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The Fox 5366
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Capitalism II - is money necessary?

17 July 2013, 07:33

Building off my earlier article, let’s unpack capitalism a bit further by asking, “What exactly is money?” I'd say it's grossly inefficient, and opens us up to unnecessary vulnerabilities.

(You can view that earlier article here:

An eye-opening analogy can be found in the recent movie, In Time ( You’ve heard the saying ‘Time is Money’, but in fact it’d be more accurate to say this: money is time, commoditised. You pay other people to do or make things for you, in other words.

The real formula is a bit more complex. A slightly expanded version could be this: Price = Time + Convenience + Attractiveness + Scarcity

You maybe invested your time at school, maybe at University, then at a variety of previous jobs, then invested time into further additional career-enhancing skills, and all of this resulted in the cost of your time: your salary.

I don’t know about you, but it’s a fascinating realisation for me: we’re not trading money, we’re trading time. You can really see that with people in high-pressure jobs, where they’re accurately described as being ‘time-poor’.

At its heart then, money is just a convention: it’s a yard-stick to measure our skills by, and to enable us to buy however much we feel we’re worth – my salary expectations? Why, a zillion rand! – to make ourselves feel passably comfortable.

The whole failure of capitalism can be summed up here: humans are inherently fickle. If you’re less generous, you might prefer to interpret it as ‘lazy’, but it goes beyond that. The concept of formal employment encourages us to commoditise our time, in return for access to an unseen global workforce all beavering away for the products and services we crave (or are taught we should crave).

The social contract of capitalism fails in two places: 1 – you can invest all your time in your education and various jobs, but you may be unable to secure a job at all if there aren’t enough jobs around; and 2 – Even if you do get a job, factors beyond your control mean that you may not get a salary which is ‘fair’ (e.g. supply-and-demand in your specific job sector, luck, social relations, a temperamental HR person, or poor budgeting at your new company).

With this view, is money necessarily the best instrument to measure our skills and time invested, and gain access to the resources we need for a comfortable and even luxurious life? I’d say it isn't, not least because the very concept of money opens up the concept of ‘theft’ all by itself.

‘Money’ is inherently unfair, because if you can’t get the salary you deserve, then your investment of time – read good old fashioned blood, sweat and tears – has depreciated every bit as much as your new car’s resale value.

Don’t get me wrong: we all want something for nothing, and I’m not proposing that. All I’m saying is that money is primarily inefficient, and that inefficiency leads to huge social and political tensions. Again, this isn't an exhaustive article ... it’s just a conversation starter!

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