“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest” (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations).
In the context of daily living we view money as a means to life as it allows us to obtain food, water, shelter and a relative standard of living to what we earn. Be that as it may, the true concept of ‘economics’ is inconsistent with the practices which currently govern our existence. “Rules of the House” or “Management of the Household” is the Hellenistic translation of Economy. This reflects its etymology as the natural law [rules] of the earth [household]. This law constitutes a symbiotic relationship in which we either align with these rules of sustainability, resource management, and optimized efficiency or allow self-interest to consume our development. Throughout history society has perpetually manufactured the very issues it seeks to resolve. Whether war, recessions, poverty, or environmental degradation the notions of profit and self-maximizing interest must be understood as fundamental to such compulsions.
Professor John McMutry analyses this notion of economic self-interest in his book ‘The Cancer Stage of Capitalism’. He argues money has consumed its use as a medium of exchange and has ceased to function as an exchange to a means of life. The conditions in which it has become relevant exist autonomously in a system of exponential growth which sustain nothing but private possession. Therefore, the private interests of the butcher, the brewer and the baker echo contemporary economic circumstances far beyond the bounds of the Smith’s expectations. Applied to the Hellenistic translation of economics, and its definition of increased efficiency this relationship can be seen as parasitic. McMutry States;
“All the coordinates of global environmental, social and economic meltdown are in fact connected, and their common cause lies in proliferating mutant sequences of money-demand whose defining principle – as the dominant economic paradigm that houses them – is not to serve, but to feed on life-hosts.” (McMutry, 1998:10).
We have become hosts of the cancerous growth that is the money sequence. The crucial analysis of modern economics which TZM and McMutry have to offer is that it is a value disorder. Money is used as a means of reinforcing such values which are enforced by capitalist modes of living. Our perception of living has become distorted by excessive consumption, growing waste as a result of unplanned extraction and planned obsolescence; we now suffer from great global inequalities and un-healthy relationships. Not only this, we are individuals who work our forty-hour work weeks in order to pay debts and consume trends. It’s frustrating because many are active in seeking change but so long as it remains systematic money will regulate our means to life. If change is to be successful we must all acknowledge our manufactured values and aim to restore them collectively. Solutions have been proposed and are even evolving; such as resource based economies [RBE] and gift economies.
McMutry, J. (1998). “The Cancer Stage of Capitalism: And Its Cure”, Pluto Press; First Thus edition.