Who needs money?

Money is primordial. Nowadays, we need money for almost everything. Human beings have created a system, which widely involves the concept of transactions. We use money anywhere, for instance, by using mobile apps or ordering a beer. It is generally agreed that if money were to disappear today, the world would face disorder and chaos. Basically, we have created such an elaborated worldwide financial system, that we just could not step back and give up the concept of money.

However, unlike us, some people on earth have not crossed this line of no return yet.

If you are a student in business and economics, you may have learned that money is basically a medium of exchange, a unit of account, as well as a store of value; this is the modern signification of money.

In contrast, hundreds of years ago, the Aztec civilization did not have such an elaborated trading system but they still knew the concept of value. In reality, human beings have always given value to things which are rare and difficult to reproduce, like precious natural resources, for instance. Aztecs have used precious metal in order to carry out transactions. In addition, they integrated the concept of trading items involving, for example, cotton, hawks or cacao. Therefore, Aztec civilization did not use money as a medium of exchange.

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On the other hand, in the Amazonian forest, there are still today some indigenous populations, for which the need for money does not exist. A local tribute from Ecuador, namely Jivaros, prefer giving value to food and fertile women. In reality, they fight each other regularly; 60 per cent of male deaths are due to violence. Needless to say, Jivaros’ lifestyle is extreme and its population tends to disappear because of its strong differences with today’s society; when they find their resources, they consume them rather than save them. Consequently, Jivaros’ tribute has no need for money.

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Such violence is in our DNA; our primordial goal is to survive like did the homo sapiens. The reasons are very primitive and basic; jealousy or sexual attraction.  Moreover, throughout history, when human beings discovered the concept of property, things became spicier. In order to keep goods, allow future opportunities to trade and make use of money, we have created something that homo sapiens did not know at all; we began to make war.

Of course, living without the need for money does not necessarily mean violence. Some ethnic groups have succeeded in having lifestyles which are special and far different from what we know in our capitalist world like, for instance, the Bajaus from the southern Philippines, who are sometimes called the « Sea Gypsies » or « Sea Nomads ». Typically, exchanging fish with rice is their only commercial contact with civilized populations.

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What is certain is that, in Bajau’s world, money is not necessary to be happy!

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Jonathan Malatialy