It is a system in which all goods and services are available without the use of money, credits, barter or any other form of debt or servitude.

Abundant Mother EarthThe Earth is abundant with plentiful resources. Today, our practice of rationing resources through monetary methods is irrelevant and counterproductive to our survival. Modern society has access to highly advanced technologies and can make available food, clothing, housing, medical care, a relevant educational system, and develop a limitless supply of renewable, non-contaminating energy such as
geothermal, solar, wind and tidal power.

When education and resources are made available to all people at no cost, there would be no limit to the human potential. Although it is difficult to imagine, even the wealthiest person today would be far better off in a resource-based society.

Today, the middle classes live better than kings of times past. In a resource-based economy everyone would live better than the wealthiest of today …

In such a society, the measure of success would be based on the fulfilment of one’s individual pursuits rather than the acquisition of wealth, property and power. Know that it is now possible to have everyone enjoy a very high standard of living with all of the amenities that a prosperous civilization can provide. This can be accomplished through the intelligent and humane application of science and technology. The choice is ours to make. We no longer need to imagine.

• This article was inspired by the documentary film Zeitgeist Addendum. To learn more about The Venus Project or to become a part of the movement visit: www.thezeitgeistmovement.com and www.thevenusproject.com

You can read the other two parts to this series below:
Part 3: Incentive to work
Part 1: The power of the planet
Evolve: A response by Wogan May

14 responses to “A world without money

  1. It’s a step in a different direction, but it won’t solve the problem. The “system” that we see around us was built by none other than people like us.

    Everything that’s wrong with the world is basically a magnified, summarized version of the collective human spirit. Greed, war, extortion, poverty, all these things only exist because people put them there.

    Getting rid of money will ultimately take us a step backwards, into the feudal ages, where it’s all about power. You can bet that people with their guns, bombs and tanks will quickly assert power over resource-rich regions, once again leaving the poor and defenseless to starve, or serve as slave labour.

    Like I said somewhere on Twitter once (or was it over IRC, i forget): The perfect human society cannot possibly exist, for it would require the complete absence of human inhabitants.

    In order to create a perfect world, you’ll first need to break the ambitious and dominant spirits of every single individual – for those are the roots of tyranny and greed. Then you need a single, unequivocally accepted ruler who makes every single decision, and you need to have that ruler set on the improvement of the human race, rather than fulfilling selfish desires for power.

    Huge smack in-between-your-f**king-eyes twist? The world was EXACTLY like that, before the Israelites ordered God to give them a human king.

    We brought this entirely on ourselves, and in learning from our mistake as a whole, will eventually endure another massive upheaval (personally, I reckon it’s the biblical armageddon), after which we’ll accept that God is, well, God, and build a new society around His rules, which will in all likelyhood be called the “Kingdom of Heaven”.

    See? It’s all under control 😉

  2. An enjoyable post. I often have “from the sidelines” moments where I look at society and social structures and think WTF?

    Redesigning social principles is something I bring up with my students (I’m a teacher) often, just to get them to question what can and should be looked at differently, versus just accepted as is.

    However, I sometimes get stuck with the notion that if a resource based economy were to work, you would need people to be doing the jobs they really enjoyed doing because, quintessentially, they’d be working “for free”. Do toilet cleaners or miners enjoy doing their job, or does such a society presuppose a lot more personal responsibility taken for things in general?

  3. Thanks for your comment Juanita.

    That’s a good question to raise. The proposed solution is that ultimately technology will free people from unpleasant (yet neccesary) tasks, such as cleaning toilets. However, many ask that if machines/technology achieve this, then what incentive will people have to work?

    The answer is that new incentive will emerge and people will still do the ‘jobs’ that they enjoy without the goal of making money from doing so.

    For example, a painter will continue to paint and should feel happy with giving away his paintings for free … 🙂

  4. @Wogan. Thanks for the comment.

    I fully agree that social systems inherent in society are human inventions, however, things like greed, war, poverty etc. EMERGED from these systems rather than being designed or placed within them by their creators.

    “Getting rid of money will ultimately take us a step backwards, into the feudal ages.” Are you suggesting that money didn’t exist in the feudal ages? The Feudal Age was based more on ownership yes, but also most certainly based on wealth. Kings were kings (with the power that comes with the title) based on their class, which was determined by how wealthy they were.

    “In order to create a perfect world … you need a single, unequivocally accepted ruler who makes every single decision.” How different is that from having kings in times past? Or having presidents and current-day rulers for that matter? Today such people are placed in power in a more democratic manner in order to improve society for all – at least as far as humanly possible. Of course with great power come great responsibly; and being imperfect human beings themselves, some never quite get it right.

    To believe that the world was once perfect in biblical times is a lovely thought, yet it seems that for now we’re going to have to make do with those currently in power, and perhaps believe that heaven is a place on Earth.

    It’s a sad view of human beings to believe that “every single individual” has an inherent ambitious and dominant spirit. Do you believe that people are born with such attributes? I don’t. These are learnt behaviors – learnt and picked up from within the society that people live.

