New Civilization News: Money is Anti-Networking    
 Money is Anti-Networking22 comments
14 May 2002 @ 22:53, by Flemming Funch

Money can be a very useful thing. Its original purpose was probably to facilitate exchange. It allows you to trade things even when what you have to trade with doesn't match exactly what somebody else has to trade with. You know, you have an extra ox, but need eggs. The person who has extra eggs needs to have his roof fixed, etc. A monetary currency allows you to make an exchange, even if your items don't quite match. That assumes of course that you somehow have managed to have some money ready for when you need something. And there are various hidden issues and problems with the type of money we happen to use (fiat currency created by privately owned banks and lent out for interest). But the point I want to focus on is how the use of money tends to break down networks and communities.

The thing is that with money the buyer and seller don't have to know each other, don't have to know anything about each other, don't have to like each other, and don't really have to be happy with the transaction, as long as it goes through.

If I want to buy a donut, I can go into any donut store and tell them to give me donut, and they tell me "50 cents!". That's at first glance a real good thing, as it makes it easier to find and acquire the donut I want. But it also means that I'm quite likely to pick a donut store without knowing anything about it, other than that it is close and that it sells donuts. The clerk in the store might be a rude jerk, or he might think I am. Doesn't matter much, he'll probably still sell me the donut. Maybe he spit in the dough or dropped dishwashing liquid in it when he was making it, I don't know. Maybe I will think it tastes funny, but I probably won't do anything about it. The transaction happened and he got his money.

My ideal would be that I do business primarily with people I either already know, or that are recommended by people who's opinion I respect. I.e. a positive past history is important. And a positive future history is important, because I would recommend the service to my friends, or I would warn my friends against it. So, when I'm looking for something, I'd want look amongst my friends first.

If there were no "neutral" exchange medium such as money, I'd have to do it that way. If I couldn't find somebody to deliver a certain service or good amongst my friends, and those my friends would know, I'd be out of luck. And if there were only one person who could deliver the service amongst my associates, I'd have to accept it from them, whether it was of high quality or not.

So, I'm looking for something sort of in-between the local tribal community where you know everybody, and the wide open marketplace where you mostly don't know anybody.

Some of that is naturally developing in the current Internet world. There are trends towards customers wanting to talk with each other. Many people will now, before buying anything, go to an online community or information database and see what other people's experiences have been with that product or a certain vendor. Documents like the "Cluetrain Manifesto" are trying to wake the world (particularly corporations) up to the fact that this is the way things are headed.

But the nature of our money is sort of pulling things in the other directions. If you have enough money you don't have to be nice to anybody, and you don't have to maintain a network of friends. You can buy stuff from just anybody, and you can do it while being completely obnoxious to them, and they'll still give you the item and thank you, particularly if it is a high priced item. And if you're the vendor and you have managed to fight yourself up to having a monopoly, i.e. people have to give you their money, you don't have to be nice to anybody either, because there's nowhere else to go.

So, I will claim that money is an anti-networking agent. But I also think that money will eventually have to transform into something else, because we're increasingly insisting on something that the neutrality of money doesn't help us with. We're increasinly becoming aware of that $10 doesn't buy the same thing in different places, and there are some things we can't buy for money. There's an information and relationship structure that is increasingly more important than money.


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22 comments

15 May 2002 @ 01:13 by jstarrs : Timedollars
In France, we have a system that's called SEL (System d'echange locale) which is a fine attempt to address this problem - there are also similar worldwide organisations like Timedollars in the states. Here's the link: [link]
We shouldn't forget, maybe, that, ultimately, it's not the money that's anti-networking (putting the blame on money again???!!) but our attitude.  



15 May 2002 @ 01:14 by scottj : 2 things *wrong* with money
First it sanctifies a quid pro quo exchange and second a *free* exchange system built upon it inevitably leads to inequality and hence the politisation of the economic system and the legal system which enforces the rule of private property.

The advantage with money is that it is a universal medium of exchange and can be likened to the invention of the wheel in terms of its significance for facilitating human expansion.

