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Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein

Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein is a fascinating book about how humans started out in an abundant gift-based connected economy, but then money was introduced which turned our society completely 180 into a scarce greed-based separate economy. Some of the ideas and principles introduced definitely made me rethink things I have been brought up to believe as truth and fact in my higher educational studies in economics and finance.

Much of it aligns with the DontNeedMuchMoney themes of treating time as the most sacred resource and the true essence of freedom which is spending time how one wishes. However, what is novel and worth consideration is an issue with my thinking that gaining freedom of time is through saving, investing, and residual income. Eisenstein argues that this is just exacerbating the issues that prevent others in society from gaining the same freedom of time. They in effect becomes slaves to the resource holders, which would include the savers and investors. 

This book left me with a lot to ponder. As such, I took the following notes to come back to from time to time. It also forms a good summary of the book for those that want to save time, but I highly encourage you to read the book yourself for there is much detail that is totally worth learning about that I skipped over including some fascinating footnotes and additional resources. The other amazing thing about the author is he practices what he preaches. He views his writings (and all intellectual property for that matter) as a gift and any gift should be truly given with no strings attached. It is up to the recipient of the gift to either pay it back or pay it forward in some way. As such, his book is available for free to read online here: And perhaps this is my way of paying his gift forward by exposing more people to his writings.

Highlighted bullets are the ones that impacted my thinking the most.

Part 1 The Economics of Separation 

Chapter 1 The Gift World 

  • Even after all this time the Sun never says to the Earth you owe me. Look what happens with a love like that. It likes the whole sky. ~ Hafiz
  • Surviving childhood and making it to adulthood is a gift.
  • Buying, selling, borrowing, lending in ancient languages all were one word based on gift.
  • Then we told the story that humans are discreet and separate selves competing for scarce resources to maximize self interest.
  • Root of money was debt/credit tracking leading to peonage, slavery, racism/sexism, and violence. "Behind the man with the ledger is always a man with a gun".
  • Then it morphed into coins and tokens. You give me a token of your gratitude and that token says I've met the needs of other people and earned their gratitude. Later when I receive a gift from someone else I give them that token.
  • Money becomes necessary when the range of our gifts must extend beyond the people we know personally. That's why it popped up in the first civilizations beyond village size in Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and India.
  • Money should enrich life. It should bestow upon us ease, leisure, freedom from anxiety, and be an equitable distribution of wealth.
  • Ironic that money is now precisely what blocks the blossoming of our desire to give, keeping us in deadening jobs out of economic necessity... Even the best paid job, if it does not engage our gifts, soon feels deadening. We are not living our own lives, but only the lives we are paid to live.
  • In nature, headlong growth and all-out competition are features of immature ecosystems, followed by complex interdependency, symbiosis, cooperation, and the cycling of resources. The next stage of human economy will parallel nature.

Chapter 2 Illusion of Scarcity

  • Division of the world into two separate realms - wild and domestic, human and natural, wheat and weed. Two opposing forces of good and evil. If we conquer evil, we will enter paradise. Idea of control.
  • Poor people have been proven to be more generous than rich people. The wealthy perceive scarcity where there is none.
  • To let go easily reflects an attitude of abundance.
  • We already produce more than we need to feed, house, and clothe everyone. The problem is not one of underproduction, it is one of maldistribution.
  • Yes the planet can sustain eight billion people but only when organized to eliminate activity superfluous or deleterious to human happiness.
  • Food waste - 4% farm to retail, 12% retail to consumer, 29% at consumer level. Plus land wastefully used for biofuel production and lawns... Intercropping and intensive gardening is far more productive than conventional farming but also more labor intensive. One thousand square feet can grow vegetables for a family, another 1K can grow the staples too.
  • McMansions, poorly made goods, unshared goods all contribute. We aren't going to have to make do with less. We're going to make do with more - beauty, community, fulfillment, art, music, and material objects that are fewer in number but superior utility and aesthetics... The cheap stuff that fills our lives today can only cheapen life.
  • We commonly associate freedom with wealth but when we pursue it, we find freedom a mirage and that the chase itself enslaves us.
  • Economics is the study of human behavior under conditions of scarcity so economic expansion is expansion of scarcity. Take as example bottled water which is totally abundant but has been turned into something scarce. Another is daycare.
  • Increase in wealth is increase in scarcity. Deepest source of our slavery is monetization of time. Primitive languages lacked tenses and words for yesterday or tomorrow. When we experience time as scarce, we experience life as short and poor.

