5. Money (A Note for the Traveler)

"No prey, no pay!" and "To each according to the bounty; from each according to whim!"--these might be Port Watson's mottos. Even the Republic of Sonsorol has no currency of its own (although it does sell lovely postage stamps). For small transactions such as paying for a meal or newspaper any foreign currency will do in theory, although in practice New Zealand pounds or U.S. dollars are preferred. Larger transactions are generally carried out by computer, since all Shareholders have an "account" to draw on. Visitors may find it convenient to deposit some of their funds in the Bank, either in a "holding" or a "moving" account. The former is simply an electronic lock-box. A "moving" account constitutes an actual investment in the Bank. In February 1985, such accounts paid 7.5% interest, and in March 12%; frugal travelers may actually leave Sonsorol richer than they arrived!

The islanders have worked out a rather elaborate computerized barter system amongst themselves. A crafts collective which produces batik, for example, will turn over its stock to the Port Watson Cooperative (called "The 5 & 10" by local wits) in exchange for a certain amount of credit, measured in abstract quanta. Members of the collective can then use their credit towards any goods at the Co-op. Both the Co-op and several independent Chinese merchants act as import-export agents, filling orders for foreign goods and luxuries in return for Bank or Co-op credit. Price-fixing does not exist; the value of local produce is determined by computer, but imports and goods sold outside the Co-op system are subject to intense bargaining, reminiscent of the oriental bazaar. Naive visitors have sometimes been duped by Watsonian sharpies. Caveat emptor.

Many groups within the Port Enclave are eager to establish barter and communications with alternative networks elsewhere in the world. As much as possible, Sonsorol attempts to avoid official international trade with all its tariffs and taxes and regulations, and to rely instead on non-governmental non-commercial contacts with communes, collectives, bolos, craft groups and individuals around the world--especially those which share the libertarian-anarchist perspective. Visitors to Sonsorol are particularly welcome when they offer some contact with the "outside", such as "potlatch" (exchange of gifts), barter, cultural contact. exchange of hospitality, etc.

Shareholders are free to do whatever they want with their dividends, and to engage in any business which pleases them and involves no coercion, wage-slavery or rapacious greed. However, outside the island community (and the widening network of "alternate" world contacts) these constraints vanish. Like their pirate predecessors, the Sonsorolans are "at war with all the world"when it comes to seizing some commercial or fiscal advantage. As a result, many Watsonians have grown quite wealthy--especially the Bankers and the Chinese merchants. Any display of excessive affluence is considered bad taste, even "oppressive"--epicurean comfort and aesthetic indulgence meet with social approval, but the "typical Watsonian" is said to be a millionaire who lives like a beachcomber, a Taoist hermit or an artist, and donates large amounts to various radical charities and revolutionary causes around the world. Islanders like to quote Emma Goldman's quip about the "champagne revolution", and Nietzsche's remark about "radical aristocratism." Money, ultimately, means very little here (except as a game); the real value-scale is based on pleasure, self-realization and life enhancement.

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