Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Review: The Moneyless Man
How long could you live without spending any money? I'm not talking about just avoiding the stores on the way home from work, but also not flipping the light switch (which, unless you generate your own electricity, generates a bill you eventually have to pay), turning on the water, or subscribing to the paper. In The Moneyless Man: A Year of Freeconomic Living, Mark Boyle attempts to live for any entire year without spending a cent.
I'll be honest, although I was curious about this book, I didn't expect to enjoy it. That may sound pessimistic, and I suppose it was, but I expected it to be so chock full of mooching, cheating and whining that I would be instantly turned off. Which couldn't be farther from the truth. I was surprised at just how well-written and amusing this book is. It was a book I looked forward to reading each night and finished rather quickly, which is really saying something when it comes to me and a nonfiction book.
Why would I bother to reserve a book from the library that I fully expected to be crap? Curiosity, of course. I can't imagine spending a single day without money, let alone a whole year. I'm still not sure that getting rid of money is the way to get us out of our current economic and environmental mess, although Boyle makes some interesting arguments about the viability of doing so. One argument I can't quite buy, is that if we give help freely whenever someone needs it, be it food or labor, then the community will provide for us when we have a need. I just can't trust society and the goodness of others that much.
Boyle makes the point that if we were responsible for producing everything we need ourselves, rather than simply purchasing it, we wouldn't waste things as we do now. We would also probably consumer things quite differently. I know full well that if I had to raise and kill the animals I eat, I would probably quickly become a vegetarian. Similarly, if we had to carry our own water, rather than turn on a faucet, or generate our own electricity, we would certainly stop wasting so much of it.
Boyle's experiment of living for a year without money is certainly interesting to read about but it's not something I would want to attempt. For one thing, living without money may indeed make for a simple life, but it's not an easy one. Boyle had a long, hard workweek, he just traded working for wages with working to survive. I desire more free time to spend as I choose, so spending all day doing chores doesn't strike me as better than spending 40 hours a week working outside the home. Puttering around the homestead, sure, but Boyle didn't have much time to putter when he had to feed, clothe and shelter himself without the use of most modern conveniences. No thanks. Could you use an outside compost toilet and shower year-round in a non-tropical climate like Britain? I rest my case.
Boyle, however, obviously feels differently, since he has continued to live without money long past his yearlong experiment was over. If interested, you can learn much more about Boyle from his website, Facebook page, and numerous online articles and videos about him.
The Moneyless Man is definitely a book I recommend reading and give it 4.5/5.0.