The First Steps to a World Without Money

 

The First Steps to A World Without Money

 

By RR Murchison

 

 

 

It wont take you long after you start reading this to realize that I am not an economist.  Like President Trump, I like to pretend to know more than the experts but realistically I am not sure I can legally fill out a will…that whole ‘sound mind’ thing really gets to me every time.  I wish I knew more but frankly whatever knowledge I have was apprehended on other people’s genius and recognition that just because a guy drives a cab or cuts hair doesn’t mean he or she is not smarter than the people who hide in the forest to get away from the trees.  Experts have the inane ability to reject common sense by saying stupid things like “If it was that easy we would be doing it already”.    Its been my experience that there are 2 arguments against doing anything and only one argument for.  The only argument for or against something that makes sense is “Is it possible?”.  When the answer to that question is “yes” then we must consider it.

 

Fundamental Truth

 

 

 

Money makes the world go ‘round.  It is a cliché but it is sadly true.  There is no function in society, no relative contribution to its detriment or its well-being that cannot be weighed, measured and valued.  Money can’t buy true love but it can buy some damn good acting from pretty much anyone who believes that prospering is better than just surviving.

 

To that end, we are all hookers under the skin.  While some of us may not do that in our homes or with our bodies but we have, no doubt, prostituted ourselves in the work place and in social interaction to further ourselves financially.  It is the way of things.  Everything and everyone has a value, a potential value and can be a value-added commodity.  Human beings in a market economy are only valued by their ability to generate or maintain income.  The second question after “how do you do?” in the market economy is “what do you do?”.  The relative consequence of answering that question determines your value to the questioner and ultimately to society.

 

If the respondent answers “I am unemployed” or “I am a housewife and care giver to two children” the relative value to the questioner is nil.  If, however, the respondent answers “I don’t do anything but spend my father’s money and he is a contract killer for the mob” your perceived value to the questioner increases.  The full-time care giver is considered a pariah by the questioner even though that person has been entrusted with preparing two elements to the future of humanity.  The child of the killer who does nothing but spend his father’s ill-begotten gains is treated with greater respect and admiration because he has access to money.

 

Our society which some say is supposed to be based upon values espoused by Jesus Christ is fundamentally flawed.  Or perhaps more accurately, supposed Christian values are flawed by Fundamentalism.  This type of fundamentalism shrouds itself in conservative morality, a morality that completely ignores the plight of the less fortunate as a group and some people’s fundamental truth that “God is Love” and that God alone is judge; and ‘if a man asks you for your coat you give him the shirt off your back too’. 

 

The conservative Fundamentalism may not have trouble with the notion that morality is based on loving God with everything that you are and loving others as you would like to be loved as they would see that as individual obligation superseding collective will.  The conservative fundamentalist ignores or rejects outright the passage in the Acts of the Apostles when St. Peter, the man chosen by Jesus to be the head of the church, said that ‘all goods owned by individuals who call themselves members of the church should be used for the common good of all.’ (Truly abhorrent behaviour to someone who believes that his or possibly her lot in life was a blessed right given by God). The Fundamentalist ignores St. Peter’s approach and wraps themselves in the capitalist mentality that exploitation and greed should be rewarded. 

 

 How did we depart from “no man can serve God and money?”, “Make friends with filthy mammon?” and “Money is the root of all evil?”   These are purported to be Christian values and yet have nothing to do with the values and principals of the economies of “Christian” nations around the world.  And we wonder why other faiths don’t understand our values.

 

It makes me wonder if anyone in Capitalist North America and western Europe could even understand an economy based upon actual Christian values.

 

 The Lie of Efficiency

 

During the Harper years in Canada, for example, it was plainly evident to me (Again not an economist…just a bitchy observer) that the government was doing whatever it could to maintain higher unemployment in the manufacturing sector in favour of the resource sector.  Higher unemployment is desirable for the Conservative as it drives down wage demands and is resultantly anti-inflationary.  Its cruel to those who yearn for employment to feed their families but effective at driving people from one part of the country to another as well as reducing the relative expectation of salary.

