In my last post I said I’d share a story regarding money. The reason I’m wanting to share it is because of the perceptions of money, or currency, which is possibly a better description for the pieces of paper and metal discs we carry around in our pockets every day. It also has a direct reference to the alternative of making use of Talent Exchanges, where it is the exchange of valuable energy that cements the transaction.

The story is an excerpt from my book: “Of Kings, Slaves & Bus Drivers”. It’s actually an old story and probably known by a good few people reading this, but it reflects a particular characteristic of the nature of currency and the world-view that has been created over time – about its apparent necessity in order to drive economies. You make up your own mind about its validity.

Here is that story:


“Jack is a sales representative for a hardware wholesaler, who purveys the consumables, like nails, screws, bolts, nuts, all the fast moving items everyone needs almost all the time. His area of responsibility is small and medium-sized country towns. In one particular region, three towns are situated relatively close to one another and, geographically speaking, form a rough triangle – let’s call them town A, B and C for simplicity. Town A is the largest of the three and lies a little further away from the others and it is the only one with a small hotel.

Naturally, Jack stays over in town A, if and when the need arises. As is his habit, Jack arrives in Town A one morning and makes his way to the hotel. He greets the receptionist, whom he now knows very well and, after the usual exchange of pleasantries, requests they hold a room for him, should he not complete his rounds of the three towns on that day. Happily the lady obliges, so Jack pays the customary R200 deposit and leaves shortly afterward with the intention of completing Towns B and C first and then returning to Town A to service his customers there.

As Jack is leaving, the hotel owner comes into the reservations office to collect the takings to be made up for banking. The receptionist gives him Jack’s money to add to the banking tally, but then the owner remembers he owes the baker across the street that exact amount for the bread rolls and savoury tarts he’d ordered the previous day, so he takes the R200 note and trots across the street to settle his debt. The baker is very happy, but remembers he owes Thomas, the electrician, R200 for the repairs done to one of the ovens. He calls Thomas and asks him to call round to collect his money. Half an hour later, Thomas leaves the bakery with the money in his pocket.

As Thomas drives off, he sees Dennis, the butcher, crossing the street and remembers he owes him R200 for the meat he took on credit a week ago. He hoots to attract Dennis’s attention and pays him right there, in the street. As Dennis enters his butchery, his wife looks up from her desk in the corner and reminds him of the R200 he owes Florence for doing the flower arrangements for their grandchild’s christening the previous Sunday. He hands his wife the money and asks her to contact Florence to come and collect it.

Florence leaves the butchery shortly after lunch that day, knowing she owes the hotel R200 for the hire of the tablecloths for the wedding reception that coming weekend and, thinking, “what’s done, is done”, she makes her way over to John’s Country Lodge. The receptionist is very surprised when Florence announces she’s there to pay for the tablecloths in advance. She doesn’t argue and puts the money in the cash drawer. She hands Florence a receipt, they chat for a few minutes and then goes back to her work when the other woman walks back on to the pavement.

An hour later, Jack walks into the hotel, beaming broadly. He announces he’s completed all his rounds and will therefore, not be staying over, but would rather push on to the next town to get an early start in the morning. He asks for his deposit back and tactfully expresses his regret that he won’t be staying over. The receptionist hands him the R200 note and cancels the room. Five minutes later, Jack is making his way out of town on his way to his next stop with the same R200 note safely back in his pocket.

The moral of this story is: the same R200 note has circulated between five parties in one day. In the case of the hotel, they have received it twice, but each time supposedly settling a debt in quick succession, where no one has been deprived, no one has actually benefited and the same person who put it into circulation that day, has it back in his pocket. No one gained anything material out of the transactions, but everyone is satisfied so, why use a piece of worthless paper, instead of contributing to the settlement of so-called debts in a far more personal and tangible way? This is the illusion we have bought into and perpetuate by our participation.”

Most of us who were at Learning Man did experience the alternative of paying for goods and services via the Talent Exchange and we have a far better picture of how simply it works. I suppose the question we should ask is: “Which was the easier, lesser encumbered way of going about our daily business transactions?”

It’s by no means a cut-and-dried case while we still have to deal with a world of currency, but it does serve as a good illustration of the alternative, doesn’t it?


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