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What Do You Think About the Design of Money?

By dj@ in Culture
Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 05:03:19 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Even if money, as a system, evolves, much conscious effort goes into its design at each point along its path of evolution. Individual contributors come up with new ideas and theories about how to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of money. Like evolution, however, the limited nature of all possible combinations of inputs constrains the eventual outcome of any changes that occur in the process. This means that without a positive will, the system can snowball self-destructively.


Money plays a huge role in life. Even if I would rather not deal with it, by virtue of how many other people validate it, I feel somewhat forced into using it. People sometimes joke that money is God, but given how much money plays a part in the lives of so many people, it may not be too far off to call it a religion. It is the bottom line, after all.

Mostly, I get the feeling that money, along with all of its institutions, is so much bigger than I am that I might as well submit myself to its service. It's this tremendous force shrouded in mystery, and it often makes me want to huddle in a corner in fear. I'm not going to change the world, and especially I'm not going to get rid of money, so I should just go along with it like everyone else, conscience be damned.

Deep within me, I feel that there is something not right about money. I don't like what it does to me, and I don't appreciate what I perceive to be some of its effects on my greater surroundings. I consider it, in its current form, a type of mental slavery that holds both humanity and me back from our true potential. This article is part of my struggle to rationalize this most irrational feeling of distaste.

Free software has given me great reason to think about money and economics. Although money is often not involved in free software, there is nevertheless great value in what is produced. Free software has helped to point out the huge discrepancy that often exists between money and value. So, a short while ago, while I was thinking about the nature of money, I had the idea to use time itself, instead of gold or fiat, as the standard for money. Through the Internet, I immediately got in touch with other people who had had similar thoughts and had developed them much more extensively than I. The result has been that I'm currently in the process of developing a standard for money based on love, albeit measured in time. It's very much a work in progress, and I've already frozen a few parts of it, but I have an open mind and I'm always willing and eager to make changes.

Think of it as a reflective currency, where you do to one person what you hope she does in return to you. Each individual contributes the same amount of time regardless of any group affiliation. For example, if I were a member of a group that manufactures shoes, and another group grows food, we could all consent to cooperate in the time that we spend under the premise that the yield of production will meet the demand of the individuals involved. In effect, this can make the output of fifty people equal to the output of twenty people, but each individual contributes the same time in the interest of equality. If the arrangement doesn't work out, then it was simply a failed experiment, and the groups can modify the blueprints and start again. Contingencies and amendments to production can be inserted into future agreements, or otherwise, the two groups can simply walk away. Any surplus is given away so as to encourage accurate production volume in the first place.

Also, in the cases where projects aren't adequately parallel, the synchronicity problem can be solved by loaning time where any defaulting of a loan results in an actual appreciation of value. For example, if I have an arrangement with another individual where I owe her a certain amount of time in servitude because she has helped me for the same amount of time in a similar vein, she could be required to have me pay back our mutually created debt within a certain period, which we would have agreed on in the beginning. If for some reason that didn't happen, I would be obligated to help someone else and pay off my debt that way. This would give her an incentive to ask me to repay my debt soon so that she wouldn't lose my service to someone else. This could also work at the scope of a group effort.

Don't get me wrong. I love my Nike Airs. The question is: can you have all the wonders of capitalism without all of the downsides? Does the end, assuming it's even the best we have, justify the means? Because there are no parallel universe experiments, we don't know if any other system could have adequately met the needs of society better than capitalism. This is why, if we are to step away from this antiquated system and step into a new world of balance, measure, abundance, and sustenance, we will need faith. I personally feel it's high time to design a whole new species of money. We can start from anywhere we want from within our pool of monetary genetics, but I suggest we start with a meme complex comprising justice, equality, honesty, brotherhood, and love.

Here are some resources on the subject that I have found useful:

http://www.transaction.net
http://www.timedollar.org
http://www.newciv.org/whole/monetarysystem.html
http://www.ithacahours.org>

I'm very interested in your thoughts, feedback, and contributions, both theoretical empirical.

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Related Links
o http://www .transaction.net
o http://www .timedollar.org
o http://www .newciv.org/whole/monetarysystem.html
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o Also by dj@


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What Do You Think About the Design of Money? | 44 comments (40 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
The new designs the U.S. Mint puts on paper money. (2.66 / 3) (#1)
by suky on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:19:16 PM EST

They make U.S. currency look like monopoly money!

Oh. Wrong type of design :)



I know it's just a joke, but... (4.00 / 2) (#3)
by Speare on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:31:32 PM EST

The U.S. Mint (http://www.usmint.gov/) makes the metal coinage of US Currency.

The Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving (http://www.moneyfactory.com/, oddly enough) makes the paper designs and product of US Currency.

And I'm sure non-Americans have heard plenty about the average American's pithy comment: anything but what they're used to seeing is 'Monopoly money'. Just don't use that line when you're visiting someone else's homeland, it's belittling.

Frankly, I prefer the new paper designs, but I don't agree that it's time to get rid of the US$1 bill. I like the yellow Sacagawea US$1 coin, but it's got a long uphill struggle for wide acceptance, trying to avoid the older SBA (Susan B. Anthony) US$1 coin's fate.


[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
[ Parent ]
money is trading (3.00 / 2) (#4)
by AtomZombie on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 05:47:33 PM EST

money is trading. money represents your worth. if we had no paper money and coins, we would be trading furs, metals, or baseball cards. it is wrong to blame money itself for lack of control of one's impulses. if you don't like what money does to you and/or people in general, don't get rid of money. change your outlook on it.

this has been an admittedly poorly-thought-out response.


atomic.

"why did they have to call it UNIX. that's kind of... ewww." -mom.
Trading (none / 0) (#12)
by CyberQuog on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 10:10:29 PM EST

I truly think that Bartering is a better system than money. I'm of course probably completly wrong, but bartering seems like a much more honest system of trade. But then theres the problem of what to give to someone who doesn't give you anything physical. What do you trade the government for it's public transportation and schooling, I doubt they would want my baseball cards :( .


-...-
[ Parent ]
Bartering better than money? (4.00 / 1) (#19)
by PenguinWrangler on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:42:38 AM EST

Money replaced Bartering. Mankind reached a point at which bartering was no longer a usable means of trading. Instead of saying "Ok, I'll give you three pigs and two cows" you could say "Ok, I'll give you these tokens which you can trade in for the equivalent worth of three pigs and two cows".
That way people could transport small tokens which could be traded in for what people wanted, rather than transporting loads of stuff which people might not actually want. Thus trade could be established over a wider area. Thus mankind developed.
Going back to a bartering system would be like going back to the dark ages.
Personally I'll stick to coin of the realm, "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of..." and all that.
(I don't know what would happen if you walked into the Bank of England with a fifty pound note and asked for the value in gold, though.)