 

Business in general prospers as the echelon wages and bonuses increase while general salary expenditure decreases.  The bottom line looks so much better when you are paying next to nothing for labour.

 

Over the long term, it is self defeating, of course, as fewer and fewer people have the money it takes to drive the economy… which eventually hurts the bottom line for all those who benefitted from lower wage demands.  Many of those companies decided to further augment the bottom line by moving service and manufacturing to third world countries. 

 

It really is even more self defeating as even fewer people have the money to purchase the products and services those same companies produce.

 

The sad part is, from a corporate value point of view, those same companies seem to be more efficient and making more as they quietly destroy the economy they claim to be part of.

 

“Efficiency” is the root of all corporate evil.  The Private Sector uses the word to justify mass lay-offs, getting rid of middle management and moving to cheap labour countries.  While the word should be embraced, its application has become a source of pandemic evil through-out the industrial world.  Nothing makes a worker cringe more than hearing that his or her company has hired an ‘efficiency expert’.

 

The public sector on the other hand has never been what one would call efficient.  Rather, that is a term used to get rid of enough low-level operatives so that the individual department can no longer fulfill its mandate.  The harsh reality of the public sector is that if there is to be a purge, the purge should really begin at the top.  Most of the higher-ups in the public sector have ridiculously high wages for the work they rarely actually do.  In my pathetic little province of New Brunswick, The Standing Committee on Public Accounts document, shows 1,664 employees in 43 departments, Crown corporations and agencies earned more than $100,000 in 2011-12…(There are even more now) that is frankly insane for a province of 700 000 people.  I would doubt there would be more than a few hundred people in the private sector making that kind of money…. we’re a poor Province.

 

Money Makes It Happen

 

The dependency on money has brutal limitations.  Even if our corporate masters would allow it, is there enough money for all of us to have a decent life?  According to some policy makers there isn’t enough money to make sure everyone in the world has enough food and water…or so we are told.  Those that make the cash say it can’t solve our homeless issues.  Around the world there are people desperate for medicines that we have in abundance and yet the desperate don’t have the money to buy them.  I guess this is Darwin at work? 

 

According to some news story I can barely remember, we might be able to develop (Or have developed?) plasma engines that could be installed in just a few years that would enable us to fly to Mars and beyond but we can’t because we don’t have enough money.  So, we have both the technology and the desire but we need the money.  We can’t feed the starving, we can’t give medicines to those who need it and we can’t explore the galaxy because the artificial wallet we make for ourselves doesn’t have enough fake money in it. 

 

Using the Cost-Benefit Formula

 

My father’s simplistic solution to that, still rings true for me today.  You own the mint, if you need money, print more!  No, he was not stupid.  He believed that if government applied a cost-benefit formula to its expenditures and eliminated the annual deficit in favour of a 4-year plan, the returns from wise investment would offset the seemingly crazy expenditures.  It would require a lot of political good will to implement and government courage unlike any we have ever seen.

 

The rewards, however, would be huge. 

 

The New National Dream.

 

To illustrate high spending with higher rewards:  Imagine high-speed rail crossing the second largest country in the world in less than 24 hours.  Its financially impossible now but if we could convince the International Monetary Fund and other nations to agree to let us pilot the notion of working on a 4-year cycle, we could see major projects approved just on their positive cost to benefit realization.  A closed-off-to-the-weather, near-linear mag-lev and magnetically-induced rail-line travelling at air travel speeds is possible.  It is just a matter of economic and political will.  Can you imagine something manufactured in Halifax arriving the next day in Vancouver?  Can you imagine people leaving Moncton and arriving in Calgary the next day having never left the ground?  It would change the dynamic of this country forever.  It would put an end to massive air pollution from short haul planes and jets and much faster than taking your car.  Heck it might pay for itself just from American travel tourism alone.

 

But we can’t because it would cost too much.  Yes, there is a significant cost benefit that might pay for itself over 20 years but no one cares about that because the initial capital outlay is prohibitive.    I know there is an Eskimo in Alert with a bag of chips saying to his only neighbour for hundreds of miles…” If I give one to you I gotta give one to everybody else.”

