Imagine no possessions. I wonder if you can. What would a world without money look like?
Would society be better off? Would it eliminate greed or hunger? Would we be happier? How would you get the things you need?
Dollars, cents, savings, debt. Like it or not, this is our society today. But it wasn’t always that way.
Several thousand years ago, we were a species of hunters and gatherers. Tracking, foraging, keeping only what we could carry.
But along the way, we started experimenting with agriculture, and learned how to grow our own food. We stopped moving, and settled down, forming organized communities.
Life got easier but we still wanted more than we had. So we began to barter. Fast forward a few thousand years to the first minted coin in 600 B.C.
Cash became king. And today, money still does the talking. So what would you say if the world suddenly went broke?
Understandably, it isn’t easy to imagine a world without money, so we went ahead and did the hard work for you. One thing is certain, looting and crime would skyrocket. Humans have needs. We get hungry, we get cold and we get jealous. Law and economy normally keep these drives in check, determining what we can afford and what we can get away with. But suddenly, everything has lost its value. And whoever’s job it is to watch the goods, or maintain order, no longer has an incentive to do so.
No one wants to work for free… Without paychecks, we lose important services. No police, no fire department, no doctors, no military.
And what about technology? Power isn’t free. Neither is running water. Definitely not gasoline. And ditto for cell service and the internet.
So our world would be thrown into a dark, anarchic chaos. In this survival of the fittest scenario, gun owners would fair the best, and it would be in their best interest to band together to claim a greater share of resources at lower risk.
With humans forming into factions, we can already begin to see a repetition of early sedentary societies. The streets would no longer be safe. You’d have a high chance of being ambushed, and anything worth taking would likely already be under armed watch. So humans would establish stationary communities in fortified positions. They may send teams out to raid nearby communities or to establish partnerships with neighbors.
We would have to re-establish the barter system, only it’s harder to do in modern society. Early civilization had fewer commodities, making fair trade easier. But since we’re used to so many different goods and services, it might be difficult to establish a proper exchange rate.
It’s not simply a matter of trading apples for oranges. Is a granny smith worth as much as a blood orange? What if your apple is organic and the orange is a GMO?
What protections would we have against counterfeit goods? And how could you save for the future if everything in the market has a shelf life?
These are only some of the concerns that we’ve more or less resolved since the introduction of currency. But maybe a world without currency would be an opportunity to restructure our society.
Today, we produce enough food to feed everyone. Yet people still go hungry. And there is enough shelter for us all to sleep soundly. Yet some of us are homeless…
Without money, we might learn to be comfortable with less. Without fortunes, there would be fewer ‘less fortunates.’ We might enjoy working freely for a greater good.
Of course, a better world doesn’t have to be a ‘What If’ scenario. Through trade, we’ve learned to cooperate, and when hard work pays off, we’re encouraged to innovate.
The challenge, then, is to improve upon the existing system, and to empower more people within it.
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