The life, power and freedom you have is given to you by other people, and theirs is given by you. The way we give and receive power, freedom and the basics we need to sur-vive is with money, and those systems created to exchange it: markets and the economy.
So those things we value are quantified by and exchanged for money. In real terms a person’s or object’s dollar (monetary) value is its real value to people, when that person or object is compared to other people or objects. And those humans we value more have a greater say in whom else, and what else, is valued.
There are three things I want to discuss on this topic. One is that money is always being wielded, and it is those who think about its effect on others that have their values realised. Es-sentially, if you want to end poverty or stop global warming you must think about how you spend your money, to whom you hand over control of it, and for whom you earn it. This is Power.
Secondly, I want to talk about the fact that money and the systems that transfer it (markets and economies) are beliefs. They are not physical things, but communal beliefs and can be controlled by will. If we change what we believe, our com-munal actions can change. This is Freedom.
Thirdly, a thorough knowledge of the first two can enable co-operation among large groups of people to achieve com-mon goals, without using harmful economic and political strategies to enforce change. Revolution.
Imagine Barry. He lives in Australia and he earns $1000 a week, has $2000 in a savings account, $20 in his wallet, and a credit card with a limit of $5000, but nothing owing on it. It’s Thursday, payday, and $1000 goes into his ABC bank account. How much money does he really possess? The answer is only $20; the bank possesses the other $3000, and is probably already lending it out to others, or using it for bills or a corporate lunch. How much money does Barry have control of? $8020: all the money in those bank ac-counts, plus the credit he is allowed.
But at the moment he has handed over control of the $8000 to bank managers, credit assessors, and shareholders, and they are having their say in what kind of society they value with the choices he has proxied to them.
This is a simple example of how money is your vote or choice in life and that your choices are not dormant. Money is constantly on the move – every purchase that is made hands money from one person to another, one bank to an-other, and a new person gets to direct the same money. The conditions that accompany these movements are what is important. If you give the plumber $500 for fixing your toilet, you have used your choices to make your life more comforta-ble, and the plumber, whom you value for his skill (and per-haps willingness), now gets to have his value choices satisfied with the $500.
However, if you put $500 in a savings account you have handed over your choices to someone whom you know noth-ing about and cannot put any conditions upon – (therefore cannot judge their value, or control their actions) in return for future choices (interest).
Of course if you pull your money out of the bank in the form of notes and coins and put them under your bed, you would possess your choices, but they would be lying dormant wait-ing for your decision, and those you could be influencing or co-operating with would also be dormant.
You might ask, what if you have no money? Well, you have no choices! Money is democracy, and if we believe in democ-racy all citizens must have control over money.
There is a simple philosophical test to see if something is physically real, or whether that reality is only within human heads. You simply ask the question: “Would money, markets and economies exist on Earth if there were no humans on Earth?”
And the answer of course is “no”. They are beliefs – like traf-fic laws, or religious beliefs – they serve a purpose so that we can live our lives better, but they are our creations, and therefore within our control. The “laws” of supply and de-mand, global capitalism, and hyperinflation are not set in stone: they are beliefs, ideas, and concepts about our behav-iour. And can be bent, moved, or abandoned if we find they are not serving us –and this can be done with communal will.
To digress a little, it was actually in mid-August 2007, as I watched Australia’s share market drop 5% in one day, that this realisation started. The financial spokespersons for the banks were talking the market up, telling people not to pan-ic, and I thought this self-serving: they don’t want to lose their money so they are trying to convince you not to sell your shares. This may be true for some of them, but others I’m sure realised that the share market – like every market – is just a quantified reflection of people’s confidence, or lack of it. And you can literally encourage people to be confident – and the market will stabilise. (Which it did particularly af-ter the US government cut interest rates, which is actually an old-fashioned and crude way of instilling confidence, similar to throwing petrol on a dying fire).
If people believe the market will recover, they won’t sell their shares, and so the market stabilises, and then goes up. Peo-ple keep working and food is grown and buildings are built. So why hasn’t the financial market economy achieved hu-manitarian goals? One argument could be that we don’t value them – so they are not achieved. I don’t agree with this, and think that most people want world peace, no-one to go hun-gry, and a world that won’t run out of oil and undergo mas-sive climate change.