"Information wants to be paid"
[ Parent ]
True (none / 0) (#28)
by CyberQuog on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 10:24:07 PM EST

I don't know about England, but in America you can no longer get gold for your money. Up until the 70's I think, you were able to walk into a bank with a bill and them give you gold for it.


-...-
[ Parent ]
monetary evolution (none / 0) (#37)
by dice on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 10:14:51 PM EST

actually, assuming i remember what i read correctly in the wealth of nations (forgive me adam smith) the current way we have of doing money instead of bartering was heavily influenced by the fact that it's really easy to take smaller parts of it.

say your neighbor has 4 sheep to sell for a price of one cow. you have a cow. no problem right? but you can only use three sheep. you just got ripped. if instead you had the cash equivalent of a cow, you could give him 3/4 of that price, and hopefully he'd be willing to give you just the three sheep you want.

[ Parent ]
monetary evolution (none / 0) (#38)
by dice on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 10:15:08 PM EST

actually, assuming i remember what i read correctly in the wealth of nations (forgive me adam smith) the current way we have of doing money instead of bartering was heavily influenced by the fact that it's really easy to take smaller parts of it.

say your neighbor has 4 sheep to sell for a price of one cow. you have a cow. no problem right? but you can only use three sheep. you just got ripped. if instead you had the cash equivalent of a cow, you could give him 3/4 of that price, and hopefully he'd be willing to give you just the three sheep you want.

[ Parent ]
Non-service exchanges (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by tfoh on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 06:16:57 PM EST

The service credit idea may work for some situations, but it breaks down if repayment in service is infeasible to one or both of the contracting parties. Consider any situation where skilled labor is required. If a manufacturing firm exchanges your services for a widget, and you have to be trained to help the company produce, the company has just lost whatever amount of time it expended to train you solely for the purpose of repaying a (perhaps one-time) service debt.

The necessity for service also precludes long-distance exchanges. It doesn't make any sense to exchange my widgets to someone if he has to come half way around the world to repay the debt. Since monetary exchange is undesirable by your argument, the only other method of exchange is barter. The (quick) reason why barter is inefficient is that it is difficult to assign value for widget A in terms of widget B, especially if one party doesn't know the production costs associated with the other party's goods.

Money solves both these problems because it allows contracts between two parties where one's service is not necessarily useful to the other. I think service credits could work well in a small community, but as a medium of trade on any larger scale the reason we have money is that it has worked.

Okay, removing foot from mouth now...

Credit (none / 0) (#7)
by Andrew Dvorak on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 06:30:16 PM EST

Think of it as a reflective currency, where you do to one person what you hope she does in return to you.

I believe the term you're referring to is credit, though in a utopian way where you needn't ask for people to help you .. they just do.

To comment on the rest of your article: There's no such thing as the ideal society and I have a hard time believing that yours is. There can be no ideal society because, well, everybody thinks. And as our population grows exponentially, such an ideal society becomes exponentially improbable..

k5 features visitors of very diverse backgrounds and opinions. Why, I think the only thing we can agree on is that not everyone can agree on everything! Well, maybe we can all agree that I've used the term "ideal society" a bit much in this reply, but who am I anyways? :-)



Communism, and similar problems (3.66 / 3) (#8)
by rikek on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 06:45:23 PM EST

I'm surprised you wrote the entire article without mentioning communism, Marxism, or the like...
What you seem to be wishing for is a sort of communist society based on organized trust rather than an imposing government. Sort of like bartering goods for a vague measurement of faith or human production.
Unfortunately, this good idea would have to be impossible to pull off.
The first problem is in the interpretation of value -- are all peoples' man-hours worth the same? Is a day's work by a professional worker the same as a day's work by an unskilled laborer? If you do use some "blueprint" to determine the trade of goods, how could you possibly get it to be as efficient as the "blueprint" that we use right now? Supply and demand in a mostly free market determine the current values for the trading of goods and services, and I can't a more optimal system.
The second problem arises as you try to solve the problems of the first - scarcity. The good old problem that economics tries to solve, dealing with limited resources, will get increasingly painful the farther you get from the capitalist system (or a similar, comfortable mix). Perhaps in a few hundred years, technology may be able to solve this through StarTrek-like replicators and other something-from-nothing devices, but I won't hold my breath.
What I'm trying to get at is that as you try to hammer out the problems in your plan, you'll find that you either lose too many resources to be effective, or you've just reestablished our friend, capitalism.
I think I may have gone a little off course, but I hope that I'm making sense... While this article seems to lack some clarity (was it written the same day it was thought up?), it does represent a very important issue. I would certainly be interested in reading this again if some of the larger gaps in logic or speculation were patched up.

Value of manhours and rational/irrational money (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by vastor on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 08:00:38 PM EST

This is something I considered at one stage myself.

How is it that an hour of one persons time can be worth much more than another persons hour of time? (say $200/hr compared to $10/hr).

For doctors etc they say they spent X years at university unpaid and so they should get paid more now that they are working - though the simple solution is the pay people to study the same as if they were working and thus there would be nothing to balance out.

The biggest problem with time based wages is apathy/lack of rewards. If you sit around and take an hour to type one line of code while the person next to you did one hundred in the hour you'd both still get paid the same amount (this is assuming you're both working on the exact same project/program etc).

Then there is supply and demand - how would you get people to do jobs that nobody else wanted to do. The problem is that to introduce fixes (bonus rewards for hard work and some kind of lack of supply raises the wage mechanism) ends up reintroducing much of the problems we currently have.

A backwards solution might be to allocate time spending based on how people spend their time not working. Spend 30 minutes travelling to work in your car? Then thats the basis for how much money is allocated to your car and to road upkeep. Three hours a day at your computer? Then thats how much gets allocated to the manufacturer of the computer. With a system like this the producer thus has a strong motive to make sure their product ends up where it will be most used. However it runs into problems of high density problems - would people make a cake when a loaf of bread could be made that'd take the same amount of time to consume and enjoy as the cake but make it harder for them to allocate the credit. Perhaps it's a solution we need, one that favours most efficient goods and services with luxeries as far rarer items.

If you want the solid gold statue, then whoever supplies it to you might well want you to spend atleast three hours a week looking at it. If you don't then they'll take it off you and stick it in a museum where it will get that much time. It'd certainly make for an interesting system. Tourism could certainly get a good boom - though cruise liners would become a much more profitable way to transport people than aeroplanes are. It would be an interesting mechanism where people are paid not to work rather than to work. Afterall, if you're not not working, you may as well work - right? ;-).

