But Can It Still Be Fun?
I won’t know the answer to that until I finish writing this post. Last week I attempted to summarize for a small group of my friends what, according to Charles Eisenstein, is wrong with a market economy. I was very disorganized with the pieces of information I threw at them, and even now my brain feels fuzzy when I think about all the moving parts. Still, I promised you. So I will keep my promise, but with a caveat: if I’m not having fun, I will stop and return to a state of spiritual ADHD and you will be SOL. What I mean by that is that you will have to read Sacred Economics yourself because I will be MIA.
All right, now I’m having fun, so I will proceed to tell you what I have learned, which is that a market economy basically sucks because, compared to a gift economy, which I will discuss later, everything is for sale. We pay for relationships (example matchmaking services), we pay for cultural or intellectual property (patents, copyrights, etc.), we pay for spiritual inspiration (church collection plates, member fees, workshops…), we pay for natural resources that used to be free such as water or land. (Your land is not my land after all, no matter how much you like that song.) Interestingly enough, no one has yet figured out how to charge for air, but if you want pure air now that we have totally polluted it with industrial waste making more products than we need, someone will be happy to sell you an air purification system. Eisenstein calls the above–relationships, cultural and intellectual property, spiritual inspiration and natural resources–the commonwealth because these used to be free and belong to all of us, but now they are owned by individuals or corporations, and the rest of us have to pay to use them.
What’s even worse is, “When everything is subject to money, then the scarcity of money makes everything scarce.” For example, the monetization of time–i.e. salaries and hourly wages–has made time scarce, and the phrase “time is money” is now a part of our shared lexicon.
Are you upset yet? Maybe you, like I, didn’t realize that unless you are one of the power holders, you are a slave in the system. Here’s why: In order to have enough money to, what is ironically called “make a living,” you/we are required to produce goods and/or services above and beyond our ability to consume and then are instructed–or seduced through ubiquitous advertising–to purchase enough of these products or services to keep the economy strong. And here’s another piece that is even more unsavory: war feeds this machine because when we are at war we manufacture guns, ammunition, tanks, planes, etc., which in turn makes more money and uses up more and more of our precious resources. And for what? To kill the people we fear. (Might there not be a better way? Definitely fodder for a later post as I don’t want to risk another attack of spiritual ADHD right now.)
Before I wrap this up, back for just a moment to my confession that until I read Eisenstein, I did not recognize how all of us are so entrenched in the system that we either think it’s all right, we just don’t understand it well enough to make a discernment, or we know it’s all wrong but believe we can’t really do much about it. Poppycock to all of that! Economists have been predicting a bad outcome of this system since 1920. I asked a friend of mine who majored in economics in college whether he had ever heard of money theorists Irving Fisher, Henry George and Silvio Gesell who all advocated a departure from market economics. He said no. In the classes he took they only learned how our present system works and how to take best advantage of it to make money.
Whoa! I have to get off this soapbox now because my blood pressure is rising, and I hate it when that happens. In other words, I’m not having fun anymore. Maybe I can have more fun next time when I present some of Eisenstein’s solutions, one of which is consciousness-raising, which was the original intention for this post until I let it get away from me with hot-under-the-collar syndrome.