FAQ about Weath, Money and the Gift Economy

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The wealth you desire goes beyond basic needs and shows a taste for expensive stuff. Don’t you feel bad about it?

What do you want to achieve?

Because of my research work on collective intelligence, I quickly understood that we can’t advocate synergy, sharing and unity on the one hand, and on the other hand we keep using a monetary system based on scarcity that stimulates competition and predation. This opened my eyes: the economy, and more particularly the monetary system on which it relies, beat at the heart of collective intelligence. My research work quickly placed me in front of this evidence that we have the capacity to create fair economic systems, controlled by civil society, transparent, plural, that represent the real economy. Only ignorance and obscurantism prevent us from doing it.

Ideas had to come into motion. On the external side, more and more people feel called to build the technical infrastructure of this new economy. On the inner journey, I don’t see how I can explore and open new paths if I don’t extract myself from the present system, at least to a certain degree, so I can see it from the outside. I don’t know any other way to understand the psychological potency that money has on human psyche, and how to free ourselves from it. Leaving money places me more and more in a vital threat in a society where we need to buy everything, including the most basic universal needs such as food and shelter. We need to pay to stay alive. Doesn’t the popular expression “to earn a living“, accepted by most people, show this absolute violence? Doesn’t it implicitly say that we don’t acquire the right to live at birth but we have to conquer it within a warmongering vision of the world? We don’t realize how much common language carries archaic ideologies that perpetuate violence and falseness.

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Don’t you live off your friends and supporters?

Life weaves itself on a web of mutual support, we can’t live alone. We need our friends, our family, our neighbors, colleagues, peers, ancestors and children. The vow of wealth acknowledges and celebrates this fertile social soil from which we grow from and that we enrich in return. I want fair relationships with my fellow brothers and sisters, based on generosity during every phase of our existence.

What difference exists between the gift economy and the market economy? Market implies a major condition, the one of an immediate reciprocity: I give you this if, and only if, you give me that in return. Gift doesn’t expect this immediate symmetry. It implies a act of trust towards the universe and others. From a pragmatic point of view, the gift economy has more power and efficiency than the market economy because it frees itself from lot’s of restrictive conditions. But until now no one knew how to apply this principle to a large scale due to a lack of appropriate technologies made to regulate the exponential complexity it creates. Today this barrier does not exist anymore, except in our head.

So, do you see the difference between receiving $1,000 from a salary and $1,000 from a gift? Do you really think that in the first case you deserve it because of your productive work, and in the second case you don’t deserve it that much because you behave like a lazy parasite that lives at the expense of the others? Don’t you make gifts to people you appreciate? Do you consider them as useless and needy? I find very revealing these preconceived ideologies about utilitarism, that state what we deserve to earn or not. “Earning our living” has a very deep ground in the collective unconscious ideology of pyramidal collective intelligence. Gift economy definitely cuts off from these poisonous roots.

Hence the reason why I commit to offer – and never sell anymore – my talents and gifts. I think it is sane that, on this basis, I accept this same generosity in return, even if it doesn’t come from a reciprocal exchange.

As for living off others, the current monetary system enables 10% of the human population to live off the other 90%… So I don’t see how people immersed in the conventional monetary system can judge who lives off who.

Furthermore, the vow of wealth means to create wealth for all. It increases my capacity to contribute more than what conventional economy allows me to do.

 

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Don’t you just have yet another utopian dream by imagining a post-monetary society? And doesn’t it trigger all the same dangers of dehumanization as all other utopian and social engineering experiments?

Utopian dreams become dangerous when they don’t pass the test of reality principle, in other words when they don’t cope with the laws of the universe (Truth).

Those utopians who wanted to make objects heavier than air fly had to confront reality and its universal laws. They passed the test, we know what followed.

A typical dangerous utopia arises when someone wants everyone to live in a specific way, to comply to a model. It creates an “industrialization” of one’s idea onto everyone else, hence the “-isms” from the industrial era. When we deny the diversity of a living system, we kill it. The famous French poet Boris Vian wrote so rightly: “What interests me is not the happiness of all men; it’s the happiness of each man“.

I do confront myself to reality principle when I postulate that we can conceive technologies that acknowledge, organize, measure wealth and make it flow. Wealth technologies follow the course of the living. In a biological way, they already exist in our individual bodies, and in social organisms in many ways. Therefore I believe that the utopia of a humanity that has sophisticated its wealth technologies will brightly pass the test of reality principle. Indeed, doesn’t this same reality shows us how the current monetary system fails? Who dreams here? Future open technologies of wealth don’t impose anything, they offer a language to people so they can self-organize in a transparent and democratic manner.

