Monday, November 30, 2009

Agricola Urbanus - Benefits of a Cash Society

Since the "Urban Agrarian" is quite thoroughly taken, and since saying things in Latin always seems intelligent, we'll just be "Agricola Urbanus."  There we go.

People in the self-sufficiency movement often seem to want to bail out of a cash based society altogether.  I want to start my series of posts by arguing against that.  There are some features of a cash society which are wonderful.

A cash society can give you relatively long-term security.  Crops which are preserved only last so long.  You can grow heirloom plants and harvest the seeds to replant, but the crops stop when you are no longer able to work.  What do you do when you are no longer able to cut your own firewood, when the children have moved across the continent, when you just don't think you can spend the hours it takes on a daily basis to care for your little cottage farm?  This is a time when having money is very useful.  

Income you can save and invest will prove useful at some point in the future.  Almost all of us will grow old and find ourselves less capable of carrying on our daily work.  As one elderly person put it to me a few years ago, "I can still do a good day's work but it takes two days to do it."  Money which is invested wisely doesn't grow old and tired.  It just keeps on doing its job, whether it is in the stock market, a mutual fund, an IRA, or some sort of hard investment like precious metals or land. 

Investments and cash are also obviously portable.  What if you grow tired of those cold winters in Minnesota and decide to move to Alabama in your old age?  Of course you can start over there, but if you have adequate investments you simply sell your things, move, and transfer your bank account or access it via the Internet or phone.  You can use the money you earn in this country anywhere in the world.  It's a wonderfully portable resource.

This portability makes for ease of charitable giving as well.  I heard recently of a project in which Sunday school classes provided pastors in a third world country with cows, one per pastor.  You don't have to be a farmer in Wisconsin to provide milk, meat, and an animal to help plow up a garden to someone in Nigeria.  In fact, you would find it very very expensive to export a cow to the Nigerian pastor you wish to support.  But you can provide him with the money to go to the livestock market and purchase an animal that will help him provide for the needs of his family.  Money is a wonderful way of engaging in charitable causes both locally and around the world.

Does the cash economy have some drawbacks?  Sure.  We'll hit on some of those in future posts.  But money is a good and powerful tool.  It has its place.  We don't want to depend on it exclusively but we have biblical freedom to put it to work for us.  So, agricolae urbani, don't be afraid to have money around.  You'll find it useful on many levels.  At the same time, realize that when we depend on just one type of resource we are asking for trouble.  When that resource fails us, whether it be our one cash crop, our one job, our investment portfolio that isn't adequately diversified, our national currency, our health, or our ingenuity, we will suffer.  And every earthly resource we have will fail us at some time.  Good stewardship includes having a wide array of resources, all of which can work together to help us love God by serving our neighbor.

Dave Spotts
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