Why is money valuable? Because people value it. Why do they value it? Because it is valuable. The circular logic here is clear. People's demand for money is peer-based and artificial in a way that their desire for food is not. If the government announced that centralized money would cease to be valuable from this time next year, it would likely cease to be valuable forthwith. Whether paper or gold, people are happy to accept money only as long as they are confident that they can swap it for something useful, i.e. as long as they are confident that other people will accept it.
It is this unstable dynamic which suggests that money may cease to become valued quite suddenly and without warning. Why would people cease to accept money? Political instability, currency inflation and food scarcity are historically important reasons, or perhaps a complex of interrelated factors. As the consequences of Capitalist Mentality continue to ravage the planet, food prices are rising and the planet's natural ability to grow food is declining. Coupled with an expanding population, it increasingly seems like something has got to give.
Few people nowadays have lived through an actual currency collapse, though the relentlessly declining value of money underlines the unreliability of money as a store of value. Why then are many people, even those who acknowledge its inherent instability, unwilling to even contemplate its complete collapse?
Money as Value Set
Money provides a clear set of values for its followers, many of whom lack an alternative, personal set of values. To the subscribers of Strict Father Mentality it justifies the status quo, explaining the highly unequal distribution of resources as not only inevitable but beneficial. It effectively sorts people into different classes.
The following groups are especially invested in the concept of money.
- Adults, as they have had longer to accept the status quo
- The financially rich, as they have more invested in the money system
- Developed countries, as money justifies their exploitation of the others
- Those who spend as lot of time validating money, e.g. bankers, wage slaves, misers etc.
- Heavy users of money, e.g. city dwellers, those who prefer professional rather than relationships
Imagining this set of values becoming worthless is a disorienting and threatening experience for such people, such as contemplating a Godless world might be for a devout believer. They would have to rethink large parts of their lives to make sense of them.
The prospect of money collapse is a scary, even terrifying one for many if not most people, raising the immediate question of "what would I eat?" For city dwellers everywhere, especially those in the developed world, this is a real concern. It would be a mistake to think that its urgency motivates people to contemplate and plan for the collapse of money; often it has the reverse effect, causing people to dismiss the possibility out of hand.
Preparation for Collapse
General public acceptance of a fiat money system effectively controlled by an unaccountable elite (for example by the Federal Reserve) is closely tied to the public control by such a group. It seems highly likely that such control will not persist for ever, and that centrally issued money will therefore become valueless at some point.
Thinking this logic through and becoming convinced of the inevitabilty of the end of money is a good first step towards psychological preparation for the event. Reading the writings of those who already live without money may be helpful in this regard.
Another aspect of psychological preparation for the end of money could include the conscious adoption of a positive, Gift Economy Mentality. The collapse of money need not mean the end of the world as we know it; the better you have prepared, the easier the transition to alternative systems can be.
To prepare for the end of money as an individual (or an individual nuclear family) is very problematic, to the point of being contradictory, unless you have no neighbours. Money serves the elite by breaking down the natural bonds of community between neighbours and replacing them instead with mutual envy for their artificially scarce commodity.
Perhaps the best preparation you can make for the end of money is to foster a broad sense of community. Helpful friendly people around you may be the best help in the uncertain times ahead. To rediscover altruism 'is' to see the light at the end of the tunnel of market mania which has sought to replace mutual trust with destructive, scarcity-inducing ties that money uses to bind people into corporate hierarchies. The less people close to you rely on money, the less the disruption when the money system becomes inoperable.
Practical steps will vary depending upon your location. Rading local history of how people lived in the past may be a help. Some principles remain, however - promoting abundance of all things good while transitioning away from financially-dependent systems such as companies or fossil fuel-based technologies.
Many simple living websites have guides on how to reduce your financial expenditure, which tend to conincide completely with reducing your dependence on the money system. Transition Towns have some good material on this. Supplement bought food with food you have foraged or Guerilla Gardened. If you already grow food, use permaculture instead of chemical-based agriculture. Ultimately, you can't be sure how people away far from you will fare in the post-money world, so reducing your immediate dependence on them, relocalizing your economy, is a good bet.