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The money system

Dear Editors

The letter by Ken Scragg and the articles by Janet Surman in your issues of December 2008 and January 2009 herald a further evolution for homo sapiens.

We are a primitive lot. Every few decades the money system collapses and we write tomes trying to explain why, but we still cling to it as if it were sacrosanct, an integral part of us. Yet it is no more than a reflection of the primitive assumption that resources are scarce, a set of symbols that are supposed to represent those resources; but symbols are not the resources themselves nor do they produce anything, only lead to the infinite complexities of marketing and exchange in which everything that we do is controlled by cost. In a moneyless system there would be only production and distribution according to demand, a simple matter in these days of instant communication.

Economists hope that the recession will end and once again be followed by boom, but there is a limit to the creation of ever-more trivia to employ us and to stimulate our greed, so that unemployment is likely to increase without limit.

The basic tenet of the capitalist system and the one over-riding impediment to social advance is the limit we impose on the quantity of money in circulation to preserve its value, so that to rid ourselves of the money system would require no more than to allow the quantity of it to increase until it lost all value, a process that, despite all our efforts to control inflation, is happening gradually all the time.

Without that impediment there would be an advance in human understanding as significant as were the development of speech or writing. Money is just a parasite.

We are very clever but by failing to distinguish between cleverness and intelligence, cause and effect, we have allowed our primitive emotions of greed, selfishness and aggression to control our intellectual and social development, leaving us struggling against each other in wars and political/economic cut-and-thrust that defeat all attempts at social advance.

Directly or indirectly all social problems, all human sufferings have their origin in the money system. There would be no arms trade, so none would be produced or promoted; and with drugs available only on prescription we would be healthier.

Janet Surman mentioned a few of the inefficiencies and wastes of the money system, its inequalities and use of power. Its endless complexities frustrate all human endeavour. No doubt she could have gone on and on for the simple reason that nothing can be done with money that could not be done more efficiently without it. Efficiency depends upon simplicity.


Reply: Actually, what we want is not just to abolish money but to see established a society based on the common ownership of the means of wealth production, where money would be redundant. We don’t think this will happen through money gradually losing its value, as you seem to be suggesting. It will require a determined political struggle against those who currently own and control the means of production and benefit from the money-wages-profits system that is capitalism - Editors.

Dear Editors

For what it is worth (really nothing) I have supported Greenpeace over a number of years. In response to a recent questionnaire as to what I thought of Greenpeace I said that the world's problems in my opinion could only be resolved by the dismantling of capitalism. I received a reply recommending me to have a look at the New Economics Foundation.  I did this and replied as follows.

I have looked at the NEF Website and have to say that NEF is simply another reformist outfit that thinks with a little tinkering capitalism will work. On this evening's BBC 5 o'clock news mention was made that 40,000 homes having been repossessed in the current crisis – 40,000 homes lying empty. I heard Dyson (vacuum cleaners) the inventor saying that by encouraging children in schools to learn engineering Britain could reclaim some of the lost ground in manufacturing, etc. We live in a society in which goods and services are carried out solely with the aim of making a profit. People are ejected from good homes because they haven’t the means to repay debt. Goods are manufactured abroad because labour is cheaper and owners can achieve more profit. These are the laws of the 'free' market economy. Oceans are poisoned because of 'cheap' disposal of waste. Rainforests are cleared to make way for moneymaking industries. Farming, cattle raising etc. Despite the efforts of the likes of Oxfam and Greenpeace, etc the world situation is worse now than ever. People in the Third World starve not because there isn’t enough food but because they are too poor to buy it. Think of that.

The alternative is a cooperative form of production whereby goods are produced not for profit but to meet needs. This means that ownership of the means of creating wealth, i.e. factories, land, resources have to be taken away from the few who currently own them so that they become the property of all the people under democratic control.

Just think – governments are currently subsidising car manufacturers to keep people producing cars that are not needed in order to keep people in jobs. I have sympathy for the poor devils thrown out of jobs leading to all sorts of problems (loss of homes etc) but what a crazy state of affairs.

I received a reply saying that by their calculations we’ve only got about seven years to get on top of the problem of climate change and that the writer didn’t think the change of economic system I was suggesting could be made in that sort of timetable. Maybe not, but what if the problem just cannot be solved within the present economic system? That would be seven wasted years.

Peter Finch, Reading