The history of money:
Standard economic theory is that once upon a time all transactions were exclusively barter: e.g., 20 chickens for your cow, a basket of corn for your basket of wheat, 3 animal furs for your spear. Then inconveniences arose when your neighbor didn’t need that many chickens right now but you still needed his cow – so then money was invented as an arbitrary medium of exchange that you both could agree had value.
However, anthropologists have never found places where everyday transactions look like Adam Smith’s theory of the exclusive barter system – the place where everybody in the community does business via on-the-spot trades. What anthropologists do observe among primitive communities is an exchange system more like: “Take the cow and now you owe me one.” If these communities are tribal [e.g., Native Americans], there is often no exchange at all – rather things are shared commonly or allocated by a tribal council, etc.
In other words – the story doesn’t go:
barter –> money –> debt
rather, it goes the other way:
debt –> money –> barter
There was never a community of on-the-spot traders that sought out a medium of exchange, that then became money. There was a “Just take it and now you owe me one” system of tribal-sharing that turned into a system of measured obligation [called debt – where money is the unit of measure]. And then on-the-spot trading and bartering systems only appear among people in money-based systems where the currency has collapsed.
The role of the state:
What made the “Just take it and now you own me one” turn into a system of measured obligation and money? For millions of years humans organized themselves according to their tribe and their tribe’s land – and nothing else.
Advancements such as monoculture and city-states created large groups of largely unrelated persons living together – humans began “bonding” through commerce or business or information. While civilization has undoubtedly caused great benefits for the human species, having larger communities bound by principles other than kinship created a greater potential for war [leading to plunder and slaves to be divided up] and a greater interest in taxation.
We observe complex financial systems of measured credit and debt at the beginning of recorded history. Meaning, by the time historical records began to be written, humans had already come to a point past the tribal-sharing model, and were full-swing into a monetary-based system such as: “just compensation shall be 20 heifers of the finest quality, if not he shall be put to death.”
In Egypt, a strong centralized state excised taxes from everyone else. In Mesopotamia, the state emerged rather unevenly – beginning first with large temple-districts [e.g., Gobekli Tepe], and then later palace-complexes. In any event, the state is where money begins as a unit of measure – used to allocate resources within these new systems of human organization.
Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
There three ways to understand this scripture:
- Nothing belongs to Caesar because all things are God’s. So render nothing.
- Some things do belong to Caesar, but the United States is not under a “Caesar”, but is a representative democracy. ”We the People” are “Caesar”. So you don’t have to render, but you can/should.
- Money belongs entirely to Caesar and God has nothing to do with it. Render it all.
Now show me some tribute money — and what is the image and superscription you find? All money pertains to Caesar. There aren’t legitimate parts of the state that have claim on some of our money and illegitimate parts that do not. Legal tender belongs to the state alone and those who want to be free of its control can’t be half in Caesar’s game and half out.
Meaning you can’t charge money for your labor, spend money to buy the fruits of another’s labor, and lay-up your money for a rainy day, etc. — and not expect to fall under the jurisdiction of Caesar who wants his due rendered to him. Caesar’s is a money-based community. God’s is a money-free community.
Once you convert something of real value [e.g., your time or your labor] into something of no value [like dollars] – it is lost forever. The only way to retain the value is to stay in Caesar’s game. Find someone else who plays and trade with them.
Dollars are like inches. They are only a unit of measure [dollars = value, inches = length]. We know we don’t carry around inches in our pocket – yet many actually believe dollars to be something. And money falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the state. As such, once you work for dollars, the thing of value disappears and is replaced by the thing of no-value. The only way to get back value is to find someone who plays the same game and do a value-for-no-value trade with them – perpetuating the whole thing.
The role of the gospel:
Jesus’ ministry cost very little – a couple taxes paid via miraculous means. God finances His operation in His own way. However, the Gentile LDS church has not been able to recreate this. We instead maintain a significant financial operation – making it obvious to any outside observers that it’s the power of money [not of the priesthood] that carries the work forward in these latter-days. We have sufficient for our needs and invest the difference.
To be poor and join the church — one will be immediately confronted with the image of a wealthy group with certain expectations. It is a wealthy church with a self-perpetuating financial arm that is able to use interest profited off of tithing contributions to fund for-profit ventures that “fund the work of the Lord”.
While it could be argued that, practically-speaking, currency is just simply required to “spread the gospel” and that leaders are just being “good stewards” — I don’t think anything about the gospel reads as being “practically-minded”.
The corporation that carries the trademarked name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, like any other business, dependent on money. It must play Caesar’s game. No operation playing that game can sustain itself without engaging in at least a bit of for-profit venturing, shrewd investing, and fund-raising here-and-there. And I would not expect them too. I do not fault that corporation for it’s handling of and dealings with money – I find fault for the claim that it is the same organization that existed in the primitive church, but not doing it.
One can never be free while still playing Caesar’s game:
Jesus and the kingdom have no use for money. Jesus taught His disciples to live contrary to the principles of surplus economics and instead rely alone on God to provide [not self-reliance and provident living].
There is a reason Jesus sent missionaries out without purse or scrip – commanding them to take no thought for food, drink, or clothing – to freely give miraculous works to any who receive them – to rely on the mercies of the world to provide for their needs. It is because only the poor are intended to teach and preach the gospel.
And only the poor [who are meek] will inherit the abundance of spiritual manifestations and the Earth. Zion is to be a money-free community where all members live together and have all things common – where all mine are thine and we are glorified together.
When humans lived in the Edenic state of multihusband-multiwife tribes – money did not exist. The idea of “having any money” was foreign to Adam, who only kept the tokens associated with his priesthood. Any return to such a paradisaical lifestyle will only be associated with complimentary return to the manner of connectedness and cooperation humans shared before statism, monogamous family-units, and monetary-based systems of exchange.
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