Leeches and real value

Money, of course, is not evil.  It is simply a medium of exchange.  A token.  IOU’s, in effect.  Perfectly legit for trading amongst complicated social beings living and working at numerous goods and services in equally as numerous places around the globe.

But the monetary system as we practice it currently is bad.  In fact, it is so bad that it needs a grand overhaul by an ethical, moral body that restricts profligate printing, prohibits interest and strips banks of the ability to create ‘financial products’.  In fact, we have to eliminate or drastically alter capitalism as it is practised today or we will likely face more economic implosions on a more frequent and regular basis.

But that will never happen.  Or will it? 

Probably never ’cause the current system is rigged against the people who use it.  And it seems to disregard the source of all real value – the planet.  Giant leeches and other parasites live off the exchange of money (rather than the exchange of goods and services) and they will likely not want to give that up.  And, anyway, it is hard to conceive of an uncorruptible system rising and replacing a very entrenched, powerful and corrupt one.

We need a revolution but we will never get one.  Not officially.

I bring up the topic because when people come out here for the first time, they are introduced to the view of that system and a kinda different one in a new way and they see a difference.  It is not a clear difference.  It is not a shocking contrast.  And that is because the new system of exchange they are seeing for the first time is a hybrid.  It is money and something else.  Emphasis:  something else.  But this something else (not completely foreign even to strangers doing business) is on a larger scale than ever experienced before.  It takes time, but they eventually do see it.  And then they slowly start to shed their dependency on the corrupt system to whatever extent possible and or needed.  It is not a revolution but it is almost an evolution.

Or maybe a devolution?

People need stuff.  They might plan well, shop even better and work efficiently but putting together a home from scratch and having everything you need delivered to the site all in one fell swoop is logistically and practically impossible.  People need help. And so people lean on other people, people borrow, people work together.  And the first lesson we generally learn in any system of exchange is to pay back what we borrow and to treat others as we would like to be treated.

But we newbies-in-the-feral-world don’t at first, anyway, really know what that means.  Let me give an example:

A friend and neighbour building out here needed some bolts.  I had them.  I gave them.  He was appreciative.  “Geez, thanks,  Thanks a lot.  I don’t think the value of these bolts is $25.00 but here is that amount.  I don’t care if I am paying too much…just thanks.”

“Um, I won’t take your money.  Thanks but no thanks.  Just so you know, offering me money is not a fair exchange at all.  Not out here.  Take the bolts.  Use them.  Take whatever you need.  And then, when you have a chance, replace them.  No hurry.  That is the deal out here.  Replacement is much more significant than money.  If I take your $25.00, I have to go to town, pay for the ferry and then do the shopping to get my bolts back.  I want you to do all that because I have already done it once for them to be on hand for you.  Don’t give me money, give me bolts!”

Of course he immediately understood but was still somewhat confused for a minute.  This was a different kind of exchange. “Hmmm….money usually works….what just happened here….?”

I mention that story because it shows how the current monetary system is often  unsuitable for a place like this, for people doing this and for a lifestyle like this.

Of course, we all still need money.  We need stuff and most stuff comes from the urban centres (or China).  Man’s gotta shop.  But more and more of our life out here is not monetary based.  We help out a neighbour painting his house and a few years later, that neighbour comes over and helps us.  No money was exchanged.  No ‘cut’ was given to the tax man. No ‘interest’ was paid on the favour to any bank.  A value was exchanged but it was exchanged outside the current system.  And, the longer you live out here, the more of that happens.

It is not a ‘dodge’ to get out of paying the tax man and the money lenders, the regulators, the authorities and the myriad middle people, it is simply done out of expedience.  You need help and I give it and, when I need it, you give it.  Simple.  Direct.  No leeches need be involved.

Gifts of food, favours of labour, exchanges of skill.  But less and less cash.  Result: fewer and fewer leeches.

It is often a foreign concept to the urbanite.  Very foreign for the successful business-oriented urbanite.  But once the concept is grasped, just about everyone deals with local exchanges in a fair, equitable but quite unmeasureable way.  And time is rarely factored in.  It just works for us.  It works for others who live on the fringes.  It is a hybrid system.

So, if Wendy bakes me a pie as a gesture of gratitude for driving her into town, is that a fair exchange of values?  If we reduced the pie and the trip to monetary units, I lost out.  The trip is worth more.  And, if I am feeling cheated in that transaction, I am unlikely to do it again.  But we don’t do that kind of figuring.  We just do for each other.  And then no one feels cheated.  “It will all work out in the end.”   And so Wendy might catch a ride next month, too.  I might get another pie, I might not.  There is no accounting except for feeling a general sense of ‘fairness’ in that relationship.  Or not.

And it mostly seems to be there most of the time with most of the people.  The absence of leeches helps greatly.

3 thoughts on “Leeches and real value

  1. I like the barter thing as practised on your island. Here in suburbia we’ve got barter but it’s barter without future benefits. Most likely the bucket of bolts guy will continue in your orbit whereas suburbia barterers seldom meet again. I like the island barters that build political capital and community too.


    • You are right, of course. Lots of people mean bigger orbits. Less chance of a second encounter in the city. But I don’t think that is the main reason. If it were just left to the pressure of second encounters, people out here could elude that – perhaps not as easily, but they could. We are remote, after all. I think it is based more on ethics and inter dependence. I think most people will ‘do the right thing’ to others and I think we also know that we need ‘the same others to ‘do the right thing’ for us now and then. One thing is clear- the current monetary system does not encourage ethics or ‘doing the righ thing’.


      • I think you are right the greed factor is not in play the way it is on Wall street. You don’t keep a tin of bolts just to suck in some mark with the intention of fleecing him.


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