Future of Humanity Cannot Survive the Monetary System

by Don Malcolm

Money recognizes neither geographical nor political borders. It controls the fate and daily activities of populations throughout the world. While heaping riches on someone in Hong Kong or Rio de Janeiro, it may, at the same time, be destroying the fortune of someone in Halifax or Melbourne. Money is insensate and insensitive. It has no real value. Money is imaginary.

Yet it has driven humans to the pinnacle of success and to the depth of despair. It informs the waking moments and the dreams of humans. Money is the millstone on the neck of humanity, the license to buy and sell our fellow human beings, while declaring community and goodwill to all mankind. Without money, humanity could be rich beyond our wildest dreams. We could reclaim our natal innocence. 

Regardless of position within the monetary system, we are all swimming in the same quagmire. Each of us must struggle to maintain position. When an individual pulls ahead, it is at the expense of fellow swimmers. 

Many of us today are aware of the rapid depletion of our planet’s natural resources, and of the damage being done to the earth’s life sustaining systems in the exploitation of those resources. We are slashing down our forests at a rate that defi es sustainability. The life sustaining soils that are held in place by the forest and other vegetal cover are washing away to the oceans, putting at risk the marine life that is so important to the human food supply. We are working at frenzied pace covering our farmlands with pavement, big-box stores and monster houses. Our stores are fi lled with junk that will self destruct in a few months. We hold the mistaken belief that we can buy quality when we can only achieve quality through intellectual inheritance. 

We are wearing blindfolds, while running pell-mell toward a dramatic learning experience. 

We pay scant heed to the plunder of our planet’s fi nite resources. We are running out of oil and are not putting enough effort into fi nding an alternative. Perhaps our magnifi cent war machines will have to be abandoned and we will have to meet our imagined enemy with clubs. There, potentially, we stand at the edge of equality. 

The monetary system does not equitably serve all of humanity. It favours the strongest swimmers in the quagmire, at the expense of the weakest. In the end it does not even serve the strongest, nor does it serve itself. A system that demands exponential growth, where that growth is fed by a fi nite environment, will devour its own mythology. 

Money is imaginary, a faint hope, a baseless glutton devouring stability, a sword in the heart of human accord. 

Perhaps the minting of the fi rst coin drew the stopper from the bottle in which the mythical genie slept. 

We can imagine the genie leaping from the bottle shouting, “My name is Money; I will do your bidding so long as you exercise wisdom, but be careful in what you ask for.”

We have not been wise, we have not been careful. We have foolishly ravaged our beautiful planet for money. We hide our intentions in a declaration of progress for all mankind. To what are we progressing? Our imaginary monetary system can’t wait for natural support systems to re-establish. Like starving dogs, it can only gnaw away at the last bones.

 Humanity cannot survive the monetary system. We must imagine an alternative. We must put the genie back in the bottle. 

Since the minting of those fi rst coins so many years ago, there have been individuals who have railed against the monetary system. There have been prophets and seers, crackpots, fi xers and fakes. There have been some who have offered workable alternatives. 

Sir Thomas More, an English politician and humanist scholar, before he lost his head to Henry VIII’s axe-man in 1535, wrote his political essay, Utopia. More depicted an imaginary island community where all property was held in common and money did not exist. Surpluses were traded with neighbouring communities. In More’s Utopia the ends sought are political rather than economic.

More was charged with treason and beheaded, not for his essay, but because he refused to recognize Henry’s authority over the pope. 

Interestingly, More’s Utopia resembles the tribal organization of native peoples in the Americas before the European invasions. 

Edward Bellamy, born in Massachusetts in 1850, studied law and worked in the newspaper industry in New York. He published four novels and several essays in his lifetime. He is remembered most for his 1888 work Looking Backward, 2000-1887. This novel inflfl uenced the formation of the Nationalist political movement and several utopian living experiments during the 1890s. The novel became so popular that by 1900, only Uncle Tom’s Cabin had sold more copies.

US economist Thorstein Veblen, 1857-1929, described a fundamental confl ict between the provision of goods and the making of money. He, and a few like-minded thinkers in New York, formed a study group called the Technical Alliance which later became Technocracy Inc. 

The Technocrats proposed replacing the dollar with an energy certifi cate bearing the name and social insurance number of recipients, which would be cancelled at the end of each two year period. Goods and production would be in common ownership, the spent energy certifi cates would be a running inventory to facilitate restocking of stores and warehouses. 

The personal aspect of the energy certifi cate issued in a citizen’s name would render it useless to anyone but the owner. It’s easy to imagine its value in crime prevention. Theft and any other crime involving energy certifi cates would be futile. The cancellation at two year intervals would eliminate hoarding. 

During the great depression of the 1930s Technocracy is said to have become the fastest growing member organization in North America. At the height of its popularity the organization was dealt a wounding blow by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal economic reforms. 

By the late 1920s, due to the sophisticated deployment of steam and electric power and the introduction of assembly lines, North America reached a period of over-production relative to the population of that period. Production had out-paced sales. Manufactured goods and gadgets began to pile up on warehouse shelves. Workers were dismissed; many factories shut down to wait out the slack period. North America entered a deep economic depression. There were just not enough people with jobs and pay-cheques to signifi cantly reduce the over-production. In 1929 the stock market crashed and a dark cloud of hopelessness and discontent spread throughout the continent. 

The “New Deal” contained a wide range of economic reforms designed to restart and control the US and, by proximity, the continental market system. Some were rather dramatic. Warehouses were emptied of unsold goods, their contents, including great stores of foods, hauled to garbage dumps and destroyed. Quota systems were installed and remain to this day, designed, for the most part, to create artifi cial scarcity. One after another the factories reopened, the wheels of production turned, the workers went back to their jobs. Hostilities were heating up in Europe. War would bring scarcity that would keep the market system humming for years to come. The planet’s fi nite environment would lose another round to the monetary system. 

In the melee and confusion of World War II and almost continuous wars since, coupled with the strength of today’s market system, Technocracy’s membership has withered considerably. Perhaps for many, it’s too diffi cult to worry about the future when surrounded by insanity. 

There are still a few Technocrats scattered throughout the continent. Perhaps we need them now more than ever before. Maybe Technocracy or some similar system could put the genie back in the bottle. 

Imagine. 

***

[From WS January/February 2006]

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