I recently finished what I now consider to be one of the most important and transformative financial books I’ve ever read: Sacred Economics, Revised: Money, Gift & Society in the Age of Transition by Charles Eisenstein.
The book traces the history of money—from ancient gift economies to modern capitalism—and the revised edition includes new material on cryptocurrencies and research findings that have emerged since the book’s original publication.
In Sacred Economics, Charles shows how capitalism contributes to alienation, competition, and scarcity; destroys community; and necessitates endless growth at the cost of social and environmental devastation. Today, these trends have reached their extreme—and their collapse presents a golden opportunity to transition to a more connected, ecological, and sustainable way of being.
Charles describes the deeper narratives beneath our economic system and how we can reimagine it to align with a new story. Applying a broadly integrated synthesis of theory, policy, and practice, he explores avant-garde concepts of the New Economics, including negative-interest currencies, local economies, gift economics, cryptocurrencies, and the restoration of the commons. Tapping into a rich lineage of conventional and unconventional economic thought, Charles Eisenstein presents a vision that is original yet commonsense, radical yet gentle, and increasingly relevant as the crises of our civilization deepen.
Charles is an American public speaker and author. His work covers a wide range of topics including the history of human civilization, economics, spirituality, and the ecology movement. Key themes explored include anti-consumerism, interdependence, and how myth and narrative influence culture. His books include Sacred Economics, Climate: A New Story, The Ascent of Humanity, and The More Beautiful World our Hearts Know is Possible, and my initial introduction to Charles and his writing was when I discovered his wonderful essay The Coronation, which you can read here.
During our discussion, you’ll discover:
-What is “sacredness” and how humanity has strayed from it…08:27
- Podcasts with Sajah Popham on the sacredness of plants:
- “Sacredness” is not a separate realm from the material
- Either everything is sacred or nothing is sacred
- Exploitation and loss of sacredness is most often due to money issues
- When nature becomes commodified or turned into a service, it loses its sacredness
- Relationships become purely transactional
- We are not reliant on community, local craftsmen as we were 100 years ago
- More and more natural human interaction occurs via technology
- Covid lockdowns took human life into a bubble
- We need more connections, not products
-How a “gift economy” facilitated community in past ages…15:01
- People shared the excess of the fruits of their labor; this resulted in other artisans sharing their goods and services with each other
- Kinship, ritual determine who to give to, what, how much, etc.
- Gift transactions always leave a “tie” between the giver and the receiver
- Karma isn’t just a spiritual principle; the most generous person is always the wealthiest
- We don’t have a culture of gifts, habits, and the resulting community
- If one is stingy in a real community, they become ostracized
- Charles has a gift system for his own speaking engagements
-How our own “inner compass” might dictate fairness and equity in a gift economy…23:48
- People tend to rise to the level of the trust
- The natural price of anything with zero marginal cost of production is zero
- Make a way to make donations, and people will gladly reciprocate the service you provide for no upfront and arbitrary cost
- Ben’s Bitclout page
- Gifting is done without expectation of any type of return; if it’s not that, it’s an expense or an investment
-Why did money come about in the first place?…33:11
- It’s necessary to operate a society with a high level of division of labor
- Surplus means not everyone needs to be a farmer
- Gift economics no longer works on a large scale in society
- Money is a medium of exchange that everyone agrees has value
- Things we currently source in money we can source in other ways such as gifts
- Debt: The First 5000 Years by David Graber
- Exchange of money was a sign of a covenant or gift, but didn’t always carry the intrinsic value we know today
- Wedding dowries, blood money, etc. were symbols of the sanctity of human life
-How relationships deteriorate when money becomes the source of value, versus that which it once symbolized…38:22
- Hoarding mindset
- The more important money becomes as the source of happiness
- Everything becomes a commodity
-Environmental implications of this loss of sacredness in the economy…40:43
- When the value of an item is expressed in money, that’s all it is
- “Invaluable” items can’t have a monetary value placed on them
- Creatives miss their call when everything has a monetary value placed on it
- The aim of profit stifles creativity—at least the creativity is needed the most
- Living a life we’re paid to live, not that we’re meant to live
- Fear of scarcity
-The problem with usury aka interest…47:12
- Makers vs. the Takers by Jerry Bowyer
- The one with money gets more money, creates inequality and scarcity
- Promotes hoarding
- Risk-free interest via government bailouts
- Creates a consumption-based society
-How money is created by debt…51:15
- There’s always more debt than there is money when money is created by debt
- Many debts are unpayable
- Debt peonage
- Student loan debts will never be paid off
- Another financial bailout needs to be a debtor’s bailout, not a creditor’s bailout
-How to begin to shift to a more sacred economy…57:28
- Make money so that like anything in nature it deteriorates
- Gut instinct toward fairness, justice, compassion
- Shift in morality, our perception toward others
- Reclaim the commonwealth and the environment vs. accumulating money
- Storing up treasure on earth would make sense if you were going to live forever
- People go on accumulating money way beyond what’s necessary for leisure and physical well-being
- During these uncertain times, no investment is secure; not from the economy, not from illness, from sudden death
- There are a lot of things that money cannot protect you from
- Giving glory to God is to accepting and participating in the sacredness of his creation
- Using money as an instrument of healing gives glory to God
-Why Charles’ book may be one of the most important financial books you’ve ever read…1:05:11
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
- Books By Charles Eisenstein:
- The Coronation essay by Charles Eisenstein
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Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for Charles Eisenstein or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!