Re: Alternatives to money in a local economy
From: Barbara Zaveruha (
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 2015 20:02:55 -0700 (PDT)
These were interesting articles, and sparked a series of thought for me.

Changing our relationship to money involves rethinking our purpose in this life.
Where are the pathologies in our current system?  I see four:
  1. Money is seen as a value in itself, rather than a means to an end
  2. Everything is seen through the lens of competition or conflict, rather than cooperation.
  3. Accumulation of material things is often seen as a goal, with wealth being defined as more things, rather than wealth as services accomplished and enough material goods/money to support continued service
  4. There is an ingrained feeling of scarcity, lack.  For example, if you free-feed a puppy, the puppy does not over-eat, and will remain lean as an adult.  But if you restrict a puppy's food, it will become obese as an adult dog.  Current economy's extreme inequality leads to an insufficient money supply among the vast majority of people so that they can't "afford" many valuable services.  That is, they must reserve their money to pay for subsistence.
Money is a symbol of material value, not a value in itself.  The true value of money lies in what good you can do with it;  it is a resource that allows you to accomplish valuable things.  Furthermore, it cannot represent all the value in community life.  Money circulates in addition to other values.  We don't so much need to eliminate money as to change our thinking about it.

In a different system or culture, work can be done in the spirit of service, for the betterment of the world, to array the earth with the blessings of heaven.  (A different take on our purpose in this life.)  It doesn't have to be for self-centered, selfish purposes.  But the cultures that have derived from Europe, particularly the United States, have evolved to be more and more individualistic and materialistic.  But the default state NOT competition, but cooperation.  It is an American myth that a single person can accomplish great things by his own efforts.  If you look closely at what actually happens, you will always find many people contributing (voluntarily or involuntarily) to that person's success.  Many other cultures know that cooperation is the basis, the foundation, of society.

It really is necessary to "Pay for your time" because humans who live and work must be fed and clothed and housed and provided with tools (both material and immaterial, like knowledge) and raw materials to work with during their time on earth.  It doesn't have to be a tit-for-tat exchange which is closed after the first round.  It can be much more open than that.  Think about how resources are passed down the generations.

The culturally inculcated feeling of scarcity is the root of the question of "how do you limit yourself in taking."  In the description of the free store, they describe the change that comes over kids when they realize what free means.  The kids know instinctively how to limit themselves.  When they realize that all is free, it is as if they already possess it all, so they go to a calm, careful consideration of what to take.  If everything is free, you choose only what you really want.  Without the pressure of scarcity, you can have a sense of what is enough.


On Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 12:32 PM, Paul Sebby <paul [at]> wrote:
Here are some interesting links about how we can’t just eliminate the use of money in a local economy without thinking about how to replace the rituals and underlying stories that money provides us as a way to indicate value, needs, and thanks in the giver/receiver relationship:

First, a practical account of a Transition group in Media, Pennsylvania that set up a Free Store — bring in your extra stuff and take what you want, all for free.  A great description of the benefits and challenges of doing this:

Second, a deeper exploration by Charles Eisenstein of what a gift economy means and some less-workable motivations we might have when setting one up:

The entire Eisenstein post is great, but here are a few points that especially interested me:
About Free Stores:  “How do you limit yourself in taking?  What is the right amount to take if you haven’t given something?  Money normally encodes a set of socially-reinforced answers to those questions.”

About values and needs:  “What happens if you give something away and the recipient doesn’t value it?  Wouldn’t you rather give it to someone who did?”

About money rituals:  “Making a payment [via money or some other form] is a ritual act that signals the subconscious mind “This is for real. This is valuable.”  Absent that, the workshop usually isn’t as powerful….”

Good food for thought for anyone working on alternatives to money in a local economy.  If we eliminate money, we also have to replace some of the social structures, stories, and rituals that money provides.

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Barbara M. Zaveruha
Prairie Creek Pottery

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