The thing we take for granted – Money

Posted on April 6, 2013


One basic part of our society that we seem to not question is the usage of money. There are new concepts of society that exclude the monetary system, but they aren’t really part of the mainstream suggestions to improving our current society (unfortunately). There’s no political party to vote for that offers a non monetary system. For some reason all the -ism’s out there (socialism, capitalism, communism etc) all base them selfs on how to obtain, distribute and control the flow of money. For some reason we seem to think that most things could be changed but not the need for money. Why is that?
Really think about it?
The monetary system is not a natural law that we discovered and therefor have to obey by. It is a system that we created to solve one problem, way back in the days. The problem was how to acquire what you need to survive and live a good comfortable life. There’s a great documentary series on the history of the monetary system you can watch here.

Ten thousands of years ago you had to do everything from scratch. If you wanted food to eat, you had to either hunt for it, find it in nature or grow it before you could eat it. There just isn’t enough hours of the day for one person to collect food, build a strong home, grow crop, make garments, prepare food and a house for the changing of the seasons etc. It is said humans are pack animals, that we’ve always moved in groups. This way it was also probably easier for us to get food and protection. But to evolve even further we had to come together and create bigger groups of people that could contribute with their skills, resources and man power to create a better life for everybody. This is how cultures and societies started to emerge. You had to rely on other peoples skills, protection and resources to acquire what you needed. Since the production of different valuable resources was highly tied to specific local areas and specific tribes and people, the only way to get access to them was to trade for them with something you had of value. The likely reason no one gave away anything without getting something back was probably because there was only that one chance to get what you needed. You walked a day to the trading market to get some fish and the one offering the fish was at the market because he needed grain for instance. Production and access of goods was extremely spread out and you had only that one chance to acquire what you needed. If every one gave everything away they would also have to trust that everybody else would give away their stuff too, or else you would be without the stuff you needed to get. There’s the conflict of trust. Trade was the natural solution when resources were scarce. “I only give you something if you give me something”. That way it was up to every single person to decide what they were willing to trade and for what in return. It makes perfect sense in an undeveloped society where resources and skills were vastly spread out and very hard to get by. Scarcity also creates the impression of value. If what I offer is hard for you to get it should be of great value to you. What are you willing to give in return?

The concept of money and the objects we use to represent value is only a marker for trust. A symbol of value. I give you a lump of gold that we together have agreed has a specific value (often dependent on the scarcity of the resource in question). We also put trust in that this lump of gold that you just gave me for the horse I just gave you, can be used to buy a small boat later on. If we didn’t trust that everybody agrees that a lump of gold could be used as a trading tool we wouldn’t be able to use it. It is all about trusting that what ever it is that you give to me (gold, silver, a paper note, or a number  transfer on a screen) as payment for what I gave to you, can later be used to acquire something else of equal value.

So basically, money is a symbol, representing value, we use to acquire what we need that isn’t readily available to us when ever we need it (like air, which no one would pay for because they can get it anywhere). Money was also a solution to the issue of trust. Trust that we will be able to get what we need to survive and live comfortable and happy life. As I said before, this makes perfect sense when everything you need isn’t readily available to you.
But what about today and our developed society?
Our technology enables us to produces what ever it is that we want, when ever we want it. Still we stick to this monetary model of only getting what we need if we give something in return. What we give today is our time. We give our time to jobs that create the goods and services that we all need. But what if we could develop the system even further so that most people didn’t have to work to create all the services ad goods that we need?
Would we still then need a monetary system?
If you look at production systems of today you also start to see that very little is produced for the purpose of giving people what they need to survive and live a comfortable and happy life. I would argue that most products and services that are produced today are for the soul purpose of selling more products to sustain the industry itself and to sustain the system itself. We have to keep buying stuff so that companies and people continue to make money. A company only stay in business if people continue to buy what they offer. There are several ways to do this. You can create the need for what you offer (by making your product highly addictive for instance) or the illusion of a need by affecting social norms and trends. Another way to make sure that people will continuously want what your business produce is to keep producing new stuff and make them slightly deficient. Make them last only a certain amount of time and don’t put in all valuable functions in one product but instead create versions that you launch every second year. This is basic strategies for any company today. The purpose of a business is to make money to support itself. A companies food, to survive, is money and a starving company will do what every it needs to to survive, just like any human being would. It’s nothing strange really. And the bigger the company, the bigger the apatite. And thus, while a company grows, it’s main interest becomes survival and therefore making money becomes it’s top priority, even if it started of with a genuinely great idea to offer something of great value and benefit to people, it becomes second to making money as the company grows.
So because of this development, the main focus of business and production systems isn’t to give us what we need to live a good healthy life anymore. The roles have shifted. Today, we are just instruments of consumption for the purpose of keeping our businesses alive and the system itself.

