Despite the fact that we are ostensibly in the midst of an economic recovery in the United States, jobs have been slow to return. In Europe, unemployment recently hit 11.9 percent, amounting to 19 million people in the Eurozone and 26 million people in the European Union. Elsewhere, people in the developing world have long known high unemployment rates, with countries like Zimbabwe having a 95 percent official unemployment rate. This trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon.
Since money is tight for a lot of people, that lends the question: what would happen if everyone just stopped spending it altogether? Obviously, national economies would fall apart, but what would that mean for you, personally, person with literally not a single dollar to your name?
That’s what Raphael Fellmer, his wife and 17-month-old daughter are doing in Berlin, Germany: living with virtually no money. According to the Huffington Post, for the past two years, Fellmer has been on a money strike to show the rest of the (developed) world how materialistic we are. Fellmer lives on no money altogether; his wife uses $280, from savings and government assistance for transportation, health care and food for their daughter.
Instead of paying for things with money, the Fellmers use a barter system. To pay rent in their building, they perform odd jobs. For food, they eat what grocery stores are throwing away. For clothes, they receive donations. And, for health care, they simply ask doctors and dentists.
It’s an interesting experiment and, of course, most of us probably do live too materialistically. Even though I try to live pretty simply, I probably don’t need my television, Netflix account or Kindle. But their money strike seems to willfully ignore the fact that, even though Fellmer and his family don’t need money, the services that they require, do. They only receive clothing donations because someone bought the clothing first. They only are able to eat what grocery stores throw away because the stores have enough of a profit that they can do so. They can simply ask doctors for check-ups because someone else paid for an appointment.
That being said, that money is exchanged is because someone else wasn’t on a money strike. If everyone just stopped using money, maybe the world would be a better place. People wouldn’t be impoverished and people wouldn’t need to go to that crappy job they hated and instead do what they loved, assuming that what they loved wasn’t just watching movies and what they loved was, say, carpentry, knitting or plumbing. Maybe people would have to go without indoor plumbing.
Or maybe a new currency would rise up and take money’s place.