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Re-Establishing Altruism As A Viable Social Norm

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Why We Ignore Money

"Work which improves the condition of mankind... is not done to secure a living. It is not the work of slaves, driven to their task either by the lash of a master or by animal necessities. It is the work of men who perform it for their own sake, and not that they may get more to eat or drink, or wear, or display. In a state of society where want is abolished, work of this sort could be enormously increased."      Henry George, 1879

Guns are an effective means of making people do things they don't want to. Money, too, is an effective way of exerting power over people, especially those who cannot meet their needs without it. To use either is to manipulate people into cooperation, to use them as a means to achieve an end.

We aim to see others, as Kant suggested, not as means but ends in themselves. People can be paid to do things, but cannot be paid to care. We operate outside the money system to ensure that no one was coerced into working with us, that our work was done for love, not for money.

Most large charities currently see few alternatives to working through the money system, and actively solicit donations. Professionalisation of fundraising means that a smaller proportion of money received is used for their actual purpose. Competitive appeals for funds lead to an invidious 'marketplace for compassion', while a money-focus blunts the creativity and passion of those involved and paves the way for cooption by less charitable and more monied interests.

Human relationships are a healthier & more natural basis for structuring our activities than the impersonal, anonymous abstraction we call 'money', which is apt to give people notions of false entitlement, to subvert our natural tendency to cooperate with one another by promoting a zero-sum mentality, and as Simmel observed to reduce qualitative differences between things to a question of "How much?"

By giving away what we can, we aim to reduce other people's burden of having to 'make a living', giving people a little more life instead. Operating outside the money system helps people get beyond money and towards a rediscovery of our altruistic selves. John Taylor Gatto makes some profound observations on how money has eroded the social fabric of modern societies:

DownloadsTitleAuthor(s)        Date       Reference
 Beyond Money John Taylor Gatto

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