An example illustrates this well. If I offer my child a built toy – a medieval castle for instance – it doesn’t mean the same thing whether I offer him cubes or Legos. In the latter case he/she can infinitely create, re-create, evolve, invent more sophisticated things in an infinite way according to his/her own evolution. He/she remains free and sovereign whereas in the first case we imposed a form which he can only have a single experience with. Same with wealth technologies versus money. Wealth technologies offer an infinitely composable language while money imposes a unique form of society.

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Even in the case post-monetary technologies become successful, won’t you reproduce the same world as before?

Take a deep look at how these technologies work. Even better: contribute to their development. It will answer your question.

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Did you keep a bank account?

No. I stepped out of the current banking and debt system.

Purchases with credit cards invade everything, so sometimes I ask my friends to pay online for me, then we settle that together. For instance it happens when I want to use the bicycle system in Paris (Vélib), or when I acquire a software online that I need for my work. This way to proceed works as an intermediary solution, although not satisfying as you imagine.

Along with many others, I hope we will contribute to rebuilding and inspiring a good and fair infrastructure. Banks have a noble role to play in society, not as for-profit money making institutions, but as trustees of wealth and competent evaluators of risk.

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Do you receive a salary?

No, because the philosophy I follow is the one of generosity. However it feels normal that CIRI supports me on different aspects of my life so I can continue my research work seriously.

On the common sense level, the kind of wealth that I should receive gives an easy line to draw. But legally, it feels like trying to square the circle. If I receive any form of material wealth, then the law considers it as a salary and I become an employee, which has nothing to do with the real situation. And if I receive nothing, then I can exert myself. Here we see one of the many limitations of the law and of today’s ideology, where the economy doesn’t leave much space to generosity. Meanwhile we continue to explore what legal setting could work.

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Assume we agree with the goal your vow aims to fulfill, haven’t you chosen an incredibly impractical, not to mention risky and extreme, way to go about getting to your goal?

Explorers only come to know the level of risk they took after they tried. Until we haven’t tried, all elucubrations remain possible.

From a more global perspective, I feel more risk – for myself, and mostly for the next generations – in coping with and perpetuating the current system. Somehow we face the emigrant’s dilemma: emigrating sends him/her into an uncertain and risky future, but it still remains a much better choice than not moving.

That said, beyond these rational explanations, a creative call drives me at a deeper level. How can an explorer resist to the call of the open sea? 🙂

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Don’t you find it risky, unconscious, idealistic?

Exploring the unknown makes our life risky and uncertain, of course. People look at it as idealistic as long as it hasn’t become part of their collective reality, so, yes, idealism drives the process. Trials and errors provide the essential empirical learning. It serves as milestones on the path to success. Only the skeptics and those who do nothing usually point at others’ failures.

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Why does the word “wealth” appears so confusing?

Like many words, wealth creates an ambiguity because it locks us down in the materialistic part of our reality. In the common sense, wealthy means having lot’s of money and material means. The contrary, poor, means having no money and no material means.

I may not have any material possessions, but still might experience myself as the richest man on Earth, because of the people I love and who love me, because of the natural beauty that surrounds me, because of my health, because of my inner capacity to cultivate happiness. I could belong to the closed club of multi-billionaires and yet live as the most miserable man, surrounded by corruption, greed, cheating, superficiality, plots… Don’t you find interesting that we don’t have a real vocabulary to express what truly makes us rich or poor. Poverty and wealth perpetuate some of the most ontological jamming I know. We miss a language of wealth.

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How do you define wealth?

As expressed in the vow, I see wealth as anything that brings us closer to Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

In common language, wealth means someone who has lot’s of money. This underlines the confusion that exists between the means (money) and the goal (wealth). Money offers a mean to access certain forms of wealth, mostly in material form. Money covers only a small portion of the spectrum of wealth. How can we take it as an end? The end relies in wealth, in its deepest sense.

How can we define wealth then? Well, wealth becomes wealth simply because we acknowledge it as such.

