Monday, 10 November 2008

976 - Money is a Work Battery

This is just a cool idea. Not sure if I can tie it in to Whitley Bay. Not sure if that matters!

So we've got this thing called money, and nearly everyone uses it. Friend I spoke to at the weekend told me it was used by his managers to try to entice him back into a Big Company, when all the reasons he left are about morale and values, not financial reward.

They assumed the inherent good, or at least inevitability, of money. They were so sure it was all they'd be able to motivate him with, that they were unable to develop an alternative strategy to keep him. And he's good.

But is money inevitable?

I asked myself what money does, and I decided you could call it a work battery. It stores up work done previously, ready for discharge when you need it, to reciprocate for work done for you now. It's a handy size. It fits in your pocket, or a handful of digits on a computer. It retains the core ethos of community - reciprocity. I can imagine it developing out of the need to survive like this:

In a trusting community, work by one is 'repaid' by work in kind. But where no such repayment is possible, the produce of earlier work may be offered. A harvest of potatoes perhaps, or a metal it has taken much effort to find or extract. And in time, rather than humping your produce around with you, you might choose, within your community, a symbol to represent such produce, which is printed on paper, and portable.

So here's the rub: a battery carries a charge, but it takes energy to store the battery under the right, dry and cool, conditions - energy which is unaccounted for by the battery itself. And in the exact same way, maintaining the environment within which money works requires energy. It requires stability, the freedom to flow, an investment of trust within the community using the cash. The bigger the community, the greater the investment. And that investment cannot come from the money itself, or the money is drained of its usefulness.

What this extended thought helps me to do is tie money right back into hard physics. It is the physics of effort expended, which is about burning the calories we consume, which are subject to universal laws like the conservation of energy. We are survival machines, and 'work' is ultimately what we do to survive. If money is simply one, rarified and highly developed, tool for survival, it is no more (or less) useful than any other tool. Screwdrivers are useful, but not to pump up bicycle tyres. Generating money is no more (or less) valuable than anything else that helps the community survive.

Another tool might well, under certain circumstances, be preferable. I wonder if, credit crunching, now might be such a time.

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