[Transcript] – The Most Important Book About Money I’ve Ever Read – Sacred Economics: Money, Gift & Society in the Age of Transition With Charles Eisenstein.

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From podcast: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/sacred-economics-revised-money-gift-society-in-the-age-of-transition-with-charles-eisenstein/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:01:24] Podcast Sponsors

[00:05:16] Guest Introduction

[00:07:46] What Is “Sacredness” And How Humanity Has Strayed From It?

[00:15:01] How A “Gift Economy” Facilitated Community In Past Ages?

[00:23:48] How Our Own “Inner Compass” Might Dictate Fairness And Equity In A Gift Economy?

[00:29:58] Podcast Sponsors

[00:33:11] Why did money come about in the first place?

[00:38:22] How relationships deteriorate when money becomes the source of value, versus that which it once symbolized?

[00:40:43] Environmental Implications Of This Loss Of Sacredness In The Economy

[00:47:12] The Problem With Usury A.K.A. Interest

[00:51:15] How money is created by debt?

[00:57:28] How to begin to shift to a more sacred economy?

[01:05:11] One of The Most Important Financial Books

[01:08:23] Finals Things To Say

[01:11:22] End of Podcast

Ben:  On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.

Charles:  Breakdown of community to its logical extreme, which is life in a bubble. You would hold a huge feast and invite everybody. They would eat it all, and you have none left. But what do you have? When people understand that I'm serious, that they are equally welcome if they pay zero, there's a sigh of relief because they're like, “Something that's just not all about the money.” As a universal means, it then became a universal end. And, we have that mentality, “If only I had the money, I could do anything I wanted.”

Ben:  Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.

Hey, it's Ben Greenfield. So, the podcast that you are about to hear is an interview with an author, really wonderful thinker, who I discovered several months ago, probably, about eight to nine months ago. And, this guy is a depth of wisdom. And, I'm actually surprised more people don't know about him and his writing, because it is epic and meaningful and life-changing, and the world needs it right now. And, I'm going to talk to him. So, later on, in the introduction, you'll find out who he is.

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Hey, folks. I first discovered the guest on my show today when I actually read this wonderful essay. It was called “The Coronation,” the essay was. It was actually a little bit more about the pandemic and COVID, written early on in the process. And, since then, have followed the author of that particular article, and as a result, have been opened up to a whole host of wonderful writings, essays, and books alike. Probably, the book that most impressed me and moved me that this fellow wrote, though, is called “Sacred Economics.” As a matter of fact, I found “Sacred Economics” to be such a good book that I recently wove it into the educational curriculum of my sons who are homeschooled. They actually, just yesterday, turned in their book reports on this book, “Sacred Economics,” which they also went through. And, I wish I would have been exposed to this type of outside-the-box but really necessary economical outlook when I was their age. They're 13 years old. And, I'm just so glad they got exposed to some of the material within this book that I want to share with you now. It's an important and transformative financial book.

So, anyways, my guest is Charles Eisenstein. And, Charles is a public speaker. He's an author. He covers everything, from human civilization to economics to spirituality to ecology in his writings. I will link to his blog. I will link to this book, as well as the other excellent books that he's written, including one I also recently read, called, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” If you go to the shownotes, they're all at BenGreenfieldFitness.comcom/SacredEconomics. That's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/SacredEconomics. And, while the book is thick, and while there are many, many areas that we can dive into, I'm going to have a chat with Charles today, just about some of the things that I found quite interesting. However, I would highly recommend that you go read the book, because whenever I do a podcast, it's never with the goal of making it so you shouldn't read the book, but instead to expose you to a lot of the cool things within.

So, Charles, welcome to the show, man.

Charles:  Thanks, Ben. Thanks for that very kind introduction as well.

Ben:  Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And, like I just mentioned, there's so many places that we could start and so much information I found super helpful in the book. But, I guess the title of the book is the first thing that really stands out because you get into this a little bit, how we're in this age of scientism and logical thought and rational thought and provable concepts. And, as a result, it seems we've lost touch with this concept of sacredness. I just recently interviewed two different botanists and herbalists who talked about how we've lost the sacred intelligence of plants or connection with the sacred intelligence of plants, being able to listen to plans, learn from plants, understand plants as living creatures, and just not breakdownable molecules. And, your book reminded me of some of those chats that I had with those folks.

I guess, my first question for you is, in terms of the sacred element of the world around us, even beyond just economics, how much have we actually changed, in your opinion, in terms of losing that sacredness? And, how would you even define what that sacredness is?

Charles:  Well, those botanists, actually, are very close to what I think sacredness is, because they're talking about relating to plants, not just as a collection of chemicals but as beings. To relate to somebody as a full being, that's the door to seeing them as a sacred being. It's almost unavoidable. If you look deeply into somebody's eyes, you're not going to see them as a member of some dehumanized category. If Jeff Bezos looks eye-to-eye with one of his employees, he's not going to just be an employee anymore.

The idea is that the sacred is not only to be found in some things and not others. And, it's not some separate realm from the material. And, either everything is sacred or nothing is sacred. So, the question is how has this sacred world been made in our perception and experience into something not sacred? And, a lot of that has to do with money. When people cause harm in the world, when they destroy nature, when they exploit each other, and you ask, why are they doing that? When you ask, why a few levels down, it comes down to money. Why? Money is just an agreement about value. Why should money turn the world into a collection of things and consumers and markets and commodities? Why? What is it about money? And, how could we make it again as sacred as everything in the world actually is?

Ben:  So, when you talk about monetization of an economy or money itself contributing to removing sacredness from culture, can you give an example of how that would actually happen?

Charles:  Well, every time a forest gets converted into X number of board feet of lumber or when community relationships, where people took care of each other, knew each other, sang together, works together, when those get replaced by paid services, for example, childcare, whereas, 100 years ago, the kids were running around in packs and everybody knew all the kids and they learned by watching adults and participating in their activities, that has been professionalized, made into a service. This is the process by which–I consider relationships sacred. But, now, because of the monetization of the economy, we don't do things for each other so much anymore. But, we purchase the substitute.

And, even today, in an Amish community, for example, if your house burns down, the whole community gets together to help you rebuild. So, you don't need insurance. But, for most of us, that community function has been converted into a service called insurance. One example of a broad phenomenon, which is basically the conversion of nature into products and the conversion of relationships or community into services.

Ben:  Basically, would you say that a part of this is related to the introduction of money almost causing us to view other people more transactionally, thus, removing some of the sacredness from relationships?

Charles:  When you live a highly monetized life, then you don't need the people around you. Say, if I am living in, I don't know, Frontier Town in the 19th century, I need the blacksmith. I need the town doctor. I need the barrel-maker. I need every person as an individual, because if I don't have a good relationship with them, then I cannot simply take my business elsewhere because the people in that community depend on each other. All the more so if we're living in a hunter-gatherer tribe.

Today, we don't have that. My neighbor is just fine, but I don't need any of them. They could stop fulfilling their role, whatever their role is, and it won't affect me at all. So, how can you have community when, underneath it all, you know that you don't actually need each other for anything.

Ben:  So, usually, the creation of money or, at least, the type of monetization system that we have right now is creating a scenario in which we actually don't need communities?

Charles:  Do you need community to meet any measurable need?

Ben:  I guess it depends on what you mean by need because I recognize I need community for my happiness. I've recognized that that's where a lot of my joy resides, is in the evening dinner, parties, and things like that that we throw. I rely on it, I suppose, for emotional and for spiritual health. I guess for survival, I don't really feel like I need a community. I have Amazon. I make money on the Internet. I don't feel like I have to walk up to my neighbor's house to get eggs, for example. No.

Charles:  The design of the money system that currently prevails requires that the realm of money continue to grow. The economy doesn't work if there's no growth. As soon as growth stops, then you have rising debt, bankruptcies, all kinds of problems. The economy has to keep growing. So, what does that actually mean? It has to find some area of life that has not been monetized yet and convert that into money. So, we have, as a result, more and more human functions mediated by technology, which on some level, we pay for by money.

At some point, we have to decide that's enough. I'm not going to be better off replacing whatever is left of community. This is what happened under COVID. You couldn't have your dinner party anymore. You couldn't go to a restaurant anymore. But, you can still order it to your house. It was taking the breakdown of community to its logical extreme, which is life in a bubble. And, that was very profitable for the entities that provide those services, like Amazon.

So, for me, it's not like saying money is evil and that we shouldn't have it. But, what I'm really saying is the kind of money that we have right now requires and causes endless growth, no longer suits our needs, because what we really need is not more of the things, not more commodities, more products. What we need is actually more connections.

Ben:  Now, when you talk about money and the idea of this whole gifting economy that I think could be quite helpful in rebuilding the sacredness of community and the sacredness of interaction amongst humans, you talk about how it's a little bit of a myth. And, this actually surprised me because I wasn't aware of this, that that money began as a bartering exchange mechanism. I always just assumed that, I guess, ancient man had seashells or shiny objects or cool-looking rocks and declared some value around those or traded them with others to receive some gift in kind as a bit of a bartering exchange. But, you seem to think that the origin of money might be a little bit different in terms of not necessarily having origination as a bartering mechanism. Am I understanding you the right way?

Charles:  Yes. Anthropology doesn't support the barter theory of the origin of money.

Ben:  Really?

Charles:  Yes. Ancient societies, Stone Age societies, those that were observed up until the 20th century, they rarely used barter. They used it about as often as we use it–under special circumstances. But, usually, they lived in a gift economy. So, say you were a very successful hunter and you brought home some big game way more than you could eat, no one ever anywhere would, in these societies, dry the meat, smoke the meat, and use it to trade for other things.

Usually, what would happen, you would hold a huge feast and invite everybody to come to your feast. And, it would eat it all. And, you have none left. But, what do you have? You have gratitude. You have the esteem of the community. You have reputation of somebody who holds really great feasts. And so, now, you're going to get invited to everybody else's feast and people are feeling grateful to you. They're going to give you the things that you need. Maybe, someone will give you–like, the person makes the best arrows is going to give you arrows because they know that you're going to go get more meat and have another feast.

So, basically, pre-monetary societies were societies in which everybody was in debt to everybody else. Everybody was in gratitude to everybody else.

Ben:  So, what would have happened if, let's say I'm the guy throwing a feast and I need a cow for beef for my ancient hamburger and I'm going to go out and try to figure out how to get a cow, are you saying that, just because I'm the type of person that throws dinner parties and have that type of reputation, that someone is going to then gift me a cow because they know I'm going to gift them with a dinner party?

Charles:  It's more of longstanding relationships and customs. Your marriageable daughter is being wooed by several of the young men. And, to prove their worth and their ability to provide, they make gifts to the father of the potential bride. And, one of those gifts is a cow. There's complicated customs around kinship ritual. And, that basically tell you who to give, what to, and how much, under what circumstances. That's how the societies worked.

And, there's even a little vestige of this in modern societies. Say I'm traveling somewhere, and let's say I stay at your house. I'm not going to pay you to be your house guest. Now, I might give you a house gift, but it's not going to be equal in value to stay. It's a token, right?

Ben:  Right.

Charles:  But, something remains from that hospitality. One thing is that, if you're traveling, and if you're in my area, you're going to feel free to ask, “Hey, mind if I stay over at your place?” Or, you'll feel free to ask me a favor because we've established a relationship. And, that's in contrast to a monetary transaction, where if I stay at a hotel and I pay my bill, we both know that I don't owe you anything. You don't owe me anything. There's no obligation after the transaction. But, gift transactions always leave a tie between the giver and the receiver.

So, writ large in a tribe, in a community, in a village that runs on gift economy, there's been thousands, millions of these transactions over generations, these acts of giving and receiving. Everyone is tied to everybody.

Ben:  Well, it's almost like karma to a certain extent, where you almost have this trust because relationships aren't entirely transactional, that if you are gifting, that a gift in kind will eventually come back to almost like a karma-based aspect of an economy.

Charles:  And, it's not just a spiritual principle, because you see it happening every day. You see it every day that the most generous person is the wealthiest because everybody wants to be nice to them, too, which is the opposite today. Today, if you want to accumulate wealth, you better not give too much of it to a charity and to your no-good brother-in-law and to this person and that person. There will be none left for you. That's what our economy shows us. So, it goes contrary to the spiritual principle of karma that you're articulating. But, in a healthy society, there's no contradiction.

