Money and the Individualist–Collectivist Divide
A different kind of social disease.
Politics, in large measure, deals with the art of reconciling individual and collective interests. The overwhelming majority of humanity (with the possible exception of abandoned children who grew up as hermits) inhabits both spheres. The hardiest individuals generally use money and tools and roads and water supplies, perhaps listen to radio and television, read and frequently form parts of families. The most dedicated collectivist does some things alone and usually, at least at times, values privacy.
Both individualism and collectivism in almost all cases involve an associative range and thus can be subdivided into a myriad of sub categories. For example, groups of selfish elites whose individual concerns predominate are still groups and protect their collective interests, collaborating to attain them. Inversely, even within the tightest knit commune, each member has a deep seated need for privacy from time to time.
Liberty is the province of individualists, democracy and pluralism the provinces of collectivists. We seek societies in which both, though diametrically opposed, can attain their utmost potential, but society itself is an utterly collectivist concept; as is the concept of money which individualists so seek to horde and protect from redistributive schemes. But what is money in today’s world? What does it represent?
For some it is something tangible with an inherent worth beyond that artificially provided by social convention (e.g., gold) but perhaps a better analogy is that it is a means of distribution and transport, like trucks, trains and airplanes. It transports goods and services between individuals and collectives, from producers to consumers, and between investors seeking to manipulate the system by artificially increasing a non-existent supply (as in the case of derivative securities and gambling on stock and commodity futures, a concept known as Financialization). Interestingly (or better yet, distressingly, at least for most of us, most wealth creation today is not through production but by virtue of Financialization, an art form that need use only smoke and mirrors, and virtual smoke and mirrors at that.
The distributive-transportation analogy seems a useful way of perceiving the function of money for purposes of problem resolution. If there are trucks loaded with every conceivable good and service required to meet the needs of every individual in every collective but they fail to move, then no one receives anything and everyone starves while the goods on the trucks rot and become useless, the transport system converted into a fleet of garbage trucks. If only a few make their appointed rounds, then some receive their needs but most starve and the goods and services on the immobile trucks become useless, again converting the vehicles into mere repositories for trash. We subsist in the range between these two extremes. In a world where the vast majority of the loaded trucks are delivered to a small percentage of the populace, loaded with much more than they can ever use, and are merely parked at their homes, thus the relative value of the total goods and services available to meet mankind’s needs are proportionately reduced. Some starve so that others can use those goods and services either as, well, who knows what; perhaps meaningless works of pseudo-art. Of course, a fleet of empty trucks (analogous to inflation or fever) is counterproductive, this an optimal situation requires enough, but only enough trucks to transport available goods and services. An inadequate fleet of trucks results in deflation, analogous to anemia.
Societies exist for one primary purpose, to assure the welfare of their members. The institutions, practices and conventions which comprise society’s tools exist to accomplish that goal. If they don’t, then they become akin to cancers, counterproductive wastes. Money is one such tool. Where as a result of human ingenuity and technology there exist more than adequate goods and services to meet the needs of every human on the planet (as is already the case) but a huge percentage of the population lacks access to the basic necessities, then money is not serving its distributive-transportation purpose. The distributive-transport system it ought to represent is afflicted by a cancerous dysfunction, and if society is to regain its health, it needs to cure that cancer which disrupts its function and derails its purpose.
The disease is psychological but its manifestation is physical. The disease is hording by the few accomplished by perversion of the economic and political systems. Perversion accomplished by distortion of the purported laws of supply and demand through monopolistic practices facilitated by aberrant perversion of societal tools such as law, governance and communication, and especially through perversion of the monopoly on the social use of force entrusted to governments. Perversions we can all smell by their taint of corruption. It’s premise is that there exist no human rights, only conditional privileges and that only those that satisfy the conditions imposed are worthy of survival. Strangely, that is a concept derived from the purportedly Christian principles of John Calvin, more the father of capitalism than of any ethico-religious precepts (except perhaps those involving rituals). It’s opposite, one thoroughly compatible with the purported teachings of the perhaps mythical Christ, is Marxism’s precept: “from each according to his abilities and to each according to his needs”. Strange. If there is a Christ, I wonder what he thinks of this. I assume he is probably not happy, wondering why we are so concerned with curtailing harmless conduct instead of with the welfare of his flock. But then again, it is long since he’s been heard from.
