Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Socialist Idea

Our task in the Socialist Party is basically two-part. First, to persuade fellow-workers of the benefits of socialism and then to convince them of its feasibility. The benefits are many, and most reasonable people will have no trouble accepting them: better quality of life for all, less inequality, poverty, crime, greed, corruption, pollution and waste; greater health, education, trust, respect, awareness, sustainability, community values, technological advances, etc. Most people want these things, so our problem is not really about convincing them of the benefits – it’s about demonstrating the feasibility. How is a money-free society to be achieved? It requires people to reject pre-conceived beliefs that they thought fundamental to how the world operates and to supplant them with ones closer to the true reality of things.

People have been led to accept the following:
1. You need to have exchange (You can’t get something for nothing)
2. No-one would do anything (money motivates lazy idle people)
3. People would take advantage (greed is human nature)
4. I will lose everything I have (fear of loss of personal possessions)
5. Chaos and violence would ensue (society requires policing and control)
6. Society would stagnate or regress (markets and entrepreneurs provide incentives for progress)

1. You need to have exchange (you can’t get something for nothing)
 Along with popular phrases like ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’, various idioms have been used to bolster the belief that nothing happens without some exchange of value, whether by money or barter. You could be forgiven for thinking that certain groups would happily wish to continue to perpetuate this thinking, but the fact is that it is simply false, and not based on anything else we see in nature. In nature the closest thing we have is something called symbiosis where two species benefit each other (the bee taking nectar while helping the plant to pollinate is the most obvious example), but there is no intentional transaction taking place. Both species are ignorant of the desires of the other. It is purely an accident of evolution that has caused both species to survive and flourish. Nowhere else in nature do we see evidence that intentional exchanges are an essential ingredient to life or to the community.  The money / value system that we operate in has its origins in more primitive times, but now the capitalist economy has made us hell-bent accounting for everything in a monetary sense, and at the expense of common sense and sustainability. We ourselves don’t seek exchange in our families or in our circles of friends, so why do we seek exchange in others? Among our family and friends we tend to help each other out without obligations being imposed. .

2. No-one would do anything (money motivates lazy idle people):
People are motivated by money, yes. It is perhaps the biggest motivator of people, but the only reason for that is because we need money to live. It’s linked to survival – our most fundamental instinct. This is what gives it such power. There are, of course, many other human motivators: the desire to love and be loved, to meet people, to have children, to help others, to improve ourselves and our surroundings, to look good, to feel good, to learn, to challenge ourselves, to express ourselves, to innovate, to demonstrate our skills, etc. Every person alive is motivated by these desires to some degree. Because, after survival, these desires are what give our lives value and meaning. So if we didn’t need money to survive, and society could be better without money, then it follows that any or all of these desires would become our primary motivators. Since technology can now make the basic business of survival incredibly easy for us, all we would have to do – rather than working and earning – is to spend just a little time serving our community to ensure that the system works for everybody, then spend the rest of our time doing whatever it is that makes us happy. If technology was not limited by a market system, and peoples’ desires to help, innovate and improve became their prime motivators, then our technology could be completely maximised to take in almost all jobs that no-one wants to do, and create a highly advanced culture.

3. People would take advantage (greed is human nature):
Greed is not human nature – it is simply the desire to stockpile something scarce which you need to live. Like a squirrel collecting nuts, greed makes good sense – because we don’t know what the future will bring. In a monetary world, the greatest scarcity is money itself, so it makes sense to accumulate it, and, since there is no upper limit to the money and property you can have, there’s no reason to stop accumulating it. But if society can work better without money and everyone has access to everything they need, then there would be no point in stockpiling anything in large quantities. Who wants a basement full of coffee or cornflakes when all these things are freely available at any time? For the first time in history, we have the technology to eradicate scarcity and create an abundance of necessities for all humans on Earth with minimal physical effort. The market system is the only thing that prevents this from happening, as it intrinsically requires scarcity to perpetuate itself.

4. I will lose everything I have (fear of loss of personal possessions)
We all need privacy and a certain amount of exclusivity. Who wants to share their toothbrush, or have strangers walking around their home, for example? Our normalised belief tells us that we define who uses what through something called ‘ownership’. Our laws define and protect ownership, with the threat of punishment to those who disobey (ie. stealing). The point is that most things in the community should belong to no-one. Whatever items within the community that are not the personal possessions of someone can be used and shared by all. If we respect privacy then we can begin to move beyond the traditional inefficient limits of ownership and with it, any fear of loss.

5. Chaos and violence would ensue (society requires policing and control)
It is worth first pointing out that our world under its current system is already rife with crime and violence, so any argument for a moneyless society must be measured against that standard for comparison. Also, no-one is suggesting that a free world would be perfect – just very much better.

Most crime and violence is driven by desperation through lack of basic requirements for living, ie. theft, armed robbery, burglary, etc. Almost all other crimes can be seen as the secondary effects of poor upbringing where parents are poor, over-worked, unemployed, frustrated, depressed or disillusioned, etc. – all factors that can contribute to an unstable and unloving environment for children, who may later turn to crime as a result of low self-esteem or maladjustment. If society can work better without money, then most of the reasons and contributing causes of antisocial behaviour will no longer exist. Society will automatically be more cooperative and inclusive, and everyone will have free access to good food, housing, education, and technology. It won’t be perfect or eliminate all crime, but if everyone has a good quality of life and free access, then crime will have little or no incentive.

6. Society would stagnate or regress (markets and entrepreneurs provide incentives for progress)
Many economists cite economic incentive and competition as good for progress. But since the money system is everywhere, people who make this claim really have nothing to compare it with, so are drawing a false conclusion. Are we really to believe that all innovators, inventors, and artists will down tools the moment someone ends wages and money? Obviously not, since we all know so many creative people that never achieve financial success, it shows us that they are not driven by money, but rather by their passions and desire to innovate. We have already seen the rise of the Open Source movement and how large scale innovative projects are becoming the optimum means of production without a monetary incentive. Many computer programs like Linux, Chrome and Android have been developed freely by enthusiasts in their spare time. The computer industry has led the way on this, but of course, there is no reason why ‘open source thinking’ cannot be applied in agriculture, crafts, construction or education, etc.

History has shown that, in general, our greatest innovators and artists have come from privileged backgrounds. Does that mean that they were smarter? Of course not. It means that they had a comfortable upbringing, access to good food and education, and had the luxury of time – not labouring for their keep – but spending it on developing their ideas and skills instead. If society can work better without money, then all potential young Einsteins and Mozarts will have the optimal opportunity to exercise and advance their talents.

All this new information usually takes some time to filter through the subconscious and back into the conscious mind so that we re-evaluate all these lifelong-held beliefs and be receptive to new ones. We are not victims of culture or destiny – we can shape the world as we please. Let’s make it better!

If you agree with a money-free future, please support the Socialist Party

Adapted from

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