Chapter 3 Money and the Mind

  • Money's classical definition as medium of exchange, store of value, unit of account, is what money does, not what it is. Physically it is now next to nothing. Socially it is next to everything. Money is a social object, it is a story.
  • First came credit, then cash. Each dollar bill had the same value but each IOU did not. Development of money is long process of disassociating value from relationship.
  • When money developed in Lydia and Greece on 700BC, there is evidence the coin was worth more than the actual material used to create it. What gave it value was what it symbolized. It was never a store of real value. It was just a sign of value derived from human interpretation.
  • Money evolved from material origins to a symbol riding upon a material to totally a symbol today and no material. Don't undo this evolution, fulfill it.
  • Money reduces everything to a commodity. Quantity matters over quality. This creates construct of replaceability. And detachment from physical world.
  • Today we suffer a poverty of immeasurable things and a surplus of things money can measure although unequally distributed. We can buy sex but not love, calories but not nourishment.
  • Money homogenizes things and relationships. When it is exchangeable for anything, then people all want the same thing, money. If I have $1 from a friend and $1 from an enemy, I cannot choose to spend my enemy's $1 first. Each dollar is identical.
  • Humans are inherently suspicious of altruistic enterprises and moved by na├»ve generosity.
  • Most any creative idea gives thought to how to make money from it. But then it ceases to be art and we become sellouts.
  • Because there is no apparent limit to what money can buy, our desire for money tends to be unlimited as well. Like an addictive substance, it temporarily dulls the pain of an unmet need while leaving the need unmet.
  • Explore decoupling of money as medium of exchange from money as store of value.
  • Money has enabled incredible technological advances but do we want our food as standardized as machine parts and microchips? Money can organize strangers across the plant but should it mean we can't organize relationships without it? Money allows us to do anything but without it, can we do nearly nothing?

Chapter 4 The Trouble with Property

  • What would be the result in heaven if those who get there first instituted private property on the surface of heaven and parceled it out in absolute ownership among themselves, as we parcel out the surface of the earth? ~ Henry George
  • We are not separate beings having relationships, we are relationship.
  • Saying in Guatemala where if a child is sick, they say my family is sick. Same for earth. You can't be healthy if the earth isn't, much like you won't say I'm healthy if you're liver is not.
  • When we exclude world from self, we have a need to claim as much of it as we can.
  • Property ownership may have come from self sovereignty principles of what I make is mine.
  • Need to change mentality from forced to give to urged to give. A system that rewards flow not accumulation, creating not owning, giving not having.
  • Property is robbery. Perhaps land ownership is natural consequence of agriculture, an incentive to make improvements upon the land. But how to own improvements and not the land itself?
  • Started as communal property and shifted to private ownership only in 15th century in England.
  • Legal system dedicated to protection of private property rights perpetuates a crime. 
  • To say I own something simply means that society agrees that I have certain rights and responsibilities over how it is used.
  • Everyone benefits when resources are available to those who will use them best.
  • The kingdom of God was transported from being here on earth to being separate from earth up in heaven. Christianity has been turned inside out that private wealth is God's favor.
  • Every proprietor of cultivated lands owes to the community a ground rent for which land he holds. ~ Thomas Paine
  • Any squirrel or deer is freer than I am. We are so impoverished. Even a billion dollar landholding is smaller than the domain of the hunter gatherer.
  • In Sweden and Ireland, trespassing is not a concept. The land is open to all except near dwellings and farm structures.
  • Ownership of money similar to land through rent (interest), ensures the wealth that flows from creativity and labor flows to those who own money.
  • It is not immoral to work for money, it is immoral for money to work for you.

