Defining Money and Productive
(page 4 of 7)
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The belief that money comes from production is profoundly flawed. It is based on traditional mythologized ideas of work. And it is the reason why women around the world make up the majority of those surviving on low incomes. According to traditional economics, they simply are not productive.

"The rewards of a market system are linked to productivity..." (Karl E. Case, Wellesley College, Ray C. Fair, Yale University, "Principles of Economics", (textbook) Prentice-Hall, 1996)

"Provision of services that others value is the source of high earnings..." (James D. Gwartney and Richard L. Stroup, "What everyone should know about Economics and Prosperity", the Fraser Institute (in cooperation with the James Madison Institute), 1993.)

Even some on the political left believe money comes from production. After a panel presentation on guaranteed/basic income at a 2005 conference in Vancouver, the BC Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), stated his worry that a guaranteed income would not be affordable since money comes from production. (CCPA Conference: "Imagining Public Policy to Meet Women's Economic Security Needs", Oct. 13-15, 2005, SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver, personal notes of panel member C. A. L'Hirondelle)

Monetary reformists also believe money supply should correspond to production:  

"The prudent [bank] lending limit would be not the maximum the act allows, but a level that would not outstrip the productive capacity at hand." (William Krehm, A Power Unto Itself: The Bank of Canada - the threat to our nation's economy, 1993)


"only that work will be called productive that really produces, maintains and enhances life... Life will no longer be only a side-effect of extended accumulation; instead it will be the main goal of work."
Maria Mies and Veronika Bennholdt-Thomsen, The Subsistence Perspective, 1999

If people say that money and wealth comes from production, then how we define productive is a key issue. Marilyn Waring and others have pointed out, the traditional definition of productive excludes the world's most common and most essential work: unpaid care and domestic work (still mostly done by women).

"Although woman has performed much of the labor of the world, her industry and economy have been the very means of increasing her degradation." ( Susan B. Anthony, "Woman: The Great Unpaid Laborer of the World", 1848 (reprinted in "Voices from Women's Liberation", 1970)

"Indeed, a wife may grow, cook, process, and preserve food, carry water, gather fuel, make pots and weave baskets, repair the home, raise domestic animals, weave cloth, make clothing, nurse the sick and bury the dead--not to mention reproducing and socializing the next generation of workers--and still be called 'unproductive.'" (Gloria Steinem, Moving Beyond Words, 1994)

While traditional definitions of productive exclude essential caregiving work (without which none of us would exist) it includes any kind of production that grows the GDP, including many economic activities that create massive amounts of "illth"-- an economic term coined by John Ruskin in his 1860 book Unto This Last. He defines illth as: "causing various devastation and trouble."

David Korten echoes this: "We might say that GNP, technically a measure of the rate at which money is flowing through the economy, might also be described as a measure of the rate at which we are turning resources into garbage." (David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World, 1995)

Next ... Are mothers productive?