The Man Who Quit Money

Amongst the din of hundreds of offbeat stories with sizzling headlines, there occasionally comes one that totally captures your attention. The headline was a simple, but seemingly impossible idea – “ The Man Who Quit Money”.

I wondered if this could be a real story of a rational, sane person who had found a way to live without money? If so, I wanted to know how he did it.

For most people in our society, money seems to be the biggest problem they have – there is never enough. The odd thing is that it doesn’t matter how much you have or make, there usually is more demand than there is supply. At a time of exceptional prosperity, Canadians are increasing their personal debt at an alarming rate. Why is there never enough? Money has a way of controlling us, and at best, influencing our decisions based on how much of it is involved and in which direction it is flowing – in or out. For the poor, it is oppressive; for the middle class, it is comfort; for the rich it is privilege; for the ultra rich, it is power and identity. In all cases, money is a hard master – it is hard to get and even harder to keep.

An even bigger problem that exists with money is the fluctuation in its value. Governments print money to offset budget shortfalls rather than taking on debt. The increased supply makes money worth less causing prices to increase;  a more accurate description would be that prices don’t go up, the value of money goes down. We call that inflation. For people who have worked a long time and who have accumulated some money, it is as if the government went into your bank account and helped themselves.

The same is true when commodity speculators actually do raise prices in the process of extracting profits for themselves. They, too, have taken some of the value of your savings out of your account without you ever seeing them. With the financial instruments available today which leverage capital 100 times, even small “players” can influence a commodity market. I suppose that’s why Warren Buffet has called it the ‘Wall Street Casino’.

The problem with money is that its value is changing every day as the “essentials of life” and exchange rates rise or fall in price. Yet we all strive to get more of the thing that has us lashed to an oar and caused us to live a life few would choose if we didn’t believe it was all about the money.

So I was curious. Is it possible to live without this medium of exchange that for most people is the “water” of life? Furthermore, for most of us who know no other system and who already have built our lives on this shifting sand, will it matter?

The Story:

April 18, 2012 BBC News Magazine

Daniel Suelo, a former cook from Moab Utah, left his remaining $30.00 in a phone booth in 2000 and has lived free of money for the last eleven years. He has survived on wild plants and berries, road kill and gifts of food freely given. He has not taken any government assistance but has lived in the caves in the deserts of Utah. His philosophy is to “freely give and to freely receive”. He believes that money is an illusion and that it will disappear from our society eventually.

As interesting as the story sounded, in all honesty, it fell way short of what I had hoped for. Living in the desert on road kill and the land isn’t exactly a universal solution to the problem with money. Yet I was still intrigued with the idea of quitting money – what an outlandish thought. Daniel’s story however triggered some deductions about how he approached solving the money problem. He reduced spending to zero and found freedom in a simplified lifestyle that put value on non-material things. In our consumer culture, we think that increasing income to meet spending is the solution rather than the other way around.

Daniel also found a way to be independent of the established system, others or the government. He took care of himself, albeit not to the standard most would choose; however, it is possible to find alternative house construction systems, electricity generation and other ways which are inexpensive to live completely “off the grid”, and in that way, achieve a similar independence.

I concluded that Daniel’s solution to a world in financial crisis is not for everyone, but everybody can have their own way of quitting money. There is no simple or universal solution. The essence of Daniel’s story is that he became free of money and there are many ways of doing that. When money no longer influences your decisions or guides your choices, you are free and that freedom comes in many ways.  By decreasing your dependence on money, you get control of your life. It is the pursuit of the illusion that creates the “rat race”.

I don’t imagine that Daniel got up one day and quit money. It was a process which he grew into and designed uniquely for himself. I imagine he thought about it often, maybe even for years, before he realized he had to quit living in the money system. Now that you have heard about “The Man Who Quit Money”, you can start to think about it, too.

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