The process of monetization is the imposition of money as a system on unmonetized realms. For example, childcare and education has traditionally been carried out for free by adults not only of their own children, but those of their neighbours and others in society. Before money was invented, social relations existed and people provided innumerable goods and services for one another for free. The tendency since the invention of money has been to monetize relationships, to cease free gifts in favour of payment.
The mathematics of centralized money, in particular its requirement for exponential growth, mean that the continuation of the modern system of debt-based money requires an exponential increase in the monetized realm. The economic system rewards those who promote monetization, so it is therefore being aggressively pursued under a variety of guises, such as the project of poverty alleviation, generally carried out in ' developing' countries, which explicitly aims to increase people's average income. In ' developed' countries, monetization is often carried out indirectly, such as by legislation.
The invidious and destructive nature of monetization is such that it is seldom acknowledged as policy, but emerges indirectly out of policies which ostensibly have other goals.
In developed countries, monetization is often carried out under the rubric of standardisation or improvement of quality, especially following a scare campaign or other systematic effort to impute failure on amateur providosion. Often, laws are used which do not outlaw free provision of goods or services, but which levy a charge on those who do so. For example, in many countries, childcare has become subject to regulations making it not only onerous but also expensive to register as a provider. By charging money for permission to gift goods or services which were formerly given for free, such legal changes firstly introduce social acceptance for its monetization and, in the long term, effectively prohibit its gifting for most people due to economic considerations.
By defining poverty in money terms, the admirable goal of poverty alleviation is corrupted into the more dubitable one of 'economic development'. Measuring a country's wealth in terms of centralized money, and defining poverty in financial terms is a fatally flawed oversimplification, since it takes a selfish perspective which fails to consider the overall impact on a society. Nevertheless, it is promoted by various plutocratic institutions since it provides a positive incentive for monetization.
Monetization can be understood as a direct attack on the gift economy, since it limits what is available without use of money. By introducing the external motivation of money and increasing the remit of authorities it limits personal freedom and reduces social cohesion, normalizing selfishness where traditionally other values - such as altruism - were standard. As feminist economist ug:Marilyn Waring notes, monetization also tends to undervalue the contributions made by women.
The long term consequences of monetization are perhaps best understood by looking at arguably the most monetized (and 'developed') nation, USA. As more of a society's functioning is regulated through money and less through social mechanisms, communities feel disempowered whilst those who have great wealth feel correspondingly empowered, and begin to change laws and other institutions to suit their own private purposes. The greater the degree of monetization, the less it is conceivable how a society could function without it, increasing the power of those who regulate the money system concerned, as witnessed by the 'bailouts'.
The reverse process is demonetization, the rolling back of financial barriers to access. This may happen for various reasons, such as in times of extreme need, when societies face critical shortages of essential items, such as food or fuel. To prevent hardship and ensure equity, these are rationed, which - to the extent that this process is successful - is a temporary form of de-monetisation. Conversely, some goods and services, such as software, or media may become so abundant that they experience de facto demonetization, even though they may still be subject to restrictions such as copyright law.