From the January 2009 issue of the Socialist Standard
We continue describing how things could be like in a socialist society, where there would be no need for money. It continues on from this article in the December 2008 issue.
Bear in mind the aim here is an excursion into the benefits of money totally disappearing from our lives; for all to have access to the necessities of life and in return to contribute their effort for the common good. Havoc has been wreaked on the environment by corporations and others with the full consent of successive governments around the world – for the acquisition of necessary resources but using unnecessarily harmful methods. Peak oil and climate change are terms on everyone's lips and the general consensus from Joe Public is that something needs to be done – and fast.
If we remove the agents for profit (corporations and governments of the capitalist system) and engage in honest democracy of the people, by the people and for the people decisions can be made to halt damaging practices and implement methods of farming, fishing, mining, extraction, energy production, manufacturing etc. that do no harm to either man or environment. Safe working practices will be the norm. Resources can be protected and used carefully when incentive for their rape and pillage is gone. Energy usage can be reduced drastically in 1001 ways using alternative energies, building using integral insulation and energy conservation techniques, vastly reducing transport as work and societal practices change, stopping air freight of “luxury” and unnecessary goods, producing and manufacturing locally wherever feasible, etc.
Local communities could have the final say on resources in their area with the possibility that sometimes the resource will be deemed off-limits and so remain untouched, and if no one is prepared to work mining or tunnelling to extract a particular resource then an alternative will need to be found. With a system of no money there can be no forced labour or unacceptable working practices. Resources will be valued for what they are, not what price they can be sold for, and protection of the environment can be put firmly on the agenda as demanded by the world's majority.
2. War and Conflict
Envisaging this newly emerging moneyless world, it is apparent that cooperation rather than competition will be the driving force to its development and the glue that will bind communities. Having removed the profit incentive and made access to resources free, production will be for use only. There are no losers in this scenario, all are to benefit from the new world order. It's just that a tiny minority might have difficulty in coming round to see it that way. As a consequence of this totally different emphasis – freedom of access and no monetary element – it isn't difficult to accept that military forces will become redundant.
Wars have always been about control of territory for resources and are usually promoted in the name of democracy, expansion abroad or protection of the domestic population from threat of real or manufactured enemies but which always utilise armies recruited from the mass of the population and sacrifice workers in the service of the capitalist cause. Internal conflicts involving government backed forces against “insurgents”/“freedom fighters”, breakaway independence groups/terrorists – when looked at rationally are (a) about lack of rights for certain sections of the community, groups deprived of their own self-determination; tensions deliberately fostered betweens sections of society so the elites can keep control (divide and rule) and (b) only temporarily dealt with (if at all) through force. If the causes aren't dealt with the effects are sure to reappear. Dealing with the causes, injustices, lack of access, etc. needs the pawns in the game to recognise that that is what they are and to join forces against those controlling them, putting the power of decision making into the hands of the majority and ending the reasons for future conflict.
No need for ownership or use of war material will render a massive service to the environment, saving resources on a huge scale and stopping pollution of the planet from the harmful waste created in both their production and deployment besides avoiding millions of deaths. Saving lives could become the new unarmed forces raison d’être. Bodies of fit, well-trained, well-resourced, motivated men and women available to deal with the effects of natural disasters and unexpected calamities would be one of a number of ways to deploy the willing volunteers, a civil action force for true humanitarian intervention.
3. Media and Advertising
Media without money? In today's system we buy newspapers and magazines, a licence to watch television plus payments to a provider for umpteen other channels and subscribe to internet providers for access to the world wide web. If something arrives at your house for free, it has been paid for by advertising and advertising gets its money from services provided to businesses, and businesses get their money from customers buying the products and services.
Without the profit motive it would be possible to watch a film or interesting documentary uninterrupted by advertisements that always intrude at a higher level of decibels. Junk mail would be redundant; another positive for the environment. Ugly advertising hoardings crowding town spaces and roadsides would give way to more thoughtful and aesthetically pleasing additions to our visual surroundings. Many talented artists would be freed up to turn their expertise in more socially acceptable and useful directions. Media, in general, could become what the people want, not what they're told they want. Real choice, real variety, true information and not warped by an individual proprietor's view. This could be such an exciting area with much more community involvement from planning to production. Released from wage slavery and with the intellect free from worry about unemployment, housing, health care etc. etc. the capacity for individual personal development will expand considerably.
In its broadest sense education is just that – individual personal development. The most fulfilled individuals are those who can reach the end of their lives knowing they have spent their time exploring to the limits the areas that most interest and motivate them. These individuals are not satisfied by or limited to an eight-hour day, they continue willingly for extended hours because they enjoy and are motivated by what it is they are doing. Conversely, of the various officially recognised systems of education available in the world today none come close to encouraging youngsters to pursue their own individually chosen path in life. Institutional education is about fitting young children to become compliant teenage students who can then be steered in one of the very limited directions on offer. This is called choice. The best time to learn anything is when the individual is motivated to do so at whatever age. The best way to learn is usually by doing – a combination of observation and practice. Sitting at a desk in a room with 20, 30, 50 or so others for several hours a day is not conducive to good learning and not conducive to producing free thinking adults, but it is a good preconditioning for adult life in a money-oriented world which requires both a compliant workforce and passive unemployed.
To hear a nine-year old's response when asked what he would like to do when he leaves school, “Well, I'll go and get my Giro” is a shocking indictment of a system which by its very nature excludes many people. Whether in the examination system or later in the work situation, a certain percentage every year must be expected to fail. How humiliating and degrading is that? But that is how this system works; there is only room for so many to achieve.
When the work situation changes so that all are contributing regularly to the common good by the work they perform and all are freely taking their daily needs from the common store youngsters will experience a totally different example from today's. Education will be embraced as offering ongoing opportunities for all to succeed in their chosen areas in societies which value all members regardless of their so-called IQ.
5. Quality of Life
In a world of money “quality” is equated with cost. A quality item costs more than a shoddy or mass produced one, e.g. Rolls Royce v a standard Ford. “Quality” chocolate costs the consumer more but doesn't give more to the grower. Quality is a term used to convey superiority and status, something better than the rest, better than the others. Unfortunately when coupled with time most families have little of it and the cost can be great. Quality of life is talked about as something desirable, to be aspired to and implies a certain level of income but, in fact, everyone has a quality of life, a comparative quality which could be measured against many different yardsticks. Most people would admit they are looking for ways to improve their own.
In order to achieve the positive changes to be gained by the disappearance of money, power has to be taken away from the elites and placed firmly in the hands of the people. None of the proposals posed above could become reality without the will of the majority – but what is the will of the majority, the popular perception of the “system” today? Active consent for the system is generally lacking and people have allowed themselves to become resigned to it instead of opposing it, believing that there is no alternative. Surely it is within the capacity of this miracle of evolution to reason its way back from the headlong rush to condemn billions of its own to degradation and misery, whilst destroying its own habitat with the philosophy that money can solve all problems? With money gone the generally accepted meaning of “quality of life” can become a reality for all to contemplate and world citizens will be free to aspire to achieving goals worthy of humankind.