Gross inequality through the storing of value

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Money is not just a medium of exchange; amongst other things, its current form is also a store of value. Married to an economic model such as capitalism, this can only lead to gross inequality. I don’t feel this needs much qualification, we all know that the saying “the rich get rich, whilst the poor get poorer” is a truism. You only have to look at a report in 2006 by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations, which states that 1% of the world’s adults now own 40% of its wealth.

Some will claim that because of the monetary capitalist system, all have been risen up, even if a few have done much better than others. This never comes from the mouths of the 3 billion people living in absolute poverty, or the 25,000-50,000 parents who lose a child to starvation every day. Absolute poverty aside, just as many social issues can stem from relative poverty, that perceived sense of injustice that people who struggle through life, on a daily basis, feel towards what many describe as ‘the elite’, those who hoard the wealth the working classes created, and whom then use that very wealth to tighten the grip of power on those below that little bit harder. A report by the Guardian newspaper and the London School of Economics (LSE)(26) highlighted that this perceived inequality was a major reason behind the riots in Tottenham and the rest of the UK in 2011.

What struck me most about the self-righteous outrage after the riots and looting in Tottenham was the fact that those voicing most disgust live lives that are only possible because of our government’s looting of foreign lands, and our corporations’ looting of the oceans, the rainforests, and the hills that home the minerals that we need to produce the landfill of things that we base our everyday lives around. Of course the hypocrisy and absurdity of this was wasted on us all, for little other reason than the looting of the Earth has been culturally normalised, whilst the looting of JJB Sports and Top Man has been culturally deamed a crime.

Without money as a store of wealth – and here I mean all forms of money, whether it be private property, gold, dollar or the Bristol pound – these unnecessary inequalities don’t occur to anywhere near the same extent, and therefore there are less of the social problems that go with it. Some prominent economists, from Gesell to Keynes, have tied themselves up in all sorts of complex knots discussing negative interest forms of money, such as demurrage, that they claim could offer the potential to keep money as a medium of exchange and neutralise its function as a store of wealth. But such monetary systems, even if they could work (and I don’t believe they can), are only necessary if we want high technologies. And as I have argued, it is such technologies that are making the planet uninhabitable.

In many of the small societies of the past, where everyone had access to all which was held for the benefit of the collective, theft was unheard of. If you had access to all the wealth of a community, why would you loot?