Maybe the supply/demand mechanism would partly solve the issue of people not working hard. Cushy jobs would have a high supply so would stay at the base rate while jobs people otherwise wouldn't do (who really wants to work in an underground coal mine?) could increment up in payments until the position is filled like in an auction. Perhaps a mentor/apprentice system might work as a reward for people who work hard/contribute more.

I start work on a sheep farm, why not contribute 10 minutes an hour to the person teaching me what to do on top of the 60 minutes an hour he is already getting. It could be part of the bidding process (though then people would be inclined to pick workmates based on the best payoffs to them). People could pool a proportion of their wages and divide it up amongst themselves as bonus payments. If someone is underappreciated and not getting their fair share of the bonuses then they're unlikely to be too happy with the job anyway so would probably be better off finding another job where they are more appreciated anyway.

Maybe the real answer is to have two currencies. Rational and irrational money. Rational that makes for sensible resource use where the greatest time spent engaging with the least time used to produce it is rewarded while irrational money is for the opposite like flights where having an inverse proportion of time to resource use is used. Perhaps you'd get rational money for not working and irrational money for working - or maybe rational money as a flat pay per hour for whatever work (whether it be study or programing) is engaged in while irrational money is used for bonuses/encouraging people to do jobs that they otherwise wouldn't like.

There could be exchanges, so people who get tons of irrational money can exchange it for rational money and vice-versa. The exchange rate could be individually based as a reward - so a student (or a programmer) that works hard can exchange more of their rational money for irrational than someone that just cruises through not working more than the bare minimum. Though there would just become a black market where hard working people exchanged the rational/irrational currencies for the less hardworking people. So maybe a flat outright reward irrational payment would be best afterall - get in the top 5% and earn 10% of your rational wages as an irrational bonus. Be in the 5-10% top group and get 9% of rational as an irrational bonus etc.

Anyway, there are all sorts of possibilities that would have lots of different affects/influences on things (though I seem to be alone in thinking students should be paid along similar lines to regular workers).





[ Parent ]
Transaction costs will sink it (4.66 / 3) (#10)
by anewc2 on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 08:21:33 PM EST

I need a scarf. The weaver down the road needs web site design and maintenance. We can meet each other's needs. This is wonderful, but it doesn't scale. When I read things like this my eyes glaze over.

If the arrangement doesn't work out, then it was simply a failed experiment, and the groups can modify the blueprints and start again. Contingencies and amendments to production can be inserted into future agreements, or otherwise, the two groups can simply walk away.
When will I get a chance to eat if I have to go through all this negotiation and experimentation just to buy food? Money makes transactions efficient. The alternative systems you link to go out of their way to provide this efficiency as well. You have to do it too, or your system will be stillborn.

Part of the world has gone even further, to a system of fixed posted prices for everyday items, limiting negotiations to large, expensive purchases such as cars. There is a name for the part of the world that hasn't done this: "economically backwards". Think about that before you start promoting a system based on endless negotiations.

But even if it worked, your solution wouldn't solve your problem. Or maybe I'm not clear on what your problem is.

One of your links says, "Money is an agreement within a community to use something as a medium of exchange." It is a tool to make life easier. Maybe it has maladaptive features and could be improved, and I find your links very interesting in that respect. But however you change it, it will still be money and you will still be tempted by shiny things. Your attitudes are your own -- they don't come from the money. You can use greenback dollars with love, and you can use LETS and Ithaca HOURS with grasping greed.

By the way, who makes those Nike Airs and how are they treated in their jobs? If you're looking to spread around a little justice, equality, honesty, brotherhood, and love, they could probably use some.


The world's biggest fool can say the sun is shining, but that doesn't make it dark out. -- Robert Pirsig

Politics and economics (none / 0) (#18)
by dj@ on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:32:42 AM EST

There is a huge political component to economics. Not only does government exist largely for the purpose of organizing and stabilizing money, but think about all the endless negotiations that goes on between companies and other groups. Even security and military is largely connected to economics. What about the transaction cost of going to war over the price of a barrell of oil? Then, you have to consider the huge overhead involved with accounting, managing, and streamlining money. Think about the stock market, the banks, mutual funds, etc.

The transaction cost of money doesn't just come down to the purchase. Besides, although I'm not quite fully sure about this point, I don't know that it's even necessary to buy anything. Once you have consent and agreement among different individuals and groups to cooperate in production, the output could be just given away to those who have participated. If I work for a group that grows pears, and another group grows apples, I agree to provide as much for those individuals as they would possibly demand. They do the same. That doesn't mean that I can take any extra and sell it on the market, but how ever many apples I want, I can eat. I would never have considered growing enough pears to secure the demand of those growing apples if there hadn't been that trust established in the first place.

Eventually you would want to scale up, but why not start out modestly? Trust must be established and earned in the process. You can't force or manufacture a feeling of trust or community. Once small groups have become able to sustain themselves this way in micro-economies, they can branch out and provide for more people, and receive the labor of other people in return for themselves. It's not really barter, because you're not focusing on the material output of production, but rather on the means of production.

[ Parent ]
Reality and Economics (none / 0) (#30)
by anewc2 on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 01:02:45 AM EST

Accountants provide value. They turn data into information. They answer the question, "how high must I set my prices so I can meet my costs?" Then if the market doesn't let you set them that high, you have to cut your costs. Your accountant can help there, too, by comparing your costs against other similar businesses to see what is out of line.

Bankers provide value. Someone has money they want to put to work. Someone else has a business idea that needs financing. Banks make the connection. Ditto the stock market, but with somewhat different rights and responsibilities. Ditto mutual funds, but more indirectly.

Wars provide ... um, well, if the taxpayers can be talked into ponying up for it, there's tremendous opportunity for somebody. Since we need to be distracted from the coming recession, expect one coming soon to a TV near you.

But none of these are huge compared to the sheer volume of everyday transactions between consumers. And none of them make those transactions more difficult. If I can't just lay down a few bills for a basket of apples, but have to negotiate over how much of my time they are worth, well, forget it. I have a life, and I would much rather live it, than have to bargain over every little thing.

I don't know that it's even necessary to buy anything. Once you have consent and agreement among different individuals and groups to cooperate in production, the output could be just given away to those who have participated.

But now you've gone beyond the redesign of money, and gotten into the redesign of society. You aren't the first to have this idea, and if you try it, you won't be the first to try. But if you succeed, I think you'll be the first to succeed, because you will also need to redesign human beings.

For five years I was part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project, providing the land and some of the labor (mostly organizational rather than field work), and making up the small but consistent annual revenue shortfall. The people involved were reasonably satisfied with the current economic system and their place in it, so we didn't do a lot of experiments with alternate money arrangements. We charged a fixed price for a weekly subscription to a bag of vegetables, with discounts if you could contribute your time.

