Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Balance Mastercard

Pay via skit
  [vote for,

The trouble with being paid for things is that it feels like you're holding people to ransom. Say you're a surgeon and you get paid for performing that life-saving operation. What are you going to do if you don't get paid? Let them die. Not a particularly realistic example, but there's a nasty feeling that if you are offering something which people need, withholding your labour will kill them or make their life terrible, so why aren't you doing it for free?

On the other hand, there are things which are useless and therefore people will pay for them simply because they want to and it enriches their life. They could buy a Beatles record but if the Beatles never existed, they could've bought a Stones record instead. Or they could see a Shakespeare play, but if Shakespeare had never been born they could see a Bacon play instead, and so on. These things are interchangeable in a way water, oxygen and essential knowledge, skills and experience are not.

When you get to the checkout in your local supermarket, you generally either pay by some electronic system or hand over cash. This means that the business benefits from you and so it carries on. If you were able to trade food, say, for cleaning the supermarket or mending their fridge, that would be good, and it could theoretically circumvent the need to pay with money. Barter.

However, what if your special skill is of the circus/entertainment variety rather than practical, as it should be because if you can do something useful you're basically being a git if you ask money for it? For instance, what if you can balance a pile of seventeen items artistically on the counter or perform finely balanced acts of contortion, or spin pizza bases on the end of poles made out of broomsticks? The cashier who agrees sight unseen to your performance may end up getting disappointed, and in the case of the pizza bases, they could end up unhygienically all over the shop.

Enter the Balance Mastercard. You have this skill and the local clown college can vouch for it, so they give you a card which says you are known to be skilled at balancing seventeen items atop a cash register. Hand the card over at checkout in lieu of payment or for a reduction, and you will make the employees' day brighter by a fraction in return. The value is decided by a disinterested committee.

Note that this transaction is immediate and face to face. A supermarket full of circus performers may be of some value to the business itself. For instance, fire breathers may slightly reduce heating bills, lightning calculators may be useful for Z readings at the end of the day and lion tamers might deter potential shoplifters. Beyond that, the morale of the employees could be lifted too, thereby increasing turnover, reducing absenteeism, and all the rest. Even so, the material benefits would dissipate rather rapidly without the confines of the edifice. This need not, however, be a problem with a small business rather than a chain, as the employees are all there is, or there may only be two levels in the hierarchy, and this is simpler.

Thanks to [eleventeenthly] for the input.

nineteenthly, Mar 01 2016

Infinity Banknote Infinity_20banknote
It's in a reply to [MercuryNotMars]. [nineteenthly, Mar 01 2016]


       The git issue is a problem, and I think that's why we have this distinction between business and pleasure in our culture. This may be a schizophrenic rock on which to build a society, to mix a series of inappropriate and inaccurate metaphors, but I think it's a useful model to use to make sense of the complex dynamics between gittishness and non-gittishness.   

       The interface between these two is, of course notoriously difficult to navigate, and I suppose supply of "fun" as a service is one such crossing-point. Do we treat the fun-fair providers as jolly friends whose skills and abilities we wish to share and enjoy, what if as part of an individual's psyche, they want to have a go at the balancing routine, and as someone no longer in a professional/client relationship, they decide to have a go?   

       Gittishness ensues as cash-registers, bits of ping-pong-balls and other items start to gang a-gley all-over the place. So it may not be the evil of money that's the root of this particular partitioning, but instead the establishment of event-specific behavioural schemas that establish appropriate protocols for good performance. I'd contend that it's actually non-conformance to the schema from which gittishness emerges - and that while money may well be the root of all manner at least some unpleasantness, it's not through this vector. Similarly, the health-care professional operates only after some established protocol is negotiated, and agreed upon by both parties.   

       A really good way of quickly establishing such protocols is through the use of a common professional schema by which an exchange is enacted through the medium of filling out a form, or the exchange of moneys, or a nod of the head - or whatever convention is the norm.   

       So while it would be inappropriate to withhold treatment, it is important that prior to making the first incision, for example, some of the groundwork is lain, describing what's about to happen, what both parties can expect in terms of responsibilities and obligations, such that an informed agreement can be made. That can take time to set up, and there are of course special schemas and working arrangements we practically can assume to apply under say disasters, or under other difficult circumstances where no monetary exchange provides the common methodology for mitigating these kinds of agreements. So the first responder after an accident might, under some circumstances, deliver CPR, or apply a tourniquet, or do one of those biro-in-the-throat things, without any expectation of payment, but equally, perhaps, with some diminished levels of responsibility should things go even more wrong.   