Ben:  Playing devil's advocate, let's say somebody does own a hotel or they own an Airbnb, are you saying, in a situation like this–because I remember some example in your book of a plumber coming over and they just leave you with a list of their expenses and you decide, if we're in a gifting economy, what expenses are those you want to cover, how much you want to reward the plumber, whether you want to barter with them and give them something that's of similar value, whether you just want to, I don't know, wait a couple of weeks down the line and invite them to one of your dinner parties. What does it actually look like, let's say in the case of a hotel or an Airbnb, if we were to remove that amount of monetization?

Charles:  That's the thing. We don't have a culture of gift. We don't have an economy set up that way. People don't have the habits of gift. And, we don't have community. You can't just pole-vault into gift economy from where we are right now. It's a matter of taking the next step.

Here's one reason it doesn't work. If you are in a real community, say, in a medieval village or something, say that you are stingy or say that you're in a hunter-gatherer tribe and you don't fulfill your obligations to share and to give, very quickly, you're going to be ostracized, you're going to be–people are going to turn their backs on you. They're not going to give you anything. And, you're not going to be very happy. You might not even be able to survive if everybody is your enemy.

Well, we don't have that in our current setting, so far away from a culture and psychology of gift. If you tried to do that, I'm going to open an Airbnb and you don't have to pay. It's going to be a gift. Well, the people who come and stay at your Airbnb, they're not in your community. There's no social mechanism to make sure that those in need are recognized by those who have surplus. So, this is not some trivial idealistic thing that's like, “Let's always be in gift.” We don't have the culture right now for it.

And so, my book was about how do we take a step back toward gift economy? How can we change money so that it embodies a little bit, at least, of the principles of gift? And then, maybe, there are parts of our lives where we can step more into gift, where we can–I certainly use money, but I do it on gift. Subscriptions to all of my events, everything is you choose the price. It could be zero.

Ben:  So, if somebody wants to come hire you to come speak at their event, it's firm that you'll show up and what they want to gift via your website is what they wind up giving to you?

Charles:  That depends on the event. If it's some conference or some kind thing where people are paying a lot of money, I want to be paid as any other top speaker would be paid, just to do honor to my work. But, yes, I often go to things for free. But, when I hold my own events, if it's just a one-off, where I'm going to speak somewhere, then I always do the tickets by gift. So, you can pay zero. You can pay $100. You can pay whatever, which I like because some people genuinely do not have money and they're struggling to pay for groceries. I don't want them to pay. I don't want you to pay. Then there's people who have way more money than they can use. So, I would certainly like them to give a lot more. So, I say, yes, I trust what is the right amount for you, because we have an inner compass.

Ben:  How often do you experience people taking advantage of that? That's related to a bigger picture question that I have because I was thinking about this idea of a gift-based economy rather than a transactional economy.

Isn't it based on the underlying assumption that people are going to make the right decisions, that people are good, that they're going to be generous, that they're not going to steal from you or take advantage from you?

Charles:  Yes. In a traditional gift economy, that assumption is very well warranted because of the social pressures that I described. You can pretty much trust that people–if you're stingy, if you're ungrateful, if you don't honor your obligations, you're not going to do very well. In our current situation, it is a bit more of a leap of trust. But, I find that this desire to live in gift is almost instinctual in human beings and that when I trust people, they tend to rise to the level of the trust. Sometimes, people will, as you say, take advantage of it. But, I run online courses. There's, at least, generally, 40 or 50% of the people will pay something. And, it's not because there's premier in a premium content that they only access if they pay. It's absolutely complete. It's completely open. There's no paywall. There's no content behind the paywall. And, my model works–been working for years.

Ben:  How scalable do you think that is, in terms of, and this might be putting the cart ahead of the horse before we get a chance to explain a little bit more about what a gifting economy would look like, but do you think that that type of concept, that gifting economy, is something that's currently scalable? Or, do we need a pretty big overhaul in order for that to happen?

Charles:  Yeah. But, especially, for digital products, where the cost, the marginal cost of production, is essentially zero, it doesn't actually cost if one more person subscribes to your podcast. It's not like you're producing widgets and each widget has a certain cost. The natural price in economics, the natural price for anything that has a zero marginal cost of production, the natural price is zero. And, the only way that that digital commerce for software, for music, for anything that can be delivered in purely digital form, the only reason that people are paying for it is that we can make it artificially scarce by putting artificial barriers to receiving it. And, people can get around those barriers, or you can put advertising on it. Say, money weren't an issue and you could choose, do I want advertising on my podcast or not? Do I want advertising on my website or not? Is it going to make it actually look good to have some Nike ads on my website? No. No one actually wants it to make it for aesthetic reasons.

So, the model that I use, and I sometimes actually coach others in adopting it, it's really natural. This is actually not costing me anything to give this to you. The first to create one copy, that's a lot of work, if I make an online course.

Ben:  Yeah, there's intellectual capital there. There's research. There's time put into learning it and packaging it, and then turning around and figure out how you're going to teach it.

Charles:  The first copy, huge amount of work. The second copy, zero. And, people, on some level, know that. So, that's why I say, you decide what feels good to you, what represents your feeling of value, your feeling of gratitude, your desire to support my work. Maybe, you reference the going market price for such things. Or, maybe, it's just a gut instinct.

When people understand that I'm serious, that there's no trick, that they are equally welcome if they pay zero, there's a sigh of relief, because they're like, “Finally, something that's just not all about the money.” Haven't you had this experience, like there's some awesome online course or some program or something? And, you read about it. And, all the bullet points, it looks great. And then, at the very bottom, it's always saved for the very bottom, there's the price.

Ben:  Yeah, you're right.

Charles:  There's a let-down. And, what I'm saying is it is not necessary to do that. You can monetize by gift. And, I wish–I was trying to get the ear of, what's that guy's name, Durov, the founder of Telegram, because he was, “How do I run a platform with tens of millions of users? How do I monetize it?” I'm like, give people an easy way to donate, and you will have no problem, and you will be completely independent of advertisers. You'll be financially independent. People are happy to give a return gift for something for which they are grateful. That's human nature.

