March 21, 2012


Filed under: Freedom, Law, Reformism Can't Work, Time Banking and Co-Production — Tags: — Russ @ 7:03 am


“Money is the root of all evil.”
For a long time I used to regard this as synonymous with “greed is…” or “ambition is…” or similar formulations. I suspect most other people do this as well.
But nowadays I recognize that these are distinct concepts and should be separated. We don’t need to confront allegedly natural traits like greed or competitiveness in order to analyze the fact that we can produce and distribute everything we need and want without using money (we don’t need this “medium of exchange”), and would be much better off without it, practically and in terms of human happiness.
The facts are that money is not a natural law, humanity did better without it for 99% of our natural history, and that the road to freedom and happiness includes, as a necessary goal, the abolition of money.
Of course this argument has nothing in common with liberal sanctimony about money being the root of evil. Liberals believe money is normative, that its existence is a natural law, and most of them also consider it progressive and desirable. They only deplore its “abuses”, usually where they see the non-rich behaving badly in order to obtain some.
We must always be clear that we need to abolish money as such, that humanity shall be more free, more prosperous, and happier without it, and that the whole 99%* needs to seek this goal.
We do not, on the other hand, moralize in an ad hoc manner about the abuses of money. Such liberal sanctimony always, somehow, ends up seeking the ends of the 1%.
But to morally reject money as such, and seek to rebuild the human modes of exchange which have been temporarily submerged, is on the road to rejecting the 1% as such and obliterating them completely.
These human modes of community exchange and credit have only been submerged, not destroyed. This is proven by the fact that capitalism and the state free ride completely on the vast majority of real work, at “the workplace”, in the community, and in the home, which goes unpaid by the 1%’s money system.
To this day, even in corporatism’s darkest slough of despond, the economy and society remain overwhelmingly anarchist and democratic. If a critical mass were to embark upon a Work to Rule strike, confronting the boss, the owner, the government, the cop, with an absolute adherence to the strictest letter of the job description and the law, the system would collapse in a day.
That fact tells us where the real power lies. The way to render this power kinetic is to understand its potential. Part of this understanding is to understand money, and the fact that it has no practical, rational, or moral validity. Education and, wherever possible, action, must proceed along this path. 
[*That is, a critical mass.]



  1. …if only
    The overwhelming numbers needed to reach “critical mass” are caught in a Stockholm Syndrome-like web while the parasites who are responsible for nurturing this sickness and responsible for having woven the web in order to feed upon their hosts are sick themselves with megalomania.
    I agree with your solution, it’s Sisyphus’ dilemma though to rectify the problem. Enlightenment would never turn the trick – you are dealing with dullards.. face it. I surmise only severe cataclysmic events (which are possible given the state of world economies, and if not that, possible, probable natural occurrences via climate upheaval) would do it.
    “The horror… the horror…” Kurtz

    Comment by Glenn Ewen — March 21, 2012 @ 9:04 am

    • The cataclysms will certainly come, by the design of the 1% (disaster capitalism is one of the few profit fronts left). The growth civilization is a Tower of Babel. As for the state of the people, I don’t think things are that grim, and regardless of how dark things look, we have to try to build the movement and fight.

      Most of the brainwashing is superficial, and most people are always ready to be tipped into a new mindset at any time. At any time it’s large-scale forces, and perhaps a few people, which are guiding things.

      “Critical mass” need not be a large percentage. 10% may do the trick.


      Comment by Russ — March 21, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  2. True, money is not a natural law. But what’s the alternative? “Human modes of exchange”. What does that mean? Barter, exchange goods and services that I have for another’s goods or services? A bit Utopian, and I agree that it would work on a certain level. I disagree that it can be comlpetely abolished. For example, what if I’m traveling, what do I do when I’m hungry and want to stop at a local eatery, offer to wash dishes, chop wood or make a pair of shoes? Maybe I can give them investment advice (oh damned, no money so I’m unemployed, now what?) What if I don’t have anything that they want? What if what I do is raise cattle and want to buy something small, like a dozen eggs. I can’t offer the whole cow. Do I cut off a hunk? Or maybe I would have to find a co-op of buyers and split the cow between them all for their goods/services. Great idea. How long would it take for me to track down exactly the right people who have what I want in exchange to accomplish this? This cow isn’t getting any younger ya know, and I’d really like eggs for breakfast.

    In the end I would need a medium of exchange, one that is recognizable and acceptable, one that stores the value of my labors but is transportable. Otherwise I’d be stuck to the locality that I live in, never be able to go anywhere else. It would lead to less freedom, not more. You can call it “exchange credits” or “barter credits” or any other name that doesn’t say money, but that’s still what it is

    Comment by Tom B — March 21, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

    • That money originated as a necessary improvement on primeval barter is an ideological lie which has long since been disproven by the anthropological evidence. David Graeber gave an excellent treatment in his recent book Debt: The First 5000 Years. The fact is that people tend to try to revert to barter when they’re indoctrinated into the use of money, and their money system then collapses. The post-USSR prevalence of barter is a good example. Your comment is also an example of this post-money mindset.

