Alternative money systems. Yay or nay? For me, in my ongoing quest to be part of the movement that is saving the world, I say, regrettably, nay.
I can’t deny that alternative money sounds cool, it sounds well-intentioned, and they’ve got *something* going with the idea that money needs to be questioned. But I just don’t buy their solution to the whole issue.
Alternative money is… money. It’s different money. But… it’s money.
Revolution, to me, looks like a simultaneous internal and external awakening among many individuals at the same time which leads to the spawning of a gift economy system where it really is “each according to their ability to each according to their need” – but for real this time. We can start small, with experimental ecovillages or towns dedicated to showcase the system and build awareness, then eventually this movement will take over the world.
Gift economy is the real deal. It’s the real answer to the problem which everyone faces when they come up against trying to work out economics in a fair and loving way. But it’s not *easy*. It’ll almost definitely be hundreds of years before the world population at large is ready for such a change. Anyone who is interested in working towards this goal (I am) should build some sort of conspiracy centred around social change that picks its battles, has a detailed strategy worked out, and which aims for the very long term. In 3-5 years I may be the guy to start this conspiracy. Talk to me then if you’re interested.
What can I say about alternative money? It’s just… you know, money. It’s still exchange. It’s still, “Sorry, I can’t help you unless you help me, but if it makes you feel better it’s a vicious cycle cause if I gave of myself freely in this world everyone would take advantage of me.” Either you are doing exchange, or you are doing a gift economy. I don’t see much difference.
The major flaw with alternative money is just this. It doesn’t solve anything, except perhaps to express a bit of your discontent with the standard way money is done. Secondarily, there are practicality issues that make it just *hard* to really use alternative money. And why would anyone waste their effort on something with so little returns? I know I’m sounding businesslike, but what if those returns could be in the form of some other positive change in the world? Is alternative money worth it in this light?
Trying to give it the benefit of the doubt, alternative money could have two other positive sides to it.
One, it is free of the awful banking system which is in place in our society nowadays. Banks and governments invent money out of nowhere for themselves, resulting in inflation which can be considered an effective “hidden tax”. (And a hidden subsidy for banks… much needed of course…). An alternative currency that was free of inflation would be pretty convenient, supposing it was also actually useful to buy stuff with. The only thing is, the one alternative currency I know in any detail, the Spanish Eco, is pegged to the Euro and is subject to the Euro’s inflation. I don’t know if this is the rule for alternative currencies.
The other positive side I can think of is that people feel money is “dirty” and unconsciously act as if it were such. Perhaps by using an alternative currency which they believe isn’t as “dirty” they can act in a more positive way. I think this unconscious feeling must be a large part of what created alternative currencies in the first place. The only thing is, I think it’s better to confront the negative emotion directly, and not try to run from it into mirage-like false solutions which are never going to get us anywhere.
In conclusion, skip the instant gratification, ignore the Utopians, forget it being somehow *easy* to change the world, and sign up for the long haul, real work, real results stuff. In the end that’s the only thing that’s going to actually be worth the sacrifice.
I’ve since seen a more or less reasonable-sounding person advocate for bitcoin, the most popular version of alternative money. Bitcoin, and his explanation of it, seemed a lot smarter than the “Eco”. I think my criticisms are likely to still have some meaning, though, and it remains that Bitcoin is still in the idealistic stage, not very practical as an actual currency. At least, not as far as I know.