The use of money depends on a level of civilisation which respects private property. The breakdown of that respect in all the richest countries of the world points to the fundamental flaw (negative feedback loop) with the unregulated quid pro quo money exchange system: ie. It inevitably leads to increasing inequality and the concentration of power with individuals soley concerned with pursuing their own self interest, this alienates a progressively larger section of the population who then cease to have any interest in the preservation of the society in which they live. This in turn leads to the aforementioned break down in law and order. Carried to its logical conclusion a money based exchange economy leads to the disintegration of organised society and probably also the destruction of the life system of the planet. In the longer view the negative feedback loop mentioned above may be seen as a built in defence mechanism Gaia has to recycle failed experiments. Gaia's message to the human experiment is crystal clear: "Evolve beyond the societal limitation of your exchange based money system or I will recycle the whole experiment and start again." So it really is up to us.

A system of exchange which goes beyond a straight quid pro quo can be seen in the way shareware is paid for on the net. In principle the buyer decides how much to pay and whether to pay at all. For this system to work it requires further social evolution beyond simply respecting property to a position of encompassig the other persons need as part of ones own arena of self interest. (At the moment we see only family and really really close friends.)

Money is not the problem, social evolution is, and given the will coupled with the development of computer technology it would be relatively simple to design and implement a money based exchange mechanism which was both efficient and equitable. This would comprise 2 essential elements: Firstly the shareware type exchange principle to replace quid pro quo and secondly a computer based money system with a limit set the amount of the balance of money any individual could hold at any one time. This would be essentially the same current credit cards except that it would be a deposit account and if you exceeded your limit of income (as opposed to expenditure) the excess would be recycled back into the system.

As I say money is not the problem, the fact the we have hardly evolved socially for the last 2000 years is.

"one wheel on my wagon but I'm still rollin' along ........"

PS. I claim copyright on this mind blowingingly accurate summary of the economic problem and will require in payment a royalty of 0.0000000001% on every transaction carried out under the new system. Move over Bill Gates there's a new kid on the block:-)  



15 May 2002 @ 02:08 by jazzolog : Where's a Donut Still Only 50 Cents?
Money like bombs has become impersonal. It's not hand-to-hand anymore, so I can make a billion and buy my island and get away with detesting other humans totally. Not so, with the old Mom & Pop grocery on so many corners of every neighborhood. If the proprietor was a mean guy, we kids just took our nickels someplace else. Somewhere along the way folks started to value a cheaper price over a service in friendship. They called it a "bargain," and A&P was born and thrived. You remind us, Ming, that deal wasn't such a bargain at all. Dana and I delight to inform telemarketers that we don't mind paying a higher price to companies we know, trust, and approve of. It's like a tax we pay to restore community to this world.  


15 May 2002 @ 02:55 by ming : Money
It is kind of easy to just blame "money", but, yes, of course it is our own attitudes that make the difference, and how we can be the most empowered in choosing that which we most prefer. And, yes, I think that even the idea of "exchange" is getting in the way of that. The sun doesn't need any kind of payment from our planet before it delivers its sunlight to it. But we humans haven't yet figured out how to arrange our affairs so that we can feel safe in just giving when there's something to give, and receiving when there is something to receive.  


15 May 2002 @ 03:36 by scottj : Hei Ming, exchange is networking is
it not? A mathematical identity even? I am convinced this is a consciousness evolution thing now, and we have the means at our disposal to actualise a leap forward, the reality exists in embryo in the shareware thing and the computer based credit card system. (Note: The Russian model of a state controlled market was in fact a huge great computer model of an economy: It worked not at all but again could have some workable elements just like visitin a scrap yard :-) As long as scarcity exists there has to be a rationing mechanism which is where exchange comes in but when my brothers interest becomes my own a new imperative steers the process and that is what we need to be working towards: appropriate rationing for a we we we economy.

I have also recently had an *ahaha* experience that says, "heh, consciousness evolution isn't a species thing its a planetry thing." It all starts to come together from that. I'm sure Lovelock and his buddies must see it that way but I am not well enough read ........ try thinking about it for a few minute ........ the implications are mind blowing .........

