There’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing going on here. Some people believe changing the environment will bring change in people. Others believe changing people’s behaviour must happen first. Of course, both are right to a degree. We are shaped by our environment, but we also shape our environment with our actions.
I believe changing our behaviour is where we should begin. After all, our current environment of inequality and destruction of nature is, for better or worse, a direct result of our actions. With an intentional shift in behaviour among many people, we can change our environment and others’ behaviour for the better just as we have done for the worse.
We recently started a free-sharing website for this purpose called Freeworlder.com. It’s a platform that facilitates unconditional sharing of goods and services among its members. It’s kind of like a prototype open economy. We can begin there with small, easy acts of sharing and cooperation and build confidence towards larger acts among more people. As more free services and possibilities become available, people will become more and more liberated from the pay-to-live paradigm that causes so much hardship and stress in the world.
Sites like Freeworlder can be the vital bridge between this world and the one we are working towards, as it provides a base platform for community organisation and getting resources and skills to the people that need them. Everything is map-based, so you can see who and what is available and where. In a fully free world, such a platform will be vital to help communities organise services, delegate tasks for volunteers, find consensus, etc. This is a future-proof project that we are very excited about.
While most media are bemoaning technology encroaching on the jobs market, we freeworlders see these advances as our ultimate liberators. And in two ways – 1, these machines can help us dispense with the more arduous tasks of modern society, and 2, the erosion of the labour market brings ordinary people inexorably closer to the realisation that this whole ‘making a living’ thing is actually negotiable – and not a fact of life.
Of course, in a money-free world, people won’t earn money for work – they won’t have to. This type of society will have mutual care and support enshrined in its social contract. Just as we have manners and basic respect today, we will have mutual basic support in the future. When you live in a community that supports you unconditionally, contributing back into that community with whatever skills you have will be the obvious choice for most people. Not contributing would almost seem like bad manners.
No, and that supposition is actually a product of our work-to-live culture. Because we have an obligation to work – against the threat of starvation and homelessness – we are resentful and feel that any excuse to down tools and do nothing is an act of rebellion. It’s a negative feedback loop that gives us this unhealthy onerous attitude to labour.
In a free world, you wouldn’t be obliged to do anything, but experiencing the possibilities of living the way you want and realising your full potential in a community that sustains you could not but inspire people to contribute and become actively involved in it.
Though it may not be obvious, most people’s behaviour today is not driven by money. We apply ourselves freely to the things we care about, to improve ourselves and to help those close to us as much as we can. The only problem is that work monopolises our time, so our more passionate endeavours always take a back seat. But if you had to quantify it, we probably spend the vast majority of our energy working on the things we love. Helping our families and friends, pursuing our hobbies and passions, etc. We just don’t see it as work.
In my book Into The Open Economy, I suggest the idea of community service as a way of organising those necessary jobs in your local area. There will always be vital services that require human intervention and skills. Organising rosters among volunteers in local areas would seem to be the most effective way to ensure these jobs get done while minimising demands on individuals.
Think of it this way: if you lived in a community that met all your basic needs and you didn’t have to work, wouldn’t you be happy to contribute a few hours a week to keep things running smoothly for everyone’s benefit? I certainly would and I’m certain most others would too. And even if someone chooses not to, then so what? That’s their choice, but they would at least be aware of how that choice places an extra burden onto others.
If we announced a money-free world tomorrow, the sanest and most common sense approach is that everyone stays where they are with what they have. If resources and land need to be re-organised, this can be done over time. If someone owns a mansion today, why should they leave it unless they choose to? Equally, why would someone else try to claim it when they could have their own or find an unoccupied one elsewhere?
Intuitively, our scarcity-based thinking tells us that there would be property grabs – but you have to remember there would no longer be any practical advantage in that kind of behaviour. We each guarantee the other everything they need for a fulfilling life. As long as we all partake in that social agreement, no-one goes without. I admit it may take some people time to get used to, but with correct management and informational campaigns, there’s no reason why such a transition could not go smoothly.
In general, criminal and anti-social behaviour stems from impoverishment – whether financially, emotionally, or both. Children from well-heeled, nurturing backgrounds seldom, if ever, partake in crime or become career criminals. It just doesn’t happen. Why would they? Their needs have been met emotionally and physically. In an open economy, everyone’s needs are met physically, and – in families where parents do not have to be absent through work – it is reasonable to expect that children’s needs will be better met emotionally.
That’s not to say that people will never engage in anti-social or violent behaviour. Incidents will always happen, though far, far less than today. In the event of any such incident, common sense would dictate whatever appropriate action would be required. For example, if someone goes on a shooting rampage in your town, you don’t simply allow it to continue if it’s in your power to stop it. You deal with it using whatever means necessary.
As to non-contributors, well of course we would afford them every possible convenience without obligation. I don’t think anyone would seriously consider that those unable to care for themselves or contribute in a money-free world would somehow be cast aside. Even our backwards society today does its best within its own confines to care for the elderly and incapacitated. Release those fiscal confines and we can give them the best care that technology and people with more free time on their hands can offer.
The Freeworlder prototype has been designed with these kinds of questions in mind. A central database of resources and skills will be essential for organisation in a free world. Rather than the usual painstaking procedures of bureaucracy and government and wangling budgets, decisions without budgetary concerns on an online community portal could take place instantaneously. A platform like this can be used to poll community members, make decisions, source labour and skills for projects and ultimately manage supply and demand.
For large projects that require a lot of manpower, like building hospitals or roads for example, we could source the required number of willing volunteers at the project outset using the platform, then ask them to commit to a project pledge to see the project through to completion. This would kind of emotionally bind them to the project. These volunteer workers would likely be seen as local heroes for their community.
We need to radically overhaul the education system. Our system of competition, grades and learning non-essential skills and facts needs to be relegated to the past. Today, children spend their entire childhood learning stuff that they will rarely use, while useful skills that can create better, more compassionate people are left entirely to chance.
A free world education system would consist more of life lessons, social skills, effective communication and cultivating traits like empathy, compassion, trust, respect and responsibility.
Reading, writing and science are obviously important, but I think life and social skills are even more so. Unless we know how to deal with ourselves, others and the environment in a responsible and compassionate way, then we are creating potentially destructive humans – no matter how high their grades.
Healthcare – and the whole area of well-being – is currently in crisis. Conflicted between scientists, doctors, care-givers and one of the most powerful profit machines in the world: pharmaceutical corporations, the tendency to override well-being with profit is overwhelming.
If a company can make a tidy profit by alleviating the symptoms of your ailment, then it is far less incentivised to work towards a total cure. Then there is the whole business of patents. Corporations privately own certain medical formulas, preventing cheap distribution of those products to the people who need them. In years to come, these financial obstacles to cures for sick people will seem absolutely monstrous and insane.
In a truly free and enlightened society, the highest priority in healthcare will be curing the patient – not just alleviating symptoms or profiting from people’s suffering.