Monday, November 08, 2010

could you live a year without money?

Alternet | EL: You write that a lot of your interviews are comprised of repetitive questions. So, what is a question that nobody's asked you?

MB: I find that really striking that at the start, nobody was ever really asking me about what it's like choosing to be a person without a penny in a world that's striving for more and more.

By choice, Mark Boyle basically doesn't have a cent—or, more accurately, a pence—to his name. Boyle lives in rural England in a trailer he spotted on Freecycle.org. He feeds himself by growing everything from barley to potatoes, foraging wild edibles like berries and nettles, and occasionally dumpster-diving for luxuries like margarine and bread. He cooks with a wood stove fashioned from large restaurant olive cans; brushes his teeth with his own mixture of cuttlefish bones and fennel seed; and makes paper and ink from mushrooms. He barters labor for rent, Internet service, and whatever else he can't find, grow, or make.

This experiment in currency-free living started in 2008 after Boyle, an Irishman who worked in the organic food industry, saw Gandhi and was inspired by the Indian nationalist's legendary asceticism. Boyle's experience became the basis for his book, Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living, which has just been released in the states. By the end of his year without dough, he'd decided that the life he'd gained by shedding currency was worth continuing. When I recently spoke with Boyle, he was making plans to buy land with the royalties from the book—his only cash transaction in the last two years—to start a moneyless community. He talked about the insights that drove him to make his new lifestyle more permanent.

Emily Loftis: It seems pretty ironic that you were a student of economics and now you're moneyless.

Mark Boyle: You're right, it's a bit ironic. But I think it's wrong to think of economics as money. The actual word itself actually revolves around meeting one's needs. Money is one way of meeting our needs, but it's only one way. I think I couldn't do what I do today without studying economics, because you need to understand the system first—how it currently works—in order to change it.

EL: Do you ever feel like you should be more engaged in the political process in order to promote sustainability?

MB: I feel like what I'm doing is a political process, to be honest. I think every single thing we do is political. Even if you go to the shops and buy a packet of biscuits, then you're buying into the system, willingly or not. I think we're conditioned into thinking political systems as being either communism or capitalism. I think there are a lot more options available. We just haven't explored them.

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