Chapter 5 The Corpse of Commons

  • At the foundation of every great fortune lies a great crime. ~ Honore De Balzac
  • All that we use and all that we own consists of modified bits of earth.
  • To be able to buy and sell something means that it has been dissociated from its original matrix of relationships, in other words that it has become alienable.
  • Original free forms of capital - natural, social, cultural, spiritual.
  • Culture capital that we now pay for is intellectual capital. Lewis Mumford quote, a patent is a device that enables one man to claim special financial rewards for being the last link in the complicated social process that produced the invention.
  • Spiritual capital = sensory simulation. No longer content with the simple. We need games, movies, social media, advertising, etc. Our attention becomes so fragmented that we cannot sustain it long enough to create anything independent of the programs that surround us.
  • Social capital = services like cooking, child care, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment, advice, growing food, making clothes, building houses. Technology has been instrumental in turning these into things we now pay for. 
  • Monetization of capital is the strip mining of community. There is very little we can offer our neighbors anymore. We don't really need each other. We are dependent on the role but only incidentally on the person fulfilling that role. Whatever it is, we can just pay someone to do it as long as we have the money. And we get the money by performing some other specialized role that amounts to other people paying us to do something for them.
  • Nothing to do but consume. Consumption calls upon no one's gifts and calls forth none of anyone's true being.
  • Community is woven from gifts. When we receive, we own. Gratitude is the knowledge of having received and the desire to give in turn. But we can no longer give the necessities, we just buy them. Hence the urge to a self-sufficient life to do it like the olden times. But the hard way isn't sustaining either.
  • The power of money resembles the power of death. Like King Midas, we will be dead but very very rich.
  • We have unmet needs for play, exploration, and wonder and also struggle to meet our physical needs. There is no imminent age of leisure. Primary assumption of economics is that if someone is willing to pay for something means it must be to someone's benefit. This is called utility. But stealing land and then renting it back to someone does not create utility.
  • Thomas Hobbes description of the past as solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short is actually a description of the present.
  • In order for GDP to grow, money must meet more and more of our needs. Babysitting for free, making an uncopyrighted song, or growing a forest are not goods. Anytime someone pays for something they once received as a gift, the world's goodness level rises but its capital is depleted.
  • Efficiency of scale does not lead to more leisure. It leads to extreme production and waste with closets full of clothes and empty calories on store shelves.
  • Quote from Ascent of Humanity on how to make a people hungry for the right sneaker.
  • Money has facilitated the development of a metahuman organism of eight billion cells, the collective body of the human species.
  • It is immoral to rob someone of his property and then make him pay you to use it. Yet that is what happens any time you charge rent on land or interest on money. Someone should not benefit from merely owning what existed before ownership.

Chapter 6 The Economics of Usury

  • Prophecy by Silvio Gesell in 1918 of the oversupply of money leading to its hoarding and then war.
  • Bernard Lietaer from the Eleventh Round with parable about how to convert chickens to tokens but creating an 11th token but only 10 chickens. This ends in three scenarios - default, growth of the money supply, or redistribution of wealth all leading to a superabundance of chickens but a scarcity of things people really need.
  • More money needs to be paid back than is created. The only way to pay back that money is to convert more and more things that we used to get for free into goods and services. Timber, music, ideas, babysitting, bottled water, eating out, pharmaceuticals.
  • Perpetual growth implicit in interest based money is what drives conversion of life into money. The more of life we convert into money, the more we need money to live. Usury, not money, is the proverbial root of all evil.
  • The insufficiency of money drives us into competition with each other and consigns us to constantly being in state of scarcity. While some may repay their debts, overall the system requires a general and growing state of indebtedness.
  • There will always be insecure desperate people under pressure to survive. There can never be a time when we reach enough because in an interest bearing debt system credit exchanges goods now for more goods in the future.
  • The system works for debtors until the rate of economic growth is lower than the rate of interest. Then you get wealth concentration as debtors pledge more assets or future income to creditors. This means that those who have money can increase their wealth simply by virtue of having money.
  • Interest reinforces liquidity preference encouraging those who already have money to keep it.
  • Redistribution of wealth trends over time toward the minimum amount of redistribution necessary to maintain social order.
  • Warren Buffett house size inaccuracy. He actually lives in a super modest home in Omaha.
  • Work on self is inseparable from work in the world.
  • In our current system, it is mathematically impossible for more than a minority of people to live in abundance because the system maintains scarcity. One person's prosperity is another's poverty.
  • $10k pyramid scheme by giving $10k to someone and convincing four others to give $10k to you. Works until you run out of people and the last lose $10k.

Chapter 7 The Crisis if Civilization

  • The gathering crisis present a tremendous opportunity. Deflation, the destruction of money, is a categorical evil only if the creation of money is a categorical good. Offers opportunity to reclaim parts of the Commonwealth from the realm of money and property.
  • Security is only found in community - gratitude, connections, and support of people around you. As your investment advisor, I recommend that you use your wealth to enrich the people around you in lasting ways.
  • Shift our perspective toward reunion not separation and think on terms of what we can give. What can we each contribute to a more beautiful world.

