Money confuses people quite a bit – mainly because in capitalism money is also capital and of course, how you get it is so perverse…
In a parecon money is just a convenience and everyone gets it – basically, claims on a part of the social product fairly and the same way as everyone else.
Suppose a thousand people are on an island. They set up a kind of town – with no rescue in site. Everyone agrees things should be done in a fair and equitable way. After all they have to generate food, housing, schools for kids, ways to travel, some things to enjoy and so on. There is onerous work. Time consuming work. But there are benefits to be had. The apportionment ought to be just.
Someone then says, moneybags who got stranded with the rest, let’s have 100 of us, including me or of course, own everything and the rest can work for them – and the nearly all say, get serious, that is ridiculous. Then someone says, okay, let’s produce and generate a social product. And then we can each get back from it a collection of stuff equal in worth, by everyone’s estimate, to what we each put into it. This means those who have better tools, or who happen to be producing things that are more valued, or who have some great talent, or training, that most people enjoy, etc., get way more of the social product. And again, people, say, no way. And so it is decided that we should get back in proportion to the effort we expend contributing usefully to the whole social product. Thus for the duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued work. Okay, that is pareconish.
But now, how do you do it – that is, how do you keep track of what is fair – how do you know how much people would rather have more houses, or better houses, or a big ball field, or more food, or some difficult to make telescopes, and so on. What things do we want to produce, and how much should they count for against our budgets? Well, you have to have a way to see what the 1000 people want, and how much they want it. And then you have to have a way to have them each get their fair share, given their outlay of effort. I should not get a ton, while I spend all day swimming and joking with friends…and so on.
All that money is, in that island, and far more importantly also prices and budgets, is a tool we use to facilitate the outcomes we want. It is really about communication and decision making. Yes, with just a thousand people I suppose one could argue that it may not be needed, but make it 50,000 people and have lots of products rather than only a few, and lots of possible avenues for investment to improve and alter outcomes, and it starts to be very very useful.
My favorite bard said “Money doesn’t talk, it swears” and in capitalism that is not just poetic but instructive. But not in parecon. Where the cursing part of money is simply not an aspect of possibility…only the facilitating aspect of it…