Today, we’ve imposed upon ourselves an ethic that those who do not form a part of what we consider to be the productive chain cannot participate in the allocation of any of its products. We rarely ask why. The premise may be valid when the products of the productive chain are insufficient to meet everyone’s basic requirements but falls apart when it generates more than enough goods and services to meet everyone’s reasonable needs. Does a vendor question where a buyer received the funds he provides to buy the goods and services offered? Usually not, although if they are derived from violence against others, perhaps they should be. But what if the funds are the unearned gifts of others? Who cares!
Hmmmm. Who cares how a recipient of unearned societal largess receives money, so long as it is spent and winds up in our pockets? Evidently most of us. We have been taught to perceive that such money is coming out of our pockets. But need it operate that way?
Logic might provide different answers. Solutions abound but the will to implement them is choked off by an alliance of cancerous institutions: the financial system, police and military forces, educational systems and the communications industries. We are manipulated into implementing perverse practices designed to deprive us of the share of economic benefit necessary not only for our own proper functioning but for the proper functioning and welfare of society as a whole. The symptoms? Endless wars and social unrest characterized by omnipresent crime at all levels; real crimes, what ethical experts might characterize as malum in se as opposed to fictitious crimes designed to attain control by the few over the rest, what ethical experts might characterize as malum prohibitum.
One solution, perhaps the best, most efficient and easiest to implement may involve divestment of the control over the creation, distribution and hoarding of money by the international financial sector comprised of banks, insurance companies, investment intermediaries and large investors and returning it to the government. Today, although generally governments are responsible for the printing of new money, its allocation is controlled in a monopolistic fashion by the banking industry through loan granting to preferred customers, such loans being financed by low interest government loans, using the newly printed money and the resulting increase in the money supply. Interestingly (if you have a sick mind), some of that new money is then lent at higher interest rates, to the government that purportedly issued it; what one of my students once described as “paying someone money to use my stuff”.
Returning control over distribution of new money to the State would obviate the need for taxation and public debt and permit allocation of money in a manner that makes its circulation efficient. If we are not taxed then we do not feel that we are subsidizing the non-productive, and without public debt, a great deal of the corruption that infects government would be minimized. If instead of taxing and borrowing, the money required for governance and collective social welfare were created directly by the State trough annual expansion of the money supply, the most negative consequence possible would be corresponding inflation, but if the inflation were more than offset by the savings from not having to pay taxes, and thus the resulting acquisitive power increased, who could logically complain? And that is the very probable result as it would become impossible to cheat on payment of taxes, thus the burden would be more equitably distributed, reducing related diminution in purchasing power.
Such a process would make the entire fleet responsible for transporting goods and services efficient with no truck left idling while its cargo rots. The concept of trickle-down economics had an interesting premise concerning how to increase monetary circulation, as do current demands to reduce taxes on the wealthiest. Interesting but wrong, the inverse being the truth. Trickle-up economics, the insertion of newly created money at the bottom of the economic pyramid among the poorest is always the most likely to generate circulation as the poor have to spend every penny they receive, the wealthy do not. And taxation limited to money not adequately placed into productive circulation, obviously limited to those who can afford to horde it, would assure its continued effective circulation. But, of course, that concept does not appeal to the wealthiest among us, and they control our governments and through them our justice and military systems, and of course, the wealthiest control our means of communication which they use to convince us to keep ourselves in the places we’ve been assigned. Interestingly, those means are all collective, used in the purported name of individualism and individual rights.
Society has improved the means of production making labor less and less relevant. But production without consumption is even less productive than masturbation. Without adequate markets, of what benefit is the capacity to produce? That is the boundary we may have already crossed. Technology minimizes the need for labor but not the need for markets, and if money remains relevant, then a means to provide consumers with access to money needs to catch up with our increasing productive efficiency. That can be accomplished by reduction of the work week making multiple shifts profitable, by raising minimum wages and by providing a guaranteed minimum income. But the replies to such proposals, while incoherent, are very loud, very emotional and filled with unfocused fury.
“Communism, socialism, evil! And the Russians are the worst.” We tend to blame the Russians for everything nowadays, but that’s another story.
Odd that many Christians are the most critical of the concepts that the person who is the purported focus of their religion most prized. And that purported atheists value them most. Such is the power of the distorted Word and of the self-manipulative automatons that we’ve permitted ourselves to become: living in a cancer riddled society of our own making when paradise sits perplexed around the corner.
Interesting in a horribly perverse manner.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved