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Chapter 3
The Power and Place of Money

"Money has become a ring we wear through the nose."

-- Mark Kinney

The Power Inherent in Money

The power of money lies in the fact that in any modern industrial society it is readily accepted in exchange for whatever one may want. This is potentially liberating as it promotes specialization of work, which in turn provides greater personal satisfaction and economic efficiency. When a person is able to do that work which s/he most enjoys and is most skillful at, both the individual and the community benefit. In the ideal, anything which facilitates exchange enhances the ability of everyone to meet their needs; in practice, it may not work out that way.

The use of money is a collective phenomenon to which each individual becomes habituated very early in life. Even children of 4 or 5 know that their material desires can be satisfied by taking money to the shops. It is a social convention deriving from our collective mentality -- our values, attitudes, and beliefs. A major aspect of our social conditioning in modern western culture is our preoccupation with the physical aspect of our existence and our alienation from nature and from our species identity (the human "oversoul"). The creation and use of money have been perverted as money has become an instrument of power. This has come about through the monopolization of its creation and the political manipulation of its distribution which makes it available to the favored few and scarce for everyone else.

To possess money is to possess power, for with money one may induce others to conform to his will. So money has become, as Mark Kinney describes it, "a ring we wear through the nose," which allows us to be led around by whoever controls it. There will always be a few "tethered bulls" who will find the strength and the will to break free, but our collective liberation will result from understanding how we are controlled by money and from acting to change the structures of money.

The Place of Money in Human Interaction

That is not to say that money or the use of money is inherently evil; on the contrary, the proper kind of money used in the right circumstances is a liberating tool which can allow the fuller expression of human creativity and the fuller realization of a dignified life for everyone. Those who like to quote the Bible on this subject usually quote it incorrectly. It does not say that money is the root of all evil. It says, "the love of money is the root of all evil." [11] But the word "money" in this context actually is more accurately rendered as "riches" or "wealth," not money as we understand it as a medium of exchange. So the meaning of this verse is to caution us against the extreme pursuit of material riches.

Money, as the medium of exchange, has not lived up to its potential as a liberator. This is largely because it has been politicized and centrally controlled, but also because the use of money and markets has been extended into realms which are better served by other exchange mechanisms. For example, within the family and clan, where the relationships are close and personal, and nurturing is a central concern, needs are easily assessed, responsibilities are readily assigned, and altruism is generally expressed. In these contexts, free gift exchange and sharing, rather than buying and selling, are clearly seen to work best.

The use of money within the household, family, or clan unit would be destructive to the human processes which are normal and necessary to their health. Money is better suited to facilitating the more impersonal exchanges which need to take place between social units, i.e. as a mechanism for mediating imports and exports.

The human body is an apt analogy through which economic processes can be understood. Just as each cell has its own internal processes which exclude the blood, and blood facilitates the flow of nutrients between cells, so do the essential socio-economic units have internal processes which exclude money but use it effectively for transfers between them. A primary economic unit may consist of a single household or a cluster of households. It is an economic entity within which all of the processes of production, exchange, and consumption take place. There is, of course, always a certain amount of importation and exportation of goods and services, the nature and amount of which vary according to the needs and resources of the household or cluster.

A healthy society depends upon the health of each of the units of which it is comprised. A primary aspect of that health is a high level of complexity of internal function, which implies, in this case, a high level of personal, household, and community self-reliance. In our social ordering (and money is, of course, a social device), there should be no impediment to the free operation of the primary social unit as an economic entity. This means that restrictions of economic flows within or between units should be minimized. The taxation of exchange constitutes a major impediment and is a drag on the economy. Taxes on wages and retail sales should therefore be avoided.

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