Clearly the world is at a crossroads, with many groups claiming we need a radical system shake-up. But is a money-free world really the answer? More to the point, is it even possible? I discussed my take on these issues and tackled the tough questions in a recent interview. Here’s the full transcript…
First off, what is a ‘freeworlder’?
A freeworlder is someone who believes a better world is possible beyond money, trade, borders and government; who recognises that human liberties are now greatly hindered by these old ideas, and that a sufficiently enlightened population can achieve a much higher standard of living and freedom through sharing and cooperation, rather than competition and division.
Who are you? What do you do? Tell us a bit about yourself.
Well, I’m from Dublin, Ireland, where I enjoyed a reasonably middle-class upbringing with my three brothers. I started out as a musician and songwriter I guess, which – as I’m sure most musicians will agree – is not exactly a smart career choice these days! Music has already become such a free commodity that it’s almost impossible to make a living from it. For me, this gradual dawning of ‘how-am-I-ever-going-to-make-money-from-this?’ was enough to start me asking questions about this whole notion of ‘making a living’. And with music becoming so free, wouldn’t this ‘freeness’ ultimately translate to everything? Things began to unravel from that moment I guess, and I started seeing the world differently.
I still play and write music in my spare time – but mostly now I’m dedicated to ‘freeworldiness’ and trying to create a better world in any way I can.
In your opinion, what’s wrong with the way we live now and what is your solution?
Everything in our society revolves around a profit system to the extent that it’s now damaging our living and social systems. This thirst for profit generally overrides our sensitivity in other more important areas such as our personal well-being, relationships and environment. It’s a system that has evolved through trade in times of scarcity and toil which are no longer relevant today.
Our planetary community is now so large and our needs so complex, that these trading systems are creating much bigger problems than they solve. Damage to the environment through consumerism and growth is the most obvious example, but not so obvious is the damage to our social fabric in our increasing isolation from each other and the stuff that sustains us.
Our ability to use money to enslave others removes us from the consequences of our actions
Capitalism essentially allows us to make slaves of anyone to do our bidding. But if, for example, you continually pay someone to provide food for you, then you gradually lose the ability of providing food for yourself. So, as you pay more and more people to do things for you, you inevitably become more and more isolated and system-dependent as a result.
As a social species, our nature is to work together as comparative equals, so this widening disconnection and stratification of our society creates a core conflict. Money insulates us from that social connection we subconsciously crave. This core conflict is possibly the root cause of most maladjusted behaviour you care to mention, including mistrust, crime, greed, disrespect, exaggerated egoism, etc. Our desire to feel socially included and valued is not sufficiently being met.
Another big problem with using money to enslave others is that it removes us from the consequences of our actions. For example, we pay people to fight wars without ever seeing a drop of blood being spilled or experiencing the raw horror of it. Or, we pay for shiny electronic goods without understanding the ecological or social side-effects of producing them. This disconnection from the results of our actions displaces our natural sense of responsibility and empathy.
The solution is to move towards an open economy. To re-prioritise group interest and work more as a team for everyone’s benefit. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that nearly eight billion people acting entirely in self-interest is not going to work out well for everyone.
So what is an open economy? How does it work?
Well, our current method of trade is exclusive, as in, I do something for you and you do something for me of an agreed equal value. Since barter is generally impractical, we use money tokens instead. But because that system is predicated on scarcity, people naturally want to get their hands on as many of these tokens as possible. That’s a natural response, but of course causes calamitous collateral damage as I mentioned earlier.
An open economy is a non-exclusive trading system where everyone distributes goods and services within the community without any form of accounting or obligation. In other words, you are not compelled to reciprocate when someone offers you something, and likewise do not expect to be reciprocated when you give yourself. When enough people understand the benefits and participate in this system, everyone gets everything they need, works much less than before and no-one gets left behind.
It’s a pretty simple calculation to make if you take into account all the man-hours wasted today devoted to creating useless or inferior products, or in managing the money supply and all its ancillary off-shoots like insurance, accounting, lawyers, trading – and arguably the police and military, etc. Subtract all the unnecessary man-hours from our entire global human effort and you will be left with far, far less work required to do in order to get everyone the things they need.
Imagine instead of being forced to work 40 hours a week against the threat of starvation or homelessness, we each had to work say 40 hours per month doing some work in our communities? If everyone did that, we could provide an abundance for everyone, freeing ourselves to spend more time doing the things we enjoy, while also creating much stronger, connected communities.