PS. do you have any training in economics? Sunlight is what is called "a free good" it exists in infinite supply and therefore can have no price (price = cost of production / quantity). The virtually 0 cost of reproduction of software really screws the price arithmetic too, surely somebody has done some work on this? I have nothing to do with this world anymore but I can't believe some learned brother or sister hasn't kicked this one off.)  



15 May 2002 @ 04:51 by ming : Economics
I don't have any training in economics. Read a few books here and there, that's all. I have a thick tome lying next to me, titled "Human Action - A Treatise on Economics" by Ludwig von Mises, which is sort of capitalism's answer to Das Kapital. Haven't read it though. One thing I'm postulating is that free market mechanisms is something entirely different from capitalism, which is inherently about creating monopolies through controlling the capital, but I can't really back that up with any references. Most economists seem to think that free market and capitalism are the same thing. I'm saying I've never seen a free market. Anyway, I would be leaning more towards Bucky Fuller's ways of thinking about economy, as being about how we manage our household with the input that the planet receives for free, namely mainly the sunlight. And that's of course a totally different place to start than capitalist economy which prefers to value abstract made-up numbers, and puts little value on the real resources. And, I guess, zero value on the most important resource of all, the sunlight that makes our planet function at all.

Oh, and on whether exchange is networking .. Well, buying and selling things involves some networking of course. A businessman will probably maintain a network of suppliers and sub-contractors and of customers and distributors, etc. So I think I'm mainly thinking of it from the consumers side. The advertising-driven consumer economy is more driven by the power of money than by the strength of our interpersonal relationships, and it tends to weaken our interpersonal relationships.  



15 May 2002 @ 06:32 by tdeane : Barter, Barter, Barter...
oh, what a wonderful way to live! For fifteen years as a jewelry designer/smithy, I had the joy of doing this with other artists/craftspeople, and it's not just the quality of the goods but the quality of the relationships that improve, and this was with strangers (initially--friendships develop quickly in that atmosphere). The beauty of it was that I never remember a price or value attached to anything, other than a love of each other's work in negotiating the trades.

With that feeling in mind, Gregg and I looked into Ithaca Bucks (just a short drive from us then) for use in our cooperative-type food store, but if I remember correctly, we decided it was too complex for one simple store, and we would have to wait until we were solvent to explore it further, which never happened. We also used bartering at the Farmers' Markets we participated in, with great success. We tried with little success to barter for help at the store, but we found the not-unreasonable dollar value those we asked put on their time would have put us under with our low profit margin. We were able to do that with some of our store vendors though, and again, what a difference in relationships.

We've never figured out how we can do this in our lives today minus the businesses, but when we reopen the food business we do intend to find some way of incorporating bartering at least partially, and preferrably totally. What is so awesome about bartering is that each day is so full, instead of half-full because of the impersonal space that money-based buying consumes. I am so spoiled by the experience of bartering that I no longer shop; poor Simpleman gets stuck with it all, because what was once slightly above intolerable to me has now become extremely agonizing.

Don't have an answer for the half-way solution, but I can tell you that we never had a problem bartering with strangers in gathering places for small businesses, like Farmers' Markets and Art Shows. Whether that was our good fortune or that bartering fosters honor (I suspect it does) I'm not sure. Thanks for bringing up all of those wonderful memories, Ming, and the hope that we'll be doing it again soon. Much love ~ Tricia  



15 May 2002 @ 13:36 by ming : Barter Networking
Tricia, great, yeah, that's the kind of thing I was hinting at. How it can be more full and rewarding to let things flow in a network of trusted associates, rather than just going to some shop. And I must admit that I in part was complaining because I haven't particularly figured out how to do networking for many of the day to day needs in my household. It kind of bothers me whenever I look up in the yellow pages for something I need, and I have to pick some unknown company, based only on how their ad looks and what they say to me when I call. Because I realize that it means I haven't done my homework to know which of my friends I should call instead.  


