Saturday, October 10, 2009

Money makes the world go around

Can any monetary system be steered by anything other than money? While we have money, will the borrowed title of this short piece always ring true?

How insane is it that keeping water scarce is good for business, that the financial incentive is not to keep water clean for the general health of the species, but to hoard the increasingly scarce clean stuff, then sell it for more bucks? How insane is it, that it makes financial sense to destroy the planet’s top-soil by selling nitrate fertilizers? How crazy is it to make money turning forests to sand, so we can wipe our bums with four-ply, and own expensive looking furniture? How insane is a system that would charge customers per breath of good clean air if it could?

What on earth are we doing to ourselves!? It is we who are doing this, not someone else.

With money, money has to be the big boss and call all the shots. Things like trust, dignity and health take a distant back seat. With money, value itself becomes monetary. If solving a problem makes no financial sense, getting it solved is highly unlikely. With money, when something makes financial sense, it makes sense, regardless of non-monetary costs, e.g. creating toxic waste then dumping it into the environment. A species can get away with this for a while, some of its members even thrive on it, but for us humans the combination of globalisation and growing population have made money and its insane incentives the most dangerous tool we now wield. The complexity of the financial world is blinding us to this simple fact, as are schoolyard notions about monetary incentives and the "facts" of human nature.

We might well be proud of our couple of millenia as "masters of the universe," but to claim that money makes the world go around is the height of hubristic ignorance. Neither our ecosystem, nor gravity, nor nature itself needs money to function. Indeed, the ecosystem is being adversely altered – from our point of view! – because of money. What money does make is rich and poor. It inspires greed, crime, and war. It enables complex trade, yes, but over time entrenches fixed divisions; health gaps, wealth gaps, and education gaps. The questions we need to ask ourselves are these: Is complex trade, and therefore money, a precondition for high culture? Does money make our culture go around at the cost of the ecosystem?

There is a way to answer them. Give The Venus Project some of your time, and think for yourself.

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