A World Without Money

On 22 March, 2010, my good cyber-friend Dick Eastman, an economist, wrote:

It occurs to me that banks would not be necessary if everyone was honest. All we would have to do is agree never to write a check unless we had received a check of amount sufficient to cover it. If each household and business kept its books, checks in and checks out, the existing money supply of checks could go on forever. All checks would be good because people could be trusted never to write a check unless they had received checks to cover. No clearing by the banks. Prices would adjust to this money supply. Etc. Just one more example of the hidden costs - in terms of easy systems we must forego - that come from dishonesty.

I replied as follows:

You are quite right in what you write above, Dick, but there's much more than simply the fact that banks would not be needed if everyone were honest. In a society where everyone were self-respecting (and therefore honest - for no self-respecting person would be dishonest, especially not towards other self-respecting and honest persons), cheques would not be needed either. Nor would money be needed. Self-respecting persons would never take more from the world than they end up giving to it, so production would always outstrip consumption. Hence there would be a surfeit of goods and services available at all times: there would be no such thing as scarcity, except perhaps temporarily. In a society based on money, most of the time when production outstrips demand, factories slow down or shut down to reduce production, and often, as a result, people are laid off, and poverty results; but in a society where there is no money, this could not happen, because people would not be paid for their work - they would work because, being self-respecting, they would not be caught dead without having given to society more than they had taken from it! Of course, when production of a particular kind of item - say, milk, or bicycles - outstrips demand by a huge margin, producers would not produce any more milk or bicycles (as the case may be) until the demand picks up again; they would switch to producing other things. Once there is a surfeit of all the goods and services that are necessary for decent survival, most of the "other things" people would produce would be things which money can never buy, such as original works of art, genuine scientific research, cooking gourmet dinners for their friends, poetry readings, and the like. Of course everyone would have more leisure - much more leisure - than they have now, but even their leisure time would be filled with productive activity, like art, science and philosophy.

Just imagine how much richer and better such a world would be compared to our own. No self-respecting manufacturer, builder or architect would produce anything crappy: they'd have their self-respect! The quality of everything would, as a consequence, go up immeasurably. Houses would not only be strong and durable, they would also be beautiful to look at and a pleasure to live in, earthquake-, flood- and tornado-proof where necessary, and certainly fire-proof. Cars, light bulbs and indeed virtually everything of a mechanical nature would be engineered to last a life-time or even more, like 1920s Rolls-Royces (many of which are still functional today) and the Centennial Light bulb which has been alight for well over 100 years. Heck, buildings can be made to last thousands of years - just look at the Pantheon in Rome (built over 2,000 years ago, and in continuous use since its construction) or New Grange in Ireland, built (by stone-age people, no less!) over 5,000 years ago. There would not be any "planned obsolescence". It goes without saying, of course, that things that damage people (e.g., tobacco products, depleted uranium weapons) or the environment (e.g., CFC-containing refrigerants, DDT, asbestos) would not be produced - or, if produced due to temporary necessity, would be disposed of safely once they had outlived their usefulness. Self-respecting journalists would always report the truth, and would never report lies. Self-respecting teachers would always make sure that their students pursued the truth, regardless of where that pursuit may lead: even to conclusions contrary to those which the teachers themselves happen to hold dear. Self-respecting film-makers would make sure their movies not only did not suck, but surpassed the standard set by previous movie-makers. Self-respecting and honest mathematicians, scientists and philosophers would readily admit to having made errors, once their errors had been pointed out to them. It goes without saying, of course, that there would be no such thing as "unemployment" or even "under-employment".

One must also remember that in a society full of self-respecting people, there will be many kinds of work that will not need to be done at all, or need to be done much less than at present. For instance, there will be little or no need for police, lawyers, judges or prisons, since self-respecting persons will not do anything unethical, nor will they consider anything that is not unethical to be a crime. Likewise, there will be little for the legislature to do, except maybe put out guidelines which make it easier for people to organise themselves. Indeed, government itself will be minimal, restricting itself to organising matters so that, for instance, unnecessary duplication of effort is avoided. Self-respecting people will take care of their health, so doctors and dentists will have much less to do than they have to do now. Banks, of course, will not be needed, but neither will cashiers, bookkeepers and accountants. Paperwork will be greatly reduced, since no self-respecting person will dream of denying having said something earlier, if they actually had said it. (A lot, if not most, of paper-work is carried out simply to prevent people from saying something now and denying having said it later.) People's word will be their bond.

And all this is just the tip of the iceberg. A world full of self-respecting people would be many times more wealthy than our world. Each of us would be, in such a world, not just twice, but five times, perhaps even ten or twenty times as rich as we are today.

Just imagine. And then tell me if that's not a world worth aiming for, working towards ... even if it won't happen any time soon.


Cheers.

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P.S.: Please note that I am not talking about "love thy neighbour" or altruism. Not that there's anything wrong with love or altruism, but they would not be needed in this case. Self-respecting people will do the right thing by everybody: by those they love and by those they don't. Even if they positively hate their neighbours, they will do the right thing by them - because they have their self-respect!

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I encourage criticism of my ideas given above. You may e-mail me, telephone me or write to me at the following address:
 
414 Kintyre Priv.
Ottawa, ON
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e-mail: ardeshir [at] mac.com