Many who join the Community Exchange System see little difference between Talents* and money. After all, both are used in a similar way to “get stuff”. Some believe that both are representations of “energy” and ultimately “do the same thing”.

On a superficial level, these observations are correct. Both are a means of exchange, used to facilitate exchange. Without them, life would be more complicated for every-day exchange. In situations where most relationships are impersonal (e.g. in cities), traditional forms of exchange would make life difficult. Having a means of exchange allows people to obtain what they require without having to provide something directly in return.

However, we need to look beyond the means of exchange aspect to discern the differences. Neither Talents nor money operate in a vacuum; each is an element of a system of exchange. The most important feature of money is that it “exists”, in that it has the property of quantity. There has to be a finite number of monetary units, or else it is meaningless. Anything that exists has to be created, and for something to be created there needs to be a creator. This is the crux. The creation of money is outsourced to private banks, which create money as debt. Money is created as a money-making enterprise, and at its source is coercion, violence. Borrowers who receive newly-created money (loans) are obliged to return it with tribute attached (interest). In practice, this means that they have to give back more than they have received in order to redistribute to the lenders a portion of the wealth they create.

The monetary system is, thus, a redistribution system that forces producers to hand over a portion of their product to the “money providers”. Those who issue the means of exchange also control it, rendering the money system a control system as well. A system that forces producers to redistribute a portion of their product, distorts human relationships and forces producers into producing that which provides the greatest profit, not what is socially necessary or environmentally sustainable.

Talents, on the other hand, do not have the property of quantity. This means they do not exist and they have no creator. Talents are a unit of measure like litres or kilometres. Talents measure value provided or received; they are not media “transferred” between parties like money. As Talents are not created by anyone, no one can benefit from providing the means of exchange. This makes Talents fundamentally different from money.

  • Talents measure the flow of energy; money diverts it
  • Talents liberate; money enslaves
  • Talents connect; money divides
  • Money can be stolen, Talents can’t
  • Talents spread wealth; money concentrates it, giving the wealthy power over people and nations.
  • Talents come from “us“; money comes from “them
  • Talents encourage sharing; money encourages greed
  • Talents encourage cooperation; money encourages competition
  • Talents focus our attention on how we can help one another; money focuses our attention on how to obtain the medium
  • Talents reflect sufficiency; money is expansionary and seeks to monetise everything
  • Talents encourage honesty and openness; money encourages dishonesty, corruption and opaqueness
  • Talents are based on love; money is based on scarcity (fear, coercion and ultimately violence).

There are many other differences between Talents and money. These are a subject for subsequent articles.

Talents is a generic term for the mutual credit “currencies” used by exchange groups on the CES. In reality, hundreds of different names are used, but “Talents” is one of the most popular.