Money, Money, Money….

During the last two weeks, I’ve been dealing with a service provider over billing errors.  The first invoice was correct.  On the following four invoices for the exact same service, they had either changed the name of the service or doubled it and charged me twice as much.  Insurance covers the service, so I’m not responsible for the entire amount.  However, four of the invoices are incorrect and I have disputed them.  I am waiting to hear the verdict on their review of two of them, but I’ve heard about the other two and the verdict was that their invoice was correct as is.  So, I’m in the process of drafting an appeal letter to continue to dispute the invoice. 

I bring up this experience with billing errors because I’ve been very suspicious that the billing errors are in fact a way for the vendor to get paid more than they are actually owed because people don’t always examine their invoices carefully.  Indeed, a friend has cautioned me that business consultants have been known to advise some businesses on how to do this.  And why would a business want to rip off a good customer?  Money. 

Think about it.  In America right now, the purpose of life is to acquire money.  We need money to live as much as we need clean air and water.  Money buys food, clothing, transportation, shelter, medicine, and household necessities like toilet paper, chairs, a stove, a refrigerator, a phone, etc.  As my father used to say, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.”  In order to feed ourselves, we must find a job that will pay us money.  That job will probably be with a company either privately or publicly owned.  The people who own the company want their company to make money for them, the more the better, so they are interested in cutting expenses in order to increase profit.  Which could mean cutting wages or eliminating raises….  Or double-billing a good customer….

A couple years ago, I began thinking about how money has metastasized throughout human life and how it affects human behavior.  People marry for money.  They kill for money.  They steal money.  They gamble to win money.  They invest money and gamble that way.  They acquire money to have power and influence.  The amount of money one has determines what one buys, what services one can have, where one lives, etc.  What would life be like without money?  How could money be completely eliminated from the planet?  Would we just replace it with another thing like money?  These questions led me to ask myself what money does, really.  It is a way to define value, what something (or someone) is worth.  So, in order to eliminate money, we’d have to find a different way to define value.

In Perceval, I decided to create in my 2048 world an international “Value Commission” consisting of representatives from all countries.  This commission would have a website where people could contribute their comments and ideas.  The purpose of the commission would be to re-define value and to identify the steps for eliminating money gradually from our world.  It would need to be gradual in order to protect all the people whose jobs depend on an economic system, e.g. banks, economists, financial advisors, etc.  In Europe, the first step had already begun, i.e. gradually phasing out the use of cash in favor of all-purpose bankcards.  How much money a person had would be on paper only, and money would be transferred by computer from bank to a retail outlet’s account or a landlord’s account, etc.  So, one of the first things Evan notices while on his European tour is that few people carry cash.  He must carry cash because he’s not in the European banking system.  In fact, in America, cash exists as it always has.  In America, the New Economic Party elite use money as the incentive for workers to produce.

Evan’s question, and mine, about this is: would people accept a different definition of value that did not involve money at all?  And the larger question: could people really imagine a world without money?

To be continued…..


8 responses to “Money, Money, Money….

  1. > could people really imagine a world without money?

    Sure, they did for millenia, by using barter. I for my part prefer money.

  2. Money is nothing more than an agreed upon method of exchanging goods and services. If ‘money’ were eliminated, then people would have to return to what existed before universally accepted currency was created…bartering one good or service for another. It is a horribly inefficient way of doing business and is why money was created in the first place. Can you imagine if you had to negotiate your services with every provider of every good or service you needed and pay them all with your services? What a disaster. Money itself has never been the problem. The problem is that in the 21st century, money has become the primary means of exerting power. It is power that men covet and money is a means to acquire power. When that doesn’t work, then they pick up guns instead. Unfortunately, exterminating money isn’t going to rid mankind of its thirst for power. That is as old as life itself.

  3. Now, why would I have initially believed this agent of incompetence is the Agent of Evil here in town? The cable company. They were totally, and brother, do I mean TOTALLY, incapable of keeping my account straight.

    Service providers (now, that’s an oxymoron) (‘moron’ being the critical component) have no incentive to keep you satisfied. The person you speak with on the phone doesn’t live here. She probably lives in Bangladesh or Tuscon. You’re a number to them. I’m not at all surprised that they are actively trying to suck your money away. The only agency worse than insurance companies is credit card companies. At least with health insurance you have the vague palliative that you might get healthy. Credit card companies charge you 22% for no other reason than “because I can”.

    Small wonder that Usury has been condemned throughout the ages. Until our Ages, I guess.

    Good luck.

  4. Chad, money is also the way humans define value and worth….(smile)

    Elizabeth, your frustration is palpable. If they ever get to the point where they’ve screwed up your account and your getting the service for free, take it and run! (smile)

  5. ccyager:
    > money is also the way humans define value and worth

    There are other ways to define the “value” of humans than their net worth: their standing in a fixed hierarchy (like the military), their birth (like in the nobility), their level of formal education (seemed important in Japan). Maybe using their wealth as a measure isn’t so bad after all, if someone want to assign value or weight to another person, which, of course, we don’t have to.

  6. Peter, I was thinking not only how humans define the value of humans, but everything. But now that you mention it, people who are wealthier and higher up on the economic and social class scale do tend to be perceived as more valuable than the poor schmuck who’s just trying to make a living on minimum wage. Chad also makes a good point about money and power, something I also am thinking about. Thanks for the comments.

  7. The only way I could see eliminating money would be like in Star Trek Next Generation. They eliminated currency because of replication technology. We may have that possibility in a few years with 3D printing while it wouldn’t eliminate currency it would fundamentally shift the balance of power and widely increase peoples availability to more goods.

    • Thank you for your thoughts here, GSPiper! Eliminating money is one of my pet projects, although I do know how futile it is in my lifetime. We need to start somewhere, sometime, however, and that’s the reason I talk about it. Replication technology would certainly help to eliminate the need for money to a certain extent — one would still need to buy the technology — but it wouldn’t deal at all with the psychological and emotional factors intertwined with money. A fundamental shift in thinking is needed first, whether gradual or sudden, in order to begin working toward the goal. Every time I think about how pervasive money and economic concerns our in our lives on a daily basis, I find it truly terrifying. We created a monster thousands of years ago and now it’s slowly consuming us…..

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