It often starts with a “what if…?” Mark Boyle describes his “what if…?” moment like this:

I was sitting around with a friend one night in 2007 discussing the world’s problems, and we were trying to work out which one to dedicate our lives to helping solve. Then it hit me, at the root of it all was money, which creates a kind of disconnection between us and our actions, whether that’s through sweatshops, industrial agriculture, or war, and so I decided to see if it was possible to do without.

Is there life beyond the money economy?

Is there life beyond the money economy? (montage: J Fowler)

Katharine Hibbert, on the other hand, was just bored when she put her house keys in the mailbox and walked off in the heart of London in search of a place to sleep. What Mark and Katharine have in common (and with a growing number of people) is a plunge into the deep end, giving up money and seeing how life turns out. The answer for both was “surprisingly well”. What is even more interesting is how their experiments changed them as people. For Mark and many others, the process was one of discovering a very appealing sort of freedom. Part of that freedom was the (re)discovery of lost skills and the recognition of forgotten resources. Another part, though, was how kind people are when removed from the context of a commercial transaction.

For many of us, such a path can lead to our own “what ifs”. The freegan movement is one sort of answer. An old article by Royce Carlson explores other aspects of a cash-free (or nearly) life, including food, clothing and even luxuries. For all of us, the fact that so many of these pioneers seem so happy is certainly food for thought.

(video: Mark Boyle via The Guardian)

(video: Trailer for the film: Living Without Money – featuring Heidemarie Schwermer )

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