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.
Observing the behaviour of the physical universe one can deduce that a balance between action an reaction is a law of the physical universe.
Thus it is not surprising that exchanges, balanced actions and reactions, between individual living organisms and their environments occur naturally and continuously. From the individual’s point of view we call this process of exchange ingestion and excretion.
Self conscious organisms like ourselves have the power to choose whether to participate in some exchanges or not. We can hold our breath if we want to for example.
Where we share our environments with other conscious organisms like ourselves we can choose whether to exchange with them or not. The ideal, from how the universe operates, is that such exchanges should be balanced, in the individual’s case, must be mutually acceptable. The highest form of this is when an exchange is entered into voluntarily by the participants.
Throughout our lives voluntary exchanges, of goods and services between one and other, are actually essential both for our survival and growth as independent beings. But arranging such successful exchanges is very demanding in effort and time. The person wanting to make an exchange has to find someone who is offering an item that they want in exchange for the item that they are offering.
The effort and time would be greatly reduced however if the person initiating the exchange had in their possession an item from the class of Universally Exchangeable[UE] items that could be exchanged with the possessor of the item that they are seeking. This other person could then exchange the UE item for something that they want.
The items in the UE class do not occur naturally however and before they could be exchanged they would have to be created. The possession of one or more UE items is obviously of great benefit to the individual possessor so in the interests of economic fairness the ability to create UE items should be available to everybody in the economy, but not for free to the creator it would have to be tied to the completion of the supply half of the exhange. Today in the world such a facility is not generally available resulting in the growth of alternative money systems in an effort to correct this problem.
The alternative money systems do not necessarily address the actual heart of the money problem however. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the concept of value, of which, money should be an authentic outer expression, that is all. The problem, the only problem, arises when money is put into circulation that is not an authentic outward expression of the value enshrined in a completed exchange.
How is this to be corrected? Or, in other words, how should items, destined for the UE class, be created authentically?
Let us seek the answers to this question by analysing the components of a succesfully completed exchange.
Completed exchanges can involve absolutely anything but there is a common factor in all of them, the values of the items being exchanged. So perhaps items in the UE class should consist of statements of value.
In the world of exchanges however the values involved exist only in the exchanging parties’ heads not any where else. So ideally what needs to be done is to include something, in a completed voluntary exchange process that would become an integral part of the process and would cause the participants in the exchange to externalise the values involved. The values must of course be identical for both parties otherwise the exchange would not have completed successfully. If the exchanging parties were separated from one and other, in time or space, then then this is the value that would need to be externalised and reliably communicated between them.
As society functions on completed exchanges where the participants are in general seperated in time and space it is not surprising therefore that
a) there is a commonly used name for these externalisations of value, once they are recorded, namely, money.
b) the purpose of money is generally understood to be that of facilitating the exchanges of goods and services.
We do have problems, however, arising from the externalisation of values in money. This is because money can be created apart from any exchanges and their values. For convenience I call new money created in this way ‘artificial’ and new money produced from within completed exchanges ‘natural’. The disconnect of artificial money from real exchanged values is resolved when it is in circulation either by chance, then it becomes ‘natural’ money, or by the debasement of the currency.
On the other hand money creation starts ‘naturally’ every time somebody uses a credit card to make a purchase but the new money remains ‘artificial’ until the associated credit debt is settled using old money. At that point, which is basically the completion of the exchange, the new money becomes fully ‘natural’ money.
In the current money system this settlement has to happen after 30 days but if the settlement is with a credit extension rather than a loan taken from deposits of old money then the new money remains ‘artificial’ and potentially debasing of the currency.
Artificial money is also created every time a bank grants a long term loan, i.e. term of the loan being for more than 30 days, using new money, rather than using old money taken from deposits. This new money only becomes ‘natural’, in tranches as the loan is paid off.
Currently, because we allow for the creation of money that is only going to become ‘natural’ by chance, rather than automatically, as credit debts are discharged, we are totally accustomed to artificial money, and its associated problems, rather than accustomed to problem free ‘natural’ money.
What I’ve been wondering is whether part of any Alternative money system’s offerings should not be ‘Natural’ money as the official money systems only offer ‘Artificial’ money and therefore it’s problems too?
What if your talent is making gnomes out of Airwick Solid air fresheners for the back of the ?toilet, but nobody wants them.
If no one wants them, try something else. It’s the same as the ‘regular’ economy.
What if you are a talented surgeon and the Airwick Solid gnome maker wants a surgery? How does the exchange measure on the Community Exchange system?
Ask yourself the same question about a surgeon in the ‘regular’ economy.