Chapter 8 The Turning of the Age

  • The magic that perpetuated the story of money is breaking down. All money is is just digits on a screen. Once the story changes, any value gets erased. 
  • Elites prosper at the expense of the misery of people. To keep masses docile and stupid, they are provided with bread and circus.
  • When money evaporates through hyperinflation or debt deflation, all materials and skills still exist as before. What has disappeared is or capacity to coordinate our activities and focus our common efforts.
  • Unsustainable on two levels - the debt pyramid and economic growth.
  • Accent of humanity. Two human transitions - an awakening and an ordeal. Transition of receiver to giver. Money was humanity's childhood receiving phase and we need to transition to giving. Interest is such a take mentality. I will share money with you only if I end up with even more in return.
  • Replace more for me is less for you thinking (competition) with more for you is also more for me (love).
  • Jesus's golden rule is actually as you do unto others, so also do unto yourself.
  • The mature connected self comes into balance between giving and receiving, you give according to your abilities and you receive according to your needs by linking with others of like spirit. This is actually tenant of communism. Cyclical rather than exponential.
  • Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged paints a picture of people outdoing each other in their postures of neediness so as to be allotted a greater share of resources while producers have no motivation to produce. But people only do this when they believe the system is rigged. If it is viewed as just, they will seek to give.
  • The mind likes cynicism but the heart urges us to beauty.
  • Sometimes it is necessary to live a lie to its fullest before we are ready to take the next step into truth.

Part 2 The Economics of Reunion

  • Shift from treating earth as a mother to a lover. Her pain is our pain. Mother Earth to Lover Earth.

Ch9 The Story of Value

  • Banks given the power of money creation. Banks constraints are not reserves, it's their total capital and their ability to find willing creditworthy borrowers - those with either uncommitted earning potential or assets to use as collateral.
  • Technology and money suffer similar flaws. More of each is needed to fix the old issuance. But both developed to their present form for a purpose. It just now needs to be made purposeful with some consciousness like coming out of its childhood play phase.
  • Commodity backed currencies like gold are no better than fiat. They require the same story of belief. 
  • Money does become sacred so whatever creates its issuance is key (currently banks in the form of lending to those with a profit motive) and whatever backs it (currently endless growth). The money of the future will be backed by the things we want to nurture, create, and preserve. 
  • Whatever money backs becomes sacred but also compels us to create more if it. Another issue with commodity backed currencies like gold, cows or oil - an amount needed for material/fuel itself plus an additional amount for money. 
  • We destroy many things today for the sake of money but we do not willingly destroy money itself. Need to create a money system to increase the supply of things we agree are positive goods for humanity and the planet.

Chapter 10 The Law of Return

  • Socialism failed because it couldn't tell the economic truth. Capitalism may fail because it couldn't tell the ecological truth. ~ Lester Brown
  • The law is return - our waste becomes another's food. A zero waste economy is sacred.
  • Eliminate externalized costs of production that someone else pays for. Internalizing costs eliminates separation. Everyone is connected.
  • Any industry with the potential for catastrophic losses is essentially enacting a transfer of wealth from the public to private hands.
  • Cap and trade vs green tax. Something needs to be done otherwise those paying under current system are innocent bystanders or future generations, not those who create them and profit from them. But both require international cooperation.
  • Caution though. It's a dangerous assumption that damage to other beings is quantifiable and can be assigned a financial value. Monstrous results follow the reduction of morality to money.
  • The sun is the only limitless energy but it only continues to shine through our gratitude.

Chapter 11 Currencies of the Commons

  • We'll need to abolish the idea of property ownership. It's why both Marxism and capitalism aren't sustainable.
  • The purpose of government will be to serve as trustee of the commons.
  • Form collective agreement on the right amount of nature to turn toward human purposes. Then create a currency backing the elements of the commons we agree to use. Shift taxes away from what you earn and into what you take and shift costs away from spending and into hoarding.
  • Leased property model works. Will lead to more entrepreneurship based on most effective use and not on prior ownership.
  • Make it regional instead of national/global. Give power back to local governments to issue their own money backed by real community wealth.
  • Oil example - producers can still operate fields but they profit only from the service of extracting the oil and not from ownership of the oil itself. That is owned and sold by the commons. Then that money could go to public works projects or a dividend to the citizens (warning: may also go to corrupt politicians who game the system to keep it for themselves or their crony friends).
  • Getting the right price would lead to goods becoming way more expensive than services incentivizing repair, reuse, recycle.

