The following article was originally published on Reality Sandwich on November 9, 2012.

moneyless manifesto
While reading the free, online version of Mark Boyle’s new book, The Moneyless Manifesto, I compulsively clicked over to my Facebook feed only to see the image of a presumably homeless man holding a tattered cardboard sign reading: “Keep your coins. I want change.” It struck me how this clever meme could well be the motto of Boyle himself, a UK resident also known as the Moneyless Man for having written a book by that title while living without a pence to his name—on purpose, mind you.

Coincidentally, Boyle went moneyless in 2008, the year of the Wall Street crash that brought the subject of money front and center in the collective consciousness, with many people wondering, “Where did it all go?” and others asking, “Where did it come from in the first place?” The weird wizardry and inherent injustice of money creation has been covered by countless YouTube videos including the Zeitgeist films of Peter Joseph, while the deeper questions about the unnatural nature of money have been eloquently addressed in books like Debt: The First 5000 Years (David Graeber) and Sacred Economics (Charles Eisenstein), both of which are referenced in The Moneyless Manifesto.

Indeed the book begins with a foreword by Eisenstein, followed by a careful unearthing of the assumptions that support what Boyle calls the money delusion, including the root belief in a separate, independent self. Like Eisenstein, Boyle explains why money is so destructive to the social fabric and the web of life and maintains that money is simply a story, a shared illusion. But he boldly goes a step further than most by unraveling the restrictive yarn that money is a necessary evil, something we all need to survive. And he does so by way of quiet example, not just surviving but thriving—reconnecting to the rhythms of nature, to the gifting spirit of others, and to his own peace of heart-mind by living a money-free life.

For those interested in doing the same, Boyle advocates an incremental approach that he ingeniously describes as a Progression of Principles towards a truly moneylesseconomy, defined by Boyle as one based on gifting, local resources only, and a pay-it-forward attitude. Here he reveals his Luddite leanings by eschewing imported gadgets and dismissing techno-utopian solutions like those advanced by the Zeitgeist films and the Venus Project. Like Derrick Jensen and others, Boyle regards agriculture as a massive mistake from which humanity is still trying to recover, and insists that our only hope lies in reconnecting to our Paleolithic—or at least preindustrial—past. As an ecologically engaged Buddhist, I’ve long imagined a middle path, although I’m encouraged to reconsider this as a delusion tied to my addictions to modernity.

Boyle’s path, which he prefers to tread barefoot, is beautifully earthy: “I believe that the depth of your spirituality is revealed by the ways in which you attain and eat your food, create fire, how gently you walk in Nature…” In the latter part of his book, Boyle gets pragmatic by describing the many methods of meeting one’s needs for free, from labor and materials to housing, food, water, heating, transportation, clothing, communication, education, and health care (an especially tricky area, like land acquisition and use). He lists the growing number of free-sources like Freecycle, Freegle, Couchsurfing, and dumpster diving (called “skipping” in the UK), as well as the moneyless (but not technically free) exchange programs like Help Exchange, WWOOFing, time banking, and Local Exchange Trading Systems. Especially inspiring is the gifting network founded by Boyle himself, Freeconomy, which is based on unconditional giving—no credits, no recordkeeping, simply a cadre of kind souls offering over 500,000 free services in over 160 countries throughout the world.

I should note that Boyle is not the only brave person to quit currency in recent decades. In fact, his moneyless stint falls far short of that of Daniel Suelo (living free since 2000), Jurgen Wagner (since 1990), and the woman known as Peace Pilgrim, who spent 28 years walking across the US and in fact served as an inspiration to Boyle. Whether viewed as misfits or mythical heroes, these people show us that a moneyless life is indeed a viable option. It might not be everyone’s cup of wild nettle tea, but for those of you who feel called to live without lucre, I encourage you to read The Moneyless Manifesto, forego the cold comfort of cash, and be the change you wish to see.