Ben:  That makes sense. I'm actually part of a new decentralized social media platform that's based on cryptocurrency that I've been using lately, called Bitclout. And on Bitclout, I can produce social media content in the same way that I would on, let's say, Twitter. A helpful video, a link to a study with a comment about what I've taken away from that study or others can learn, etc. And, rather than there being likes, which I suppose would be a form of social currency, to a certain extent, on Twitter, you can award diamonds, which are links to a certain–One diamond might award someone $0.50 or something like that for a helpful post. And, you can also, the different influencers on that platform, they have coins, creator coins you can invest in or buy into using the trading medium on that particular platform, which is called clout, and ownership in that person and their intellectual capital so that you might profit, to a certain extent, as that person's social influence increases. But, ultimately, you choose what you want to award other people on the platform, based on the value that they've provided to you. Although, of course, there is a monetization since it's all tied to crypto. And, at some point, you'd imagine someone is going to have a certain amount of clout on the platform and then cash that out for U.S. dollars. So, there's still some monetization, but it's, at least, voluntarily gifting or giving to someone based on the value that you perceive they've offered to you.

Charles:  So, that's a hybrid. That's not fully in the spirit of gift. The hallmark of gift is that you let go of any specific return. If it's not that, then it's an investment. And, I'm not saying investment is bad. But, it's not gift.

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Where or why would money have arisen in the first place? If we don't need it, if it is something that makes relationships more transactional, if it reduces some of the sacredness that we might attach to other humans or even to our belongings themselves, why would money have risen in the first place? Didn't it just started as a trading mechanism that was tied to something like gold, for example?

Charles:  It was required in order to run a society with a high degree of division of labor and mass scale.

Ben:  What do you mean by that?

Charles:  Ancient societies, when they developed agriculture and food surpluses, then they had a division of labor, which, because of the food surpluses, people could become artists, become craftsman. Not everybody had to be a farmer. They could become philosophers. They could develop technology. And, as these things co-developed with food surpluses, you had cities. Hinterland could produce enough food to support a city. You could have culture. You could have kings. You could have priests.

So, as the scale of society grew, ordinary gift economics no longer work, because for a gift economy to work, everybody's gifts need to be visible. You have to know who's being generous and who isn't being generous, and you have to be able to match gifts with needs. But, when you have, let's say, well, take it to this point, if you have somebody who's designing microchips, he needs food, there's no farmer that needs microchip design. “Hey, I'll design your microchips in exchange for a bushel of carrots.” You need some medium of exchange that everybody agrees has value. That's how money arose and became necessary. You have to have some way–

Even if you said we're going to abolish money, alright, how are you going to match gifts and needs? How are you going to allocate resources in a way that benefits society and make sure that selenium is reaching the microchip manufacturers? I don't even know if they use selenium. But, you know what I mean. You have to have some way to coordinate all that. Money serves that function. It's a signaling molecule in a body. This is not some simplistic thing of let's abolish money or let's let computers do all of the allocation. In a technologically developed mass society with division of labor, you need something. For civilization as we know it to develop, we needed something like money.

Ben:  Are you basically saying that we have reached a point in civilization where we can let that concept go? Are you saying that money is necessary for civilization grow to a certain extent, and then can be left aside for a more gifting-based economy?

Charles:  I think that we still need money or something that serves its function for quite a long time in the future. But, that the realm of money, the domain of money, it can stop growing and it could even shrink a little bit. And, some of the things that we source with money, we could source in other ways.

Ben:  So, money, then originally, would have been almost like, rather than a piece of, let's say, I don't know, shell or rock or something tied to the intrinsic value of gold, money instead would have been a sign of a social agreement? “You gave me this, and therefore I'm giving you this as a sign that you gifted X, Y, Z to me, and that I might owe you something relatively equivalent to that in the future?”

Charles:  Well, the original money, this gets into more history, and for that I would recommend David Graber's book called, “Debt: The First 5,000 Years.” But, money had a dual origin. One of them was a system of tallies, where if you were a farmer and you took your grain to the central temple, i.e., granary, then you would receive–they've marked down how much you donated. That record then entitled you to certain things. The tokens of that entitlement could be traded and that became money.

The other origin of money was special gifts. It could be seashells, cowry necklaces, or it could be gold and silver. Something that was used to facilitate the rearranging of relationships, especially marriage. If somebody marries into your family, you actually recognize, this is a human being with no finite value. It's an infinite value, a human being. But, I'm going to give something in recognition of the sacredness of this gift of a human being to my family.

Ben:  So, it was a sign or a symbol, but did not carry a host of intrinsic value in and of itself?

Charles:  It wasn't that the bride was being bought for five cowry necklaces and 30 goats. It was that these were given in recognition of the sacredness of the relationship. Same thing with blood money. If a murder took place, then it wasn't that the blood money was considered adequate compensation. But, it was a token of, “Well, I'm really sorry. And, I will try to set this to right. And, here's this precious thing,” that is only used for transactions of this kind. So, there's a lot of history there that I'm not an expert on, but that's the gist of it.

Ben:  But, ultimately, once money becomes the actual valuable item itself, rather than a sign or a symbol of a deeper underlying relationship between two human beings or two entities, I believe that the argument that you present in the book is that you create almost a hoarding of that trading medium that's been assigned value, like money, and therefore, create almost this sense of scarcity, the desire to hoard this value, and thus, create almost a rift between those who have hoarded successfully and those who are unable to hoard, to that same extent.

Charles:  Yeah. So, hoarding comes about in part because money–as society became monetized, it became more and more true that, if you only had money, you could have everything. As more and more things entered the realm of purchase, into the realm of monetary transaction, then the more important money became to source everything you need in life. So, money became a universal means. And, as a universal means, it then became a universal end. And, we have that mentality of, “If only I had the money, I could do anything I wanted.” That's what financial independence means.

Now, when you achieve it, you realize that it's not actually true. But, it sure seems true in an economy where everything has a price. So, money becomes a universal end. And, how much of it is enough to meet every need that you could possibly imagine.