In the material world, we encounter relative forms of wealth that only a portion of the population wants, and universal forms of wealth that every human being needs. For some, an apartment downtown represents wealth, for others a house in the countryside will do it. For some having livestock provide social status, for others it means nothing. These represent relative forms of wealth. Among universal material forms of wealth, let’s mention basic needs such as food, healthcare, a shelter, clothes, education… Interestingly, only money allow access to most of them. Other forms of wealth exist, intangible or immaterial, such as care, trust, friendship, family, self-esteem, joy, humor, listening, spiritual awakening… all these things that money will never buy.

It doesn’t matter whether we speak about a roof for a decent life, the beauty of a flower, the smile of a child, or drinkable water, wealth always come as the expression and harmony of Truth, Goodness, Beauty. 

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Can you clarify what you call Truth, Goodness and Beauty?

If you want to explore this question more deeply, I invite you to check the article called Integral Wealth.

Beauty refers to the creative impulse that lives in every human soul. Every human being possesses this spark, this impetus that invites him/her to manifest beauty by means of an art or a know-how. It doesn’t matter the means of expression, the level of mastery, the kind of art, the style, the canons of culture… Beauty emanates from the intimate subjective expression of the I. At the societal level, we link it to Arts.

Goodness introduces the other, the alter ego. We cannot considered something as good unless another consciousness has acknowledged it as such. The other, I mean a human being, society, nature, the universe, who expresses directly what a creation provokes inside him/her, in a verbal or non-verbal way (a tree that flourishes or withers for instance). Goodness comes from the You. At the societal level, we link it to Morals or Ethics.

Truth refers to reality principle, the external outsider differentiated from the I and the You. Reality principle works as a mirror in front of which we confront our capacities and creativity. Reality principle impartially tells the engineer if the nuclear plant can resist earthquakes or tsunamis. Reality principle provides us with harsh lessons on the consequences of our actions and choices. It operates like an external master from which we learn how to perfect our art. Truth emanates from the It. At the societal level, we link it to Sciences.

I for Beauty, You for Goodness, It for Truth. This ontological structure reflects our construct of the world, revealed by the basis of grammar.

Beauty, Goodness and Truth intertwine with one another. How can beauty exist in the face of lies? How can goodness manifest without truth? What use of truth if not infused with beauty and goodness? Beauty, Goodness and Truth operate like 3 diffracted colors coming from one same unique source of light. They compose what we name “wealth”.

 

Truth, Goodness, Beauty, Wealth

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What does poverty mean then?

Poverty implies the absence of wealth. It often comes from our incapacity to connect to the wealth that surrounds us, Truth, Goodness and Beauty.

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How do you envision the day you definitely stop using conventional money?

I will celebrate! Then I will see…

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How do you pay your taxes? Do you expect that governments work with other forms than money?

I don’t pay taxes for two reasons: first, I don’t belong to the taxable category of people, given the small amount of conventional money that I use. Second, given the way the State uses the money today, I don’t see myself supporting this system. That said, I give 100% of my time to the collective. If we calculated that in conventional money, I would make me a heavy contributing citizen. At least I can choose where the riches I want to offer go.

The day we have better technologies than money, I will become the happiest contributor. Who knows which forms of governance we will have in the post-monetary society? Meanwhile I understand that I will face challenging situations.

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House, car, electricity, insurance, clothing, train and plane tickets… a shortlist of the many things we access through money in our societies. How do you get these necessary things?

Today most of these material riches come as direct gifts in my life, sometimes directly, sometimes in the form of money.

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How do you get your food, an everyday need?

Food constitutes the last stronghold where I continue to use conventional money, at least for a certain time. I eat simply, following a vegan diet, raw for the most part when I don’t travel. This way of eating offers a good context for building harmonious relationship with local producers, however I haven’t yet pushed these lines because of my nomadic life.

Sometimes friends support me with some food. I feel so grateful!

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If you get sick, access to treatment requires conventional money. Would you rather not get medical support than pay?

Let’s not forget that I do not separate myself from the society, even less from its most beautiful solidarity principles, on the contrary! If I get sick or if I have an accident I will benefit from the healthcare system and will have access to basic treatment given to low-income or income-less people. Monetary taxes finance healthcare and solidarity, I have the opinion that my own contribution to society allows me to benefit from social solidarity without any shame.

That said, de facto I have no legal access to healthcare today because I have no more social status. I currently explore possibilities without compromizing my choices.

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Do you accept gold or precious metals as money?

No, as they represent early forms of the scarcity model. I want to use technologies that don’t create artificial scarcity.