    People do what they do to survive and live a good quality life. In a society where money is required to achieve this (and value is arbitrarily attached to certain things), people are going to do what they do to attain it, e.g. declare war, steal and create strife.

    Why is it that more resources (and money) are devoted to building prisons rather than elevating poverty when we know that poverty and inequality is the source of most crimes in society?

    There is clearly something wrong with our current system. What is needed is a redesign based on a collective human spirit. The proposed resource-based economy is not perfect; we will never achieve perfection. It is just significantly better 🙂

  5. The author of this piece commits the rather enormous mistake of confusing cause and effect.

    He thinks that flashy dollar bills and bling make people want to be selfish, when the overwhelming consensus out there – based on both direct empirical data in psychology and economics, and empirically validated theory in sociobiology – is that malevolence, or at least a certain level of malevolence, is a fundamental human precondition. In other words, it’s not the money that makes us selfish, it’s the selfishness that makes money a necessity.

    Given that his founding assumption is wrong, it follows that the rest of the piece is just nonsense. If getting rid of money flicked the benevolence switch, then it would indeed follow that doing so would help us to rid the world of poverty, tackle environmental degradation and so on. But it doesn’t, so it won’t.

    Unfortunately the piece is also littered with inaccuracies – there is, for instance, no evidence that money emerged as a “device to control human behaviour”, or that money has a “rationing” effect. In fact, it emerged as a more efficient form of allocating resources than barter trade, which in turn is a better form of exchanging resources than beating each other on the head with clubs. And these are not matters of historical contention, so the author is just ignorant of the facts. He also, bizarrely, thinks that resources are more plentiful now than they were 5,000 years ago, when money was first invented. Again, just nonsense.

  6. @Ross: Thanks for your comment.

    Please let it be clear that these are not my ideas but a few proposed by the Venus Project that I support and have added commentary on.

    I agree that monetary-systems emerged as a more efficient form of allocating resources than barter trade, however, just as the practice of barter trade came to an end the above proposes our current monetary-system is now outdated and becoming less practical on a global scale.

    A system based on perpetual debt that can never be re-paid will inevitably collapse. The above proposes that this system is outdated and no longer relevant to our survival as a global society. It is not the most efficient way of allocating resources as it certainly does not benefit all human beings.

    This IS a highly humanitarian approach which I believe the majority of our world leaders are capable of fathoming.

    I am not suggesting that resources are more plentiful today than they were 5 000 years ago. That would be bizarre. I am suggesting that we have more efficient technological methods of harvesting and utilising resources and producing energy. See the first part to this post: The power of our planet

  7. It’s not so much a case of deliberate design than it is incidental inclusion. People, by their very nature, are insecure people to some degree. Some express it inward, some express it outward, and the cumulative effect is a society divided by the “dominant/submissive” line.

    The problem here is that any given individual makes mistakes. Power magnifies those mistakes. Therefore, placing people in power will inevitably lead to very big mistakes – war, poverty, etc.

    All that’s changed in the last few thousand years is how power was defined and wielded. In ancient Egypt, power was granted/handed down by the gods/priesthoods. In Israel, God directly chose His leaders. In the feudal ages, power was won by conquest. And in the 21st century, power is defined by wealth.

    The issue of “money” is largely irrelevant here. The concept of currency goes back pretty much to the beginning of time. It’s only now that money is a factor, since it’s used to define power.

    So take a look at modern democracy. It’s actually more money-driven than most people think. Firstly, you need money to register, then you need funding to compete in the elections – and finally, you need tax money in order to effect any real change. This means that whoever has the money, has the power, and presidents/parliaments being bought is no new concept – it happens all the time in SA.

    All of this – democracy, money – does one thing: Put the dominant in power. And some people are just naturally more dominant than others. Upbringing doesn’t create dominance, it just amplifies what’s already there – the will to survive. Millions of children go through similar upbringings every year worldwide, but not all of them go on to create powerful corporations.

    To alter the world system, you need to start at the foundations, and the foundation is people, and their desires. You can’t start at any higher level and expect to get anywhere. Communism failed in Russia for this reason. China became totalitarian for this reason.

    Here’s a few movies you might find interesting (as they deal with this subject to some degree):
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0427392/
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0238380/
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0402022/

  8. If power is defined by wealth in the 21st century (as you suggest and which I agree with) then why not simply eliminate all notions of wealth? If money was no longer relevent it wouldn’t be able to define anything.

    In fact everything you’ve said here points to ‘money’ being the central problem. A step in the right direction is implementing an alternative to a monetary-system, which is exactly what my post is all about.

    Thanks for the movie links. I’m sure The Invasion, Equilibrium and Aeon Flux will shed a whole new light on this issue …

  9. What happens when technology starts to remove money from the picture? I mean, we have the ability to power the united states on solar power alone. Sure, setting up the solar panels may be extremely expensive at first, and re-wiring our entire electrical grid to these solar panels would be a monumental task.

