What would happen if the idea of money and bartering did not exist or the idea did not evolve during history and no item held a status of 'precious' in terms of monetary value? Like if people gave what others wanted without fuss and greed did not exist. For example NASA wanted a rocket and they were given what they wanted and the term investment wouldn't occur in this or any other exchange.

  • $\begingroup$ This isn't really a WB question, Phantom. Probably be better off in another SE, maybe Philosophy SE? $\endgroup$
    – Raisus
    Oct 31, 2016 at 20:48
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    $\begingroup$ It's very hard to answer questions about negatives like this. The short answer is "life would be different in every way imaginable." The long answer would involve you specifying what sorts of ideas took the place of money. I can say from my studies that currency and money are very nuanced concepts that are remarkably hard to divorce from the human spirit. You would likely have to rewrite virtually all of human interactions to avoid the accidental invention of money through the course of history. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Oct 31, 2016 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ No money? We would start to use something, thing that last long and is portable, and it would become money ;) You need some mechanism to prevent that. $\endgroup$
    – Mołot
    Oct 31, 2016 at 21:32
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    $\begingroup$ Cort Ammon was on the right track there. Bartering is a method to obtain goods or services with the exchange of other goods or services in lieu of pillage or theft. Currency is an item valued more for its use in similar trades than for any other application. Money is a currency item which holds a singular status amongst an group of people. Fiat currency is that which is valued so long as the army and government declaring it a currency has the power to do so. I recommend you reformulate your question, and I look forward to reading the answers then. $\endgroup$ Oct 31, 2016 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ Currency (or money) is the physical representation of the concept "Value". It derived from pure exchange of goods or services in direct trade and assigning values to each of exchanged items. As trade grew more complicated (for example the concept of I-Owe-yoU), money was invented to become a placeholder to store value between trades, allowing to make it portable. $\endgroup$
    – Trish
    Nov 1, 2016 at 17:42

1 Answer 1


To begin with, a distinction needs to be drawn between money and value. Your question implies two subquestions.

  1. What is there was no money?
  2. What if everything held the same value?

The first question is easy to answer. If there was no currency, then items of greatest practical value would be worth more. For example, which would you rather have, a glass of water or a pot of gold? Now, which would you rather have in the desert? Money is just a governmental structure where people are forced to accept the fact that a slip of paper holds intrinsic value.

The second question is definitely more philosophical. Let's go back to the water and the gold. It's not possible for these two items to ever hold the same value to society, as they have two different functions. For humans to believe that they are worth the same would require extreme lack of critical thinking, or big brother telling them that's the way it is.

To answer both, if there was no money, people would barter. But if humans had no concept of value we would be less intelligent than monkeys, because even they can tell the difference of value between food and dirt.

Lack of these two concepts would lead to very boring history. It would imply the fact that no inter-cultural interaction existed, if these people were intelligent enough to form a culture. Since cities form because of a shared interest in valuable items/land, there would be no cities. Nomadic wouldn't even begin to describe this race, because people usually settle on land that is better than other land, but since everything is held as equal, even if they found an open pit of diamonds they wouldn't care.

This is an interesting question, but a world built with this lack of concept wouldn't be very exciting.


I see what you are asking. I'm gonna give the standard disclaimer. Here it is: I have a very cynical view of human nature, and I understand that some (humanists for one) will disagree with me, but with that said, I'm going to give it a shot.

I don't personally believe that a world inhabited by humans could be greed-free, but for the sake of the question, I'll theorize.

Networked would be a good adjective to describe your world. Everyone will need the products produced by someone else (obviously) and this will bring about a few things.

  1. Less war (a good thing)

If I want something from Joe's country, I'll think twice about invading him to get it. This is because, in a greed-free world, he would be providing me that thing for free in the first place.

  1. Less motivation (possibly)

Listen, I get it, but hear me out. Profit is a strong motivator, and makes people move quickly, so without that, infrastructure could be sluggish. Maybe counter this with trade policies?

As a note, Thomas More's Utopia would be a great read. It can be slow, but it's free to the public.


It describes a greed-free society, and the implications thereof.

Less war is definitely a good thing, and the lack of motivation could be overcome with smart policies (some of which are described in the book). I hope this answers the question. There are hundreds of answers to this question, since money is a very permeating idea in our culture, but these two stuck out in my head.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a very capitalistic view, and very one-sided. $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Oct 31, 2016 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Polygnome I wouldn't call it capitalist, per se, but you are correct that it doesn't consider the possibility that there is no bartering because items are exchanged on charity or on command, rather than automotivated interests. $\endgroup$ Oct 31, 2016 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Polygnome, if you could describe how it is one sided I could elaborate, because I love discussions about economics. To me, this question poses a more anarchical than than capitalist response. $\endgroup$ Nov 1, 2016 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ Money solves a problem - how can you motivate people to trade / work together. because lets face it, producing all your own food, clothes etc. is tiresome. If you simply share everyting you produce without money or bartering, then you have no way to track abuse (someone not working, and only taking the things others share). Money adds accountability for that and motivates people to work. But its not the only way to facilitate that. Money creates other, new problems, but its still somewhat the best of all bad option we have invented, thats why we use it. $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Nov 1, 2016 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ a differentiated answer on this topic gets quickly rather big and very philosophical and opens more new questions then it actually answers, since the question how we can achieve peaceful cooperation and an open society not driven by greed is very much still an open question here on Earth. $\endgroup$
    – Polygnome
    Nov 1, 2016 at 9:39

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