Thursday, January 22, 2009


What if money was worthless? What would our lives be without money?

I assume none of us would work, or at least not work as we currently understand it. Why slave away in an office if the return is useless paper? We'd only do a job that resulted in tangible returns: food, clothing, fuel. The only jobs that would result in such returns would be jobs that produced something that could in turn be bartered. In other words, we'd work only to produce commodities that could be exchanged for other commodities. Press releases and brochures are not such commodities, so if I wanted to work, I'd need to change careers fast.

Very few of us have any experience producing commodities these days, though. Those of us who now hold production or manufacturing jobs, those of us who now do the manual labor and are not the best compensated, would become those who are best equipped to survive. White collar workers, on the other hand, will be relegated to the bottom of the food chain. Us white collar workers won't have jobs to go to, anyway. If money is worthless, we won't need bankers, investment advisors, insurance agents, analysts. We won't need people to sit in chairs all day emailing and taking meetings.

I assume we'll be allowed to stay in our houses since the "banks," which won't be around anymore, won't have any use for a nation full of empty structures. All of us white collar workers will have to learn to grow our own food if we want to have something to eat, and if we want to possess a commodity that we can barter. The only way to have fuel in the winter will be to produce food in the summer. Maybe more of us will take up hunting, assuming we have something to trade for the bullets and the guns. Now that I think about it, a thinning of the deer population around my house would be one positive outcome of the total unraveling of our economy.

If we have nothing to barter with, we won't have any gas for our cars. We'll walk everywhere, or use what public transportation is available (I assume the government will try to put people to work by trading surplus grain and cheese for labor). The end of our economy would be good for the environment not only because we would of necessity produce as much of our own food as possible, thereby ending agribusiness, but also because we'd stop burning so much fossil fuel. With nothing to trade for heating oil or gas or for electricity, those of us with fireplaces would gather wood and brush to burn, ending the production of yard waste. Waste in general would be a thing of the past. Cans and bottles would also once again become commodities, things to be reused rather than discarded.

Without money, we'd end up knowing each other better, more intimately. Electricity is a commodity that will be available only to those who can generate it themselves or trade something for it. Until the day that each of us has our own solar panel and/or windmill, or some sort of hydroelectric system, we'll live with periods of darkness when we can't afford to power our computers and televisions. We'll turn to each other for entertainment and information, we'll rely on personal interactions. We'll live closer together in order to have access to information and resources, thereby ending sprawl.

Sure, life would be harder, much as it was harder hundreds or thousands of years ago. Access to medicine and education would be limited. The rule of law would be harder to enforce. In many ways, it would suck. But if money was worthless, I would never have to spend another day like this one, thinking about the fact that I need to find a job.


S said...

Maybe the Amish have it right.

But I disagree with one point of your blog; there is some work that is done just for the joy of it, like sharing a talent or helping someone where you have a skill and there's a need. The "payoff" for that type of work may not be monetary, but it does make you feel pretty good. The trick is to find a job that can support you doing that type of work so you can survive, too.

Anonymous said...

Singing for your supper, in other words. In the absence of money, supper and a smile is about all you'll get by sharing your talent. Oh, right, the joy of it as well...

S said...

I'm thinking more on the lines of making a pot of soup for a shelter, or teaching a child to draw. Or making a quilt, writing a poem, playing a guitar, painting a picture. Each can be work...AND can be a pleasure. And may not necessarily be compensated for properly, monetarily. For instance, I know many talented teachers and professors who continue in that line of work, knowing full well that there are better paying jobs elsewhere...but who love to teach. And countless artists who put up with menial jobs so they can continue to produce their real work: their art. Just a few examples. There are more. So the question becomes this: what do we value most?

Anonymous said...

No, S, the point here is that THERE IS NO MONEY. No monetary compensation to be had. So, you have X, but you need Y. If someone will give you a meal in exchange for teaching a child to draw, you're in luck. Otherwise, you starve. Better plant a garden, in case no one wants to learn how to play guitar.

S said...

As I said before: The trick is to find a job that can support you doing that type of work so you can survive, too.

And there's enough money to be made to survive. I've managed with nearly nothing, though I hope I never have to again.

tunsie said...

While at a cafe on the mountain in sydney,my cousin pointed out a piece of land that was rathar large and not developed.she told me that the immigrants would take a certain area of the the land and grow their own produce on top of what they grew in their homes,they would then share what they grew with other farmers.there was an area which was not visible from the cafe we were at and she said that was used for live animals cows.pigs and chickens under the same was not that they could not afford it,but rathar if they didn't grow it they did not want to give it to their niece is a clinical psychologist unlike me a COGNITIVE psychlogist.she told me that in her undergraduate days she came upon some studies of mental institutions in the 60's and 70's which used a TOKEN economy.they would give the patients tokens for good behaviour[making thier bed,bathing,brushing teeth].the tokens were used at the hospital store 2 buy candy or other goodies.this system was a failure because when the patients were discharged there was no one 2 reward the good behaviour and it stopped.I am not afraid of anyone,that is why i sign tunsie at the end of my comment....

J. SPIKE ROGAN said...

Solar for power and water heat.

Natural gas could be interesting. Until the late 1980's it was common in rural china, families kept pigs in their basements to produce natural gas for cooking.

They must have used a real high fiber diet for that.

Big agribussiness making less fructose corn, would only make family farms worth more in value. Although less fructose corn consumption in this time might get evened out by bio-disel.

They could trade with everyone but maybe family farms. Those would be the only other folks who could make soy into fuel.

Somehow I think more as I type, bio-disel would just be like crude and cash now.