What will the moneyless world be like?

A world without money

In the long run there will be no more money. Perhaps in 50 years, that is, in the first moneyless generation, you will be disconcerted to listen to the stories of grandparents when they talk about how they performed a strange ritual called “paying” with metal or plastic. Because we will be able to save ourselves this strange accounting method in the somewhat distant future.

That means: probably not ourselves, but those who come after us. The moneyless economy could remove what John Maynard Keynes called the economic problem. In an essay in 1930 he had promised that the great-grandchildren had solved the basic questions of economic activity, and by that meant the inadequacy of the distribution of work and goods and money. His prognosis should have come true by now at the latest, and as we know, it has by no means come true. The solution without money, which we now envision for technical rather than economic reasons, is not entirely on Keynes' line, but it could solve the same problem.

Technically - or perhaps more precisely from the point of view of media theory - the matter of money is very simple. As a medium of exchange, we need money until our databases can record, save and process all purchases and reviews. That is now the case. From a technical point of view, money could be superfluous today. Historically, we go through a phase from no-money to credit-to-money and on to databases with no money. The anthropologist David Graeber had in his book Debt. The first 5000 years shown how money was made. Not from barter, but from debt. First there was credit - informally in village communities, later noted, for example in temples. Only money transforms all transactions into barter deals. This makes it possible for a global economy that no longer needs to write down anything, but works everywhere and scales perfectly. In 1996, the current President of the Federal Reserve Bank Minnesota, Narayana Kocherlakota, demonstrated that money could be replaced by writing systems.

However, it remains to be seen whether this will completely abolish money or whether it will have to be retained as a measure of value. The question sounds a bit academic, but it has extremely practical repercussions. As long as we continue to evaluate all goods and work, we might have abolished money, but basically stuck to its evaluation models. We would then only have replacement money in his place. But if the rating itself disappears, how are we supposed to coordinate an economy? To do this, we have to distinguish between two pieces of information that accompany every business. One is the value and the associated calculations. The other concerns the need, the supply, the demand and the related coordination. Something like this: It doesn't matter whether the beer in a bar costs three or four euros, if only you make sure that there is enough there. One piece of information is about value. The other is the supply and logistics. The logistics must continue to function, nobody needs the value.

Value and need

Economists are familiar with a whole series of attempts to solve the riddle of value and price: Marxists have stuck to labor value, most others look at the market and claim that utility determines price there. Still others argue that sustainability should play a bigger role in the valuation of goods. So instead of a general value, we have always had a set of conflicting measures of value.

Perhaps it is no longer a question of reducing all these dimensions to one price, but rather of maintaining and observing them in their various dimensions. Because we don't really care whether a thing is worth so much or not. But whether we get it or not. And what we have to do for it. However, this does not affect the value, but the assignment.

There are now some effects and consequences of this moneyless utopia that we should at least briefly mention: Who or what should be considered an actor in this economy? How do we want to store value without money? Is it a form of planned economy? How do we want to shape our future in such a system? Finally: where should the new economy come from?

Anyone who can calculate its own benefit and make decisions can be an actor in the economic system. That includes people as well as intelligent things. The latter already know more than the people who serve them. That would be the car that not only drives itself, notices its own defects and knows where to fix them, but also belongs to itself. An economy without money would not be a planned economy in the old sense, but a system observing individual actors in which we can communicate about the future, design it and shape it. You don't need money, but you do need communication and the opportunity to team up to work on future things. Finally, storing value is actually made more difficult in the system. This is not a bug, but a welcome feature. In a system where everyone can get about as much work from the community as they give it, there is no point in accumulating or bequeathing great fortunes. All financial feudalism can remain stolen from us in this case.

We hardly know how the no-money economy could work. We can only assume with good reason that it is possible and that there is a high probability that it will come.

But who will start with it? There is no need for a revolution. Rather, a moneyless economy will spread out from those circles that are already used to dealing with networked economic worlds. This can be the digital precariat like the gamer scene or a combination of both: a precariat of online gamers who test new economic forms in the game and from there carry them into the reality of increasingly poorly functioning capitalism.

Stefan Heidenreich has just finished the book with his brother Ralph Heidenreich requirements published by Merve-Verlag

The Pictures of the issue are illustrated visions of the future by Klaus Bürgle from the previous century: "90 percent was research knowledge, the other fantasy and construction." You can find out more about the extraterrestrial graphic artist in the article by Christine Käppeler