Chapter 12 Negative Interest Economics

  • In a world where the things we need and use go bad, sharing comes naturally. Money is not like bread or fruit. It does not decay over time and in fact grows exponentially.
  • If interest causes competition and scarcity, might its opposite create abundance and community? And if it represents robbery of the commons, might its opposite replenish it?
  • We have been conditioned to avoid decay but it is what leads to rebirth and recycling. It must be accepted as part of the ascent of humanity.
  • Silvio Gesell - Only money that goes out of date is capable of standing the test as an instrument of exchange. We pay with our goods for money because we need the money as a means of exchange, not because we expect an advantage from possession of the money. This would end artificial scarcity where there are plenty of goods to exchange but a lack of money by which to exchange them.
  • Demurrage rate is the rate at which the money decays.
  • Wara and Worgl examples in Germany and Australia in early 1930s that led to towns prospering during a depression before they were banned. They each bore a demurrage rate of 1% per month.
  • Accumulation of wealth becomes a burden much like possessions for hunter gatherers.
  • Transaction fee is thought of as one solution but unlike negative interest rates, it penalizes circulation.
  • Interest rates should be set at a level where there is no advantage to holding wealth vs using wealth.
  • Inflation is a form of cost for hoarding money but negative interest is more advantageous because it does not penalize fixed income earners or result in costs inflating faster than wages. 
  • Need to make sure that all forms of currency and hoarding have demurrage (he did not mention stock valuation and buyback issues of zero interest rates).
  • With negative interest rates, banks could lend to enterprises that make a zero or slightly less than zero ROI and still earn a profit.
  • Negative interest rates allow for prosperity with growth and eliminates human misery during economic contraction or stagnant growth.
  • Negative interest rate money issuance could be used in conjunction with debt forgiveness during the next crisis so banks are made whole but encouraged to lend quickly while debtors get needed relief. And the associated increase in monetary base would be temporary.
  • It flips that money today is worth more than new money tomorrow. New money tomorrow would actually be worth more than money issued today. You wouldn't log a forest for $1 million today vs doing it sustainably for $10k per year. 
  • Internalization of costs aligns public and private interests while negative interest rates promote long term over short term thinking.
  • Aristophanes - In all things there is satiety but of money. Limitless desire arises with money.
  • In today's system having $1k today is better than 10 people owing you $100. With negative interest rates, the opposite is true. Just like a hunter killing an animal and sharing it.
  • Wealth then becomes measured by a person's inclination and capacity to give.
  • Demurrage rate must equal the preference of either goods or money as the same store of value otherwise any higher and it will encourage hoarding of goods creating the same problem. It's perceived scarcity (whether goods or money) that creates overconsumption and waste.
  • Is it from an attitude of scarcity or abundance that someone buys fifty pairs of shows? Is it security or insecurity that leads to someone buying a third sports car and a ten-thousand-square-foot house? Whence this urge to own, to dominate, to control? It comes from a lonely, destitute self in a hostile, ungiving world.

Chapter 13 Steady State and Degrowth Economics

  • Society came so close to changing in the 1960s.
  • An economic recession does not mean a decline in quality of life. It's just a decline of goods and services that are exchanged for money.
  • Non-scarce goods like copies of a music should not be subject to payment in scarce currency. 
  • One example of a good/service shifting away from money exchange is Wikipedia which destroyed the monetized value of Encarta and Encyclopedia Britannica. Another would be shifting pharmaceutical companies to cost plus model and encouraging alternative medicine practice.
  • The internet is allowing people once again to do things for themselves and each other without paying for it. Successful internet companies are making pennies on the dollar compared to the old businesses that they've upset. And it's being done by the end user because we want to create and share, not just consume.
  • It's counterintuitive that degrowth will be what ushers in true affluence for the many. Old system makes it so if it takes 1/10 the time to produce good as a century ago, we just costume 10x as much resulting in no labor savings.

Chapter 14 The Social Dividend

  • Why has technology not led to more leisure? Because at every opportunity, we have chosen to produce more rather than work less. The assumption of limitless needs and therefore limitless demand drives the insanity we see today.
  • Keynes - Eat cake vs grow the cake choices. More efficient production allows us to either work less or to work just as hard and produce more stuff. Our economic system requires and embodies the latter choice. We have trapped ourselves in a pattern of more and more production whether we need it or not.
  • There is a vast amount of important work to be done, work that is consistent with degrowth because it won't necessarily produce salable product. Yet I also believe we will have more true leisure, the experience of an abundance of time, than we do today. Scarcity of time is one reason we over consume, attempting to compensate for the loss of this most primal of all wealth. Time is life. To be truly rich is to have sovereignty over our time.
  • Circumvent the principle of "money shall go to those who will generate even more of it" by just giving people money.
  • German Kurzarbeit example during 2008 recession: short week program where everyone's time and pay was reduced by 20% instead of laying off 20% of the workforce.
  • The easy affluence made possible by technology is the collective treasure of the entire human race; merely by being born, each person is entitled to a share of it.
  • Historical and recent examples of civilizations choosing time over work: 20 hours per week that Kalahari Aborigines spent on subsistence in a harsh desert in 1970s or high medieval peasants with 150 saints days off per year.
  • Need to allow people to choose uneconomic work. Social dividend will help. Then either trust they will choose beautiful work or direct/incentivize them to do beautiful work.
  • The social dividend should be unconditional. And need small businesses to thrive. Large institutions can easily control a public that depends on them.
  • Social dividend won't cause people to do nothing. They don't need to be paid to do something they care about. They are paid to get them to care about something they wouldn't normally care about. Humans have a natural desire to give. It's not leisure, it's labor done for love.
  • The vast majority of our goods and services are made by people who do so only for the money, who do their work only because they have to. Degrading work that is filled by people who need the job for survival is a form of slavery.
  • The need for routine labor won't disappear but it will be done in a few hours time shared among people of all levels instead of specialists working that one job all 40+ hours in a week. Plus shift to maintenance/restoring creates more fulfilling work on its own.
  • We are attempting to satisfy our need for the infinite (play, love, art, knowledge, science, beauty) through an accumulation of more and more of the finite. Today we live in an overabundance of the quantifiable and a paucity of the unquantifiable.
  • A finite need (food, clothing, shelter) is a quantifiable need which works for money but needs to stop once the need is met. Instead we come up with more elaborate ways to meet finite needs that require more work that we don't actually make time to work on the infinite.