26 May 2002 @ 17:19 by protech : Multi-Dimensional Networking
I think bartering will exist in the "New Civilization" as an aspect of Super Symbolic Currency (re. Barry Carters Age Wave Chart [link] )

A movement in that direction is Multi-Program Network Marketing made possible with RecruitOmatic software by [link]

I propose NCN re-configure around an MLM business structure model.
James -- [link]  



27 May 2002 @ 14:08 by ming : MLM
Well, Multi-Level Marketing, as it is usually done, tends to raise most of my red flags right away, even though I've pursued some schemes in the past, with little success. Usually it means that somebody is going to waste several hours of my time to try to hard sell me into being a salesman for some product I don't really care about. And, sure it might be a nice product, and maybe it cures pimples or cancer, and maybe I'd make a ton of money to fund my projects. But the thing is that it usually takes me away from the things I'm already working on and focused on. And I don't like the hype and peer pressure.

What I do like, and what I think has potential, is that regular people can be empowered to make their own self-employed living, and that one might buy the products and services one needs from people one knows and trusts. But I think it can only work if the participant seller has a choice of many different sources of products of services. Traditional MLM is always a hierarchy, not a network as it pretends to be. I would like it if it were a network. That takes away some of the incentive for the sellers, because they can't necessarily be at the top of a hierarchy with thousands of people, but it would be more useful for the customers.

E.g. if I'm thinking about using some different vitamins, Rather than going to a store and asking the clerk, I'd really much rather have a friend who's an expert on vitamins, who's able to give me an impartial overview of what is available, and who can sell them to me as well, because he has contacts with all the vitamin suppliers.

So, I'm very interested in developing a network of services and resources and products, so that we aren't just talking with eachother here, but we're doing business. If I need an accountant or a pound of tomatoes or a submarine, I'd prefer to deal with my network of friends.  



27 May 2002 @ 22:34 by protech : MLM, continued
To elaborate further on what I'm suggesting.....

The "product" or "service" of the NCN MLM would be NCN ITSELF, or more specifically, the community itself empowered by this networking database you already have developed.

You see, as far as the NCN community actually becoming truly powerful, and eventually, of course, "establishing" a New Civilization, will require significantly more numbers of participants -- like probably 50 million or more (the approximate number of Cultural Creatives in the US).

The best model to create that kind of expansion that I know of, readily available and supported, is Multi Level Marketing.

Making at least aspects of NCN profitable, will probably have the effect of encouraging more registered members to actually use the database (Network and keep their profile etc updated themselves) plus equally important, refer new members, thereby building the database, and a more solid foundation for the "New Civilization".

It's entirely possible to craft the design and message to "qualify" visitors, in order to "train" them to BE a New Civilization Co-Creator (after all, wouldn't a New Civilization require a New Way of Thinking?).

Are you interested in persuing this specific line of inquiry?  



27 May 2002 @ 23:50 by ming : Sustainable NCN
Well, yes. But MLM still gives me a rash.

I recognize that a profit motive is indeed something that motivates people, even those who pretend otherwise. OK, for this group here it has to be more than just making money by itself. It has to do some good too. But I think most people here, if there is a choice, will choose the options that best secure their livelyhood, while also doing something good.

Doesn't have to be about money. But I recognize that we have to get the stuff that living is made of included in the puzzle. We can't just talk, and then live our lives elsewhere. What sustains our life materially needs to be part of the picture.

And I've often looked at how NCN could be the fertile soil for creating virtual companies, businesses, business relationships, projects, organizations, etc. You really ought to be able to put together all sorts of projects by finding the partipants and resources you need in the member database.

So far it hasn't happened by itself. But that is probably in part because the database doesn't help very much with this at this point. The design still doesn't lead straight towards concrete action. OK, anybody can go and do things, and the resources here will help, but they don't particularly provide the straight path there.

Anyway, let me clarify: I'm not interested in associating NCN with any MLMs I can think of. The thing I'm interested in is to potentially construct a new arrangement, maybe along the lines of my CHALICE proposal. I.e. a directory of services, available for money, barter, or for free, with some built-in mechanisms that provide an incentive for people to network each other's services.

I can't with any integrity embrace the pyramid scheme inherent in most MLMs. I recognize, however, that it is part of what motivates people so strongly. The residual income idea - making money for doing nothing, forever. I'm kind of leaning towards considering that one of the major things wrong with our civilization. I'm open to inquiring deeper into it, however.  



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