Yes, they’re different
Currency refers to a medium of exchange meant to ‘store value’ usually in the form of paper or coins. This legal tender represents or is backed by actual goods and services. Credit, on the other hand, refers to ‘virtual’ currency or ‘debt’ created by banking institutions, which is responsible for inflation and therefore unsustainable.
Money [as both currency and credit] has come to be valued as life itself and not just a means to [physically] sustain life. A quote by Mama from Lorraine Hansberry’s play, ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ further illustrates this;
”Oh—So now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change . . .”
A brief chronology of money:
The monetary system was developed as way of placing a value on sought-after goods and services (human labour). Initially, a barter system existed between societies by trading or exchanging goods and services directly. However, some limitations were encountered with the direct exchange system such as; difficulty in storing wealth, no common measure of value, indivisibility of certain goods, etcetera, which led to the emergence of the current money economy.
While this financial system has been useful, it has become increasingly clear that there are several downsides to it. The system has enormously contributed to crime, corruption and poverty with a social stratification marked by economic disparity between individuals, various social groups and communities. This has resulted in individuals, corporations or countries who have higher purchasing power unduly influencing public policy and global governance to the detriment of more economically and socially marginalized people and communities.
Money is neutral and is not necessarily the evil here. The great evil being structures of social domination along various demographic lines such as race, gender, class, geographical location and so on. The inevitable interaction between the financial economic system and underlying structures of domination has led to the dysfunction and inequity being experienced under the socio-economic environment.
On the whole, money simply stands between what one needs and what one is able to get. Essentially, it is not so much money we need, as the access to resources that we require to live healthy, holistic and fulfilled lives as whole human beings.
What is a healthy and holistic life?
The World Health Organisation defines health as; ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.’ And I would like to add spiritual well-being, for those human communities who believe we are also souls and not just physical bodies.
For everyone to experience an equitable state of well-being, be it physical, mental or social, an equal playing field needs to be set right from the start of one’s life. We need to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. This should result in equitable rights, representation and resource sharing that is fair for everyone. It is imperative that the representation and voice of developing nations in international decision-making is enhanced regarding economic and financial institutions for global equity across countries and regions.
What alternatives for an equitable society?
”We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
~ Albert Einstein
A number of researchers have outlined alternative interventions towards a more peaceful and sustainable global civilization. Jacque Fresco, the visionary for the Venus Project which advocates for a currency free, cooperative, socio-economic model states,
”…All nations and people, regardless of political philosophy, religious beliefs, or social customs, depend upon natural resources; we all need clean air and water, arable land for food, and the necessary technology and personnel to maintain a high standard of living.
….the Earth has abundant resources and our practice of rationing these resources through the use of money is an outdated method which causes much suffering. It is not money that we need but the intelligent management of the earth’s resources for the benefit of everyone. We could best work towards achieving this by using a resource based economy.”
A good question that comes up is, ‘…but how are we going to get there?’. It is a great idea – the resource-based economy, but how to do it? In fact, as far back as 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes had envisaged an increase in productivity (by 2030) with the advancement of machines and technology freeing up human labour and correspondingly allowing for a shorter working day, as low as 3 hours a day. His views have been backed by a number of modern day thinkers who posit that a gradual reduction of the working day will help [a steady state or no growth] economy, protect the environment, and improve the well-being of the population, all with one single measure.