Why is money/capitalism the problem? Many would say that capitalism is responsible for some of the greatest achievements of our time.
It’s not so much capitalism as it is this perpetual notion of trading like-for-like that is the root problem – which is an idea our ancestors invented. It’s important to remember that there is no physical law that states we must exclusively exchange things of equal value. No other species engages in this behaviour.
It’s easy to see how trade came about, and, on paper, it seems like a good idea. But the theory always assumes everyone has something useful to trade – which they clearly don’t – and it neatly omits our natural inclination to hoard when faced with uncertainty or scarcity.
What once seemed like a neat way of organising resources has become a frenzied race to accrue numbers regardless of any cost to the physical realm.
So with trading, you breed self-interest, and invariably end up with winners and losers. And the winners are not the ones with the most valuable skills to trade – but the ones who either have the strongest trading position or who are simply better at making deals. The stock market is a fine example, where rich people get richer by trading complete abstracts like stocks and currency which provide nothing of physical value whatsoever. What once seemed like a neat way of organising resources has become a frenzied race to accrue numbers regardless of any cost to the physical realm. This is an insane way to operate on a finite, shared planet.
As to progress, many people seem to confuse capitalism with technology, but the fact is that technology is what has improved exponentially over the last few hundred years, irrespective of capitalism. Inventions got better, things got faster, bigger, stronger. Technology has been the engine of modern capitalism, driving it into what it is today – a resource-hungry monster that wants to grow and grow. It’s possible that we moved too fast, too quickly and we haven’t adapted well to the changes that technology presented. This is what we are learning now.
Isn’t what you’re suggesting just basically another form of communism or socialism?
Some elements are. In theory, the ideals of communism and socialism are, like an open economy, about working for the collective good, but different in that they always operated against the background of trade and scarcity, and were centrally controlled. Obviously this led to the many disasters we have seen under communism, as central planners and leaders were unable to resist taking advantage of their privileged position.
An open economy, as suggested in the Free World Charter, would not require central planning, but the provision of an education commensurate to following its ideals – where people truly understand the benefits of certain behaviours and the detriment of others. Once that knowledge is in place, people should be free to act however they choose.
Isn’t what you’re describing a resource-based economy?
In many ways, but with some important differences. The main difference being that an open economy does not necessarily require infrastructure or technology to happen. It’s possible immediately. It just requires that we collectively shift our priorities more towards group outcomes than we do currently.
The other main difference is how we see sharing as the central pillar of such a society’s function. RBE groups likeThe Venus Project would maintain that technology can create such an abundance that the notion of sharing becomes irrelevant. That’s a naive view in my opinion because it fails to address our core behavioural problems, or to recognise our innate tendency to want to help each other.
Let’s use that built-in desire as our stepping stone to work on our behaviour first. Higher technology will follow naturally later. Once we have achieved a sufficient level of self-awareness and understanding of group efficiency, then there are no limits to our technological potential.
Another important difference is that many people simply have no wish to live in a highly technological society, preferring a simpler life. An open economy allows for many interpretations of a better social system – as long as certain basic guidelines for optimal behaviour are understood.
Isn’t this just a utopian pipedream?
No more than the dream of flying was to the young Wright brothers. If we don’t act on our dreams, then we will certainly never attain them. To dream is to progress – and what we focus on, we manifest.
We are not searching for the perfect world, but believe a much better one is possible. That’s what we’re shooting for.
Would a free world / open economy really stop war, reduce crime, end poverty, create happier people?
Inequality is the root cause of most social and political problems today. And that inequality is caused solely by our scarcity-based trading system which persists, even though we already have the technical capacity to provide a good standard of living for everyone. People are homeless while houses lie empty. People are obese while others starve. According to Oxfam, half the world’s wealth is owned by eight people.
We mutually consent to a system of competition and trade that begets some winners and billions of losers. This perpetual economic imbalance drives us to war, crime and all manner of second degree social problems. It’s futile to think that we can all be winners under that system – yet that is the lie we tell ourselves, that some day we too will be rich and successful, or will win the lottery. We need to wake up and stop consenting to a system that precipitates war, poverty, crime, that rewards the rich and powerful while stamping on the poor and trashing the environment.
I would call on anyone who is even the least bit dissatisfied with their lot to start questioning everything they experience in our society today.