Tag Archives: money

Make Money Matter

Not my image...

Not my image…

So we have this situation where the whole world is run on the assumption that economic growth is the major goal and all other aims like human happiness, humans having enough to eat and rare species being allowed to exist, that sort of thing, are secondary to that. We have this situation where we have the resources and the technology to feed, clothe, educate and house everybody without degrading/damaging the planet we call home. But in this situation, that doesn’t happen because although it’d be great for the 99%, it would make the 1% quite a bit poorer. Still rich enough to have everything they need and many of the things they want, just not anything they want. God, that wouldn’t do, would it.

Okay okay enough of that- my inner cynic was getting a bit ahead of herself. What I’ve been wondering is what a solution to this mess would be. I don’t mean solutions to one of the myriad symptoms- that’d be like curbside composting, fair trade schemes, eco schools etc etc etc. Solutions to individual spin offs are fantastic and completely needed, but right here I want to talk about a solution to the root of the problem. We’re running the game we call global society on duff rules.

What I mean is, affluence is generally how we measure success. It’s a reward for doing well. But, as we all know, good deeds often don’t get financial rewards and bad ones often do. I know what you’re thinking: money can’t buy happiness, learn to appreciate the things that really matter, blah blah blah. I do on some levels agree, but try telling that to the people who call the shots. I mean ideally, I’d like to live in a gift economy where people share resources and skills freely without even needing a means of exchange… But having a vague idea of the world outside my own head, I know this is not a likely scenario in the near future. We need a couple of stepping stones to get to something as civilized as that I think. So I’ve come up with these two ideas and I want to know what you think would work better. Just out of interest.

  • The Duo: In this scenario people decide money is a helpful tool but it doesn’t measure everything that matters, so something else is brought in along side it: Something called Citizen Credits or something along those lines. Basically the idea is that you get awarded Citizen Credits for being a good citizen… For doing things that benefit your community. Volunteering, helping out neighbors, shopping at local independent stores and markets, recycling, holding events… Things that are positive but either aren’t paid, or aren’t paid their real worth in money. These Credits would show up on an online account or something, and instead of being spent, they’d continue to accumulate your whole life. You’d get bonuses of some kind when you went over milestones and luxurious items would have not just a monetary price-tag but also an amount of Citizen Credits required. (Like buying a car, for example). In terms of businesses, when buying supplies the individual doing the buying would need enough Credits – so basically do-gooders would be much more employable for this reason. 
  • The Clean Money: Or the other way of doing it, is too make it so that it’s profitable to be good. As in, damaging activities are heavily taxed and fined, human and animal welfare laws are tightened up, ecocide is made illegal, wealth is spread more evenly, and a combination of laws, fines, taxes, subsidies, investments and media support create a system where businesses make more money if they treat their employees well, produce good quality goods/services and get their materials from sustainable sources.  In this way, money a company makes will on the most part be clean money and properly deserved.

So what do you think makes most sense?

Real Wealth and All That

Above image happily kidnapped from  ‘Essence of Life’ facebook page.

My friend posted this picture-quote on her facebook wall the other day and I thought it was brilliant. So I’m sharing it with you! (At least partially because today is too much of a lazy Sunday for me to write one of the articles brewing in the back of my mind).

Anyway, I think it succinctly captures the point I was attempting to make with my On Wealth and Money post – which you should definitely read by the way. Yes, in this world financial wealth is undoubtedly important, but I think we should start talking about other types of riches as well. Have you ever been in love? Do you have friends who would drop everything to help you when you need it? Do you have a vivid imagination? A sense of humour? Do you have family near-by? Are you good at cheering yourself up? Are you good at mental arithmetic? Can you cook? Can you play guitar? Draw? Juggle?  You emotional millionaire.

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On Wealth and Money

I think a major problem with our current global economic system is that we have confused money with wealth. This is something that came up in The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy and I think it couldn’t be more true. Allow me to quote:

They have failed to follow the fundamental truth that money is not wealth: money is only a measure of wealth and a means to exchange wealth. Real wealth is good land, pristine forests, clean rivers, healthy animals, vibrant communities, nourishing food and human creativity. 

Grounded Economic Awareness,
The Handbook of Sustainability Literacy, 2011

I kind of had to cut myself short there, from copying out the entire chapter. I really recommend reading it for yourself.

Anyway, I think it is important to note that money and wealth do sometimes go hand in hand, just not on every occasion. In my writing and philosophising about alternative economic structures, I do not mean to vilify money at all.  It’s silly to say “money is the problem” or even “money is evil!” No, it isn’t. It’s an inanimate invention. There isn’t some greedy “Dollar Deamon” who’s causing all this, unless we’re getting poetic… Any problems to do with money are just down to human error. We simply use it in a ridiculous way.