 

There is that problem with opening the door on extreme spending, that once you open it, it can’t be closed.   But I would suggest it might make the price of oranges a bit pricey {sky rocketing inflation by way of putting too much money into circulation in a short period} but if the end resulting revenue from taxes exceeds the short-term costs, it is well worth doing.  Isn’t it?

 

This would be the beginning of the end of the monetary system as we know it.

 

The numbers might be scary… a multi billion-dollar deficit for the realization of a few billion in returns over 4 years and only recovering the investment over 20 years.  It’s a risk that no one wants to take but I think it is the only way to move forward.

 

 

 

A GAIn for the Working Poor

 

(Yes, I know you’ve heard this a lot lately but I feel like I was among the first advocating for it so I want my version to be heard.  I first wrote about this in a paper I did in high school back in 1977 and I have been an advocate ever since) There have been pilot projects in Manitoba (late 70s early 80s as I recall) and recently in Ontario and in PEI.  It was a recommendation by the MacDonald Commission on the Economy circa 1982, became Liberal Party policy as Negative Income tax in 1983 or 84 but luckily for me Conservative Senator Hugh Segal created it in the late 80s.  I don’t care whose idea it was or wasn’t…its good government policy and is the beginning of not using money to cover basic necessities moving into the future)

 

There is no way to spend money on trains or anything else for that matter without addressing poverty. 

 

Put simply, a Guaranteed Annual Income provides a certain level of income to every man woman and child so that their basic needs are met.  It is the best way to make sure everyone has enough money to survive without the stigma of welfare and the short-term solution of unemployment insurance.

 

Arguments against it range from “if you pay people to do nothing then nothing is what they will do” and the (Former Prime Minister)Paul Martin Junior argument that there just isn’t enough money to give people an amount that would allow them to survive.  Ok, there are other more legitimate arguments as well.  It could be hyperinflationary as Loblaws, Sobeys and the landlords realize how much more they could be charging for food and lodging.  And, the provinces could fight it as it wanders into their jurisdiction.  For the latter, I have no answer other than we really need the provinces to be on-board as without them there really wont be enough money for everyone.

 

The primary conservative argument that if you pay people to nothing then nothing is what they will do is not borne out in the places that had guaranteed annual income.  Most Norwegians earn(ed?  I have no idea if they still have the policy) less from their jobs than they received from their guaranteed annual income and yet most went to work.  I refuse to believe that Norwegians have a better work ethic than Canadians.

 

I do believe that businesses that are generally exploitive and use turnover as a weapon might want to rethink that policy if the people working for them could get almost as much money staying home.  This too might contribute to inflation as a number of low paying employers will simply have to pay more to keep good people. I don’t expect the GAIn amount to be so lucrative that it will pay people to stay home but it might give them options where none exist now.

 

Far more problematic is the question of ‘would there be enough money?’.  The idea is to take all the social expenditures from welfare transfer payments, GIS, CPP Disability, certain health transfers, tax savings, Child tax benefit, GST HST refunds etc together with the cost of administering those payments and gather that all in to one cheque payable to all taxpayers who make $25,000 per annum or less.  I am guessing that without Provincial involvement, it would be about $18,000 for adults and 8,000 for children.  With the provinces participating I am hoping it will be $25,000 per adult and $10,000 per child. That is $4,000 more than the average full-time minimum wage.  The individual amount coupled with a spouse’s amount together with the amount for a couple of children, it could put an end to child poverty permanently.

 

It will be tougher for low paying employers to keep workers but if it’s a decent place to work, many GAIn recipients, if not most, will continue to work at their job regardless.  It puts a little balance in the workforce and it creates a more competitive environment for employers to get good people and keep them.

 

Changing Taxes

 

To facilitate the Guaranteed Annual Income and to make it worthwhile for those who benefit from it, there must be some major tax changes.  I would suggest a very nominal tax rate for the first $25,000 of earned income; somewhere near one half of 1 percent for the first $25,000 and then 35% of each dollar above it.  This insures that we’re putting money in the hands of the people who spend it without it breaking the bank to pay for the GAIn.