I would make the bold claim that today money is blocking our development rather than helping it. Money has really never been the part that has improved the life for people or given us advanced technology or a better understanding of the world. PEOPLE has ALWAYS been the ones that has moved society forward. Our creative mind, our curiosity about the world, our capability to learn and develop advanced skill sets. The big thinkers and inventors of the history of the world, didn’t do what they did because of money. They did it because of passion and an inner drive. Let’s not fool ourself. Money is the system that normally inhibits development. The only situations when money is of benefit to any development is when who ever wants to do big developments has a lot of it, which isn’t really the standard situation. The most common one is that a person or a group of people get a great idea that they want to develop. They then have to find money somehow to make it happen. Investors, that can give a lot of money, only give money to ideas that in turn can generate a lot of money for them. This is the only thing that really matters in the end. And this is also why patents are so important. It is the only way to protect an idea so that who ever is making it can continue to make money from it. It is the only way to prohibit big competitors to enter the market, creating little or no competition, giving the company in question full power to do what ever they want with it. Most of the time during development stages, there’s lots of idea of how to do things. Ideas about the best possible function or benefits for humans and the life on this planet. But if they are to costly to produce, to good quality so that there would be no need to ever produce more than one unite (equals no more income for the company), or the development or research to make the best possible decision is to expensive, it gets trashed. What really matters in the end is that development and production is cost efficient. Things need to first and foremost generate money. Everything else is secondary. I know this is how it works, because I’ve seen it in action. I’m an entrepreneur and a designer. As a designer you try to do the best possible solution for people, but we always have to also do the best possible solution for the companies first of all. We juggle compromises to make the best for both, but in reality, the people are always the ones that comes second if the cost of that improvement is to high for the company.

If you look at all the worlds big problems, you can start to see that most of them are just consequences of the need for cost efficiency, increased productions, lower production costs, profit priorities etc. Let’s take poverty.The majority of human being on this planet need money to get what they need to survive. Even if they want to grow their own food, they have to pay for the land to grow on, the tools to harvest the land and the seeds to grow with. Since money is the most sought after possession, every body fights to get as much of it as possible. Therefor poverty is just the evidence that some people managed to get a lot of it in their pockets. The only way to get rid of poverty is if someone else is willing to give up some of their money. It could be a company that would have to increase salaries for their employees, resulting in higher production costs and most likely lower sales. It could be a company that would have to withdraw from a market place to give room for local markets to grow, which would leed to less sales again. It could be a medical company that would need to sell their medicines cheaper so that low income countries could afford them, resulting in lower profits. Getting rid of poverty doesn’t generate money for the ones that already have it. The ones that have a lot of it will have less and the ones that have little or no money will get more of it. The only organizations that deal with non profitable solutions to problems are non profit organizations. But the problem is that they in turn need money from somewhere to operate. They have to rely on people and companies with high empathy and moral guidelines. The interesting thing is that this is also being used in a sneaky way. A lot of people are starting to realize that there’s a huge unbalance in the world when it comes to life quality and we’re starting to see which big corporations are behind this shift. Some people are making a stand and are stepping away from them, refusing to buy their products or services. The big companies see this and see the importance today of branding and attitudes. We no longer buy things we need. We buy things that can show of our choice of lifestyle and what we stand for. A lot of big corporations give money to non profit organizations and help them with specific project. It makes them look good. Like they care. This is of course just an illusion. What they are paying for is a gigantic market campaign that says “look at us, we care about the big issues in the world, buy our stuff and join us if this opinion”. That is all. It is not a conspiracy. It is an obvious fact. Take some marketing and business development courses and find out for yourself how things work.

There’s so much more that can be said about the monetary system obviously, but the point I’m trying to make is that we shouldn’t take it for granted that we need the monetary system. It is not the only way to acquire the things we need to survive. It is not the part that enables us to develop ourself, society and technology. We could create a society based on other systems that would enable us to develop a lot faster and with better and more sustainable results.

Here are some links to videos about the monetary system that I’ve found very informative

Posted in: Problems