Living without Money

Posted to Subscribers on 22 August 2011


Dear Subscribers,

With insanity all around us, perhaps we could have a look at what a few others are doing to get out of their boxes. Let's start with an unusual German woman named Heidemarie Schwermer whose story has gone viral. She is my age. Some years ago, she committed to an experiment of living for one year without money. She set up a swap house thinking it would meet the needs of those who were unemployed or perhaps even living on the streets. Instead, it became a way to exchange what people weren't using or didn't need for what they needed, which might have been goods or services. Instead of reverting to "life as normal" after a year, she continued and has been living without money for 16 years now.

Ms. Schwermer is a former teacher who became a psychotherapist and author. She has not kept any of the royalties of her book for herself but confesses to having stashed 200 euros in case of an emergency.

The film about her experiment has had over 100 showings in more than 20 countries and is about to be released on DVD. There is a trailer:

If one thinks really hard about what exactly money is or isn't, we realize that it is simply a mechanism of exchange and, honestly, there is very little reason for banks and governments to be involved unless people are unable to determine on their own how to make a deal. However, with some tangible asset, trade is more flexible and therefore less time consuming. There are countless alternatives to the system we now have, including everything from time banking to craigslist or eBay, but in theory, there is nothing at all one could not exchange for something else, meaning that an online store could sell advice, therapy, gold, silver, food, seeds, or services such as yard maintenance. However, the way the system presently works is totally flawed because it gives inordinate rights and privileges to a handful of ruthless banksters who create out of nothingness. This not only assures inflation but also guarantees that the balloon will eventually pop because it is inflated with "nothing" so "nothing" must one day become its true self, i.e., "nothing."

Money could of course be a tidy way of exchanging what one has for what one wants or needs, but what ultimately matters is whether or not someone who has something to offer can trade it for something he or she needs. In a really simple world, a farmer could trade some carrots and beans for lumber and the doctor would accept beans or wood or tree trimming or tuition for his children and everyone would be more or less happy according to one's disposition because, my experience is that some people are naturally happier than others.

When our needs are more complicated, abstract means of exchange are practical but in reality, we could have a system whereby from birth, one was guaranteed all the necessities of life as well as free education. When I was in Nepal around 40 years ago, I met a Bhutanese prince and learned that everyone in the capital (Thimphu) lived in the palace. It meant that the king had about 3000 guests for dinner every night. Well, in places with a lot of snow, people do tend to spend their winters indoors and there might be a lot of story-telling but it was a charming image.

Well, since today's post is just for fun, I could add a little anecdote that some months later when visiting Darjeeling, there was a knock on my door and some Europeans asked if the Citroen Ami 8 belonged to me. Indeed it did and they wanted to know if I would part with my skis so they could introduce some winter sports to Bhutan where they were consultants on radio communications. I agreed but never heard whether the eco capital of the Himalayas has taken up skiing.

Back to Money

In other places like the Bahamas or Brunei, the government or sultan provide countless needs that are out of reach of many Americans so the idea that our system is better than other systems seems rather indefensible in terms of both opportunity and compassion. In many countries qualified students get free university educations and graduate without the colossal debts typical of our graduates. This sets the bar high because the universities only have to accept the best students but there are some guarantees in such systems that are utterly lacking here.

The problem we face today is that the flawed Western model has been imposed on most of the world. Having studied economics at Yale, I can assure you that we were indoctrinated with theories that are completely lacking proof, meaning that someone can make up a "system" and say it's the best without any supporting evidence. The schools of business management are more or less the same. For instance, "competition is good" is taught and this justifies anti-trust laws so one year we break up Ma Bell and another, rapacious mergers and acquisitions become the norm because pitted against one theory are the vested interests of the those who crave absolute power.

In economics, there are also countless theories but many universities were dominated by texts that advocated a free market where supply and demand determine the going price for what is "offered" but this system is sabotaged by subsidies to people who are farmers on paper only, absentee owners who are more interested in their write-offs than their production. This is not a free market and the system is failing because, like so much else, it is corrupt and irrational. In short, I don't think we should shed tears when the current system is replaced, that is, unless it is replaced by embedded microchips! We must be careful, proactive, and resistant to tyranny.


Mercury has, as you know, been retrograde so I have been low key but can you believe that not one single person ordered figwort seeds. Please think about the bees and make sure you are planting something they love, if not figwort, something else. I appreciate figwort because it provides nourishment for bees for almost half a year, astonishing compared to many other plants . . . and they love it.


Lastly, many of you have expressed an interest in more posts about animals. I have two on the drafting board.

Many blessings,



Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2011





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