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Time is Money: Why Not?

Who hasn’t heard of the expression “Time is money!”? This phrase is often used to intend “don’t waste (my) time”, or “you should take action instead of being passive”. It also refers to a more sophisticated economic concept: productivity. The more you can accomplish within a certain amount of time, the more productive or efficient you are, i.e. the more money you make.

But, is it really a modern expression? After doing some research, it appears that the first documented phrase linking money to time originated with the ancient Greeks; Antiphon, an orator who wrote speeches for defendants in court cases, recorded the earliest known version in ‘Maxim’ (430 BC): The most costly outlay is time. Centuries later, we found the expression in English, in ‘A discourse on usury’ by Thomas Wilson: Time is precious. Finally – and the most well-known – in ‘Advice to a Young Tradesman’ (1748) Benjamin Franklin stated: Remember that time is money. From there on, the saying came into common use.

Therefore, there is no doubt that Money and Time are correlated, and it’s not a recent discovery. Hence, why don’t we take a step forward and melt these concepts into one? Could it possibly be the next step in the evolution in the means of exchange?

The fact that today’s system is full of dysfunctions leads some to think that the problem is caused by the existence of money itself. Instead, we strongly believe that this is a misleading interpretation. For humans, the evolution of accessing goods started with the barter system, i.e. goods in exchange for other goods. Much later on, precious metal coins were invented, then fiat money was adopted, and last but not least we’ve seen the arrival of various electronic means of exchange such as wire transfers and credit cards. Essentially, money was invented to support the exchanges and make them smoother, and not to create dysfunctions. The “rules of the game” are wrong in today’s system, not money. Moreover, by pointing out ‘money is the problem’, we risk to distract people from the real issues. If you are interested in exploring these concepts further, read the following articles “Money or Hot Potatoes” and “Are you happy with how the game is being played in the world?” within the blog.

So, back to the above question: why don’t we use time to value goods and services instead of cash units as a further step to facilitate and simplify exchanges?

This is exactly what is proposed in the visionary world Crystal, described in the book Project Humanity 7.0. In the world of Crystal, the time used to produce goods and services are essentially calculated into a price value, with added adjustments to reflect market dynamics and a contribution to indivisible services identified by society. However, if you are pondering whether we think that using time as money is strictly necessary to have a well-functioning system, the answer no. As we have seen, we cannot fix the current issues if we don’t revise the rules of the game. We repeat: money – in whatever form – is only a means of exchange. Nevertheless, measuring the value of goods by using time versus cash units can surely help make “the game” easier to understand and manage.

These concepts are discussed between Alex, the protagonist of the Project Humanity 7.0, and his dad Dario:

Alex: “It was not absolutely possible for us to build our equilibrated and well-functioning system by using cash, instead of time?”
Dario: “Technically, it could have been possible…but much more complicated.”
Alex: “So, is this the only reason that pushed us to use time to manage the exchanges?”
Dario: “Not at all! Using time has other important tangible advantages… For example, it allows everyone to grasp the value of goods and services in a simple way, because we can make a quick comparison with a concrete measure, which we all know. We can clearly see the difference between saying that a sandwich is worth three minutes rather than a certain amount of money, right? In the first case, it is much easier to realize whether the price makes sense or not, and it’s quite elementary to comprehend the weight that market dynamics and the priorities expressed by society have on the total value. In other words, using time can make everyone’s day-to-day choices much more conscious!”

Don’t you agree with Dario? If a store seller tells you that a simple peanut butter sandwich is valued/priced at 8 hours in his store instead of the average ‘price’ of a few minutes, wouldn’t that immediately seem quite off to you?

You may point out that there are already experiments which use time as money, such as The Banks of Time, and those experiments did not led to the discontinuation of the use of cash. It’s true, it’s not exactly a new idea using time as money. However, there is a huge difference between isolated and minor experiments, and a complete and widespread system designed to use time as the only option available. The visionary world Crystal portrays this possibility clearly.

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