      But all that has nothing to do with the mindset and practice of community exchange, where people don’t seek an endless series of discrete, one-off, completed transactions. Instead community members do favors for one another, in the same way friends and family members still do. I have what you need, but you don’t have what I need right now? I give it, within the framework of what we could call community credit. I know I’ll receive from you in the future (after all, we live within sight of one another), and in general I’ll get what I need from the community, just as I contribute what I can.

      Without any parasites and gangsters extracting, we’ll all have far more than now. As for travelling, people always were able to come up with units of account for that purpose. But yes, post-fossil fuels we’ll certainly be restoring the historically normal level of travel.

      Variations on that is the way the vast majority of communities lived for the vast majority of humanity’s natural history. Today the goal is not to try to continue with a money-derived mindset in the post-money era, which is what anyone’s doing when he immediately thinks of clumsy, unwieldy barter. The goal is to rebuild this spirit and practice of community exchange. That’s the basic goal of time banking, which I’ve written about extensively here:


      Comment by Russ — March 21, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

      • I understand what you’re trying to accomplish. I believe that a barter system is a great idea. I believe that real wealth creation must begin at the community level on up, not top down from the banksters like it is today. You might be interested in Catherin A Fitts’ work in this at Solari.com. You would still not be moving away from a monetary system. You’ve created “community credits” (money). You’re creating a “bank” to store your credits. You will need bankers to keep records of those transactions. People will still deposit and withdraw those credits as needed. You can call it anything you want, but a medium of exchange is still just that. Money is a different word for it, so it’s simply semantics.

        You still haven’t addressed the answer to what I would do if I go to another community. Will they accept the credits I have accumulated in my own? Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. The closer I am the more willing they will be to do so. The farther away, the less likely, especially if we become a post-fossil fuel world and communications are reduced. The level of trust to transfer that promise of a favor will have to exist somehow (today we call it “credit ratings”).

        Perhaps you believe that post-fossil fuel that we will become less mobile, that we will become an agrarian society. I’m wondering if you’ve actually tried that; it’s hard work, labor intensive, and back when that was the norm life spans were significantly lower than they are today. People died of infections and diseases that today we consider easily treatable, and some of them are even extinct (i.e. small pox). In a true post-possil fuel world modern medicine as we know it will cease to exist. No antibiotics, no complex surgeries, not even a band aid. Infections were the #1 cause of death before the 20th C. That scenario will only be true if alternatives are not found, and quite frankly I want more for my children and grandchildren than wallowing in the dirt, living on subsistence farming. Unless they want to be farmers, in which case tractors and modern farming equipment is preferable. I suspect that I may have more faith in human ingenuity and the ability to create new technologies that will eliminate the need to continue to pollute the environment with fossil fuels, and yet still provide us with sufficient energy than you do. To do otherwise will doom billions to a very unpleasant downward spiral, in which most will die. We’re dependent on energy to maintain what our society has become. It has been reasonably estimated that if our current electrical system in the US were to stop tomorrow that anywhere from 1/2 to 2/3s of the population would die within 6 to 9 months. That’s a lot of bodies to bury, and of course that won’t happen. They will be left to rot and feed the scavengers. Rather unpleasant scenario, don’t you think?

        You have to remember that even pre-fossil fuel people traveled rather extensively. Not all of course, since it wasn’t for the poor or the faint of heart, but it did happen. Sailing vessels plied the seas for centuries before they were powered with coal, diesel or nuclear. Even if we revert to that “simpler” age, that will return. At the expense of a great deal of forestry. Did you know that Ireland was once rather heavily forested? Then the British built their navy……

        Is it selfish of me to want our current type of socieity to continue? Absolutely. The thing is, I want it for everyone as well, if that’s what they choose (yes, some will not, they prefer they simple lifestyle they have. Good for them!). I believe that within my lifetime the possibility to provide it will happen, and in a way that is responsible to the planet we live on and beneficial for all. But only if the 1% can be wrestled out of their stranglehold of the resources (money) needed to accomplish it.

        Comment by Tom B — March 21, 2012 @ 7:05 pm

      • @ Tom B.

        I understand what you’re trying to accomplish. I believe that a barter system is a great idea.

        Actually, I don’t think you do. Seriously, read Graeber’s book, cited by Russ above. Historically, communities only used barter with strangers, not internally. History shows that barter systems within a community or national economy only arise when a monetary system collapses. Russ is not advocating a barter system. He even says above that we should not try to continue with a money-derived mindset, and he names barter as such a money-derived mindset.