 

Maximum Wage

 

I also believe the time has come for us to say no to the moronic greed in the upper echelon of corporate Canada.  Anyone making more than a million dollars in a single year will pay a heavy tax penalty of 90% of every dollar more than that amount.  Sports professionals will be partially exempt and we will continue to allow forward averaging.

 

HST GST

 

There is no question the Guaranteed Annual Income will be a strain on the Government coffers.  To that end we must take advantage of what we hope will be increased consumer spending at the low end and raise the Federal and Provincial Sales Taxes.  The Federal rate should be in and around 10 percent.  This insures that the Government will get back some of what it added to the economy without taking it away before it is even spent.  Income tax on low income earners is an anchor to growth and it hurts children and the poor to benefit those who don’t need it.

 

How would it work?

 

Administration of the GAIn would be challenging but there are 2 methods that spring to mind.  One is make it universal and tax it back from those who don’t need it.  The other is to allow Canadians to apply for it as they need it.  For example, if Tom has a job that pays $20,000 he could apply for a quarterly GAIn cheque of $1250 and as his circumstances improve over the next quarters his GAIn cheque would go down. But if he lost his job or got his hours reduced he could apply for an immediate top up.  If he got overpaid over the course of the year it would be reflected in his payable taxes and his GAIn amount in the coming year might be reduced. 

 

The basic idea is to have a family of 4 make a minimum of $70,000 per annum.  25 thousand for each parent and 10 thousand for each child.  I don’t know how likely that is but its an amount worth shooting for.  Fundamentally (so to speak) the concept is low income Canadians would have enough to pay for food, clothing, lodging, communication and transportation.  While the $10,000 for each child may seem excessive but it would be taxable as it puts the mother and father over the tax threshold of $25000 and therefore taxable at the rate of 35%.  Health deductions might apply so we would leave it at the higher rate.

 

A World Without Money

 

I believe these are the first steps to removing money as the only way of determining value and measuring prosperity in a future world.  If we eliminate annual deficits by measuring a cost to benefit formula for government spending, we have exchanged the artificial value of currency for a longer-term value of return on investment.  I wont get into the obvious cautionary tale about what constitutes a solid investment. 

 

If we follow the basic formula that spending now returns enough by way of saving on future spending within 4 years {The Social Benefit Formula.  You feed a person today and it saves you on medical and/or policing expenses tomorrow} And the return on capital investment formula whereby there is sufficient return over a period of 4 to 10 years to get the money invested back and longer term to realize a profit on the investment. The value of money changes from something limiting and quantifiable to something limitless and stimulative.

 

Similarly, the use of a Guaranteed Annual Income reduces the use of money to a basic credit for the essentials of food, clothing, shelter, communication and transportation.  While one can make more than just the Guaranteed Annual Income and improve one’s quality of life, the basic standard is there and is quantified only by choice.

 

The only purpose for money at that point is the measure of advancement and the incentive to advance.

 

Perhaps, as we evolve, we will no longer need to measure success individually and collective prosperity will be our true measure.  Ok start naming all the successful communist countries….hmmmm. 

 

Yes, measuring prosperity by collective success could take a while before people could accept it and it would have to coincide with the general acceptance of a fundamental Christian view that “Whatever you did not do for the least of these my brethren, you did not do for me…”  but eventually people might see a world without money has to be better than rewarding greed and narcissism.  Perchance to dream.  Hmmm what would Jesus do?

 

-30-

 

 

 

 

 

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Universal Truth and Other Lies

As you can tell by my often cherry  disposition, I have a lot of unmanaged physical and emotional pain in my life.  I’ll start with the chronic illnesses Emphysema, Diabetes and High Blood Pressure and Arthritis in the joints in my back.  Relax, this isn’t a pity party, I just mention that to excuse my bad behaviour and to say, that in spite of all that I am less comforted by spirituality than ever, even in my earlier less pain filled life.  So when I am writing about spirituality, I am not writing about something that I find emotionally comforting or even  promising.    It’s a simple source of looking deeper into life.

