Is the guy who quit money a nutter?

Meet Daniel Suelo - the man who quit money

26th of September 2016

I stumbled across an unusual Youtube video recently called "The man who quit money". Huh, a guy who quit money, how is that even possible?

Money is the life blood of our modern economy. Yes, money has been used for millennia in one form or another. However, these days it much less likely we could survive without it because of peoples unwillingness to exchange goods and services for anything else.

What is money anyway? A text book definition of money would be a 'medium of exchange'. Before money people relied on the direct exchange of their goods or services for other peoples goods or services.

The problem with barter? Find the person who has what you want and is willing to trade for the goods or services that you have. In that way, money, a 'medium of exchange', acts like grease in a mechanical system. It facilitates trade between buyers and sellers and removes the "friction" associated with barter.

So how does he do it?

Our quality of life relies on money because our lives are enriched with the goods and services that we alone cannot produce. Let us find out by watching this Youtube video of an interview of Daniel Suelo, the man who quit money. Afterwards we will discuss how he does it and what is his philosophy of life.

Why did he quit money?

At the time of the interview, Daniel says he has lived without money for twelve years. He was brought up in a religious Christian family and noticed modern lifestyles were incongruent with the teachings of Jesus.

When he grew up he studied theology, the study of all religious beliefs, and concluded that there were similarities between each one. He notes that the one thing they have in common is that they all teach the art of giving rather than for future reward - which is what he believes money represents.

Secondly, he admits he is a nature enthusiast and enjoys living amongst nature. He felt disillusioned from the modern world of how the economy and political system functioned.

Nature, in his mind, is a better functioning system whereby it gives without expecting anything in return.

How does living without money work practically?

What about food, accommodation, travelling, health ...

He expresses a desire to show how this would work within nature and also within civilization. Within civilization he is essentially a "freegan", a person who rejects consumerism and retrieves discarded items and food. Within nature he forages as a hunter gather, including eat wild animals and occasionally taking animals from farms.

Where does he live?

Normally he lives within nature and is camping. Occasionally he is asked from his friends to house site their house whilst they are away. Whilst travelling he uses a a tarp and a sleeping bag.

What did he do before his money days?

He worked as a lab assistant in a hospital. In this experience he saw prolonged suffering from people being kept alive from artificial means. In nature, animals simply die, whereas, in his mind, modern medicine prolongs suffering this is cruel in his opinion. He himself will only accept medical assistance if it is freely given.

Status in society

He use to volunteer in Denver and Boulder in homeless shelters. He noticed that for them that even the volunteers looked down on them because they did not participate in the modern economy. For the homeless, it was a way of life and therein was the biggest hurdle, overcoming other peoples expectations.

This is what led Daniel to experiment being homeless as an "art" to find happiness within. The benefit of an advancing society is that it minimizes challenges, however, he argues that challenges is what the human conciousness craves.

Thankless society

In modern society he believes that are two examples that lead him to believe we are now living in a thankless society. One example is that people work to earn money, their future reward, and because they are only doing it for this then they are not displaying gratitude by doing it because they want to from their own free will. The second example he uses is in commerce, when the customer says thank you to the sales staff, the thank you is not genuine.

Nature's Free Goods

Since nature provides natural resources for free, Daniel argues that humanity does not value them as they do not directly provide a monetary value to society.

On earth it includes; sunlight, atmosphere, water, land, air (includes all minerals) along with all vegetation and animal life that naturally subsists upon or within the heretofore identified characteristics and substances.
Wikipedia - Natural Resource [1]

Gift economy

The key theme that Daniel is in favour of is the gift economy.

A gift economy, gift culture, or gift exchange is a mode of exchange where valuables are not traded or sold, but rather given without an explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards.
Wikipedia - Gift economy [2]

Concluding thoughts

Well, for starters, I read some of the comments underneath this video to see what other people thought. One Youtuber commented "Twenty-three minutes of fertile philosophical poop." [3] which I found humorous.

In my opinion Daniel thinks at a high conciousness than most people in modern society. His lifestyle resembles similarities to the hippie movement in the 1960s, whereby a counter culture dropped out of society. I will split up the next two statements into what I agree with and what I disagree with in his teachings.

The things that I agree with him on:

  • Undervalue natural resources - Overexploitation of nature leading to environmental degradation
  • Thankless society - Our gratitude is often not genuine
  • Reducing waste - We live in a throwaway society and reutilizing waste would reduce our environmental footprint
  • Societal expectations impinging on ones freedom - Freedom is defined as "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.". The biggest hurdle he faced in choosing his lifestyle was how other people think.
  • Challenges - It is the human spirit always push the limits of possibility.
  • Malnutrition physically and spiritually - Modern lifestyles are so different from the past that we have turned our back on tradition and this is not always healthy

The things that I agree with him on:

  • Thresholds to the gift economy - If too many people adopted the same lifestyle, there would not be enough to scavenger for and hence would not be sustainable
  • Unit of accounts within the gift economy - People may exploit the generosity of others

Overall, I have gained a healthy respect for Daniel Suelo. He is someone who is connected with nature and sees the flaws within our economic and cultural lifestyles. The benefit of his teachings is to give people a new and interesting perspective of our lives, and how we can move from unconscious behaviour to being proactive, particularly when it comes to the environment and showing gratitude. If you want to know more about Daniel Suelo, the man who quit money, then here is a Q&A session where he answers audience's questions. It is 55 minutes long.

Reference

[1] Wikipedia. Natural Resource [Online]. Available https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_resource

[2] Wikipedia. Gift Economy [Online]. Available https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gift_economy

[3] Youtube. The man who quit money [Online]. Available https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDGZqaA9G9s