Money Misdirects Human Effort

(Old title: Why I’m living without money, in four paragraphs)
(Older title: Why I’m living without money, in three paragraphs)
(Original title: Why I’m living without money, in two paragraphs)

Money misdirects human effort. People mine gold, mow the lawns of mansions, and build bombs. They don’t generally manufacture or distribute insecticide-treated bed nets to fight malaria in Africa. Why? Someone will give you money to do the first things, and not the second things. Is that because people have come together and decided that mansion mowing is better or more important? No, it’s because people who have mansions have money to give you, and people who get malaria don’t. That’s what money is, the power to control a portion of the world’s resources. More money, more control. The result is a system where we produce according to what is profitable, instead of producing what is useful or good.

Less, or nothing, is done for those who don’t already have money. A poor person can’t pay you, or buy the products you make, so in a world where money is generally seen as a necessity for a decent life, you don’t work for those who can’t give you anything in return. So we all labor for those who already have. I used to give guitar lessons for $30/hour. Which meant I was only teaching kids who already had most other advantages! And now more upper middle class kids play guitar than working class kids. Shame on me!

This is why capitalism skews human effort. It has everyone hoping to get a job, so they can work to produce profit for the people who already have the most (say, the 1%), and goods and services for those who already have a lot (say, most Americans). And the more a person has, the more they benefit. You own a big enough company to hire thousands? This literally means thousands of people work to make you more money. You might treat these employees well, but you’re still holding their well-being hostage with your already great economic power, giving them what they need to have a decent life (money) only if they labor to make you even richer.

I think this is backwards. We should put most of our effort toward helping those who have the least. So I’m no longer using money, that representation of private property that misdirects our production and effort towards the profit of the top instead of the needs of the many. I’m still more than ever trying to contribute as much as I can. I think I can do this by learning about people and the systems that shape our lives, by sharing ideas that will hopefully improve everyone’s lives (and especially the lives of the worst off, who bear the brunt of our society’s mistakes), by demonstrating that there are wonderful paths other than the one laid out for us by society’s accumulation-driven logic, and by making the time to develop real connections with the people around me.

– Adam
Tsawwassen, BC is where I write blogs about the misdirection of productive forces

Mia's head

Mia, 4

Sam

Sam, 5 months

Abby in the kitchen

Abby, 14

Sam has a stick

Sam has a stick.

Abby and Sam

Abby and Sam at an angle.

 

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5 thoughts on “Money Misdirects Human Effort

    • Craig,

      I’m not really sure what you mean. We’re definitely receiving a service when we get a ride, or get food, or anything else. But our receiving it doesn’t involve any money. (In the same way, we do a variety of things for others, without involving money.) One of the reasons we prefer hitchhiking is that we’re now responsible for almost no fossil fuel use because we’re just joining car rides that were going to a destination already. (Sometimes people go out of their way to drop us off at good places, and then we’re responsible for a bit of gas-burning.) Is there money still involved in the system of production of the things we use? Absolutely. That will probably be the case until enough of the economy happens in a moneyless fashion that it can provide all of what we need without money involved at any step of the process. (See the most advance parts of the Spanish Revolution in 1936 for an example of this before it was destroyed by the Fascists.) Anyway, I fully acknowledge that we are still part of a system in which money plays a major role, even if we’re not using it ourselves. But I’m not sure that I’d say we’re helping spend other people’s money.

      In solidarity,

      Adam

  1. First – I totally love what you are both doing. Every time you have a conversation with someone about what you are doing, you are challenging them to open their minds & think – perhaps a little differently. To be critical.

    Second – I personally love the idea of everyone being ‘self-employed’ and contracting for each other, or just offering a direct service themselves. And THEN using a social enterprise-type model – giving a certain % of profits to a charity/organization or directly to people in greater need. This is a model I choose to live by and even though I am scraping by myself right now, I always divert a % of my profits to support micro-credit financing for women to start their own small businesses in Cambodia. What are your thoughts on this model? (I even put 10% of my essay-writing profit towards this.. haha!). However, you can’t force people to live that way… although, I suppose it would be the same in a system without money… you can’t force people to give or contribute.

  2. Pingback: ¡México! [en español & english] | sowmanyreasons

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