“The Moneyless Man” Talks to The Green Prophet About The Middle East

mark-boyle-moneyless-manMark Boyle, otherwise known as the “moneyless man,” says that the Middle East’s emphasis on caring and sharing should make adopting a “freeconomic” lifestyle easier than in the West.

Frustrated and worried about the state of our environment, we chomp at the bits and engage in frothy conversations about irresponsible citizens and politicians, but few of us have enough nerve to let it all go: to let go of the cash, let go of the car, and all of the associated conveniences that defines modern life. But Mark Boyle did. For over a year he has lived in a caravan on an organic farm between Bristol and Bath, where he works in exchange for parking there.

He either grows or forages for food, gets around on a bicycle, presses mushrooms into a pulp for paper, and overall demonstrates that it is possible to live without money. Though penniless, Mark is a very rich man who has become an international inspiration. After James reviewed his book ‘The Moneyless Man – A Year of Freeconomic Living,’ we approached Mark with a few questions. Though he scarcely has enough time to make his nettle tea these days, he was kind enough to share his insights about the Middle East.

For the benefit of readers in the Middle East who may not be familiar with your lifestyle and philosophy, can you briefly describe what you set out to do when you sold your home and adopted a money-free life?

I had realised the inherent and inevitable social and environmental consequences of using this tool we call money back in 2007, and I felt a huge hypocrisy in talking about the issues yet not living according to my beliefs. So, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, I decided to “be the change I wanted to see in the world.”

You once mentioned that a major challenge you experienced during your transition to the freeconomic lifestyle was adjusting to not being able to give people material gifts; you describe how the Irish in particular like to buy each other drinks as a sign of goodwill. In the Middle East, we don’t have many big drinkers, but we do have gifts! Can you say how your friends and family have adjusted to this new materialistic absence?

moneyless-man My friends and family have been fantastic, and even though at the start they most likely believed I had lost my mind, now they really believe in it also.

They, like more and more people, are becoming aware of the major issues we now face in the world, such as peak oil, resource depletion and a warming climate, and want to change. My parents now have gone vegetarian and my dad grows his own food in the summer, even though he had never even planted a seed until last year.

I think one of the most compelling aspects of your story, Mark, is that you studied economics and thus people tend to take you more seriously than the usual environmentalist. From an economic perspective, if the freeconomic movement were to take off and people worldwide adopted it, how would that disrupt the current economic machine? Is it possible to predict what would happen if huge chunks of society stopped using money for their daily transactions?

It would act in the same way the current market system current acts – supply and demand, and the market responding to a change in social values. It’s about evolution, not revolution, about transition and transformation. My educational and career background is in some ways very fortunate – if you want to find solutions to the flaws of the current system, you must first understand how it works.

While some people think that your new lifestyle is “radical,” I see that you have reclaimed your humanity, that what you are doing is completely natural. However, the reality is that most of us are completely removed from understanding what nature can offer and how to go about finding it. What sort of advice would you give to a person (in the Middle East) who senses the need to live more naturally but doesn’t have the skills?

There are two sets of skills. The secondary ones, such as wild food foraging, food growing, green woodworking, permaculture and so on. These can easily be learned – I am probably the least talented person you will ever meet, but even I can get by, and if I can then – trust me – anyone can!

What is harder to learn are the primary skills – a care for the planet, for humans, for animals and other species, and a desire to live as gently as possible.

It takes 2 mins to teach a person how to plant a seed, but it can take years to convince them of the importance of planting that seed. mark-boyle-moneyless

Many countries here have serious water shortages and the desert is expanding, thus a freeconomic lifestyle seems particularly daunting. Can you hazard a guess about what you might do differently if you lived in a desert environment?

A warming climate is going to exacerbate this problem, so the first thing is to stop consuming. Without knowing the terrain there, it is impossible for me to say how I’d get my water.

We are beginning to catch up with the Western World in terms of developing recycling programs, organic agriculture, alternative energy sources and such, but we still have a long way to go. Mostly this has to do – I think – with the prevailing attitude that we are separate somehow from nature. What do you think?

The overriding root cause of almost every major issue in the world today is our disconnection from what we consume. Money has enabled us to have huge degrees of separation between the consumer and the consumed. Until we reconnect with Nature, nothing will change.

Many philosophers in the past have really influenced people into thinking we are separate from Nature. We’re as much part of it as a mosquito, or a drop of water, or a tree. It is not our playground.

And to follow up on that question, do you think that the Middle East and other countries have to go through the same process of enlightenment as you did before becoming completely fed up, or is there a way to put cultures on the fast-track to a major paradigm shift?
I’m not sure – sorry.

On the other hand, might Mother Nature make those decisions for us?


From what you know of the Middle East and based on your experience, what kind of obstacles do you predict we would face in trying to adopt a freeconomic lifestyle, or something that closely approximates it?

