Monday, March 28, 2011

Doing without money

Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of its filling a vacuum, it makes one.
~ Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790 ~

It's been a while since i had a real job, not since i walked out of my assistant manager position at an art supply store. I had high hopes of becoming a writer/publisher and though i've managed to put out two books, my income from them has been nowhere near adequate to cover my expenses. Despite the odd paying gig, frugality and food stamps, i've been forced to survive on savings accumulated from inheritance and a long period of entrepreneurial effort. Numerous job applications have netted one job interview but my discouragement is admittedly mixed with relief as i realize i'd have no time, were i successful in being hired, to devote to the pursuits that fill my days.

And i have been busy. There are not enough hours in the day to follow through on all the ideas and schemes that go through my head. So i began to wonder how i could continue to follow my bliss and get paid for doing it. That's a common theme among many self-help gurus so it must be possible, somebody somewhere must be doing it.

It has led me to think of publishing more and trusting the universe will take care of the details, of raising funds through grants or crowd-funding, of continuing to subsist in near penury until the savings run out. I tried the marketing consulting, life counselor bit but that requires going out and marketing yourself and playing nice even when you don't feel like.

I don't need a lot, just enough to cover my rent, telephone and ISP, gym fee and Metro fares. It's not as though i'm a slacker, far from it. Much that i do is in service to the community, to knowledge and letters, my small contribution to the universe so when i'm gone someone may observe that my presence made a difference. So what happened to casting bread upon the waters and finding it again? Surely there's a way to have my basic needs met without becoming a wage slave in a corporate system for which i have nothing but distaste?

There must be millions of people who endure jobs, whole careers even, that they hate, that stress them out and make them sick, just so they can have a roof over their heads and have some little life. In the twenty-first century when we have conquered nature and become masters of the universe, there is something wrong with that picture. Scholars have recognized this and pointed out that the GDP index countries use to measure progress does not take well-being into account and in fact includes things like incarceration, sickness, war and disaster as economy boosters. Think construction, factory orders for arms, equipment and supplies. Some countries, notably Canada, France and the UK are beginning to recognize the limitations of GDP and have introduced other indices that measure things like happiness and well-being and progress. The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has based its national planning on a scale called the Gross National Happiness index and some economists support the use of the Genuine Progress Indicator which factor in environmental health as well.

The prevailing idea of wealth is based on purely material considerations centered on the production, consumption and accumulation of goods and services. Money came into being as a token symbol to facilitate trading and to access that wealth conveniently. It has become itself a commodity, the supply of which has been made scarce in the way it is created and distributed. Money -- the creation of, the accumulation of, the lack of, the trickling down of, the compounding and impounding of, the manipulation of, the theft of -- seems to create nothing but problems. For a convenient symbol, it sure is troublesome. So what if we could do without money?

I'm not even thinking of alternatives like parallel currency, mutual credit or digital systems. Inevitably, those are based on the prevailing monetary system and of limited application. It would only be a matter of time before they are subsumed into the system by manipulation and corruption. The banks and corporations would cream off the profits making currency scarce because that is their sole objective and we would be back at square one. There's got to be some other way to make this work without money and profit so the interest of everyone is served.