And as much as it’s true that money can’t buy happiness, it can definitely buy things that make you happy. It’s the middle man. If you gave me £20, I’d be significantly happier than if you didn’t, but that isn’t because I collect £20 notes. I don’t think they’re particularly beautiful, and I have plenty of other paper that’d burn much easier on my fire. It’s obviously the excitement of what I can buy with the money that will make me happy, not the money itself.

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As it’s almost the New Year, and as being grateful is a good practise at any time,
I’d like you to think about your wealth. Your true wealth, as mentioned above. Think about everything you have that is valuable to you. If you like you could divide it up into sections, such as relationships, possessions, resources, attributes, etc. Or however you like. Here’s mine.

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  • I have a home. Although I may be struggling with paying my rent at the moment, the fact remains that I live in the attic room of a really lovely house, with two lovely adult friends. That’s much more than many people have.
  • I have caring family. My mum and littlest brother live in the same town as me, so I see them pretty often. My mother is a continual pillar of support for me, and I also know I will be fed whenever I go round there. My mum is also my form of healthcare, as she’s a medical herbalist. My brother is only 2 and adores me. I also have other family who live far away, but will be there for me if I need them.
  • I have a boyfriend. This is probably my greatest source of happiness. I feel love is too personal a topic for this blog, but I will just say that he is amazing and suits me perfectly. If everyone in the world were jealous I wouldn’t be surprised.
  • I have friends. I’m surrounded by people that are kind, cool, and make me smile and laugh. I feel accepted and loved as I am, without having to try and fit in.
  • I have a faith. This is hugely important to me, but also hugely personal so I won’t go into detail here. I’ll just say I’m best described as an eclectic pagan and leave it at that. This has countless times provided me with inner reserves of strength and positivity I didn’t know I had.
  • I have good health. This is something you generally don’t appreciate until you don’t have it any more. But I am lucky enough to have a healthy body. I only really get colds and coughs in terms of illness, and I don’t have any allergies.
  • I have freedom. People who live in the UK still complain they don’t have enough of this valuable commodity, but compared with other places and times, I think I have it pretty good. I can choose my calling in life, I can choose my religion and lifestyle. I don’t need to marry someone I don’t want to, I don’t have to have babies, I could be gay if I wanted to, and I’ll be able to vote in the next general election.
  • The people I live with garden. This means I can have free organic produce that is surplus to their needs. At the moment there’s potatoes, onions, garlic and spinach.
  • I have a part-time job. I really need a full time job, but at least I do have a part time one. I go round someone’s house and clean, cook and shop for them. It’s nice to do something that feels worthwhile, and it is payed quite well.
  • I have a laptop and internet connection. Without which I wouldn’t be able to write this blog, which I find invaluable. I love communicating my opinions in this way.  Also crucial for music, something that really does make me happy.
  • I have an education. I’ve got 11 GCSEs and 3 A Levels, and have a place at University. Before secondary school I was home educated, which I think helped me to question things and motivate myself. Learning, and specifically being literate, is a very powerful thing.
  • I have enough clothes. I can’t believe I just wrote that. I am an 18 year old girl, and I love the visual expression of dressing, but I do actually have enough. I have enough clothes to keep myself properly dressed without having to do the laundry more than once a week.
  • I have a mobile phone. Communication is key.
  • I have enough books and DVDs to entertain me. I don’t have that many of either but I have enough.
  • I have some sentimental possessions. Such as a toy bunny I’ve had since I was tiny, a scrapbook my friend’s made for me, a picture my step-mum made…
  • I have a box of craft stuff. This is great because I’ve recently really got into making cards. Creating something is very therapeutic.
  • I know plenty of adults who would look out for me. Friends of my parents who knew me when I was younger, and who I don’t really see, but would help me out in any way they could.

There could be more, but I think that’s enough to be going on with. You see, although I have lack-of-money troubles at the moment that have caused me stress and sleepless nights, I have a huge amount to be grateful for.
In truth, I am incredibly wealthy.

What would you put on your list?

What’s Wrong with Money?

What’s wrong with money? Nothing, intrinsically. But it gets in the way. The monetary system is a system based on debt,  scarcity and never ending growth. The first two aren’t very nice and the third is impossible, so it strikes me this isn’t a very good tripod to place our lives on.

I’m no economist, it really isn’t my forte, so I’m treading carefully here. Don’t expect expert opinion from me. What I want to say is nothing more than common sense.

