Dictionary.com defines economics as ¨the science that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, or the material welfare of humankind; financial considerations.¨ However, that´s just the contemporary interpretation of economics. And if you haven´t noticed yet, what with the whole multi-trillion dollar debt, record unemployment, lingering recession, and depletion of the middle class, it would appear that we don´t have this whole economics thing really worked out in contemporary society. Part of that reason is that we´ve lost sight of what economics truly is.

The word economics actually comes from the Ancient Greek oikonomia, which means “management of a household” or “rules of the house.” However, as we have embraced this notion of industrialism as the measuring stick for progress, we have taken this notion of economics and moved it further and further away from our households. More and more over the last century, and especially over the last few decades, we have shifted the tasks we once performed to build strong families and communities, and turned them over to industries and businesses so that much of our existence has been commoditized. In other words, the care and assistance that we once simply received as a matter of humans being has become something that we now have to pay for. Where we could once provide for ourselves with love, we now need money.

As Edgar Cahn wrote in Time Dollars, “Conventional economics says that it takes money to activate time. This puts those who have money in the driver’s seat, politically as well as economically. It guarantees, too, that much important work never gets done because it is not profitable by the calculus of the market. But the limitations of conventional economics just may be self-imposed. If one person’s time can activate the time of another, without conventional money coming in between, then people can meet at least some of their needs by, in effect,, exchanging time with one another.”

Money in and of itself is not a bad thing. Based on how greatly we have developed our civilization through the implementation of this tool, it´s merits are many. Nevertheless, as a human construct, it also has it´s limitations. As such, we must recognize that this particular tool cannot perform the tasks it it not designed for.

Perhaps an alternative currency, one which values each and every member of the community, from every walk of life and socio-economic status based upon helping them meet their needs by encouraging them to cultivate and utilize their gifts for the greatest good, might just be the answer we are looking for. “Just possibly, ¨ Cahn continues, ¨such Time Dollar exchanges can start to reactivate the exchange and caring that are fast disappearing from the American scene. This would be community in the root sense of the word: a locality where wealth is shared.”

Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at The Unbroken Path and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.