No Markets

in Deep Dives3 months ago

The following is inspired by the many speeches and interviews I've seen and listened to with Richard Wollf, an American economist largely known as the country's "most prominent Marxist".


It may shock some of you, especially my crypto brothers and sisters, but we do not need money. Really, we don't. Humanity survived thousands of years without money when we were gathering and hunting, and in communities of small farmers "trading" was something that only occasionally occurred. Only when a farmer produced more milk than his rather large family, or extended community, could consume, he would meet other local producers in a place they called a "market", usually a central square or area, where they would exchange their left-overs.

If one of the farmers needed a new barn, the other families would help build it, and when it came time for him to help one of the other families, there was no dispute or price negotiated. Of course those societies had their "black sheep", who just refused to participate, but they were the exception and local gossip and accusing looks at every corner soon made them become a part of the extended family in the end. Most of the time anyway.

In those largely self-contained small societies there was no need for money. Only when we grew smarter, when were able to make more and more of these surpluses and settled in ever larger communities, we realized that not everybody had to be a farmer: one large and automated farmer today produces enough food to feed a small country. And because not everybody needs to be concerned with producing food, minds and bodies were made free to produce other goods. So we specialized and because we have machines and computers, society is now divided in a small group of large producers on one side, who sell their goods to a large group of consumers on the other side.

When exchanging goods becomes general, when people stop producing for use and occasionally exchange, but instead start producing with the full intent to exchange their products for many other goods, it becomes impossible to do one-on-one exchanges, so society finds some good, some thing that acts as a universal means of exchange. Money is only needed when a community of people decide that "trading" or "exchange" is the chosen path for products to go from producer to consumer. Markets, in other words, is the means by which we've chosen to distribute goods; look around in the world and tell me how successful that method is...

Toilet paper demonstrates how competitive markets destroy small business - Richard Wolff

Well, not only historically have we started our ever growing community as a family: as individuals we still do. Here in The Netherlands we have a saying: "The Family is the Cornerstone of Society". This is true: the family is the first, the smallest, the tightest and most important community of people we all will ever meet. In it we learn how to socialize, we get assigned tasks, and we take care of each other. Now, I would like to to do a thought-experiment and ask what happens when we introduce the economy we take for granted in every other, larger community of people, into the family...

Your family is a mini-economy. Let's imagine you live with a couple of brothers and sisters in a house with your father and mother. Mother decides to invite a bunch of blood-relatives for a large dinner: she cooks a magnificent meal and the house is filled to the brim with relatives who all enjoy your mother's kitchen-magic. See how there's production, distributing and consumption going on? Now, what would happen if one of the guests reached into his pockets to pay your mother for the meal? I know how my mother would react...

She would be furious and insulted. Father would angrily remind the erroneous family member that this is a family and that we love each other here and money doesn't belong here! And if someone would ask why not, he would explain that exchanging for money is the opposite of love and we don't want that in the family!

So in our first and smallest community, the family, money and exchange don't belong. It's not difficult to expand the family with some close friends: they can come and eat to. And what about the close friends of other relatives, are they welcome to? I guess so, because scarcity is no consideration. If inside the family this kind of exchange is seen as the opposite of love and caring for each other, maybe it's not to difficult to see how this would have the same and even intensified effect on communities on a much larger scale.

As a world society we also have no scarcity; our ability to overproduce is awe inspiring. Also we are so close to each other with modern technology, internet, mobile phones and social media; we're truly becoming a global village. Is it really so hard then to extend the extended family just a little bit more? What will it take for us to become a true Global Family where we produce and consume because we love and respect each other and the planet we live on? Markets, this game of bartering with the singular goal of making a profit is tearing our societies apart. Listen to this very short video, in which professor Richard Wolff explains how Aristotle and Plato already knew this to be true.

Richard Wolff on Why Markets Destroy Community

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