    However, once these tasks are completed and payed for, how can you possibly charge people for power they are getting from the sun? Who owns the sun? Hypothetically, we would have to pay no one. Imagine not having to pay for electricity! Electric cars would truly be practical – it would pave a new way for our world as a whole. Maybe everyone else would start to adopt this method for harnessing energy as well.

    Free energy is what everyone should be working towards. Nothing else.

    We could be doing that, but of course you wouldn’t be able to make much money off of energy from the sun. The sun’s not exactly going to be a scarce resource anytime soon.

  10. Thanks for your comment. It’s true that we have the capability to produce huge amounts of clean, renewable energy on a global scale that is both sustainable and cheap. You might find the first part to this series quite interesting: The power of the planet

  11. Hello, I am a big fan of the venus project but I am not sold on it completely because I would like to meet Mr. Jacque Fresco. I would like to talk with him because he seems like a very interesting person. I learned about this project through facebook because one of my high school classmates had a link on his profile and I clicked on it and have been interested ever since. It was so amazing reading and learning about what Jacque has been doing his whole life. He made me think about things so differently. I am still amazed on how he has questioned everything around him and it seems he has been doing it all his life. I have been doing a lot of thinking about his project and I have been coming up with some questions that I wanted to ask him but maybe you can answer them.

    •I was wondering if he has thought about if people are provided with their needs and lose fear of scarcity then wont the population increase immensely? Basically now the population is in check because families only have a certain number of children based on what they can afford to provide a good life for their kids BUT if humans wouldn’t feel that pressure what is to stop them from having a large family and thus increase the population to overgrow the carrying capacity of resources per person?

    •My next point is that so much of our behavior is based on FEAR. We are afraid of everything and that is why our defense spending is so high and the military industrial complex is such a huge business. Has Jacque come up with a way to overcome that fear and change the way we think? I think the only way we are going to be working as a unit and be working collectively instead of competition is to remove that fear.

    •How will resources be divided in the future? Lets say that some scientists is studying this and some other scientists is studying this but he/she feels that their project is more important then who gets priority?

    •Lastly, I have thought about location of living areas. How will you divide the best locations and views to people? Won’t most people want to live in the warm climates with beach side property? Isn’t beach side property scarce by its very nature and that location provides scarcity?

    Anyways, those paragraphs have been my thoughts and I was just wondering if Jacque or you could let me know what you think. Take care.

  12. @John Lima: Thank you for your thought-provoking comment. You raise some important questions.

    I too would love to meet Mr Fresco in person. I just hope that he has some young disciples that he is teaching his philosophies too so that they may continue his work. I’m sure he is a very busy man, but I will see if I can get anyone at the Venus Project (if not Jacque Fresco himself) to get involved in this discussion. You never know until you try! But I shall do my best to respond below.

    Your first point on population is a sociological issue. If you consider populations across the globe it is currently the poorer nations/families that have the largest numbers of children, while ‘wealthier’ families have fewer. This is due to a few reasons – the major ones being that there is a higher infant mortality rate in poorer countries, so having more children insures that not all of them will die. It is also more economically beneficial in some countries to have more children as this allows for a greater division of labour. It’s a sad reality, but hopefully if we do end up living in a Venus-Project-Utopia most people will be more educated and therefore more sensible over the number of children they have.

    The biggest fears that most people experience on a global scale are based on war and poverty – which in my opinion go hand-in-hand. Nearly every war that has been fought has been over resources. If there were an abundance of resources – evenly distributed – there would be nothing to fight over. There would be no need for war and therefore no reason to fear it.

    Fair distribution of resources would be the central issue and an effective method of doing this is yet to be found. This is the central idea of Communism, which has failed again and again.

    Your last question is a good one. It would be obviously impossible for everyone to live in the most ideal areas in the world. This is currently determined by how wealthy people are, and if monetary wealth were eradicated, then who would be considered as the most deserving or important and have their pick of where to live in the world?

    However, it is of my opinion that this is a secondary concern for the time-being. What is of primary importance is meeting every individual’s basic needs. This is the first, major step that the world needs to take before we can reach the utopian goal that the Venus Project proposes.

    I hope that you find my responses useful, but I will attempt to see if we can get someone from the Venus Project to get involved and comment. I will keep you and everyone who has commented here posted if I am successful.

    Kind Regards,
    Galen Schultz

  13. UPDATE: I have been emailed by the Zeitgeist film director Peter Joseph. He should hopefully be addressing some of the issues raised and questions posed soon. Watch this space 🙂

  14. Peter Joseph has offered to address a single short question via email, which I will publish below as a comment. I am opening the floor to readers to decide what they would like to know most, and formulate a single question to pose to Peter. So if there are any suggestions please feel free to offer them; otherwise I will formulate a question myself.

    In the meanwhile, here’s a snippet from PJ’s email:

    “The best thing is for everyone to do their homework to fully understand what it is we are working towards. The complexity of the issues lend to some very erroneous assumptions, as it touches the very nature of who we “are” and what a society means.” – Peter Joseph

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