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How do you save for retirement?

I don’t believe for one moment in the durability of the current retirement system, public or private. I expect that between now and the time when I have to withdraw from the world, the monetary has evolved, leading to new forms of solidarity. Meanwhile I take the risk of ending my life resourceless.

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Does owning a stock certificate from a company, shares in a mutual fund, or bonds issued by a governmental agency look the same for you as using conventional money? Do you see them as free currencies already because various organizations issue them directly?

Most of these things exist as direct derivatives and by-products of conventional money, therefore I don’t feel interested in them.

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Do you no longer put a coin under your child’s pillow from the tooth fairy? :-)

The tooth fairy also wants to evolve. She has already found lot’s of cool new ideas!

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No matter what, you access things and services that others have bought with their own conventional money! Don’t you find it hypocritical?

Most of the time this question comes in a sarcastic way after I shared that wealth comes to me as a gift. Something like “yeah, sure… don’t you think your generous donors did have to purchase these gifts for you, or hunt for the money they kindly offer you?“.

Here comes the mental again, playing its old usual tricks. If you think the same way, I invite you to process not in a mechanical and linear way anymore, but in an organic way. Follow the magic of life. The world changes because a few persons begin something, and that somethings grows on the soil of the old system, at least for a certain time before it creates its full autonomous ecosystem. Do you really believe that the first anti-slavery people lived 100% out of the slavery economy, right out of the blue? It took one person, then ten, then a hundred, then thousands and millions before the deep structure of the collective transmutes. Entanglement with the old system doesn’t mean we don’t have to make a step. 

So for now, I patiently play with other gift economy aficionados like me around the world, active people who want to create technologies and infrastructures that will carry this evolution. Some good news here: this community grows quickly, some day it may not need the market economy to exist anymore.

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How many people do you expect to live with post-monetary technologies?

I hope that soon the whole humanity will shift to post-monetary technologies. It didn’t take much effort to predict the current economic crisis that hit today, not because of external circumstances, but because of the very  structure of money. It shows me that evolution will happen much faster than we think.

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Did you get rid of everything you had?

Almost. Except some small sentimental objects that I received as gifts and marks of love, I got rid of everything.

All the things I inherited in the past, I transmitted them to my son and his mom. They will decide what they want to do according to their own choices and criteria. Even my piano that I still use belongs to them. If someday they need to sell it, they can do it. Today I just have functional stuff: some clothes, dishes and books..

As for computers and devices I use to work, they belong to CIRI.

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Don’t you miss certain things?

Yes, motorbike. I love it! 🙂

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Don’t your choice make you irresponsible in regards to your family obligations?

I left the notions of “duty” and “morals”, as these lines feel so deadly and outdated. I see myself as “amoral” because I know that following the creative forces of my being I don’t need external containers. Precisely, my journey makes me fulfill de facto these so called “moral and family duties” without having to torture myself or make particular efforts.

Check “about” and “above the law” pages.

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How do you pay for your child’s education?

My boy goes into a Waldorf-Steiner school, which requires some conventional money. I can pay this school because of your support.

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Do you feel afraid?

What important challenges do you face?

My journey provides me with such an experience and opens so many new perspectives that I often have the feeling that I live in a blind and deaf world, still enclosed in its obscurantism, its beliefs and its barbary. This state of affairs doesn’t put weight on me, I welcome life in its current form with serenity, patience and joy, without judging it. What feels more challenging consists in finding and building my own adjustments: how can I plainly and freely live my deep nature, with no concession, while keeping a harmonious relationship with my peers? What generative rules should I lay down? Each day provides its share of small steps to make.

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2 Comments

  1. Xan says:

    Hi Jean.
    First, thanks for exists and share your visions. I wish that next generations open her eyes to work for a better world for all living things.
    Do you know Faircoop, The earth coopetative?.
    Un abrazo. Salud. Namaste

  2. jf says:

    Hi Xan,
    Thank you so much for your comment. Like you I wish that next generations open their eyes and I’ll do everything possible to help them doing so. It starts with the next Evolutionary Boot Camps.

    As for Faircoop, yes, I know them and I love what they do. I think they haven’t yet met the critical factors of success for crossing the threashold, for different reasons. The main one comes from the fact they still use a currency system based on money principes (even with cryptocurrency) and market economy. See going post monetary.

    Un abrazo fuerte.

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