Restrictions on choice (not having all products available in your area), and false information with which to make those choices make it difficult to impose your values on society.
“Money gives you power. Unfortunately, even if most people wanted to have solar power instead of coal power, that doesn’t really matter – because most people don’t control most of the money.”
Money gives you power. Unfortunately, even if most people wanted to have solar power instead of coal power, that doesn’t really matter – because most people don’t control most of the money.
Also, it is impossible to know enough about everything so as to make all the necessary choices, so you must place your money and trust in others to spend your money for you – governments, fund managers, NGO’s, charities – and often this trust is abused.
Some people distrust money, markets, and economics (mostly because they don’t get as much power from these as they feel they or others should). They therefore undermine the common belief in it. It’s a very fragile system if people don’t believe in it; it ceases to exist, along with all it enables to be created.
There are competing belief systems – religious, social, and cultural – which also undermine the power and stability of the market economy system. But mostly people don’t understand that it is just a belief system, and therefore that they are it, and that the system is under their control – not the other way around. Knowledge is power, and once you accept ownership of the system, it starts to work for you.
Once you understand that money is power, and that the mar-ket and other economic systems are there to wield that pow-er, for you, then you can control what happens in your world. Economic systems provide great power for the co-operation of individuals.
For instance my glass of wine, the glass was probably made in China by two or three people, in a factory built from steel and concrete, the cement made in China the limestone mined in Australia, shipped on an Indonesian ship, to a ce-ment factory in India, this chain involves thousands of peo-ple co-operating together. How do they know I want a glass, or wine. It is because I am willing to pay money for it, and people see a chance for making money them selves so or-ganise a few people to import, the importers see more de-mand, and more money so they search for glasses, those that may be making them already make more, employ more peo-ple, because they have money, or can borrow money on the belief of financiers that there is a market out there for glasses and they can repay the loan, the manufacturers build more factories on this promise and employ more people. And I have my glass. And this whole co-operation happens amaz-ingly quickly for the amount of people involved. It’s truly wondrous. And mostly runs on belief in markets, a few sur-veys and a couple of high selling (valued) products and in-stantly there is the production of those products on a large scale.
The production of wine in Australia is a good example, a drink that takes years to create, the vines take 2 years to es-tablish (at the minimum) and then another two years to be made into wine, but in the space of 10 years Australia out-put has jumped from around 550 million litres so almost 1500 (source ABS) and sends its wine all over the world.
The problem is this fragile system often falters (belief wanes), causing hyperinflation, stock market meltdowns, and unem-ployment (unemployment is only bad because it reduces or eliminates the incoming of money). People lose belief in the system, so it slows and ceases to be used, so governments use tools to force our belief (these are called names like fis-cal, and monetary policy, trade agreements, tariffs etc), all used to make us stop spending or spend more in the direc-tion desired, often having disastrous effects upon individuals. For example interest rate rises can make a persons home loan repayments so high that they are unable to maintain them, and in a worse case scenario they could lose their ownhome. Even when the ain of the rate rise was to stop new borrowing (and thus slow the economy), the indebted suffer simply because others need to change their beliefs.
It would be fairer if we had full knowledge of the system and our reliance upon it. In that case, if it were to be beneficial for all if we slowed our spending, then we would just do that. Put off the trip to France, and the new car, for the sake of all. A milder form of this is actually used by central banks to control spending rates, they threaten to raise interest rates and this can have the same effect as actually doing so. Be-liefs change so actions follow. And no-one looses their house.
Money, markets, and economics in general are a great way to get large groups of people to co-operate and achieve big things. And we should use these systems to solve the prob-lems we face as a planet today.
So is our failure to end poverty, to create a sustainable pros-perous world, and to give freedom to individuals, and enjoy a safe peaceful existence a problem with our values or with the systems we have created?
I suggest it is neither. I believe most people want to end pov-erty, live safely, and create a future for their children. And the belief in money, markets, and economics gives us the tools to create what we truly value. What is holding us back is a lack of understanding of our power through money, and a lazy utilisation of that power when we do wield it. We read-ily hand our power to those that are just interested in more power for its own sake. Or to those we know little about. To create a better world, the tools are already there. It just takes a bit of research, and to be strong about our choices. And we need to believe that everyone should have a say; all need money without condition.