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Let's say we have a world that is exactly, like in every single detail the same as ours. Then we clone that world and put it next to the first one.

The second world is exactly the same as the first world, except for one thing: We take away money.

What would realistically seen be the effects if we started trading instead of paying money for things? Note that the people on the second world don't know what money is (yet).

Would it take a long time before they invent money? Would they, technologically seen, get behind on the first world? And would the gap between "wealthy" and "poor" get higher?

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    $\begingroup$ It's exactly the same except this one huge difference in that they never had money (since they don't know what it is)? Alternate no-money-me would be wondering how I got this computer, or this house, or what exactly my work is giving me for the 50-60 hours a week I spend there. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 10 '15 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ I think people would wonder where there money has suddenly gone. I kid of course but just taking away the money is not as trivial as you may think. Money would be printed again very soon. $\endgroup$ – overactor Feb 10 '15 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ You have gotten it by trading, and for your work you earned yourself a nice house, a car and food. $\endgroup$ – Micha Sprengers Feb 10 '15 at 7:21
  • $\begingroup$ It might be advisable to reword to question to ask if a certain amount of technological advancement can be achieved and maintained without the concept of money developing. $\endgroup$ – overactor Feb 10 '15 at 7:26
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaSprengers If, for this alternate history, trading has gotten everyone to exactly the same spot, why do you think it would suddenly diverge? $\endgroup$ – Samuel Feb 10 '15 at 7:27
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Given that our mental mindset does not change, trading would start immediately (on day 1).
I need that and I have this, can we swap?

It will not take long before someone figures out that he can start collecting objects of type X, because X makes good trading stuff. Take cigarettes for example, you see these being used for payments everywhere. My estimate is a couple of weeks at most, before X will be recognized as good/common trading material on a regional/national scale.

Valuable metals would serve the same goal, and maybe other physical objects too (anything with a certain scarcity/desirability will do). The diversity would be less than all the payments systems we know historically, because we now live in global world. So again, weeks to maybe months before we have a number of goods that are used as payment tokens across large regions or around the world.

The next essential step is someone writing a note "Good for 10 cigarettes". On an individual scale this will also happen quickly. The note may not be recognized as being worth anything, but the honour of the person offering the note is. This will happen as soon as a trader is out of cigarettes and wants to pay his relation. Again, maybe weeks before you see this behavior popping up (we probably need the notion of 'cigarettes as payment' to be established first, because if I offer you useless widgets you won't accept my promise of future payment).

Now the difficult phase: adopting these paper notes (or any other 'good for' token) on a larger scale.
Look at how this has happened historically: anyone with substantial power and (exclusive) access to X can enforce the use of X as a payment system: If you don't take my note/coins as payment, I will chop your head off, because you are questioning my honor. Besides, you can't buy anything in my stores with cigarettes, only with X.
Note that in your clone scenario there will be people/companies with power from the start. Not that the US government, Microsoft or Unilever will chop your head off ;-)

I think we have money now.

So the short answer to your question title is: within a period of months or years we will have at least large regional currencies, but given our worldwide trades between powerful factions I would not be surprised if we have a new global currency in one month.

Your final questions:
Would they, technologically seen, get behind on the first world? 'Economically' may be a more relevant term. Hardly. Trade will slow down for the period we need to establish the new currencies.
And would the gap between "wealthy" and "poor" get higher? Probably, given that existing powerful entities play a large role in this process, I assume they will get richer.


Note that all these developments are just conversations. If you get general agreement that X is worth anything, X is essentially money. (Just look at all the Alternative currencies that exists today).

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  • $\begingroup$ This scenario actually happened in several POW camps. People were taken away the money so they begun to trade cigarettes and other stuff $\endgroup$ – Pavel Janicek Feb 10 '15 at 10:45
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Is electronic money allowed?

If you just delete all electronic money one fine day, people will think that all the computer systems of the world have been hacked by a new invention, such as a quantum computer. People might panic to such an extent that a world war breaks out. If not, the powerful will unite to hunt down a cause that does not even exist (since you must be deleting the money using magic, not science), and debate over all sorts of pseudo-scientific theories.

And if electronic money is allowed, the poor will have to suffer till printed notes come back into circulation. Some people might just slow-pedal the process, while others will panic to get it done quickly. It should get done in a week or two, since you have left the world in the exact same state as ours (printing presses, computing, government structure designed to handle money, etc. will still exist.)

Either way, it will take time for the global economy to stabilize, irrespective of the final outcome. And money will just be made again if necessary.

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