America’s great declaration has always been about independence. It has been about celebrating the individual’s ability to make a life for himself. As a virtue, it has helped create a plethora of free thinkers that have gone way outside the box to develop incredible technologies and human rights movements that continue to aid in humanity’s evolution. As a curse, it has also planted seeds of pride, greed, isolation, addiction, violence and selfishness. Unfortunately, those seeds have developed rather deep roots.
Those seeds also serve as the foundation for much of our financial abundance, cultivating a culture of consumerism, our standard operating procedure often precludes Americans from the practices of community development and understanding economics outside of ¨whats in it for me?¨
The good news is that not all Americans are content with the status-quo and the celebration of independence alone. In America, although perhaps a bit more slow-going than in other parts of the world, people are realizing that the next great revolution is one of interdependence.
Dictionary.com defines economics as ¨the science that deals with the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, or the material welfare of humankind; financial considerations.” However, that’s just the contemporary interpretation of economics. And if you haven’t noticed yet, what with the whole multi-trillion dollar debt, record unemployment, lingering recession and depletion of the middle class, it would appear that we don’t have this whole economics thing really worked out in contemporary society. Part of that is because we’ve lost sight of what economics truly is.
The word economics actually comes from the Ancient Greek oikonomia, which means “management of a household” or “rules of the house.” However, as we have embraced this notion of industrialism as the measuring stick for progress, we have taken this notion of economics and moved it further and further away from our households. More and more over the last century, and especially over the last few decades, we have shifted the tasks we once performed to build strong families and communities, and turned them over to industries and businesses so that much of our existence has been commoditized. In other words, the care and assistance that we once simply received as a matter of being human has become something that we now have to pay for. Where we could once provide for ourselves with love, we now need money.
As Edgar Cahn wrote in Time Dollars, “Conventional economics says that it takes money to activate time. This puts those who have money in the driver’s seat, politically as well as economically. It guarantees, too, that much important work never gets done because it is not profitable by the calculus of the market. But the limitations of conventional economics just may be self-imposed. If one person’s time can activate the time of another, without conventional money coming in between, then people can meet at least some of their needs by, in effect, exchanging time with one another.”
Based on how greatly we have developed our civilization through the implementation of this tool, it’s merits are many. Nevertheless, as a human construct, it also has it’s limitations. As such, we must recognize that this particular tool cannot perform the tasks it was not designed for.
Perhaps an alternative currency, one which values each and every member of the community, from every walk of life and socio-economic status based upon helping them meet their needs by encouraging them to cultivate and utilize their gifts for the greatest good, might just be the answer we are looking for. “Just possibly,” Cahn continues, “such Time Dollar exchanges can start to reactivate the exchange and caring that are fast disappearing from the American scene. This would be community in the root sense of the word, a locality where wealth is shared.”
At this point in time, time-banking is a viable alternative to the cash economy, but that does not mean that it is currently able to be a replacement. It opens up the doors for us to realize that there are other ways of developing economic value outside of the monetary system. The monetary system still serves a purpose, but as we realize its limitations in providing us with what we really want and need, we must direct our energies toward currencies that will. I think that the time bank is but an introduction to other currencies that we will develop as we seek ways to meet our needs, and the needs of the world, in more just, efficient and sustainable ways.
Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at InkenSoul.com and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Editor: Maja Despot
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