The case of an economic system without money is equally simple to present, equally easy to grasp. A world without money, and without any kind of substitute for a monetary exchange, would not be a world of chaos, as some might suppose. It would not be a world where progress is at a standstill and true ambition has died of inertia, as the alarmists would have us believe. It would not be a world of idlers, each doing his best to live on the product of another’s labor, without compulsion to labor for themselves, as still others claim. It is a sad enough commentary on our present system that so many of us think of initiative only in terms of money and conceive that economic stress is the only spur which will goad men into working. Such convictions only underline the basic fallacy of a life than can give rise to them.
But what would a world without money be like? I think it would be a world without poverty and hunger and unemployment; without child labor and overwork and economic misery; without fear for the future and driving misery in the present; without the ignorance that comes from lack of education and the cruelties that come from greed and insecurity. I think it would be a world where man could choose his particular work and might work at the thing for which he is best fitted. I think it would be a world where everyone might be well and comfortable, fed and housed, clothed and shod. I think it would be a world where everyone had an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and everyone had an equal share of the wealth of his country as produced by the labor of all for the use of all.
It is easy enough to envision. The foundation of any economic system, after all, is no more than the old law of supply and demand. Under our present economy of scarcity, the supply is limited by the demand. And the demand is limited by the ability to pay for the supply. And this in turn is limited by the supply itself, the production of which furnishes us our buying power. The profit motive, which is the mainspring of our monetary system, is responsible for the lag between production and consumption since the producer-the laborer or farmer-is paid less for what he produces than he must pay to buy it back for his own use. So demand lags behind supply until, at length, the supply must be stopped until the surplus is consumed, reducing buying power to its final minimum.
Under a system which does away with money and the consequent profits therefrom, the demand will mount, and the supply will mount with it, until at length each country will be producing to its utmost capacity to satisfy the demands of its citizens. There is demand enough even now to keep farms and factories going full blast; all that is lacking is the money. Where men may have for the asking all they need of the world’s goods the demand will not fall.
Will the supply be sufficient to balance that tremendous demand that lack of money alone keeps in check today? Well, I am no economist. I have no statistics to quote. I only know that produce rots on the trees and in the fields; that factories stand idle or run at half capacity; that whole great areas of the earth lie untapped and unreclaimed; that elements lie unmined in the ground; that there is an unimaginable world about us for science to explore and make use of.
Here in the United States alone are sufficient resources, if utilized to the full, to give each family of all our millions the equivalent of 5000 dollars a year income. That much, at least, is a statistical fact. Knowing that, I venture to predict that with all the vast resources of earth at our disposal and all its vast man power at work, the supply will not fail.
Under our present system it does not pay to utilize these resources, discovered or undiscovered.
In a system of free exchange of the products of labor, these things will take their rightful place. There will be no surplus until all have obtained the necessities for a decent existence, and then the surplus will be converted into luxuries for the many rather than for the privileged few. Invention will come into its own when each simplification, each labor saving device will mean a benefit to all, rather than the loss of a living. Machines will be utilized to provide leisure rather than unemployment.
This is democracy carried to its highest point, extended to its logical extreme.
It is self-evident that under such a system the evils stemming from greed will be non-existent. Vice and crime, violence and corruption, even war itself, must of necessity disappear once the economic basis for them has been abolished. So a moneyless society of free exchange of labor for the produce of labor will mean more than the abolition of mere economic ills. It will mean a whole new world, a better world, the world we hopelessly dream of today, for our children and our children’s children to inherit.
Utopian? Perhaps. It will be no quick and easy task, at any rate, to spread such a gospel around the world until it takes effect. It is a task of years, perhaps of centuries.
The introduction of such a system will cause no chaos in the precise and ponderous machine of civilization. It does not even involve such a dictum as that usually quoted to excuse imperfections in other Utopian schemes: that the few must suffer for the good of the many.
No one will suffer. No one will lose by it. Even the richest man can consume only a limited share of the world’s goods for himself and his family’s use. That share he may have for the taking, he and everyone else. That he cannot have these without conceding the equal right of others to them is the point on which the success of such a system rests. It is the basic principle of the, Golden Rule of every great philosophy and religion; put into practice in such a way that in order to benefit by it, a man must comply with it.
There may be those who can find objections even to this universal principle of good. They may brand this as merely another crackpot scheme, as this or that dangerous “ism”, even as an outright attempt to tear down government into anarchy.
To such reactionaries I can do no more than point out that progress has always been achieved by revolt against the old bad order of things. I can do no more than remind them of the speech of a certain famous young rebel made less than two hundred years ago, a speech which has become a part of our American tradition. Let me borrow from that speech to answer them:
“If this be treason, gentlemen, make the most of it!”.