I heard Charles Eisenstein speak last week. Charles is an author, speaker, philosopher who deeply considers the stories we live by regarding how the world works. We are outgrowing our old stories, those that involve unlimited resources, throwaway objects, throwaway people (cheap labor), planned obsolescence, cheap, unhealthy food, etc. A new world is forming, one that has been described for years by native peoples and is presently on the radar of deep ecologists, Shambhala Buddhists and others. As Charles said last night, what he knows, we all know. What he has done is apply his genius to knowing it fully and articulating it clearly, exposing our assumptions about the way the world works and also expressing our longing for lives worth living.
Central to our present story is money, our convenient and flexible medium of exchange. Our lives now revolve around money as though the currency itself had intrinsic value. Well, if it’s not going to be that way, how else might it be? We spent a couple of hours considering different economic stories. Here are a few.
Charles talked about negative interest where money held on to is taxed rather than accrue interest. In this scenario those with money have incentive to give it away or lend it at a low rate of return. So money in and of itself is not of any value. It is what you do with it, not making more if it, that it has meaning.
The idea of a guaranteed national income was discussed. A strange idea, no? But if money were not an end in itself such that everyone had enough to live on, people would begin to live lives that are meaningful and valuable because their contributions would be based on what they love to do and can do well. Less competitiveness, more creativity, more richness of life for us all. This rather than coming to experience adulthood as a treadmill existence that is producing more and more depression, anxiety, and ennui. What of those who will sit in front of the TV all day with a beer? Well, as Charles says, those people are doing that already.
Finally, what I love most to hear Charles talk about is the gift economy. The economic system that we live in now and assume we can make work in our favor will do so only if you happen to be very wealthy and/or very lucky. Money, something that has value only because people give it value, will still have a role. But more basic to the new economy will be one’s social equity. Here your security is based on the network of people who you support and who are there for you – now and in rough times.
A world that values people has intrinsic meaning. This is what we are all really searching for anyway. We think we will find it in success as defined by monetary worth, fame, beauty, youth, boundless energy. Instead, we can look to leading lives of fulfillment and richness in terms of who we are to each other.
The saying “money makes the world go around” may be true right now. But this kind of world is spinning out of control. Like the Stylistics sang it back in the day:
People Make the World Go ‘Round.