Could we survive without Money?

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by loneAzdgari, Jun 29, 2003.

  1. loneAzdgari Registered Member

    Is there another option than Money other than a system of bartering? Is it possible that society could survive without money? Would people work on for the satisfaction of their job and not expect anything in return. How would a money free society work? Would all problems be solved without money?

    These questions have been going round and round in my head for years. I know there is no answer, but I want to debate it. People rely on money so much that it is never, ever, questioned. No one i know could imagine a money free world. Is it possible?
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  3. Xev Registered Senior Member

    Money is simply a representation of buying power. It is essential for any industrialized nation.

    Money is more or less bartering - we barter a commodity like labour for money, we barter the money we gained from our labour for groceries, etc.

    Why one would want to do away with money is beyond me.
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  5. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member


    But we could definitely build a civilization without money or barter.

    Not that I want to trun this into a debate about whether industrialization or technologiocal progress is positive or warranted...

    Just wanted to point out that although money may be a prerequisite for the type of global civilization that we are attempting to build, it is not necessary for building a successful civilization.
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  7. Xev Registered Senior Member

    one raven:
    Really? Can you name me a civilization that has functioned and prospered, that did not have some sort of currency?

    I'm thinking of 'money' in the broadest terms - i.e currency, something that represents value - and I can't think of how a civilization would function without it. Even some hypothetical, Thomas Moore-esque commie utopia would need a form of currency.

    I don't see how?
  8. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    On small scale it has been done.
    I have seen documentaries about small (relatively) remote groups of people that live in a truly communal community.

    There is an isalnd in the South Pacific that has such a community of people.
    Granted, it is only one island, but they have no means of barter.
    All the work is done by all those that are most capable in that work, and the profits of the work are equally and openly shared by all.
    If Jim is a skilled wood carver, his job is to carve wood.
    If a new oar is needed for a boat, Jim makes it without any direct compensation (other than the good of the community).

    Another special I watched was about an African tribe.
    Nobody had any personal posessions.
    The language did not even have any words of posession (mine, yours etc).
    An animal was killed, brought back from the hunt, and everyone ate.
    Every body raised every body else's children as well as their own.
    If a hut had a leaky roof, the people fixed it.
    If a hut collapsed, the people that were sleeping in it, simply moved to another one.

    Besides all that...
    I conceed that these are small examples at best, and you could easily argue against referring to them as "civilizations".
    Even if they are discounted...
    Even if no people had ever built (or even designed) a civilization without a value based barter system...

    The simple fact that it hasn't been done does not prove that it can't be.

    It not succeeding or existing is little more than supporting evidence of man's selfishness and greed.
    Man's selfishness and greed, of course, could be used as an argument that this isn't possible, but I think it is just ecidence that it isn't probable.
    I guess, for me, the question comes down to:
    Is man's greed and selfishness inherent, is it created by the societies that we built and fostered or is it a combination of both?
    If it can be deomantrated that a communal society that benefits all can be successful would people regect it?
  9. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    I think maybe it also comes down to personal definitions of:

    What is yours?
  10. Xev Registered Senior Member

    I wouldn't consider them "civilizations". I'll grant that there's a bit of subjectivity in the word civilization, but all of your examples are cultures, not civilizations.

    Perhaps I should clarify - I do think it is possible for a culture to exist without money or barter. But an industrialized nation? A space-age civilization?
    I don't think so.

    Well yes, but it is evidence of difficulty. I think the fact that all developed cultures use some sort of "money" is telling.

    What does "greed and selfishness" have to do with anything?

    Roman empire offhand. Egyptian Middle Kingdom. Aztecs. Any modern civilization.
  11. Thaug Registered Senior Member

    Another special I watched was about an African tribe.
    Nobody had any personal posessions.
    The language did not even have any words of posession (mine, yours etc).
    An animal was killed, brought back from the hunt, and everyone ate.
    Every body raised every body else's children as well as their own.
    If a hut had a leaky roof, the people fixed it.
    If a hut collapsed, the people that were sleeping in it, simply moved to another one.


    They do have a psedo-barter system. Its just that it uses reciprocity instead. Do they also tell you though that if you break the chain of reciprocity the punishment can be death?
  12. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Actually, no.
    The punishment for not working at all, is banishment.
    Everyone that can work does, if you can't you don't have to, if you can, but choose not to, you leave the tribe and fend for yourself.

    That is not a value based barter system at all.
    It is not as if Bob needs a new roof, so Jim put one up in exchange for Bob giving him a day's catch of food.