       So I'd suggest that the nasty feeling of performing a function under professional circumstances is more about switching from one set of schemas to another, where a different level of responsibility is assumed.   

       That being said, this bureaucratic method of administrating the interaction of skills and services is an alternative method of traversing the various schema landscapes - It's my belief however that after time, the same set of nasty feelings may arise, as I'd suspect they're more to do with having to perform the mental schema-shifting from friendly-pal to po-faced-business and the effort required to overcome the intertia necessary to make that shift.   

       Plus, in the super-market example, what if the checkout clerk has already seen their 8th spoon-bending routine that morning, and is indisposed towards seeing a 9th.   

       What's more, and this is another area where it may get tricky, it promotes the creation of a hierarchy of institutions whose task it is to validate and bestow value upon people's person.   

       In such a system, you're liable to see striation and isolation over time as the folks who work within individual certification authorities clump together onto common orbits, and as the clown-union breaks away from the competing, but philosophically distinct mime-council, and a third break-away sect typified by conjurers and magicians, you risk ending up with a clumps of self-validating mini-economies.   

       As these isolated guild-systems become more polarised and structurally defined, families will find themselves being forced to declare affiliation, creating a long-term hereditary caste-system that may, over time ossify certain power structures and cause conflict, inequality and exploitation. In time caste-conflict will bubble over into violence, war and the structure will begin to take on a geographic element as individuals move across the landscape to be close to those within the same socio-economic systems.
zen_tom, Mar 01 2016

       This sounds like a variation on the theme of "bartering". Keep in mind that the IRS still wants you to keep track of those monetary amounts being associated with discounts!
Vernon, Mar 01 2016

       [Vernon], I visited this problem before in real life back when LETS schemes were all the rage. It didn't become a problem, but LETS schemes were silly anyway, so it may have become one if they hadn't collapsed. I had a few ideas about how to counter that back then which could also apply to this, although they're long-winded and quite boring, perhaps even more so than this idea.   

       [Zen_tom], totally agree with the emergence of professional body corruption. It would be nice, however, to be able to lift someone up from the humdrum rather than simply make it possible for their life to be humdrum rather than intolerable.   

       All this really dates back to my thought expressed on here many years ago that if someone came into my shop, I then had the pleasure of their company and owed them something for that, meaning that they should be able to take what they would otherwise have bought for free. See an anno in the linked idea, starting "In many ways, i don't understand the concept of money".
nineteenthly, Mar 01 2016

       I remember that idea very well, and enjoyed the thoughtfulness that it generated - just like this one. I'd love to find a way to liberate people from the system, and have been desperately trying to find ways to do that since my mid teens. 25 years later, and I'm very much none the wiser, so I really enjoy thinking about alternatives - from self sufficiency, permaculture and an interesting take on income streams that might go some way towards this idea - namely providing, for free, youtube, blogging and monetised informational services. The economics of which follow:   

       A person talks about, writes, or otherwise communicates stuff that people may or may not find to be of interest. They put some effort, say 10 hours, into a particular piece of work.   

       A month later, and that item might have generated a dollar in revenue.   

       The normal reaction is to say, 1 dollar, for 10 hours work? Not doing that again. But instead, if that work has a lifetime of 20 years, and over that time, through ad revenue, it generates $240. That's actually a $24 an hour, which is actually quite reasonable. In the meantime, lots of similar pieces can be uploaded and monetised, which, over time may actually accrue a reasonable income. Nothing we can live off in the here and now, but possibly quite bankable in the future.   

       In this instance, you're not witholding anything, simply allowing Google or affiliates to associate their client's content - and in the process is all very natural, and organic. That's possible in an internet economy, where the schema for interaction are managed directly by a system who's purpose is to facilitate inter-personal information sharing. I think it is/would-be very difficult to do that without some technological interface - but it's not all that different to the idea of a balance card - it's just the usage scenarios are somewhat different.
zen_tom, Mar 01 2016


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