        Comment by Tao Jonesing — March 21, 2012 @ 10:12 pm

      • Where it comes to fossil fuel use, it’s superfluous to “advocate” this or that; the end of cheap oil is a fact. Most of the population of future societies will be agricultural workers, as is the historical norm. The legacy of the modern age is our newfound democratic consciousness and a large accumulation of agronomic knowledge. We can choose to use these to establish agroecology as the basis of truly democratic economies and communities. That’s the real goal of the food sovereignty movement, to establish itself as the basis of post-fossil fuel societies.

        It’s not an argument against any of this to say that non-mechanized farming is physically more laborious than industrial agriculture. That’s never been true for farm laborers under capitalism (you’re arguing as someone higher up on the totem pole, who expects himself and his progeny to stay there). Nor, on the other hand, was it necessarily true from the other point of view. Medieval peasants worked less than modern industrial workers, for example. Even non-industrial agriculture, if democratically organized and purged of all parasites, can produce more than enough and still leave far more leisure time than we have today with the “job” model. As for your example of life expectancy, it’s now headed back down in the West. Where do you see the evidence for any proposition other than that the mass availability of modern medicine was a temporary feature of the Oil Age? Society is certainly supposed to continue spending ever more obscene amounts on the “health care” system. But more and more this will simply go down corporate ratholes, and to prop up luxury care for the 1%. As I’ve written before, in the hands of the 1% even seemingly good things like modern medicines become fraudulent and weapons against us.


        The fact is that where it comes to medicine or the renewable energy you seem to be touting, even if their promises were physically possible post-oil (but they’re not), these promises are actually lies, as these sectors, like all others, are to be completely enclosed for the benefit of the 1%. To believe in a renewable energy utopia is just like continuing to believe in the liberal welfare state. This welfare state was a feature of the Oil Age, a temporary concession on the part of the 1%. It’s now being rolled back across the board, and as we see everywhere, any attempt to hold a “reformist” line somewhere is immediately obliterated. Reformism is simply a misdirectional ploy. We can have freedom and prosperity, but only by eradicating the 1% and its hierarchies completely. We can’t have the rancid liberal utopia of reformed capitalism and state.

        As for the actual nature of the work, this blog doesn’t disparage physical labor as on its face “bad” and a chore to be avoided. On the contrary, all able-bodied citizens must do their fair share of the physical work. He who does not work shall not eat. Work is something we’ve only been indoctrinated into thinking is an undesirable chore. It certainly is that under any hierarchy, and anyone who willingly works for a boss and considers that desirable is a scab. Historically people have always sought to avoid that, and the modern mass willingness to do so is yet another bizarre, ahistorical trait of industrialization and capitalism. As Marx analyzed, modern “workers” with “jobs” are systematically alienated from their work, robbed of both the physical produce and the spiritual satisfaction. By design, people are driven to hate work and seek ways, as individuals, to shirk it. They’re supposed to want to individually rise to petty bourgeois status and then fight furiously against anything which might level them with those who still do the hated physical work. Thus they’re acculturated to support the hierarchy which oppresses them all, for the sake of its false promise that their slightly higher position will be maintained. As we’re seeing today, this was always a lie. The mass middle class was a temporary concession on the part of the 1%, affordable on account of the oil surplus. This middle class is now being liquidated.

        Meanwhile, it remains humanly true as ever that work undertaken on one’s own and for one’s family, friends, community, however physically hard, is fulfilling and even enjoyable. I usually enjoy the physical work I do in my garden and for our various relocalization projects. And even where the work is unpleasant in itself, it’s still ultimately satisfying, as it’s toward a cooperative democratic goal. That could be the nature of all work, where it’s finally liberated from the control of criminal elites.

        We stand here, ready and able to work. Our work is there before us. The only thing in our way is a barbed wire fence which a few gangsters have stretched between us and our work. They now force us to pass through checkpoints in the fence to get to our work. We need passes, in the form of “jobs”, to be let through. Almost all that we produce we must leave on the criminals’ side of the barbed wire, taking home only a meager portion in the form of “wages”.

        There’s a similar fence between us as political animals, and our political sovereignty. There we may pass through the checkpoints only as “voters”.

        No amount of dreaming about better checkpoint procedures will avail. We’re dispossessed, disenfranchised, alienated, enslaved. It’s this barbed wire enclosure which does it all. And in turn, all we need to do, and all we can do, is to tear down this fence between us and our human birthright. Our entire birthright.

        It’s the only thing that’s necessary, and the only thing that’s sufficient. Tear down all fences. Tear down all enclosures.

        Comment by Russ — March 22, 2012 @ 2:10 am

      • Russ,

        Thought you might enjoy Eisentein’s discussion here. A good deal on negative interest and decaying money concepts. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ASCqM0qkOw

        Comment by Pete — March 22, 2012 @ 7:54 am

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