I’ve just signed up to an ESRC event in Newcastle entitled Where Does Money Come From? on 8 November. See http://www.esrc.ac.uk/news-and-events/events/festival/festival-events/index.aspx.
I asked myself this question many years ago and read a book called The Future of Money by Bernard Lietaer, which was fascinating, and the answer (in terms of the West’s financial system) unexpected – debt. And that was before the near-collapse of our financial system.
There were many excellent examples of alternative models and now, most recently in the UK, we have had the launch of the Bristol Pound (See; http://bristolpound.org/).
An understanding of what money is, where it comes from, what its strengths and weaknesses are, is fundamental to addressing some of our deepest social issues, I believe. Our mono money economy excludes so many and creates waste. Understanding the limitations of our system and creating space for alternatives is vital if we are to create a society in which more people can make a contribution and be rewarded for it.
I’ve also been toying with the idea of researching the subject of wealth. It seems a very culture-specific concept so I’d like to see what wealth is – historically, culturally and psychologically – to see if we can change our definition to something which can help us transcend our narrow definitions and create opportunities for developing different lives to the ones we currently lead.
One story which left a mark on me about our attitude to wealth is that of the Spanish conquistadors fleeing Tenochtitlan on horseback with saddlebags stuffed with gold. Many were driven into the waters surrounding the Aztec capital and faced certain death by drowning if they did not dump their treasure. Many perished, unable to give up their wealth.
A salutary story for our greed-is-good modern world perhaps…?