    If Bob needs a new roof, he gets one.
    If Jim needs fish, he gets it.
    There is no personal posessions, so nothing has any personal value.
    There is simply value to the community.
    If you strive to help the community, you are not rewarded for those specific efforts with a day's wages.
    If you are a member of the tribe, you do what you are capable of, and all benefit equally.
  13. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    I'll give you that, but what is a civilization but a collection of cultures and societies?

    OK, well then we pretty much agree.
    Except possibly for the value we individually place on a civilization being industrilaized.

    The only real purpose for money is the exchange of weatlh.
    The reason it works so well is that people have a desire to accumulate wealth and personal posessions.
    Do you disagree?

    Well, if you cinsider "prosper" in its monetary sense, then, of course, money would HAVE to be involved.
    If you think of it as growth in size and military might, then I would say that money would come in damned handy, but if you are a self sufficient state with a communal structure, there is no reason why you couldn't build weapons and have military man-power.
    If you consider it longevity, obvioulsy it hasn't happened, but I don't see why it can't.
    (other than possibly people's tendency to want to accumulate "wealth".)
  14. Xev Registered Senior Member

    one raven:
    A civilization, I'd say, is a highly developed culture.
    It really all comes down to development, which is rather subjective. To the !Kung of the Kalahari desert, 16th century England would seem rather highly developed. To me, a modern American, 16th century England does not seem to be highly developed.

    Perhaps. I'm trying to be neutral here.

    Somewhat. Money is also much more convienient than simple trade - value is more definite, it's easier to transport and exchange, it's much more fluid.
    It simplifies the exchange of commodities. "Wealth"? Well yes, one can see commodities as wealth.

    I basically agree with you, but I want to note that money simplifies things greatly.

    Even a developed communist state is likely to need some way to transfer commodities quickly and efficiantly, wouldn't you think?
  15. Clockwood You Forgot Poland Registered Senior Member

    We could go on either barter or credit but we would need SOMETHING to trade. Without any sort of exchange we are back to the mesolithic and even paleolithic periods. Monkeys with sticks.
  16. Thaug Registered Senior Member


    Thats not reciprocity. Reciprocity is sometimes a gift must be given and it may not be refused, that gift will then at later date be "paid" for in some way. In parts of africa where they kill a giraffee or something they have to much meat. They will share it with other tribes. This isint really sharing though because it must be given and it must be recieved. If one clan is on a part of land where there is water and another clan comes by they must ask to drink. The other clan may not refuse and the gift may not be denied to be given. Later on this favor must be returned.

    In our society we instead use loans, credit, checks and cash to see who is in dept to another.

    The reason why we need this is because without we don't do anything. Punishment and rewards guide the humanity.
  17. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    I suppose you can look at it that way.
    But then the "definition" of civilization changes with time?
    By today's standards, the Ming Dynasty would hardly even qualify as a civilization.
    I think the line between culture and civilization simply comes down to scale.

    And doing a good job at it.
    Thank you.
    I am really enjoying this conversation.

    However, what I am saying is that a civilization can exist without privately owned/controlled commodities.
    Without privately owned commodities (everything belonging to the community) there is no barter, no trade, no reason or need to place value on any of these commodities.

    I agree with that.
    When applied to any civilization that relies upon, or even exercizes commodities trade.

    Same as above answer.

    I know that the use of money of some sort has always come into play in all the major civilizations and cultures in our history.
    It is almost inevitable.

    Take the African tribe example from above...
    For localized efforts at sustinence, there is no need to exchange goods or services.
    The farmers will plant and grow food.
    The hunters will hunt.
    The weavers will weave.

    But then, there will be people that don't want to participate in the community and will be kicked out.
    These banished people willband together as thieves and rob the seperate communities.
    The seperate communities will join together in a common cause and form alliances to collectively protect themselves.
    They will create nations.
    These nations will want to trade. *bingo*

    On remote islands (like that one in the South Pacific) it is less inevitable because it is less necessary since the whole island is a single collective commune, not distinct tribes.

    I know that money (in its essence) is convenient.
    I know it comes in handy when dealing with the trading of goods and services.
    I do, however, think it is possible to create a civilization without it.
  18. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Re: one_raven

    I understand what recipricity is, and I know this tribe was not an example of reciprocity in action.
    That was the point.
    They got along without it.
    theu did not trade with neighboring tribes.
    They were self-sufficient.
  19. Xev Registered Senior Member

    Precisely. However, you have to admit there's a difference between a culture like modern America and a hunter-gatherer society.
    And this is why money takes over the larger the society becomes. In a small, close-knit society, people are more interdependant. Everybody knows what everybody is doing - if you don't pull your weight, you have to look the people you parasitize in the eyes.