Ben:  Right. And then, that winds up basically turning everything into a buyable commodity. Thus, then, once everything becomes a commodity, there is no longer a great amount of sacredness, meaning that whatever my 2014 Toyota Highlander is replaceable, it's a commodity. It has a monetary value associated with it. And, thus, because of that, I might, for example, feel as though rather than caring for that car, taking into account the carbon footprint of replacing it or driving it into the ground without actually looking as it as a sacred object that I own, care for as a family heirloom that I might develop an intimate relationship, learn how to repair, and learn how to have some amount of ownership over. It basically is a commodity with a certain amount of value that is eventually replaceable.

And, thus, you create almost this rapid or necessary growth of goods and services that, and you get into this in your book, seems to have some pretty deep underlying environmental implications as well.

Charles:  That's right. If you can replace it with a certain amount of money, it gets reduced to that. When we ask, what is the value of something, and we give the answer in dollars, we're saying that that is all it is. I'm sure that you have things, though, that have a value to you that cannot be expressed in money because they carry a relationship with them, something that your grandmother gave you, the baseball glove that your father gave you and played baseball with you as a kid. There's objects that have sentimental value that escape the valuing, escape financial valuing.

Imagine how rich we would be if we were surrounded in all aspects of our lives with objects that had this kind of sentimental value, objects that were made by somebody who loved you or cared about you or knew you. I have some garments like that. Somebody made them for me. I can literally not buy something made for me with love. No matter how much money I have, I cannot pay somebody to love me.

Ben:  But, you could think about doing so. You could look up the value of that object that you'd receive, let's say, compare it on Etsy or Amazon or whatever, and, actually, in doing so, reduce some of the sacredness that's associated with it. And, anything that's replaceable all of a sudden becomes less sacred. And, I totally get that.

One of the things that you get into in the book, though, and this is really important to me as a creative, as a maker, as somebody who loves to create. I love to write fiction. I love to make music. Yet, those activities really don't make me money. And, I'm hardwired. Just basically, I grew up in a family that was really, probably, a little bit more operating on the spirit of scarcity, on hoarding, on saving, on going on vacation, and just basically sitting around a hotel room because we spent all the money getting to where we're going. So, God forbid we spend more money actually enjoying that location. And, this creativity and adventuring, etc., seemed to become stifled because, either, profit or ensuring that trading medium of money was not lost resulted in almost a stifling of enjoyment or creativity. And, that seems to be the issue with a lot of artists, a lot of creatives, who don't wind up doing what it is that they're called to or what it is that they know that they were created for, to a certain extent, in terms of their life's purpose because those type of practices, like art and creativity, etc., they're not highly rewarded, in most cases.

Charles:  Yeah. That's beyond artists, too. Most of the most beautiful and necessary work that needs to be done on this planet is not financially rewarding. It's as simple as, if you want to go out and plant trees, it's going to be a lot harder to get that funded. If you go to the bank with a business plan and your business plan is, I'm going to plant 10,000 trees. And, they're like, “Are you going to start a lumber plantation and do it?” No, no, no, I'm not going to have them cut down. I'm going to plant ecologically important trees that shouldn't be cut down. The bank is like, “Well, that's very touching, then. But, we're not going to lend you money, because how are you going to pay us back?” But, if you go to the bank with a business plan to cut down a forest, dig a strip mine there, and then pave it over for a strip mall. And, they're like, “Yeah, we'll lend you that money because here's how you will pay us back.”

So, the system operates even without any ill will. The banker isn't evil. You're not evil. You need that money to support your family, to pay your bills. We're all locked into a system that, on some level, no one really believes in, and that doesn't serve anybody.

Ben:  And, it's weird because it's almost considered to be a laudable notable noble thing. Even I ever have raised my own sons this way, to a certain extent, that, “Well, you can do this cooking podcasts, and here's how you can make it profitable.” Or, “Here's this essay you wrote. We should put this onto a short story in a magazine and make some money off it.” Or, “You could take this wonderful art that you've created and sell it on Etsy.” And, I've just always had this concept that, yeah, that's really cool that you could create, and then profit could be the aim. You seem to just basically make this point in a really, really well-thought-out way that the aim of profit stifles creativity, the thought, how can I make money from this, is something that in an economy where the end goal is to actually hold onto this trading medium, this money, that question rather than that question of how can we make money from this replaces how can I make this more beautiful, or, how can I be more creative?

Charles:  I wouldn't say it necessarily stifles creativity. People can be very creative in making money, but it directs creativity in a certain way, away from what we actually need the most right now. That's why a lot of people, they're very creative, but they're working jobs where that creativity is hijacked towards something that they don't actually care about. And so, then, they go through life feeling like they're not living their real life. They're living a life they're paid to live. And then, eventually, maybe, they start self-sabotaging or they get addicted to something or they get sick.

And, it's not because they're a sell-out or something like that. This is a difficult situation that we are in. However, it's also true in many people, well, for one thing, there is beautiful work that does bring in money. And, often, what we think we have to do, otherwise, it won't work out financially. Partly, it's true in many situations. But, partly, it's also in our minds. It's our assumptions about things that may not be true.

Ben:  And, I think part of that, too, is a spirit of fear, a spirit of scarcity. And, I think, even just a lack of trust in this idea that you can be taken care of or that people will gift you or reward you if you create something beautiful in this world. And, part of that is because we don't have a system created that actually allows for that type of reward to take place, which, of course, would require some of the solutions that you layout in the book.

And, one of the things that seems to contribute to this issue quite a bit, and this was interesting for me because I just finished a book called “Makers Versus the Takers,” and it was essentially about how a huge, huge part of the message of Jesus Christ in the New Testament was all based around the idea that usury or interest was creating a real big problem in that day and appears to still be. But, how would you describe the problem with interest or what some people might call usury?

Charles:  It's interesting, Islam still prohibits interest. Christianity prohibited it for up until the Middle Ages.

Ben:  Did they prohibit it, or did they weave in? Because my understanding was that interest was not prohibited, but what was woven in was this Year of Jubilee where all debts were forgiven after a certain period of time.

Charles:  That was before. That was before the Christian era. The Catholic Church prohibited interest. There were all kinds of workarounds, as there are in the Islamic world today. Jewish tradition also prohibited interest among Jews. Jews were not allowed to charge each other interest.

Ben:  So, what's the problem with interest?