Chapter 15 Local and Complimentary Currency

  • Homogeneous global currency creates homogenous materials, relationships, and culture. The same stores, restaurants, and architecture dominate every locale.
  • Local economy is the crucial linchpin to restoring community and making us collectively more aware of the consequences of our economic activity.
  • Local currency is one key but it doesn't work because of how nothing is really produced locally anymore. Most people provide services that make sense only in a vast, often global, coordination of labor.
  • Give local enterprises a privileged status and force foreign enterprises to use local sources. Impose currency controls and restrictions on repatriation of profits. See Taiwan, Japan, and Singapore in the 50s-90s vs Mexico which sold off its natural and social capital without gaining much in return.
  • Local currencies won't work if they can't be used to pay taxes. Argentina bonds worked in 2001-02 during financial crisis. Taxing people in a currency they don't use is tyrannical and a cause of the American Revolution.
  • Time based currencies are called time banks. Starts by asking what do you do, what do you need, what can I do for you? Time is one way we are all equal so a money system that recognizes this equality is intuitively appealing. 
  • Fureai kippu currency in Japan credits people equally based on amount of time caring for elderly. 
  • Limitations of time banks are specialties like doctors and the danger of turning the gift of time into something quantifiable.
  • Another solution is trade credits that don't involve currency. Local exchange trading systems (LETS) by Michael Linton in 1983 where the account of the buyer is debited and the account of the seller is credited by the agreed upon sales price whether or not the buyer has a positive account balance. Mutual factoring is another example. See Swiss WIR system since 1934 which accounts for 1-2% of Swiss GDP.
  • Need to develop some form of evaluating credit worthiness of individuals and businesses. Maybe a credit score of some sort that increases when people earn their way out of negative balances. Banking could also change to serve this higher purpose of allocating capital locally.
  • Bitcoin is dangerous because we are trying to divorce money from the social, political, and legal means to maintain common morality. But cryptocurrency could be done in a way that aligns with Sacred Economics - ecological backing, negative interest rates, UBI. Transparency will be key not anonymity.

Chapter 16 Transition to Gift Economy

  • What can be measured can be mastered. We should resist trying to invent a better unit of measure. The things that contribute most to human happiness are immeasurable.
  • A zero growth future is not a stagnant future no more than a human life stagnates when a teenager grows her last inch at age 16.
  • The distaste of the artist is for the world of commerce. It's not just an egotism that says the artist is above it all.
  • Three goals - how to connect the provider of a gift with the person who needs that gift, how to acknowledge and honor those who give generously of their gifts, and how to coordinate the gifts of many people across space and time in order to create things transcending the needs or gifts of any individual.
  • Amazon and Airbnb rating systems as a form of social currency. Giftegrity where you list what you need and can offer.
  • Gift circle by Alpha Lo - Participants meet in person once a week and state things they need and can give. When it gets to a big scale like online then it becomes to function like money. 
  • Witnessing is key to creating community. Circles of circles gift economy where communities can give to other communities at the circle level.
  • Examples Mondragon Coop in Spain. And Better Means open enterprise model.
  • Today's employment model puts the interest of workers and owners at odds. That will change in the gift economy for workers will want to work to be part of a connected community.
  • As for extraordinary individual gifts, those who possess them will receive more in unquantifiable admiration to boost self esteem than could be done with quantifiable money.

Chapter 17 Summary and Roadmap

  • First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. ~ Gandhi
  • Debt cancellation - the legitimacy of a given social order rests on the legitimacy of its debts.
  • Instead of worker exploitation, we now have debt exploitation but with no collective body to represent the debtor.
  • Each new crisis offers the opportunity to buy out unrepayable debts with decaying currency thereby rescuing the financial infrastructure without further intensifying the concentration of wealth.
  • The point of economic life will no longer be to make a living. We will turn out gifts toward that which inspires us.