The most common form of banking in the world today is called fractional reserve banking and I suggest you look it up yourself. But in a nutshell, it allows banks to create new money out of thin air. This is because when you deposit money into a bank, they only need to keep a percentage of it as a reserve, and will lend the rest to someone else. If everyone tried to withdraw their money at the same time, there would be nowhere near enough cash.

This means that most of the money in the world doesn’t exist; a pretty weird concept. Also in America (and probably other countries) every dollar bill that is printed, is actually leant to the country with an added sum on top, to pay back. This is of course impossible as to pay the money back, more must be printed, which comes with more debt, and so on.

World wide, governments are always borrowing and lending, with the poor Third World countries the worst off, spiralling into more and more debt as they are bullied into taking on more loans to pay back earlier ones.

I always get infuriated when the government’s excuse for not doing something important is “we simply don’t have the funds”. Yes you do! You have the funds for anything you actually want to do!

I read a statistic a while back claiming that the money the UK and US governments spent on bailing out the bankers when they crashed could have fed the entire world for 80  years.  World hunger and poverty could be eradicated. We have the technology and the resources, it’s just the money that’s the sticking point.

In the monetary system, scarcity is a good thing, because it keeps value up. There are actually places where diamonds are incinerated to keep them rare and expensive. But in terms of you and me, in terms of reality, scarcity  is bad because there might not be enough to go round. This shows that what’s good for the economy and what’s good for the people is not always the same thing.

But it should be. Money is a tool to oil the cogs of civilisation, a more sophisticated form of bartering for the modern day. It’s meant to sit around passively helping us, like washing machines and toilet paper, but instead we’ve somehow got into a situation where it has priority over humans.

This is insane.

The concept of never ending growth is also ridiculous because however technologically advanced we may be, all human-made products and services – without exception – rely originally on natural resources and natural processes. And the planet simply isn’t getting any bigger. To expect that it is, is an illusion too fanciful for anyone who has ever attended a geography lesson. For our world leaders, who to my knowledge are all over the age of 5, to base world economics on this assumption…

Is also insane.

A resource based economy 

I think we need a new type of system. A system where the focus is on the most efficient and beneficial (to all parties) management of the Earth’s natural resources. Something that’s based on reality.
This is still pretty hazy in my mind’s eye at the moment but I’m gradually working it out. I’ll keep you up to date.

In the mean time, take a look at this. There’s also something related called The Venus Project which is very interesting. However two sticking points for me are that I think having too much of our world automated will not be sustainable, and that I am very strong on culture and I hate the idea of having the world run by one central group, whatever that group may be. It is a little overly futuristic for me, but still fascinating to be sure.

 

Here’s something I wrote earlier…

It’s nearing that time of year. I’d like to share with you a column I wrote last year for my college newspaper about Christmas. It’s fairly cynical, but it paves the way for my more positive response this year. Enjoy!

At the time of writing it’s twenty-three days until Christmas. Without a doubt the holiday that comes upon the Western world with the most fan-fare. The most excitement, preparation, expectation.  I mean they start advertising before Halloween has even cooled it’s breath. There’s snow outside – it’ll actually be white this year – and my town has trees up; gaudy coloured lights hanging from thier coniferous stems… Getting ready to be pulled off by drunken chavs at some point during the festive season. That’s why they don’t invest in classy fairy-lights like our more moneyed neighbour, Wells. Apparently. Perhaps they just have no taste and are trying to cover themselves by blaming the innocent youth, who knows.

Yet despite everything, even the unusually traditional weather, I feel completely unenthused.  I was more interested in yesterday’s dentist appointment than Christ’s 2010 birthday party. It really shouldn’t be this way, but I can’t help it. I really can’t bring myself to care.

It’s probably just me being cynical, but what if it’s not? What if Christmas is actually getting old?  I mean, it’s pretty much the same every year. You buy stuff, you eat a lot, you see your family, you sing songs, you get given loads of crap you don’t need, and then you tidy up and start planning what to do for New Year’s. Every year, the same thing, and it’s so commercial these days. It seems like it’s more a boon to the Useless Commodity industry than the heartfelt festival of light it’s meant to be. When I think of it, all I think of is how much money I need to spend buying my loved ones gifts. I’m feeling guilty that I’m stressing out about something that’s meant to be the physical reprisentation of my love for my friends, family, significant other. The stress seems to cancel out the love. Or at lest I’m worried it does.

Maybe I should just chill out and bake them all some cakes or something?

December 2010, Ledger

My next post is about hand-making gifts that are creative, cheap, eco-friendly and personal.