Charles:  Well, for one thing, it creates a situation where whoever has the money gets more and more of it. So, it tends to create accumulation, inequality, and scarcity.

Ben:  So, basically, hoarding without redistribution of wealth.

Charles:  It rewards hoarding, which is the opposite of a hunter-gatherer society, where hoarding is stupid.

Ben:  If holding on to, whatever, those seashells or rocks or whatever someone had given to you as a symbol or a sign that you had given something of value to them, if hoarding that were somehow rewarded because you were given little extra pieces of shells or rocks as a result of you hoarding, then the scenario that would be created would be eventual redistribution of wealth.

Charles:  Not to mention the fact that you were usually nomadic and that many things wouldn't keep. And, this would be true for ancient farmers, too. You could hoard your grain or your apples or some other things, but they're going to get eaten by rats. They're going to go moldy, and so forth. The thing about money, though, that makes it different from everything else in the world, and therefore not sacred, is that, in our current system, it grows exponentially merely by the fact of having it because of a system of usury. You can make risk-free interest. If you have enough money, in this day and age, you can invest it in risky investments, knowing the government will bail them out if they fail. That's risk-free interest.

So, if a certain small proportion of society who already have a lot of money have a guarantee of making more and more of it, what does that mean? It means less and less for everybody else, greater and greater debt, unpayable debt. Huge numbers of people in our society have no hope of ever paying off their debt, student debt, for example. I'm sure many people listening to this can relate to that. Why should that be? Why should you have to go into debt just to be a fully functioning member of society, to get an education that was almost free two generations ago? Public universities were virtually free. Why are we poor now in that sense than we were in 1960? Why can we no longer afford public parks and libraries and all these services education?

Ben:  It creates a very consumption-based economy, too, because the debt becomes greater than the money supply. So, you have to create new money that creates a future need for even more money. And so, that amount of money needs to grow over time, and the new money goes to people who produce goods and services. So, in the economy driven by interest, it necessitates the continual production of goods and services, which returns full circle back to that concept of sacredness. If there's a constant production of goods and services, there's a constant need or drive or pressure to consume those goods and services, rather than to hold on to, say, the sacred goods that you already have. And thus, you continue to strip the sacredness out of the belongings that people actually do own.

Charles:  That's right. There's always more debt than there is money when money is created by debt. Back when I wrote it, this was not so well-known that money is created by debt.

Ben:  Well, actually, explain what you mean by that just a little bit, just for people to better wrap their heads around it, in case I did a really crappy job explaining it.

Charles:  Well, on the level of the central bank, they create money through the purchase of securities, like treasury bonds and things like that on the open market. So, say the Federal Reserve buys $10 billion worth of securities, where did they get that money? Where does the Federal Reserve get that $10 billion? Do you know?

Ben:  I assume by the printing of money.

Charles:  That's right. They just write a number in it. They type a number into a computer. And, that $10 billion then goes to the account of whoever held the securities. The securities now are the property of the Federal Reserve. Well, those securities bear interests, don't they? So, they bought $10 billion of securities. When it comes time to redeem them, they're worth, say, $15 billion. So, somebody then has to pay that. When they redeem them, $15 billion has to be paid when the Fed, it only created 10 billion. So, where does that extra 5 billion come from? That's the dilemma. And, that is replicated on the level of commercial lending. Where does that extra 5 billion come? It comes from additional lending that's happened in the interim. So, that's what you were describing.

Ben:  And, it tends to create people into almost like slaves as well. You gave a perfect example of, let's say, you're going to help some African woman in a village to purchase a cow and you're going to, perhaps, let's say, send her the money that she would need to purchase the cow but attach a certain amount of interest to it. Well, it sounds like that's great because you're injecting this little village with money and a cow and the ability to be able to create a robust economy around the milk or the beef that that cow might produce. But then, at the same time, they're going to have to figure out a way at some point to repay the interest on that monetary loan that you gave them. Thus, dictating that you're essentially creating an economy, a miniature economy, of what we've already got going on here, where people are producing more and more goods and services in order to create the wealth that allows them to turn around and repay the debt to us, versus, say, a scenario of you seeing a need for a cow and just gifting that village a cow.

Charles:  And, this is what happens on a larger scale with development lending. Billions of dollars are lent to countries all over the world, say, South America, say Ecuador, say, Bolivia. Here's $10 billion in development loans at 7% interest. So, by the year 2030 or whatever, you're going to have to pay us back 20 billion. Where does that 20 billion come from? Well, it comes from the export of minerals, oil, lumber, labor, whatever that country can offer to raise the foreign exchange to pay back those debts.

So, basically, it's a tool of empire, where the tribute, they send to the imperial center all of these things, all of these resources. And, in return, what do they get? They get numbers in the computer. And, that is the arrangement that has persisted throughout our lifetimes.

Ben:  And, that idea of debt forgiveness, by the way, I was thinking about that. I was actually talking about this with somebody the other night at dinner. And, they said, well, if you weave debt forgiveness into a system almost like the ancient Israelites did in the Year of Jubilee, once you get a bunch of people just taking advantage of each other, like basically taking on loans or taking gifts, and knowing that seven years down the road, any type of obligation or interest attached to that gift is going to dissolve. Then, once you just have a bunch of people running around taking advantage of each other.

But, I guess, my response was, well, yeah, that'll happen once. And then, once somebody finds out that you're not the type of person who repays or regifts or somehow recirculates the goodness that was given to you, then you or your family or others related to you or involved with you would actually probably experience a scenario where you aren't really given any type of gift or any type of exchange like that in the future. So, it's almost like a self-regulating system.

Charles:  I don't know what exactly the social conditions were in the time of the Jubilee and what kind of debt it extended to and so forth, but I do know that, in our current time, some form of debt cancellation is necessary, simply because the debts are now unpayable and people are sacrificing their wellbeing, living essentially in servitude to their debt, like debt peonage, it's called. Just the level of student loan debt, again, I want to mention that. Many people have no hope of ever paying that back in their lifetime. And, not to mention, consumer debt, credit card debt, business debt, sovereign debt, it's unplayable. So, there has to be some debt cancellation.