I think it is more likely to get adopted over there than here, as your culture places a much greater emphasis on sharing, community, helping each other etc. already. The major challenge is to show people that living more simply isn’t just better for the environment, it makes them happier into the bargain.

You believe that people should have the right to live without money and plan to petition for the right to pay taxes in some other way, such as with labor. What does this process look like for you and what kind of help are you getting?

I can’t comment on this at the moment, but yes I do believe that people have the human right to live without money if they so wish.

Any final words of wisdom?

Be the change you want to see in the world, whether you’re a minority of one or a majority of millions. Reconnect with your local environment and community. Surrender to the world and enter into the organic flow of giving and receive freely, and unconditionally.

Mark, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions. You are an inspiration to a great number of people who share your sentiments but lack your courage to embrace what has become the unknown for so many of us. We appreciate your leadership and vision, and wish you the best of luck with your endeavors.

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11 thoughts on ““The Moneyless Man” Talks to The Green Prophet About The Middle East”

  1. Al says:

    just another useless hippy who is sponging off the hardworking ones.

    he proposes a subsistence lifestyle. Now let me present the reality of a subsistence lifestyle: pregnant at 13, and dead of simple infections at 33.

    If there is no accumulation of surpluses, there is no capital. And if there is no capital, there are no factories. As in, factories for making medicines, and stethoscopes, and everything else that distinguishes us from the Neanderthals.

    And no way to pay for policemen. Now let this clown go spend a few years living in Soimalia, and THEN tell us if he thinks we need to have a police force.

    1. Al – some good points. But I think the Moneyless Man is trying to show people how to live simpler, that it is possible to survive, and thrive, on little.

  2. Good Luck with organic fertilizer…

  3. Rama Chakaki says:

    Thanks for sharing Mark’s story.. he is right that our culture would make it easier to adopt his lifestyle and philosophy.

    How do we address the unreal greed and consumer lifestyle being shoved down our throats through media, popular culture and the corporate and governmental strive for economic growth? would love to have a conversation with Mark to find a workable solution for our region.

    1. Hi Rama: Mark doesn’t really claim to know much about the Middle East, but you can find him on facebook and I’m sure he’d be happy to chat with you. The answers to your questions are both multifold and complicated. Economic growth has brought a lot of people out of poverty and to achieve a “better” quality of life. But clearly such growth has come with consequences. I think Mark would advocate more localized living: community engagement, skills-sharing, local food, local currency (or none, as with him), and in general moving away from the globalized mechanism. We can make a difference by becoming more self-sufficient, and by supporting media outlets and non-profit organizations that aren’t promoting the growth machine.

  4. This is an answer to ‘Elie Elhadj’ (author of SAUDI ARABIA’S AGRICULTURAL PROJECT : FROM DUST TO DUST):

    The battle for Lebanon in the MiddleEast . . . . is just a new version of the old struggle of TO BE OR NOT TO BE — for those who are directly involved. But – after all – everybody is involved, who knows that less than 11 % of the World’s mainland is arable. More than 20 % is desert (because of lack of rain) and 97 % of the water resources in the World is salty sea. (2 % Snow & Icebergs and only 1 % Freshwater.)

    It is time to remember that the relationship of desert and rain is older than mankind. It is somewhat like the relationship between man & woman. Who is desert, who rain? Who decides about ‘The Intelligent Use of Water’ ? Which is more a Matter of Intelligent Use of Brain??

    Already in ancient times people connected their faith to agriculture and ‘rain at the right time’. More than 2500 years ago ‘someone invented the witty thoughtful text’ (5.Mose 11,13+) “It shall happen, if you shall listen diligently to my commandments which I command you this day, to love your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give the rain on your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, and your new wine, and your oil.” ( No Brain – No Rain — No Grain !)

    ’Faith or no faith’ – that’s not the question to be answered, essentially. More sense makes ‘brain or no brain’… thus mankind has already invented desalination of seawater. The price is high, due to high technique by osmosis and due to huge pipeline systems, more than 50 €-Cent per ton. (~ 620 € per acre foot)

    Using the principle of nature – artificial moistening the air with seawater by support of technical means – leads to less than 6 €-Cent per ton of rain (74.- € per a.ft). It will work best with BIG IS BEAUTIFUL and demands approval, that even those will benefit ‘beyond the border’, who are not able to share the costs of to moisten the air.

    But then becomes true what the UNITED NATIONS have been founded for:
    ” . . . and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more….”