Part 3 Living the new Economy

Chapter 18 Relearning Gift Culture

  • Anonymous gifts just like money transactions don't create ties and don't strengthen communities. Gratitude arises from witnessing. The generosity of others moves us toward generosity ourselves.
  • We don't want to receive gifts because we don't want to be obligated to anyone. This too is a form of elevating anonymous acts of charity to lofty moral status. By accepting a gift, we are willing to be in the debt of the community. Need to fully accept a gift, even if it's a compliment.
  • Gratitude and obligation go hand in hand.
  • When we pay for everything we receive, we remain independent, disconnected, free from obligation, and free from ties.
  • What you have taken in this life dies with you. Only your gifts live on.
  • Much of what is labeled modesty or humility is actually a refusal of ties, a distancing from others, a refusal to receive.
  • To neither give nor receive, but to pay for everything; to never depend on anyone, but to be financially independent; to not be bound to a community or place, but to be mobile... such is the illusory paradise of the discrete and separate self. It is proving not to be a paradise but a hell.
  • Don't force a gift or contrive to receive one, only to meet a need and create a tie. 
  • The gift and the story behind the gift are intimately related. The story is part of the social witnessing.
  • Gifts circulate so that the good fortune of another is also your good fortune which creates an expansive sense of self.

Chapter 19 Non-Accumulation

  • Hunter gatherers stayed at populations beneath the carrying capacity of the unmodified ecosystem. Farmers rather had to store food to survive drought and lean years.
  • On the farm there's always something that needs to be done. We have today inherited and taken to an extreme the attitudes of the farmer including the agricultural definition of wealth - work ethic, sacrifice of present for future, accumulation, and control.
  • 3mil years of stone age, 300k of fire, 30k of symbols, 3k of agriculture, 300 of industry, 30 of information. What'll be next? 3 years of something, then 3 months, then 3 days?
  • Argument that accumulation led to sexual attractiveness.
  • The movement toward voluntary simplicity are people discovering our hunter gatherer roots.
  • Bill Kauth Sacred Warriors - Income topping pledging never to earn more than $24k per year. Similar to this is the idea of asset topping or non-accumulation. 
  • Takes trust that the gift economy will provide if we ever need it. Philanthropies are starting to follow this by spending into their endowments.
  • Wealth is a sign of flow being stuck in nature like cancer. Accumulation is a way to enlarge the tiny separate self.
  • The purpose of life is not to survive in maximum security and comfort but that we are here to give to create that which is beautiful to us.
  • I may never own a home by the sea but I will be invited to stay in one any time.
  • Gesell's phrase - Reduce money to the rank of umbrellas freely lending it or giving it to friends who are in need.
  • The mindset of separation sees gifts, loans, and savings as three different things but they are the same.

Chapter 20 Right Livelihood and Sacred Investing

  • We have lived our lives by the assumption that what is good for us would be good for the world. We have been wrong. What is good for the world is what is good for us. ~ Wendell Berry
  • You don't get virtue points for poverty. The goal is to enjoy true wealth rather than the counterfeit wealth of having.
  • Those with wealth have a dharma to use it well in their lifetime. We need to give of it in a way that is beautiful.
  • The word investment means to clothe, as in money is naked human potential unless it is put into new vestments.
  • The moment on your deathbed will be the memory of all that you have given. We take with us only what we have given.
  • Today investing is what people do to preserve their wealth. In a sacred economy it is what we do to share our wealth.
  • Banking has a spiritual essence in that I will help you find someone who can use your money beautifully.
  • Present day investing says I will give you the use of this money but only if you give me even more in return. I am profiting through my exclusive possession of a scarce resource with the goal of controlling more and more of it.
  • Any socially conscious investment scheme that promises a normal rate of return harbors a lie whether consciously or not. If you really want to contribute to the good of the world don't ask for return on your investment. You can't give and take at the same time.
  • Micro loan example to an Indian woman to buy a milk cow. If the cow was given to her, she could decide what to do with the milk. Because she has to repay a loan, she must sell the milk to people who themselves earn cash income. If the loan bears interest it's tantamount to extracting money from her village. The only way to pay the interest is for the village to sell something to the outside world.
  • A real social environmental conscious investment is one that has an explicit goal of zero return on investment.
  • If we have a large enough reservoir of gratitude then our society can withstand practically anything. Therefore the best investment you can make with your money is to generate gratitude.
  • Accumulated money bestows the ability to coordinate human activity on a large scale.
  • Baby boomers are the last generation connected to the old wealth.
  • Usury money is subject to a grow or die imperative. To counteract, I suggest the concept of using money to destroy money.
  • Right livelihood - Finding ways to live from gifts as the motive, meaning not aiming to get the cheapest price or generate even more money in return. There's usually little money to be made in reversing the conversion of life in the world into money.
  • Look at the world with the eyes of what opportunity is there to give and how may I best give my gifts?
  • The concept should feel liberating, not like a moral burden, not another thing you were supposed to do right in order to be good.