How exactly that happens is a tricky matter because if you actually canceled all debt, you would cancel the debt that the bank owes to you that you call your savings account. That's a debt that the bank owes you. So, it's not so simple as just cancel all debt right away. But, if we have another bailout, another financial bailout, it needs to be a debtor's bailout and not just a creditor's bailout. Last time the bailout was, basically, all the debts stay on the books. The debtors didn't get bailed out. The banks did. The insurance companies did. But, not the debtors. No one got any relief at all. And, we've got to, if there's another financial crisis, we have to demand that it's the debtors who get the relief.

Ben:  Now, debt cancellation is just one of the proposed fixes for shifting the economy towards a more sacred gifting and gratitude-based economy that you described in the book, a system that, as you say, rewards flow and not accumulation, creating rather than owning, and giving and not necessarily having. That's essentially the thrust of your whole book.

And, while the proposed change that you layout in the book would, of course, take us hours and hours to cover on a podcast, and you lay it out quite well in the book, what would you say if you were to give people some ideas about the steps that you think we would need to take next, just a quick and dirty summary to actually begin to shift towards a more sacred economy that's less focused on redistribution of wealth and hoarding?

Charles:  I can go through–I can do that, go through the six or seven pillars of the book. But, I guess I don't have a good sense who I'm speaking to right now. Why do you want to know that?

Ben:  Well, I guess, for people, my audience likes to hear just a few–They love to hear the theory behind a concept, but also just some practical tips, if they want to help affect change or if they want to see what it would actually look like when fleshed out to begin to shift towards a more sacred economy. Obviously, we talked a little bit about this concept of debt cancellation or less of a priority based on an interest-based economy, what would be a few other things for people to think about, even if, let's say, they weren't going to read the book, but they want to know a few of the ways that you might fix an economy that's in a scenario like the one that we're currently in?

Charles:  One of the important ones is to make money like grain, like iron, like anything that rusts or decays, like anything in nature that returns to its source and doesn't just grow exponentially over time. So, to have money decay, to have a negative interest rate associated with money, so that it no longer rewards hoarding, no longer rewards short-term thinking. Because right now, are you better off having $1 million right now? Or, are you better off having 10,000 a year for 100 years? Same amount of money, same million, right? But, no, you're better off having a million now because you could earn interest on it. Are you better off having a forest that can give you $10,000 a year of sustainable income? Or, are you better off cutting it all down now for $1 million? Better off cutting it all down right now. And, that's the way that the world is working.

So, that's why I write about negative interest economics. But, even that, which is one or two chapters of the book, is a very long conversation. So, anyone listening who is into economics, they'll be like, “Well, what about speculation? And, what about wouldn't it discourage savings?” There's all kinds of questions that come up that require a long conversation. And, for those who are not economics nerds, it's how is it going to help them to have this idea?

So, I've come–Back when I wrote the book, I had this fantasy that if I only laid out the brilliant solution that people would read it and they'd be like, “That makes sense. Let's implement that,” and policymakers and government people would eventually read it. Now, I don't think that a change in the world is going to come by somebody's extremely persuasive brilliant idea. I think it's going to come from our gut instinct toward, in the case of economics and debt and stuff, toward fairness, toward justice, toward compassion. It's thinking like this is just not right. And, I don't know why, but I know that this is not right.

And, that's what attunes people. For one thing, it makes them able to let go of what we already have because we're facing times of increasing uncertainty, increasing tumult, breakdown. And, as systems break down, how hard do we hold onto them? Or, can we let go and let the possibility of something new arise out of the chaos?

Ben:  It's almost as though it requires a bit of a shift in morality and in the way that we think of other people, too. You even tell people in the book that if they are investors, and a large part of the wealth created through investing is based on interest, to a certain extent, that instead, the creation of connections, the generation of gratitude and the reclamation and protection of the Commonwealth, and to a certain extent the environment, should be more of the goal, instead of actually getting money to hoard. Essentially, it involves an attitude that's more based on giving to other human beings, on living out the Golden Rule, and expecting that, A, that the gift that you've given will come back around, and, B, that God will provide.

I was actually–It's funny because I was reading just this morning in the book of Matthew where it says, “Do not store for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But, instead, store up treasures in heaven.” Well, it's interesting, because storing up treasures in heaven involves giving to others, loving others, loving God, savoring His creation, creating and making beauty. Whereas, storing up treasures on earth basically involves hoarding, taking advantage of others, in many cases, charging interest, almost like losing the sacredness of our interactions with others and our interactions with the environment, because ultimately, money would be the bottom line in a scenario like that.

Charles:  Storing up treasures on earth would make sense if you were going to live forever.

Ben:  Exactly. And, it's not as though we're supposed to live like a popper and not enjoy life. I think that's the fear that a lot of people have because they're just so used to this idea that money creates happiness, money creates freedom of time, money creates opportunity, when, in fact, you could make an argument that connections that gratitude and that love can all do those same things.

Charles:  The thing is, yes, money can buy you all of those things you mentioned. But, the weird thing is people will go on accumulating it way beyond what's necessary for leisure and their physical wellbeing.

Ben:  Which is super tempting. It actually is. To have enough money saved away to where you've got enough for a rainy day, and then some just in case, is an incredibly tempting and a palatable scenario, because you feel confident, you feel careful. But, what if that same confidence or that same feeling that you were taken care of was a feeling generated by knowing that all the people around you and all your relationships were instead what would take care of you and fuel you like being a trusted part of a village?

Charles:  The thing, especially, as we enter uncertain times, no investment is actually secure. It's not secure from the economy. And, actually, of course, it's not secure from illness, from sudden death, from physical pain. And, there's a lot of things that money–like divorce, addiction. There's a lot of things that money cannot protect you from. I often fast-forward myself to my deathbed, where it's finally right in front of my face, plain as day, that I can't take anything with me.

And, in those moments, what am I going to treasure? It's exactly what you named as treasures laid up in heaven, everything, all the love I've ever given, all the beauty that I've created. When you talk in a religious context, you talk about glorifying God. How do you actually do that? It's not necessarily talking about how great God is. It's accepting the sacredness of His creation and participating in that creation. If you want to ask how do you use money in a godly way, it is as an instrument of beauty and healing. That's what does glory to God, to be like, “I'm going to join in this creation. I'm going to be your proxy. I'm going to be Your servant in this.”