A big bang doesn’t satisfy me….I have to know who lit the match.  If something as immense as the creator of the universe, caused, through evolution, beings to become self-aware, isn’t it reasonable to assume that the creator would be aware of them?  If we can accept that, then it’s not a big stretch to think that if the beings truly screwed up their understanding of truth, he might walk amongst them as one of them and offer a better explanation rooted in compassion rather than dictation.

The first thing we have to consider is that faith, religion  and belief are all separate topics.  The Bible is not an authoritative source of Universal Truth.  It is fundamentally a book written by men about who they think is God.  It does not offer scientific evidence or concrete verifiable evidence or even accurate history.  It is what it is, a story about some guy named Yahweh Tetragrammaton and his kid Jesus.

Is it lies?  Yes! But it also contains truth.  Like all good stories it contains a lot of hyperbole.  The miracles probably happened but  in a very minor way.  I am sure Jesus did feed a lot of people with very little and I am sure that Lazarus probably seemed dead when he was brought to life.  Am I suggesting he was not Divine?  No I am saying that his divinity was not established by miracles.  Am I saying that miracles don’t exist?  Not at all.

Every day of my life I get a chance to make someone laugh and in that laughter they get a moment of joy and in that moment of joy they find solace and peace and in that moment they truly discover God.  That is a Moment of Eternity…that is a miracle coming from a man  who lives in relative agony.  When you cut your finger, blood cells crust over the cut allowing the epidermis to cover the broken area and in a few days you can hardly tell where the cut was…that is a miracle…that through hundreds of millenia we have adapted this incredible healing power.

The problem with organized religions are that they have stopped searching for truth and started selling the lies they know.  Real religion is a constant state of discovery and continual redefining of truth.  It evolves and grows and never finishes discovering who and what the Truth is.   Defining God wasn’t supposed to be easy.  There is no accurate rule book…no set of rules to play by that if you do them, God will find you perfect.  Jesus calls this sort of sin based definition of God as hypocrisy.  “Hypocrite …take the huge sins out of your own eye before you even think of telling someone else about their sins. ”  He even defined god-like behaviour as doing things for others…”whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.”  He and Moses both referred to the essence of true religion  as being to love god and love each other the way you want to be loved.

The plain reality is that the Universal Creator is  far too complex an entity for us to define in any one book.  Although John comes close to offering the most satisfying definition for me, “God is Love and he that abides in Love abides in God and God in him”

So then are we just the sum of our human parts?  Is there more to life than this? Are we mortal or are we eternal?  Contrary to fundamentalist and Roman Catholic belief, Jesus did not just show up to add new rules and make life more difficult.  Rather his focus was establishing eternity and opening up the doors to everyone that wants in.  This eternity is not locked in the space-time continuum.  As  he said, “A day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is but a day in the kingdom of God”  So time is irrelevant.  To reach it, one must die.  On the cross he said to the other condemned, “Today you’ll be with me in Paradise.

But does eternity exist?  It does. It’s in everything we see and do.  Humans  evolved from the  life elements found in dust and when they die they are transformed back into dust.  But what of the soul?  Do we have one and if we do what does the soul transform into?  The only empiracle  evidence of a soul is in the electrical  impulses of a dying person seem to live on for a time after the body is dead.  Eternity is necessary to establish some form of justice…some measure of fairness to life.  Sure he was born rich and lived a pretty cushy existence but its easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of god.  The existence of an afterlife is an inherent promise of religion.  Without that, life would be enormously unfair but with the promise of paradise for the good and eternal retribution for the evil, life seems a bit more palatable.  But what evidence is there that when we die we just cease to exist?  There is none there either…its just easier to understand logically.

If we listen to Jesus he promised reward for enduring the sufferings of this present age.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and again to his fellow condemned, “Today you will be with me in paradise”.  The dust we are made from and the dust we become after death is the same substance that was at the beginning of the universe…so we are already eternal.   Then it comes back to the original supposition, if we are made to be aware of the possibility of a god, there is an equal chance that he/she/it is aware of us.  That we are all part of a mystical body of truth and our physical beings limited by linear time, are in fact vessels that prevent us from joining  an eternal truth.