Charles Leadbeater writes a rallying call for all of us to reconsider money and its place in society. It’s wonderful. It’s quixotic. It’s inspiring. It’s insane.
When money serves a “something more”, then consumption has a point. When the link is broken, modern, money-driven society loses its anchor. The challenge for politics ought to be to turn that insight into policy and politics by putting money in a more subordinate position in society.
A cornerstone of this would be to recognise the already vast non-monetary economy on which most of life depends. Most of the work of caring for children and elderly parents is done for free, mainly by women. A society that wants to age well should promote the non-monetary values of volunteering and relationships. Consumerism is not a good training for later life. Helping people to participate and contribute, to remain active and independent for as long as possible, is.
The young are also fostering non-monetary economies through the web’s growing culture of mass barter and sharing. The CouchSurfing community, in which browsers, most of them young, arrange to sleep for free on one another’s sofas when visiting a city, has more than a million members. Car pools and lift-sharing schemes organised on the web, such as Zipcar and GoLoco, are thriving across the world. Freecycling, in which people give away things they don't want to others who need them, has hundreds of thousands of participants globally.