Back to the Economy

Susan Anderson's picture

Money is really just an idea.  More and more, it is becoming conceptualized rather than a physical asset as electronic banking is coming into play.  So, what does it represent?  

Money represents power.  It represents your ability to gain assets, and it serves to show off these traits.  It can be inherited, power given down from generation to generation.  The same is true for the idea of survival of the fittest.  Animals and plants inherit the ability to survive, to feed themselves, to compete from their parents.  They show it off with mating rituals and the sheer act of flourishing.

Maybe we are not as different from other life forms as we make it out.  We just have the added advantage of better cognitive skills.  

Maybe, like we laugh at a cat staring predatorily into it's reflection in the mirror, other "higher" life forms are laughing at us for our the inability of our brains to see how the world really works.  If they came along, I think we would still like the right to live.

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Barbara's picture

Money, currency, tradeoff

Money is really just an idea, and we hardly realize how money is deeply rooted in our community. The basic role of money is currency, a mediator to facilitate exchanges.I don't think there is anything essentially wrong with tradeoff, but the problem is, when it comes to natural resources, for example, we assume the patner who we are trading with is other humans instead of the land (land as defined in Leopold's essay). This results from the fact that people falsely claim land. If we realize we are trading with natural resources, we would realize that what we take we need to give back (back to Native American ideology introduced by LaDuke). I like one phrase by Leopold a lot - "when ... non-economic categories is threatened and if we happen to love it, we invent suterfuges to give it economic importance." Do you see how deeply we are trapped in monetary value system? We are such an intelligent species yet we run out of creativity to think of another way to measure value. We've read a lot of authors (Warings as I can think of) who have pointed out this phenomenon but we are not able to escape from this trap yet. To approach to this issue, one way is to examine if "exchange" is ethical at all, and then discuss how we may develop other currency in such tradeoffs.

Sarah Cunningham's picture

the land as our slave

Barbara's insightful comment makes me think again of how Leonard starts his article, with an analogy of how the ancient Greeks thought about and treated their slaves, to how we think about and treat the land and its resources. There is no monetary equivalent that could make up to a slave for being used, treated, thought of, as a slave - like there is no fair price on a human life. So Barbara's suggestion of examining whether "exchange" is ethical at all, is very relevant. If we consider that the land and all its creatures are there for our use, that our "manifest destiny" (early European/American concept of divine right: since God put it there, it is obviously for us to do as we like with) gives us the right to use every creature, and everything we can cut down or dig up out of the earth, we are treating earth as our slave. If we respect earth in the way that Winona LaDuke and other Native Americans describe, then we are aware of the earth and biosphere as an equal creature. The exchange she describes, of giving a bit of tobacco for the animals we kill in the hunt, for instance, or even for the herbs we collect from the wild, is symbolic of respect, it is not the same as placing a monetary or even a material, nutritional or other value on what we are taking. It is a statement, to ourselves, to our community, and to the community of wild things, of our respect, and of not taking for granted our right and ability to take whatever we want.

I also think it is worth thinking, as native peoples do, of the difference between taking what we need, and taking as much as we want. A workable land ethic does not require that we deny our needs or even our own desires. That (self-denial) is something we inherit from Puritanical Christianity, or other religions. We need to love and respect ourselves and our own place within the web of life, and within the cycle of life and death. I somehow feel that self-respect goes hand in hand with respect for others, and with respect for nature. A sense of give and take is different from assigning precisely equivalent values to things that are very different from each other. I also have an idea that what we do not "pay for", in some sense, as we go along, we will have to pay for in some form later on-- or our grandchildren will. That, to me, more than Leonard's idea of social approval/disapproval, is what must drive our ethics. Or, since I don't like the concept of "pay for", I should say perhaps, we must be mindful of what we are using, and alert to the ways we need to nurture the land, the forest, the community, in order that its health and our own may be preserved.

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