It was tremendously difficult for us to organize this and carry it through. There were the water, pest and fertility problems that farmers everywhere have to deal with. Coordinating the volunteers, keeping them both happy and productive was a major job. After five years, the founders, including me, had burnt out and there was no one to take it over, so it just stopped.

These were good people, committed to tasty and healthy organically grown food. We were honest, we were loving, we were a community. We were amateurs and we were under stress. We quarrelled and fought. Eventually we stopped. I don't really think of it as a failure. We did produce that tasty and healthy organically grown food for a hundred people or more every year. We were the first CSA in our area and now there are several. On the other hand, you can't exactly call it a success either. Would I do it again? No.

What you are proposing sounds a lot like this, only worse, because your people will have to fit themselves into a new and untried economic relationship with each other, and it will involve much more of their lives than their weekly bag of groceries. Do you have a group of people already aligned with your ideas and committed to making them work? Or will you have to advertise for interested people? Will they have the skills you need? Will everybody have a necessary skill? If not, what does this do to "equality"?

Good luck. I think you'll need it.


The world's biggest fool can say the sun is shining, but that doesn't make it dark out. -- Robert Pirsig
[ Parent ]
Society and money (none / 0) (#33)
by dj@ on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 10:52:36 AM EST

It sounds like you have a deep perspective on some of these issues. I truly admire your work in Community Supported Agriculture, and especially for producing wholesome food for people. I'm sorry the experience turned out somewhat disappointing, but it's good to hear the wisdom of someone who has exercised similar ideas in the past.

In terms of the transaction costs, I think you have a good point. I just wanted to show that the transaction costs involved go much deeper than the consumer level, and that to be fair, you should consider them collectively. Bankers, accountants, economists, etc. working to make the system more efficient will obviously provide value to the system. The question is who/what the system itself serves. It certainly does't serve the environment. Consumers usually don't make the connection between the price they have to pay for gasoline and the slaughtering of millions of people, because they are most likely paying more attention to how such a price affects their own bottom line in their personal bank account. If a fixed exchange rate keeps a whole country or continent of people subjugated to the will of another group, people look away and thank God it's not they.

In terms of redesigning society, at least we agree that there's a direct connection between the design of money and the design of society. :) I don't think anyone, including myself, has any idea just how bad things really are. I was just reading that in Puenta Arenas, Chile, Ozone hole creep has subjected people to 40% more UVB radiation than anywhere else in the world, and they can't even afford sunscreen. According to the purported consensus of some of the smartest scientists in the world ten years ago, the Ozone problem should have been solved by simply removing CFC's and HCFC's from numerous household products. It is now three times the size of the United States.

You can pass all the laws you want, but those controlling the money hold all the real power. For this reason, I am looking to a spiritual rather than political solution and aiming at money itself. People running for political office do so to redesign society in one way or another, but so many things are already frozen and fixed that no significant changes can ever really occur. Especially, I believe the only way to scale at the level necessary is through spiritual means and a change in attitude. I change my own personal behavior all the time, and I recognize that my choices are highly affected by my physical and social environment. The spiritual plane of each individual can have a huge impact if other people are open to it. This is the beauty of being around people you trust and enjoy being open towards.

I know something has to change, and in a big way. If you combine the relatively low level of social awareness with ever increasing technodestructive capability, things do not look good. I've traced my assessment of the problem to the design of money, and so I'm working on a new design.

The thing about things like volunteering and philanthropy is that they're such sideshows. There's a huge difference between volunteering to do something good, and doing something good with every step you take, especially in the psychological effect it has on the participant. The current design of money has placed us in the situation of having to go way out of our way to do something that is good, and trapped our conscience to the point that we rarely even consider such anymore. Process is important too, and I just hope that in the future good can be accomplished in the process.

[ Parent ]
Society (none / 0) (#43)
by anewc2 on Sat Jan 06, 2001 at 08:42:45 AM EST

Again I wish you good luck.

But one thing concerns me. You talk about about changing society, then fill your post with the first person singular. Society is not "I", society is "we". If you want to do more than a theoretical exercise, you need a community of people around you. But they will bring their own persepctives and agendas to the group too. With luck you will avoid people who manipulate your group for their own ends unrelated to the group goals -- we avoided that -- but you will still have disagreements on details and on emphasis. People attracted to a group such as this will have strong wills, and intellectual turf to defend. Even you! Love is good, but even more important are a sense of perspective and a sense of humor.

A practical tip: sharing food is a great community builder. Make every meeting a pot-luck meal. It worked for us. If your group becomes all work and no fun, burnout comes quickly.

The world's biggest fool can say the sun is shining, but that doesn't make it dark out. -- Robert Pirsig
[ Parent ]
Society and money (none / 0) (#34)
by dj@ on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 10:57:39 AM EST

It sounds like you have a deep perspective on some of these issues. I truly admire your work in Community Supported Agriculture, and especially for producing wholesome food for people. I'm sorry the experience turned out somewhat disappointing, but it's good to hear the wisdom of someone who has exercised similar ideas in the past.

In terms of the transaction costs, I think you have a good point. I just wanted to show that the transaction costs involved go much deeper than the consumer level, and that to be fair, you should consider them collectively. Bankers, accountants, economists, etc. working to make the system more efficient will obviously provide value to the system. The question is who/what the system itself serves. It certainly does't serve the environment. Consumers usually don't make the connection between the price they have to pay for gasoline and the slaughtering of millions of people, because they are most likely paying more attention to how such a price affects their own bottom line in their personal bank account. If a fixed exchange rate keeps a whole country or continent of people subjugated to the will of another group, people look away and thank God it's not they.

In terms of redesigning society, at least we agree that there's a direct connection between the design of money and the design of society. :) I don't think anyone, including myself, has any idea just how bad things really are. I was just reading that in Puenta Arenas, Chile, Ozone hole creep has subjected people to 40% more UVB radiation than anywhere else in the world, and they can't even afford sunscreen. According to the purported consensus of some of the smartest scientists in the world ten years ago, the Ozone problem should have been solved by simply removing CFC's and HCFC's from numerous household products. It is now three times the size of the United States.

You can pass all the laws you want, but those controlling the money hold all the real power. For this reason, I am looking to a spiritual rather than political solution and aiming at money itself. People running for political office do so to redesign society in one way or another, but so many things are already frozen and fixed that no significant changes can ever really occur. Especially, I believe the only way to scale at the level necessary is through spiritual means and a change in attitude. I change my own personal behavior all the time, and I recognize that my choices are highly affected by my physical and social environment. The spiritual plane of each individual can have a huge impact if other people are open to it. This is the beauty of being around people you trust and enjoy being open towards.

I know something has to change, and in a big way. If you combine the relatively low level of social awareness with ever increasing technodestructive capability, things do not look good. I've traced my assessment of the problem to the design of money, and so I'm working on a new design.

