1980s >> 1988 >> no-1009-september-1988

Editorial: The Money System

Money dominates our lives. It is universal under capitalism. It speaks all languages and opens all doors. Virtually everything all over the world has a price. Practically every kind of activity we engage in, and every sphere of human endeavour, is measured against what it costs. There are money barriers erected between people and their attitudes towards each other. Respect and kudos are accorded to the money not the person.

In a thousand similar ways money falsifies human values. It perverts the judgment of people by raising phoney standards. And as the have-nots slavishly seek to imitate the possessions of the haves, trashy substitutes become a commonplace and the general culture pattern sinks to the level of the unreal. For those in poverty, social recognition is sought through the showy accumulation of inferior junk. While money expresses the values of property society, it has in itself nothing useful to contribute to human lives It is a social growth and its existence is secondary to the basic property division in society.

The rich are rich because they own the means of production and thereby accumulate money in the form of rent, interest or profit. It is the real wealth created by workers which constitutes their fortunes. The workers are relatively poor because they own no means of production, not because their wages are low but because they have to work for wages at all. The wages system represents the social dispossession of the working class and assures their continuing appearance in the factories, mines and offices to turn out wealth for the owning class.

Every facet of existence is affected by money. How we live, where we live, the kind of food, clothing and shelter consumed, all hinge on how much can be afforded. With our talents, we have mastered many natural forces and even bent them to our will, through our store-house of scientific knowledge we have transformed the face of the earth; we have produced wonders of communication and transportation and covered the world with technical achievements undreamed of a hundred years ago; with mechanisation applied to agriculture, our capacity to produce food is abundant. Yet none of this is readily available to us The social straitjacket of the money system stifles our every move.

There is obviously nothing that can be done to resolve this contradiction within the framework of a money based society. Money is so revered and sought after that a world without it is extremely difficult for most people to conceive. Yet there is nothing natural about it. All that we need to survive and flourish are our physical and mental energies and the resources of nature. Money developed out of the exchange of goods.

Where things are held in common and freely available, money is irrelevant and superfluous. Many things have been used as money in the history of its existence, including human slaves. The substance behind world currencies today is gold. Gold is ideal for the purpose because it does not perish and it concentrates a large amount of value into a convenient form. When buying and selling takes place, it is therefore values exchanging one with another and this only happens because there are exclusive property rights—owners and non-owners. It is people’s attitudes that sanction the powers of money. It serves as a standard of price, as a measure of value and a means of exchange. That is to say its operation is confined to the buying and selling of commodities. This commercial process is part of the profit making system which exploits and devours the life force of productive labour.

All the contortive juggling of Chancellors of the Exchequer and world bankers and the voluminous writings of the so called economics experts and financial columnists are so many dreary acts in an over-long farce They are like the motions of a ritual to appease the wrath of some supernatural power, where people make obeisance to gods of their own creation.

Today we are confronted with hundreds of millions of people in chronic need of food, but unless they constitute a profitable market they will remain hungry. In the same way, a money barrier exists between the millions living in slums all over the world and the provision of adequate housing. These are simple aspects of poverty, and poverty is incurable as long as the means of wealth production are monopolised by a class.

The socialist analysis of capitalism and its money set-up points the way to a new society where people would use the earth’s resources for their common good—without money.