Chapter 21 Working in the Gift

  • It is contrary to the nature of a gift to specify an advance or return gift for then it is no longer giving but rather bartering selling.
  • Compensation is a form of injury to one's time and life, a form of pain and suffering. No finite amount of money is sufficient in exchange for the divine.
  • Two principles of a gift - the recipient and not the giver determine the price and the return gift is chosen after the initial gift has been received not before.
  • Pay what you will business model. Valorem law group puts a value adjustment box on its bills.
  • Cost-based billing that includes marginal costs and a portion amount of fixed costs but not sunk cost and then a blank to the recipient to add value for the time, labor, and expertise.
  • Sometimes advertising by donation lessens the value for people and they don't commit to it.
  • Can a parent legitimately take credit for the accomplishments of his or her child? No. That is a form of theft. Nor will I take credit for the beauty of my creations. I am at their service.
  • If you find yourself slaving away at a job working for the money, doing it good enough rather than as beautifully as I am able, I urge you to transition out of that job when and only when you are ready.
  • Fears of a guardian holding us in a safe space in which to grow. You could even say that fear is gift. Eventually as we grow, the fears that were once protective become limiting and we desire to be born.

Chapter 22 Community and the Unquantifiable

  • Community arises from the meeting of needs. There is no community possible among the group of people who do not need each other.
  • The difficulty in creating community today is that when people meet all their needs with money there's nothing left to give.
  • If you are giving someone a product that is for sale somewhere, either you are giving them money or you're giving them something they don't need. 
  • Poor people develop much stronger communities than rich people do because they have more unmet needs.
  • Gratitude of infancy and of helplessness will reconnect us to the principle of the gift.
  • First inclination to restore community is to abandon the money economy and, by extension, the economic and industrial system of mass production, to resume doing this "the hard way" again. But it would be silly and futile to relinquish the things we have today in order to have community.
  • The solution is not to meet already met needs less effectively, rather it is to meet the needs that languish unfilled today.
  • Financially independent person is not bereft of community because he meets all of his needs via money, he is bereft of community because he is not meeting his needs except through money.
  • To be in a community is to be in personal interdependent relationship. It is a sharing of one's being, an expression of oneself. But it also means you lose independence and freedom from obligation. Also requires a higher purpose to which to sacrifice one's ego.
  • Our main need is the experience of uniqueness and connectedness.

Chapter 23 A New Materialism

  • Economics should be about things not just money, specifically the things that human beings create, why they create them, who gets to use them, and how they circulate.
  • Beauty does not necessarily rise from the pursuit of efficiency nor is it from unthoughtful adornment.
  • Just like the spirit is an extra ingredient of life, beauty is an extra ingredient on top of function. It is the feeling that this is more beautiful than it has to be, yet it could be no other way. It starts with the intention to make something the best one can, both functional and beautiful.
  • The taste of a raspberry, the sight of a sunset, or the Mandelbrot mathematical set are all examples of being more beautiful than they have to be.
  • Our life today is already like socialism, Walmart and mandatory daycare being examples, economic exigency replacing State Force.
  • I don't believe that mastery is available only to a few, rather it is because our gifts are so suppressed that we can't achieve such mastery.


  • The mind that is not baffled is not employed. ~ Wendell Berry
  • Wealth should be transparent. The advent of money created a way to keep it secret.
  • Have money hold the story in history behind it to create different money - money from salary versus money from a gift from Grandma.
  • Conspiracy around historical incidents of squashing energy abundance technologies, JPMorgan destroying Tesla's career. Perhaps we are waiting on the timing of an inventor with the intention to release the invention into the public domain.
  • We will reforest the Greek isles, denuded over 2,000 years ago. We will restore the Sahara Desert to the rich grassland it once was. Prisons will no longer exist and violence will be a rarity. Work will be about how may I best give my gifts instead of how can I make a living. Crossing a national border will be an experience of being welcomed not examined. Mines and quarries will barely exist, as we will reuse the vast accumulation of materials from the industrial age. We will live in dwellings that are extensions of ourselves, eat food grown by people who know us, and use articles that are the best that people in the full flow of their talents can make them. We will live in richness of intimacy and community that hardly exists today. And most of the time, the loudest noises we will hear will be the sounds of nature and the laughter of children.