The thing about things like volunteering and philanthropy is that they're such sideshows. There's a huge difference between volunteering to do something good, and doing something good with every step you take, especially in the psychological effect it has on the participant. The current design of money has placed us in the situation of having to go way out of our way to do something that is good, and trapped our conscience to the point that we rarely even consider such anymore. Process is important too, and I just hope that in the future good can be accomplished in the process.

[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I understand. (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by HypoLuxa on Tue Jan 02, 2001 at 10:56:55 PM EST

I read through this a couple of times, and I was struck with a couple of thoughts. At first, I supplanted "time" with "work" and thought that this was essentially a rehashed communist model, but it isn't. There is an inherent value for your "time" therefore there is individual worth (in an economic sense). What you have done, is replace the word "money" with the word "time" and created another capitalist model. What, exactly, is the point of that? You have exchanged a very simple method for a very complex method, in the name of faith and your dislike of "money".

There are also some other questions to be posed here. First off, what is the inherent evil of money that must be escaped? How does trading time instead of money solve those evils? As for money being "shrouded in mystery," please consider the amount of time you have spend studying economics. Money and finance is a very complex subject, but it is by no means unfathomable. I'm a little worried by the phrase "amount of time in servitude," and how that may replace ecnomic slavery with slavery (or at least forced labor). The problem here is poorly defined; you have left the evils of money pretty abstract. The solutions can't be defined until the problems are.

In the course of history, man ventures have taken place in the name of "justice, equality, honesty, brotherhood, and love" but few have shown the equal lasting power of self-interest mitigated by competition. This seems to be an argument for change in the name of change.

--
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons.
- Leonard Cohen

The middle road (none / 0) (#17)
by dj@ on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:00:03 AM EST

The danger in taking a middle road between communism and capitalism is that communists will call you a capitalist, and capitalists will call you a communist. :) Seriously, though, I appreciate your response.

To respond to your first point, money is just time with a whole bunch of psychological wrappers. The market places prices on goods that have been produced by people who have spent their time to produce them. They may purchase other products that they need as tools or as ingredients for their product, but even those will have come from the time that other people have invested. Either way, I think that the time value of money provides a very good economic equilibrium point. If someone gets paid much less in one society, relative to the currency exchange rate, for performing the same work as in another society, that doesn't make sense. If the efficiency factor is meant to explain the difference for the same work, then the price should also have gone down as effeciency has increased.

Now, as for the inherently evil part. I don't attribute to malice what I can otherwise attribute to ignorance. I don't think it's evil per se, I just think that money is not very well thought out. It's complex, which keeps the stupid people from succeeding with it, but that doesn't mean it has been intelligently considered. It's not consciously designed with what I called in my article a "positive will".

If I work for a group that produces something that costs more than what another group produces, why should that affect my personal value? The market tries to accomodate the discrepancy by paying people differently based on their role, but that opens up a whole other can of worms. If the person growing your food weren't doing her job, you would have no job to do. Your job would be totally worthless. Why, then, hold that person in contempt economically? You would say you have a right to a higher pay because your role in your group is more difficult or important, but I challenge that notion. In fact, growing food is one of, if not the most important role in society. The market, however, doesn't seem to think so.

[ Parent ]
one problem.. (4.33 / 3) (#14)
by rebelcool on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 01:36:02 AM EST

The key of capitalism is supply and demand. In capitalism, the market (and thus, the money) decide what consumers demand, and businesses will inevitably crop up to supply them. With your system, you make these assumptions:

Demand will be constant. By human nature this does not happen for reasons beyond this post. The only industry which has a near-constant demand is the funeral industry because everyone dies at some point. The soviet union every once in awhile would give each industry new "target" numbers of products to produce. This system resulted in bread lines and shortages in EVERYTHING.

Everyone will work equally. Again, human nature doesn't allow this. Not everyone works equally...some people are lazy. Even a few people like this would throw the system off entirely.

This system would never work outside the confines of a small village and only with simple objects than can be made by one person. A computer is made of thousands of parts from hundreds of different sources. To build such a complex object would be grossly inefficient, if not impossible.

Humans are unpredictable by nature. This is why money Works. It is faceless, it has no opinion, money does not swindle you. Working hard will get you more money, which will allow you to buy more things. Granted this is not always the case on an individual scale, but on a macro-sized scale it is.

The wonders of capitalism have allowed us to build incredibly complicated objects because of the money factor. I have nothing to offer to the people in taiwan who built my motherboard because a. I'm not taiwanese and b. i live in texas and am too far away to do any good. The "personal repayment" method is limited by human limitations - how far can you walk? Money is money everywhere in the world. Since it's widely agreed you can use it for anything else, you do not need to personally repay. This makes complicated objects needing parts from all parts of the world possible.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Retarded people (none / 0) (#20)
by dj@ on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 12:11:39 PM EST

If I were to work in the field alongside retarded people, they might not be able to work equally. This does not mean that I should be worth more than them in the work that I do. They should be given less food to eat? Convert what you tolerate about money into actual things that money can obtain, and the outlook can change significantly. Because money is an abstraction, it can confuse things. I would love to work alongside people of all different abilities, sit across from them at the dinner table, and know that we provided for ourselves together. While I do agree that some people can come across as lazy, it could be highly contextual. Anyway, I would rather that individuals who find incentive for hard work in personal domination be lazy instead.

You're right, demand is not constant. However, capitalism doesn't solve this problem perfectly either. It's a tough problem. A huge preponderance of businesses eventually go out of business because there is no longer demand for their product. Many businesses lose money at different times and in different ventures based on shifts in demand. This is why companies try so incessantly to create demand even when there sometimes is none. Many products and goods eventually go to waste, too.

As for computers, there is nothing to say that complicated objects couldn't be produced with different concepts of money. What it would ensure is that the production of such technological wonders would not get too far away from any value to society. If I can make a widget critical to the production of tractors, my community will consent to having me spend my time producing that particular widget. When the tractor is eventually produced, by other individuals and groups working under a similar charter, it will be used by the community to continue to produce the food that I eat. I will work on producing the widget because it represents the apex of what I can do with my gifts and talents.

Furthermore, capitalism has been extensively developed and has wide recognition. This makes it possible to have far-reaching exchanges of goods. If another conception of how to exchange time and value were to emerge, a wide recognition will allow similar far-reaching exchanges.



[ Parent ]
still making assumptions. (none / 0) (#22)
by rebelcool on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 01:59:07 PM EST

still making assumptions that people *want* to work together just because *you* do. However, not everyone does, and in a rigid system such as this, it would break the system.

