Is A Cashless Society Possible?
By James Donahue
Throughout recorded history, money has been the root upon which every society has operated. Whether
it was sea shells, minted gold coins or printed paper, humans have used systems of working for some token of value that can
be exchanged for desired goods and services.
Using some form of currency to conduct the business of living has always worked just fine as long
as all parties involved deal with one another with honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, there has always been the element
of greed and corruption, in which the huckster uses trickery to acquire more than his honest share of the currency, thus accumulating
advantage over those around him.
This, in simple terms, is what has been happening to the world financial markets and causing the
growing financial crisis that is currently global in its reach. It is the root cause of the social unrest going on all over
the globe as people demonstrate, riot, and revolt against their governments sometimes with violence. They know they have been
cheated. They mostly want an equal distribution of the wealth so they can provide food and shelter for their families and
perhaps live a more comfortable life style than that of an unemployed bagger in the street.
This growing unrest leads us to wonder if it might be possible for humans to live in a cashless
society. Except for the Genesis story of Adam and Eve, and the time they lived in the Garden of Eden, where a benevolent creator
provided for their every need, we know of no time in history that humans have not been forced to live by the “sweat
of their brow.” But was this really a curse from an angry God, or was it something imposed upon humanity by an alien
race of invaders who came to enslave the natural inhabitants of this planet?
We read with interest an article by Mark Boyle, founder of the worldwide “freeconomy”
movement and author of the book The Moneyless Man, who described how he committed
to a year of cashless living.
Boyle had the advantage of planning ahead for his experiment, and acquired some basic items to
take care of his needs. For example he acquired a caravan through contact with a website called Freecycle. He parked this
on an organic farm where he volunteered to work for free rent. He heated the unit with a scavenged wood burner made from an
old gas bottle. He also made a compost toilet.
Boyle said he grew food and bartered and foraged for waste food in community dumpsters. He wrote,
however, that “most of the year my food was mainly supplied by my own crops. I cooked outside on a rocket stove I made.”
He said he “bathed in a river and for toothpaste I used washed-up cuttlefish bone with wild
fennel seeds. . . For toilet roll, I’d relieve the local newsstand of its papers. To get around I had a bike and trailer.
. . For lighting I’d use beeswax candles.”
As many homeless and unemployed people of the world are learning, with some degree of creativity,
it appears to be possible to survive without money. To do it, however, they, like Boyle, are utilizing the throw-away trash
of a wasteful society, even dipping to the point of scavenging through restaurant dumpsters for their daily meals. They make
their homes in abandoned buildings and underground subway tunnels. They rifle through other people’s trash to find items
that they might sell at flea markets or on the street.
Some years back we encountered the Rainbow People, an underground society of people that has totally
rebelled against the capitalistic system in America, and live free on the land. This is a loosely organized group of people
who travel the land, moving with the seasons, often living in tents or make-shift housing in the national forests. They gather
regularly at various places throughout the country. When they gather, they come by the thousands, which always creates concern
among the people in the neighborhood. Ironically the people with “things”
worry that the Rainbow children might steal what they have.
Boyle wrote that his experiment was extended for two years, and that they proved to be “the
most fulfilling of my life. I found that friendship, not money, is real security. Most western poverty is psychological.
“Could we all live like this tomorrow? No. It would be a catastrophe. We are too addicted
to money and cheap energy. We have built an entire global infrastructure around the abundance of both. However, if we devolved
decision-making and focused on local communities, then why not? For over 90 percent of our time on this planet we have lived
without money. We are the only species on Earth to use it,” Boyle concluded.