And then, it totally transforms what an investment means. It's not how much am I going to get in return. But, it's how can I use this as an instrument of participation in creation?

Ben:  There's so much in the book that you get into in terms of the practical ways in which this should be applied. And, I interview, gosh, so many business people, so many CEOs, so many execs. I just interviewed a guy who runs a venture capital firm on my show. And, I think that so many people would benefit from reading this message, I'm beginning to think about it. Because it was a little overwhelming for me.

When I read the book and thought, geez, it's going to take a world of change to be able to shift us from an interest-based economy that is designed around hoarding wealth and not treating our objects, nor our environment or our relationships, as sacred. And, this is really ultimately why I wanted to get you on the show, Charles, because I thought, well, if I can get this message out to just a few extra people who will read this book and begin to think about some of the concepts that are in it, then it hopefully will cause a little bit of the change necessary to shift us towards this scenario. And, I think it's just going to take waking a lot of the giant, so to speak, up to the idea that what we're doing now is not sustainable long-term for the environment or for our relationships or for our belongings or for ultimate happiness. And, the solution that you lay out in the book, I think, is sound. And, I would just love to see more people thinking about these concepts.

And, again, case in point, I wanted my sons to get through this and to have an understanding of what that type of sacred economy would look like. And, I didn't even go to Amazon to buy them their books. I went to your website. I left the donation for two books. I paid you what I thought that the information would actually be worth for me and my sons because I thought, honestly, it was actually worth more than what the book was listed for on Amazon. But, I did that because I understand what you're getting at, and I see how, if everybody began to think in this way, that it would result in some meaningful change.

So, I guess, my message to my listeners would be, Charles and I basically just discussed the reasoning behind the book, but to get into the practical nitty-gritties, you need to read this book. And, I think it's going to be one of the most important financial books that you've ever read. There's a section on my bookshelf where there's all the books that I come back to each year. And, about, I don't know, maybe, three to five books a year get shelved on that shelf. And, this one is going up there.

So, I'm going to link to the book and, also, to Charles' website, as well as–If you don't have time to read this book right now but you just want to wrap your head around some of the ways that Charles thinks, go read that essay, “The Coronation,” which I thought was just really good. I assume it's not taken down in your website yet, Charles.

Charles:  No, it's still there. Some of the stuff is out-of-date. Some of the stuff, as the way things played out, it was not quite the way I thought. But, other things, like the prediction that they're going to, how do we know this is ever going to end? They're going to come up with new mutants, new variants, new viruses, that part. Because I was like, no, this is not going to be three weeks to flatten the curve. So, all this stuff did actually play out, as I feared.

Ben:  So, anyways, basically, I've read a lot of the articles on your blog. I've read this book, “Sacred Economics.” I've read the book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.” And, I think, just because of that, I'm a better, more informed person. And, I'm tickled pink that I get to share this information with my audience. And so, I'm going to put the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/SacredEconomics, for those of you who want to dive in a little bit more. And, that's also where you can leave your comments and your questions and your feedback and your own thoughts about whether or not you think a gifting or gratitude-based economy is complete bunk or whether you, too, are ready to see a little bit of change.

Charles, I wish I had three hours to talk to you, because there's just so many dog-eared pages folded over in this book. But, ultimately, I appreciate you giving your time and coming on the show and sharing this stuff with us and making people aware of what you're making them aware of.

Charles:  Well, thanks for having me on. I feel like, I don't know, similarly, I had the feeling that there's some essence to it that we didn't get to. But, I don't know. I'll trust that, maybe, people picked up on the spirit of it.

Ben:  It's always the risk I take when I get somebody on to talk about a book that's 500 pages long, that we won't necessarily cover the entire scope of what's in the book. But, my goal, again, is to get people thinking about this and open them up to some of the concepts within. And, I think that we did just that.

Charles:  Can I just say one thing? The key to the whole book is at the beginning where it says, everybody knows that life is a gift. We did not create the sun. We did not earn our mother taking care of us. We did not earn the ability of plants to grow. We did not earn soil. We did not earn water. None of these things came through our hard efforts. Our breath, the functioning of our cells, all of this was a gift. Therefore, our native state is gratitude, which is the knowledge of having received and the desire to give in turn. Therefore, we have a unquenchable desire to give of our gifts to make the world more beautiful, to make the world more whole. And, if we are not doing that, then we'll feel like we're living the wrong life. It all comes from the core principle of life and the world is a gift.

Ben:  I remember that part of the book. And, it did speak a lot. I love the idea that I don't have to walk out of my front door in the morning and put some coins in a box for the sun to come up. It just happens. It's a gift. And, a lot of our entire life cycle around us is indeed a gift. And, I think that you cannot disentangle gratefulness and sacredness. And, I think that sums up the book really well, man. I'm glad you actually threw that in. So, I fully agree. So, the shownotes for everybody listening, go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/SacredEconomics.

Charles, thanks for coming on the show, man.

Charles:  Yeah. Thanks, Ben.

Ben:  I'm Ben Greenfield, along with Charles Eisenstein, signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Have an amazing week.

Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful, “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormones, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more.

Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes that I mentioned during this and every episode helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. So, when you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, to use the promo codes that I generate because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.



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 EconomicsClimate: A New StoryThe 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

-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
  • Bitclout
  • 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 Yearsby 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
  • Everythingbecomes 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 paidto live, not that we're meant to live
  • Fear of scarcity

-The problem with usury aka interest…47:12

  • Makers vs. the Takersby 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: 

– Charles Eisenstein:

– Podcasts:

– Books:

– Other Resources:

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Ask Ben a Podcast Question

4 thoughts on “[Transcript] – The Most Important Book About Money I’ve Ever Read – Sacred Economics: Money, Gift & Society in the Age of Transition With Charles Eisenstein.

  1. Julie Morrell says:

    Thanks for this information.

    1. Ben Greenfield says:

      You bet

  2. AidanMoran says:

    Amazing podcast that helps me to understand where I can read about money in a more way that I have done before, because till this day I was just reading a financial website but right now I am ordering a book that you mention, and I will read them immediately and will publish here a small review, maybe you will read it and enjoy. Thank you again!

  3. ShimorErik says:

    Nice podcast that I will listen in a future!

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