The soviet union had communal farms like what you talk about.. yet they still didnt have enough food because the "demand" was set by government, which is an inherently inefficient and incompetant system. Letting the market decide demand, and yes, businesses will die. It's natural selection.. just as the weak animal will die, so will the business which doesnt diversify or have the cunning to continue.

You again miss the point about inefficiency. Consider the tractor. Someone has to mine the steel, someone has to produce the rubber. Of course to refine these products someone must create the machinery to do so. The same is true for every single part on that tractor. Having one person work on each part is grossly inefficient and you would suffer from poor quality and the thing would take forever to build. Since there is no concept as "brands" there is no competition to build a better product. This is the same fate the soviet union suffered, and is why most complex products such as automobiles were poorly built.

Further, I don't really see where you're going. What kind of society or economic system do you want? What you describe would never work outside of a small community, much less on a global scale that today's world operates. Do you want the world to return to an agrarian system? Or what?

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Money isn't magic (none / 0) (#26)
by dj@ on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 03:07:16 PM EST

Capitalism doesn't somehow magically make people more effecient. My experience has shown that people are much more effecient when they are interested, motivated, and have the will to do what they are doing.

Capitalism doesn't shrink time. If I could be sure that the time I spent helping to mine the steel would be recognized in the form of food, clothes, shoes, toys, goods, etc., I could work to do accomplish this. All I need is my own will, and the consent and trust of others in their will.

Sure, not everyone wants to work together. However, I recognize that by working together and cooperating, I can provide more for myself and for my community. I do it out of a positive choice. You can't force someone to feel or believe anything. They have to arrive at such a stance by their own reckoning.

As for governance, what I'm suggesting is that most of what the government does can be done away with. Substitute good manners, effective organizing, leadership from within the populace, and equality, and you won't need the force that is inextricably linked to the government. Especially, move governance to the local, grassroots level, and don't have any governmental organization that outgrows its scope. In this way, decisions about how much to produce would not be made by some huge central government, but by the individual parties involved.

[ Parent ]
not taking human nature into account (none / 0) (#27)
by rebelcool on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 04:08:11 PM EST

I cant remember who said it, but i recall the quote about human life being "nasty, brutish and short".

Humans are a nasty species. The vast majority do not have good manners, or empathy for his fellow man. We are selfish, greedy and jealous. Perhaps *you* think you are not.. take a sociology class and you'll see why a system based on trust of one's fellow man never ever works. Man is corrupt. Man is lazy. All of man's innovation during this short time on earth has to been to develop ways to make things easier on himself and increase his comfort. So you see, man is lazy.

You mistakenly assume that everyone has motivation to work and has something that they excel at it. Unfortunately, this is also not the case. Things as the household you grow up in, the neighborhood you live in and other aspects of the human environment help define just what motivates you and how productive you are. Does as much productivity come from the inner-city as it does the more educated suburbs? No. Not really. Your view makes me think that you probably come from a comfortable background that encouraged education and to make something better of yourself. Sadly, most inner-city neighborhoods do not have this optimism, and that is something that a government or economic system cannot change.

Money cannot create a perfect utopia in which you describe, but a perfect utopia cannot be formed. Money takes away the very much human aspect in which your system relies on (though the human aspect is that which defines the concept of Market)

The concept of "doing something you want to creates better products" is bunk if the system has no physical rewards. Look at free software - it is constantly playing catch up to commercial software. I addressed in a similar post as to why people working for money do better work than those who do not.

Granted, being forced to work for something you don't want to do results in less productive work, but your system would eventually descend into this. Suppose your community was full of people who just wanted to make artwork. Someone has to grow the food, but nobody really wants to. Thats when a government forms and more or less tells people to grow food or leave. So you see, your system descends into the thing which you claim would not happen. This is all the more so since people of interest tend to be attracted to groups of people with similar interests.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

"To each according to his need..." (none / 0) (#39)
by kitten on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 05:08:13 AM EST

You raise some interesting ideas, but the basic idea that I get from the entire article was that you prefer the "From each according to his ability, and to each according to his need." In other words, if you pull your fair share and produce a good, or help to produce a good, then the goods you require that are produced by others will get to you.

However, I've noticed some comments from you that don't make much sense to me:

"Capitalism doesn't somehow magically make people more effecient. My experience has shown that people are much more effecient when they are interested, motivated, and have the will to do what they are doing."

No, it doesn't make people efficient through "magic". It makes people efficient by threatening to lower their income if they aren't efficient. If you don't flip your burgers or debug your subroutines faster than the guy down the street, you won't get as much business as he will, because people notice these things. It's sort of akin to Darwinism.. the weak and lazy are weeded out (e.g., relegated to low-income jobs) while the motivated and efficient have the potential to pull in a higher income.


"Capitalism doesn't shrink time. If I could be sure that the time I spent helping to mine the steel would be recognized in the form of food, clothes, shoes, toys, goods, etc., I could work to do accomplish this. All I need is my own will, and the consent and trust of others in their will."

You can be sure, in the capitalist money-based system, that after you mine your steel, you will be paid with x amount of dollars, which you can then use to obtain the food, clothes, shoes, toys, etc that you require or want. So I'm not really sure what you're getting at here.

"Sure, not everyone wants to work together."
I sure as hell don't. I'm a misanthropic cynic, it's true.

"However, I recognize that by working together and cooperating, I can provide more for myself and for my community. I do it out of a positive choice. You can't force someone to feel or believe anything. They have to arrive at such a stance by their own reckoning."

Am I to infer from this that you feel the capitalist system is not a form of "cooperation"? I think it is. "Say, you have a certain skill that I need, and I have money. Why we get together and I'll trade this money for your time and labor?" Seems fairly cooperative to me.
By the way, you can force people to believe in things.. People believe that money has value. It used to be backed by silver or gold, which gave it value. In other words, anyone could, in theory, take their money to a bank and demand gold or silver in exchange for it. The monetary system in most of the world no longer works that way. It operates on the fiat system, which (in short) means that the money has value because the government says so. It's printed on the back of every US dollar: "This note is legal tender for all debts." By law, you must accept this dollar as payment. But that's just fine with me, because everyone else has to accept the dollar as payment as well, and therefore I can use the dollar to obtain anything I want or need. As long as everyone ACTS like they believe the money has value, that's all that really matters.

"As for governance, what I'm suggesting is that most of what the government does can be done away with. Substitute good manners, effective organizing, leadership from within the populace, and equality, and you won't need the force that is inextricably linked to the government."

This sounds very much like the above quote, "To each according... from each according..." The reasons it failed are multifold, but surely in part because people are naturally inclined to do as little work as they can get away with. You also assume that people are, by nature, good. They're not. The population is full of greedy, lazy, selfish layabouts that would take advantage of this system by scheming ways to get away with doing less work.