    I'm not expressing this well.

    How would this happen? I don't think it's impossible, just unlikely.

    A civilization without the trading of goods and services?
    Not possible.
    Money is so efficiant, that a civilization might be possible without it, but rather extremely difficult to create.

    Why one would want to create it is another question.
  20. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    Expressed well.
    It is easy to be a parasite when no one is looking.
    When there are 5000 people growing corn, it is quite simple to just nap in a cornfield and not do any work to earn your keep because the larger a community grows, the harder it is to micro-manage.
    When it is small it micro-manages itself.

    Which is what is so great about having small communities.
    However, when you DO have seperate small communities, they will want to work with eachother, and they way to do that is with trade.
    Then money comes in again.

    I believe that if it is possible on a small scale, then it should be possible on a larger scale.
    I am not sure exactly how.
    If I figure it out, I will give you a free copy of my book.

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    It is easy to imagine with a great number of independent self-sustaining communities, but natural resources are not placed about like convenient bodegas on NYC street corners.

    Then again, people DO adapt to their surroundings.
    There are cultures that have sustained in remote regions with little or no outside contact, so bartering natural resources would be more of a convenience than a necessity.
    then we get into the argument over what constitutes convenience rather than a necessary aspect of "growth" and "prosperity" of a civilization.
    Plus we get into the area of defining a civilization, again.
    Would a plethora of independent self-sustaining cultures BE a civilization?
    I am not so sure.

    I can see a civilization that is made up of small communities that have no internal monetary system, but directly trade goods and services with neighboring communities.
    That, I know, is still placing a value on tradable commodities (if only inter-community trade).

    And a good one at that.
    If someone has come up with a viable social structure that is not capitalistic, but does use money, I would like to learn about it.
    A workable incarnation of Socialism or Communism perhaps.
  21. one_raven God is a Chinese Whisper Valued Senior Member

    What it comes down to...

    I just want to sit under a tree, read, write, eat grapes and sleep when and where I feel tired.

    Is that too much to ask?

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  22. loneAzdgari Registered Member

    Why couldnt people work for the benefit of others instead of working for a desire to earn money? Is it possible for people to base their lives not on materials that do not really matter, but on helping others? Could a person be motivated to work if they knew that there were millions working for them? I know I would.

    This type of society, where people work for each other, could only work if people accepted it. There could be no greed in this society because there is no way you could have any more importance than the next person. This type of society has proven itself to not work, ie communism. But communism was not created through the will of the people, it was created through oppression of the people by the Bolsheviks. If people could open their minds to more possibilities than the current capitalist society then we could have more open debate in mainstream society. The fact is, people cannot talk about a money, bartering free society, because they cannot imagine it. They probably never will, thanks to big business and the like.

    I believe a money and bartering free society is possible, but I have no idea of how it would be done. I would hate a system where you were designated a job at birth, for obvious reasons. Maybe a system where education became much more important it is now. Children would be allowed to develop and as they developed, could choose their career. If there was no money, children wouldnt want to grow up to be rich, because there is no money! People could actually work where they wanted. The big problem with this is, who would take the unwanted jobs? Well, the answer to this is, technology. If technology was advanced enough, we wouldnt need cleaners or dustbin men. We also wouldnt need police because there would be far less crime.

    This view is very, very optimistic and it seems like the utopian society. There would be many, many problems, most of all the transition. But these problems would be worth it. I think this is what society should be striving for. As opposed to a world where business rules and corporations dominate. And im not an anarchist, I believe business can work, I just dont believe its the right way to live our lives.
  23. Blindman Valued Senior Member

    Ohh no your all so wrong...

    Money is an extension of the bartering system.

    The bartering system works fine in small communities but in complete societies it runs into problems.

    The problem is that the two traders may not have the product to make a fair exchange.

    two cows do not equal 6 sheep or whatever. I want a TV for my cows not sheep.

    Money standardizes trade. Value is given to product's based on human work.

    Money is the most effective way to trade, to barter, to fairly exchange work load.

    I hope that in the future machines will produce all we need. Only when the basics to survival are removed from human work can we move away from money.

    The great problem is what should we all do if we don't need money.. A self maintained robotic system that does not require human work would ultimately provide free produce. Free food, free housing, free medical care. The state then controls distribution.

    We have all we need to survive.But to be happy we need to have goals.

    In Australia, with our abundant resources, even the poorest can still get housing loans and survive on social security. Yet we have the problem of unhappiness, depression, one of the highest suicide rates in the modern world.

    If we were all artist and loved to work just for the fun of it then money would not matter.

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