What would you do if you had no money? The obvious answer is ‘get money’. But what if you couldn’t get money or more specifically didn’t want to get money. Welcome to the world of Mark Boyle. In The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living, Mark Boyle puts his mouth where his money used to be.
It’s easy to think of life without enough money. For most of us, that life IS our life. But trying to think of life without money at all is actually somewhat difficult. If you need food, you can go to the store or you can go to McDonalds. If you need food but you have no money and refuse to take charity in the form of money or friends giving you stuff, this simple need becomes a bit of an adventure. What do you do? You can grow some of your own food if there is a community garden they’ll let you use. You can go dumpster diving or ask local businesses if they’re throwing anything out. You can forage in the forest. The thing that this book illustrates time and again is that there are options without money.
It begins with a fantastic and simple description of finances, banking and debt. He explains clearly how he’s not against the concept of money exactly. He’s against debt. He’s against what world currencies have created. He’s against financial institutions that only exist to make rich people richer. Some protest these people who seem to have rigged the system. Mark Boyle makes an interesting choice by walking away from the game entirely.
It would be easy to pick this book apart if I wanted to. I could point out how much stuff he got simply because he was lucky. (Not everyone who reads the book is going to be able to put a donated trailer on a community garden and live rent free.) Or I could say that he violates his own rules again and again. I mean he goes on about how he doesn’t like to eat animals and doesn’t want to use cars because of big oil companies and whatnot, but he still has a cell phone and a laptop. However, none of that really matters. This isn’t a book about living like a monk. It’s about what’s possible even without money.
This isn’t new thinking. In fact it’s very old thinking. The idea of trading and bartering for goods and services is as old as humanity. I think that’s why it’s so appealing.
For me, the problem is that I am really nothing like Mark Boyle. Towards the end he says, “We cannot have fast cars, computers the size of credit cards, and modern conveniences, while simultaneously having clean air, abundant rainforests, fresh drinking water, and a stable climate.” I disagree with this. I think that science and technology are the problem and the solution. I think that technology can make things easier and better. The problem isn’t so much the technology and science as it is the profit.
There was an interview with a record executive that I can’t find now. In it, the executive talked about how it used to be that you’d find a band. You’d help them create a voice. You’d help them create an album and a sound. You’d help them tour. And you’d help them work on their next album. You’d let their career be your career. Now though, most record executives don’t care. They find someone they can make one number one hit with, they push that as hard as they can and make a million damn dollars and they’re done. It’s fine for business to be about money. It should be. But it should be about more than just money. It’s the WalMart-ization of the world. Price and profit over quality and innovation. This is where our real problem lies.
– Jack Cameron