"Especially, move governance to the local, grassroots level, and don't have any governmental organization that outgrows its scope."

On the one hand, I agree. Local governments should have more direct control for their jurisdictions; in this way citizens get more "personal attention" to their needs. However, there does need to be some sort of centralalization, or else the entire system gets bottlenecked by local governments with conflicting views.
A quick example can be taken from the city of Atlanta, where I live. There is a major road here which almost 80% of the population from point A uses to get downtown, which is point B. The traffic every rush hour is absolutely horrendous, because of the sheer number of cars. Bisecting this road almost exactly halfway is a line between two local governments, Cobb and Fulton. Cobb wanted to widen the road so that the traffic situation would be better, but Fulton didn't want to spend the time and money doing that. The argument between Cobb and Fulton ensued for well over seven years before Cobb went ahead and widened their half of the road anyway.. Fulton didn't follow suite because they felt they had better things do worry about, and the traffic situation is now worse because this heavily-travelled road switches from four lanes to two lanes at the county line.
Local governments squabbling with each other produced a negative effect. If the city of Atlanta had stepped in and told both Cobb and Fulton to widen the road, end of discussion, we'd all be a lot happier around here.

Anyway.
I fear that your system only takes into account what people *need* rather than what they *want*. Sure, your system might work out well if all I required were food, water, clothing, and shelter.. but after these basic needs are met, I *want* other things, too. I want a computer, I want a CD player, I want a cellular phone. I don't actually need them, but I want them. How would your system provide for this?
In your system, if I wanted a car, I'd have to produce a hell of a lot of widgets for it, and then my choice of cars would be limited. I'd have to settle for a Yugo, when what I wanted was a Volvo (yes, I really like Volvo, everyone shut up). But in the current system, I have the option of purchasing a Volvo if I have the money available to me. It costs more than a Yugo but I believe it's a better product.

I'm rambling now, so I'm going to stop here.
.kitten.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
no time to comment in depth (3.60 / 5) (#15)
by streetlawyer on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 02:53:55 AM EST

An internet search on the phrase "labour theory of value" will turn up a lot of material on the kind of issue you talk about; it dates back to Adam Smith and David Ricardo, although most of the footwork in turning it into a fully mathematically consistent theory was done by Marx and his followers.

Kantorovich of the Soviet Union's Central Economic Mathematical Institute proved that the kind of system you outline can't ever really work; in order to construct an efficient economic plan, you need to have a single consistent set of exchange prices; all that remains is whether you bother to call one of the goods in your economy "money" and use it as the unit of account. Not that this refutes anything in Marx, btw, or even the concept of economic planning. And the Soviet Union, pace a lot of commentators below, was not the hell-hole which contemporary American propaganda made it out to be; nor was it the hell-hole which it later became, after deregulation and laissez-faire capitalism were introduced. The Soviets had a lower standard of living than the Americans because they started off poorer than the Americans, as much as any other reason; in fact, it is notable that the period 1953-1990 was the only period in the whole of recorded Russian history during which the entire population had enough food to eat.

Finally, I think that you need to replace "money" in most instances in your essay with "capital". Almost all the bad things you say about money are in fact traceable to the private owernship of the means of production and the system of production for profit. Which indeed is a nasty thing, and would be wholly unacceptable if anyone could think of an alternative way of mass-producing goods.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Interest rates may be bug in system (4.50 / 2) (#21)
by Walt on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 01:36:49 PM EST

I think that the concern you've expressed, dj@ (i.e. not liking what $ does to you and your environment, feeling there's something deeply wrong) is a legtimate one that is, alas, all-to-common. As one reader rightly pointed out, designing a monetary system to meet the goals of its host society is no trivial undertaking -- not to mention the difficulty inherent in arriving at the underlying goals in the first place!

It is reasonable to suspect that, if the goal of our monetary system is constructive collaboration rather than dog-eat-dog competition, then perhaps monetary scarcity should not be a fundamental element of the design. I am no economist, but Bernie Lietaer certainly is -- and i have long been intrigued by his idea of replacing the current system of discounted cash flow (i.e. money accumulates interest) with the idea of a demurrage charge (i.e. you pay into the monetary system itself, to the extent that you are hanging onto money). I'd like to research further into the historical examples that Lieter cites -- but right now i can't (gotta go make some more money :-).

With all due respect, i seriously question the (admittedly "poorly thought-out") comment that "if you don't like what money does to you and/or people in general, don't get rid of money. change your outlook on it." Examining the strengths and weaknesses our *particular* monetary system is perfectly legitimate -- thank goodness many smart economists agree! -- especially given the recent shift from industrial to information economics. Really, under the circumstances (e.g. dwindling old-growth forests, and abundant economic incentives for wasting them at ever increasing rates), i would encourage interested parties to take a hard critical look at this system, from a long-term historical perspective. In this 1997 Lietaer interview, you quickly get the picture that our present monetary system is just one in a long string of historical alternatives -- and by no means the last one, either.

|/|/alt

Truly intriguing (none / 0) (#23)
by dj@ on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 02:07:34 PM EST

Bernard Lietaer certainly is very intriguing. I hadn't ever read that interview, so I appreciate your bringing it to the forefront. It was a really interesting read for me.

I guess I would feel a lot more excited about his endorsement and contribution to the local currency idea if he wouldn't call them complimentary currencies. He's a little too apologetic for my taste. The force of the global capital market is what has annihilated local currency and community in the first place, so they are somewhat mutually exclusive.

The idea of a demurrage charge and changing the way interest works seems like a great idea to me, and definitely an improvement over the current design. I just don't see why you couldn't have some unified concept of money, like the way it is now, but that is instead based on kinder and more intelligent principles, regardless of the scope. Things necessarily change as the scope of money increases, but I would prefer that any consideration of "global capital" be seen as a complimentary extension of functioning local communities and economies.

[ Parent ]
An evolutionary perspective (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by SIGFPE on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 02:23:20 PM EST

The Adapted Mind : Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture
by Jerome H. Barkow (Editor), Leda Cosmides (Editor), John Tooby (Editor)
I've just finished reading the chapter on the wason test(1) in this book. This is a book about how human behaviour (not just morphology or biochemistry) is shaped by evolution. The chapter on the Wason Test is particularly interesting because it is essentially arguing that many of the basic conceptual tools for dealing with barter and reciprocation are present in the brain because they have been selected for by evolution and aren't simply learnt. It's a fascinating chapter and I recommend the book highly. Required reading methinks if you want to establish a resource allocation mechanism that is psychologically acceptable to its users as well as being...well...good at allocating resources.