  5. Frank says:

    Hi Tafline. Thankyou for your reply. Ive not much to say really. All the above comment is from normal textbook economics. Its well known. Though I have an essay to write, to get the scarcity aspect of it down clearer than I have above. I feel it is needed, as many other things are blamed for world injustice rather than the business interest of creating perpetual ongoing need and shortage. Which as I inferred above is only really a serious issue where it concerns life needs. As the recent world credit crisis only really worries and destabilises people because of its serious consequences they feel on their livelihood-life needs. And for a solution to that id advocate a split in economic goods. Basic life goods, or land to reap them from, only available in the gift economy and the rest of the less necessary goods, carry on trading as normal, if thats what you like. (And then sit back and watch a whole society of good sharing people start to organise themselves a new form of open society! Side by side with a decreasing commercial society) The internet shows how good people share. An essay is alright, but the free economy in practise is my interest. (Though I wonder if writing actually does have an effect or not. An essay I wrote in the Cat magazine in 91′ on the rebound effect, may have helped in airing and bringing out the issue of the energy efficiency paradox. In 92, economist Harry Saunders went on to write the definative economic paper on this about the kazzoom-brookes postulate) Other aspects of free, are that the Gift economy, freeconomy is the sharing origins of the co-op movement, it is the normal workings amongst families, voluntary work, and most religions operate their funding on this basis, re: the collection plate. It is a total socially inclusive economy. Its the normal economy of tribes of less than 150 members, above which number social group members become progressively alienated from each other, and these strangers are then fair game. Genevieve Vaughan has written the book on the subject, called ‘for-giving’. Her website is gift-economy.com. I havent met Mark, but he is doing exceptional work for all of us, and is gifted at it, im very glad hes doing it, he has a very good way with him, and describes our situation very well and our need to transition. In my own self interest and small way, Im also involved with practical gift economy work, and hoping interest in it and the richness of it will increase. 🙂 .

  6. Hi Frank. Thanks so much for this really long and meaningful response. I’d love to learn more. Any chance you’d be willing to send an email (tafline at greenprophet dot com) to tell me more about yourself and your experience with Mark?

  7. Frank Bowman says:

    The first pages of every Economics text book teaches us that we have to make decisions about opportunity costs. Which means we have to give up one choice of purchase to take another choice of purchase. Because of a scarcity, a scarcity of what is available on the shop shelf to purchase and a scarcity of our resources available to purchase them. The texts state that all goods are scarce. And that only the air is free. But this is being economical with the truth. It is false, and not entirely true. While it is true for art work or for processed goods, because there is a limit to what can be produced by one talented person or a factory, but for basic needs, land from which to gain food warmth and shelter and water, which, where it is meagre, we can share thriftily. This statement of scarcity for basic needs is a false notion. There is land. We, as a loving bonded community looking after our members wherever we are, ought to treasure basic needs above all else, and feed all our peoples. Love which we think is the most highest to revere, is a most practical thing, or it is nothing!. We need to do that practical thing. We need to plant food, and food trees, which bear every year. Basic needs are the material our bodies are made out of. We are basic needs, inseparable. We are the living land. That is truly truly spiritual, and honour is beholden on us to acknowledge it. To see ourselves not only inseparable, but we are the nature itself. Conventional Economics cannot feed us, as land is not put to use to grow food to feed total demand, as, to satisfy total demand would bring the price to zero, which we wont do, as it is a stupid thing to do in economic terms! this realisation and the practical action needed to change it, is the paradigm shift that is needed, a new crushing realisation that we have been relying on a system of shortage of provision for us and our children and our communities through the ages. And going on into the future, if we dont do anything to change it. We use money to exchange. An exchange is always competitive and because not all people are competitive, and because prices are pegged at the optimum level, which brings in the greatest return never ever satisfying total demand, we cause a human made scarcity which does truly exist, but it is amidst a world of fruitful abundance, which we, the common people through dispossession, do not have access to reap. We need to share those basic needs. Instead of exchanging them by the common commodity of money. The original reason why the worlds peoples are forced to do this and cannot break out of the worlds scarcity of basic needs is because of Usury. Usury is a forced exchange. When it is used for basic needs, we are forced to pay or we shall forfeit our lives. Usury is an unimportant irrelevant thing when it is used for comparitively petty irrelevant things like renting cars etc. But for lifes needs such as housing rent, land rent, it is a totally different thing. Usury which is rent, or the form of rent such as tax, or protection money, is only wrong when it is used to extract payment for basic needs. Land tax is a form of rent on land. Usury. As such it is the original tax on land which forces people off their lifes source and livelihood, our mother earth. And the exchanging of land, because that economic price , means that it too shall be held in shortage. Many in the middle east are aware of the importance of Usury. And the great harm, that it has always perpetrated on us, from when we had no fossil fuels to now, when we have all this fossil fuel to power all those machines, to do all of our work for us, we still cannot feed ourselves. And while we use money to arrange these affairs we will always be very very poor!
    Trashing and dumping our world to feed only the rich third. Marks work of living lightly, caring, nurturing, showing how we can share, and looking for ways others can too, is part of the most important work of our time.

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