(1) The Wason test is evidence that the human mind is hard coded for solving problems in certain domains because isomporphic problems in different (and sometimes more familiar) domains are harder to solve. (At least for most people. I'm not sure how K5ers will fare on the Wason test.)
SIGFPE

An Interesting Experience... (3.00 / 3) (#25)
by DJBongHit on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 02:44:23 PM EST

This is something that happened to me once after ingesting a relatively large amount of psylocibin mushrooms. I think it gives a good insight into my unconscious feelings about money and capitalism in general.

My roommate and I went to CVS (the store, not the version control system) to get some munchies and soda... we were tripping pretty hard at this point - everything was moving around and changing colors and what-not. The whole scene was beautiful - I felt like an elf in a role playing game or something, on a mission to find something (the "something" being Toblerone and Gummi Worms). Things were sparkling and good, and we were having a great time.

Then came time to pay. As soon as I stepped into the line for the cashier, things turned evil and depressing. I looked at people's faces and saw how sad they were. The cashier was a rather evil person who wouldn't give us our "treasure" without us forking over some money. I felt at that point what people mean when they say that money is the root of all evil. It was a dark, dreary scene that had lost all of its magic as soon as money was introduced into the picture.

Of course, once we left the store, everything turned good again and we returned to the wonderful mushroom world. But I think this experience illustrates how I feel about money on an unconscious (and after that experience, on a conscious) level, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same for a lot of people.

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

the LOVE of money... (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by Zack on Wed Jan 03, 2001 at 11:09:18 PM EST

I felt at that point what people mean when they say that money is the root of all evil

I share (almost exactly) the experience you had in your trip to the drug store (pun intended), but i wanted to point out that the actual quote is "the LOVE of money is the root of all evil." Not money itself. Money is just an easy way for us to barter with a universal good. When people love money for money's sake, the it starts to get a little bad.

--Zack

[ Parent ]

I didn't know that (none / 0) (#31)
by DJBongHit on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 10:11:08 AM EST

I share (almost exactly) the experience you had in your trip to the drug store (pun intended), but i wanted to point out that the actual quote is "the LOVE of money is the root of all evil." Not money itself. Money is just an easy way for us to barter with a universal good. When people love money for money's sake, the it starts to get a little bad.
Huh... I didn't know that, but it makes sense.

When you had that experience, were you tripping too?

~DJBongHit

--
GNU GPL: Free as in herpes.

[ Parent ]
Hit the nail on the head (5.00 / 1) (#32)
by slaytanic killer on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 10:12:34 AM EST

You know, I think you hit it on the head. I often hate it when someone's job is just to accept money from me or to push a revolving door for me. That is a terrible waste óf human.

[ Parent ]
Money problems (4.00 / 1) (#35)
by rabbit on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 04:55:23 PM EST

For years and years, I too had serious issues with money. I hated it. But, after a while, I realized that the larger problem was not money, in and of it self, but rather our relationship with it.

Americans, in particular, have a very poor relationship with money. And with work. But those that complain, aren't really taking into account the fact that our current situation is vastly improved over the past.

The concept of money is an amazing invention. It's a "universal" good(and by good, I mean product). When you work, you are trading your time and your work for money. Some jobs are so easy and boring (ie, security guard) that you're really just being paid for your time - because very little work is being done.

But think about this way. How much more efficient is this than bartering? Way more.

Imagine that you're a security guard for Xyz Co. If we worked on a barter system, then xyz co, might pay you in say, Bushels of grain. And since bushels of grain are more valuable during the winter when they are scarce, they give you fewer bushels throughout the winter months. This leaves you with two problems. One, a drastically fluctuating pay scale, and a bunch of grain that you probably can't do anything with. This means, that you have to waste a bunch of time looking for someone that needs grain, but has something that you have. Like say, shoes. Even if Xyz Co. pays you with whatever their product is, you still have the problem of what to do with the 14 widgets a week that they pay you. You have to find someone that needs these widgets...every single week.

Money solves both of those problems. While money does fluctuate some, it's much slower and rather (at least here) more reliable. The work you produce today is of appoximately the same value as the work yesterday and tomorrow, and December. It also solves the problem of having to find someone to barter with. Everyone takes money.

The problem, again - as I see it, is our relationship with it. Many people think of it as the End, to which work is the means. It's not. Money is part of the means, not the end. The time you spend (in this modern age) shuffling paper, or making burritos, or guarding other peoples cars is not necesarily going to waste. In the past, the same time would have been spent chasing your food around the forest. Or, more likely, waiting very patiently for it to wander by so you could chuck your spear at it.

It allows us the "luxury" of chosing how we spend our time. So long as someone is willing to pay us for it, we can spend our time doing anything, and not have to worry about feeding ourselves. What I mean is this: we have to spend far less of our time producing - for ourselves - the necesities of life.

Bartering is an incredibly inneficient way of doing things. We quit doing it for a reason.

If we didn't have money, you probably would not have the luxury(ie, computer) or the time to bitch about it on K5. If you did, you'd be complaining about how much bartering sucks, and can't we just come up with some standard?

--rabbit

-- I have desires that are not in accord with the status quo.
Not barter (none / 0) (#36)
by dj@ on Thu Jan 04, 2001 at 06:18:01 PM EST

I'm not suggesting a return to the barter system by any stretch. Perhaps I wasn't clear, or perhaps you read quickly. I'm suggesting changing the way money is designed. I agree with you that money is a useful tool, but I also feel that there are a myriad of ways to design and use it.

Also, even if you don't consider money as "The End" during the time you act as an independent individual, you sure as heck better while you're working for someone else. If you spend any time in any capacity in a business, you should consider money the end if you are a responsible employee. Forty hours per week is a long time to work in the service of money. If you don't know that sales drives everything, you don't understand business. A sales person primarily works to bring in more money, and you may have a role less directly connected to acquiring money, but you are still "guilty" by association.

BTW, what's your end? Having an intangible end like happiness, for which money is just the means, will quickly lead to money becoming the end. Even families these days need to be run like businesses if they don't want to go bankrupt. You could rationalize that a sales person isn't really after money, but instead what the money represents, but in practice, it comes down to the abstract numbers. Similarly, money can encroach upon family and community.

As a society, "we" do still have to worry about feeding ourselves. You may personally not be concerned, but plenty of other people thankfully are. How would you like it if you found out the person growing your food uses human feces for fertilizer to improve her bottom line? You might try to protect against this with the law, but the last thing you want is people doing the minimum necessary to avoid breaking any laws. There needs to be a positive force of conscience, for which there is currently no incentive.

[ Parent ]
the End (none / 0) (#41)
by rabbit on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 06:03:07 PM EST

When I work for someone else, yeah, I'm doing it "for" money (most of the time - I'm an independant contractor). But the reason I work isn't so that I can "make money" it's so that I can "be responsible for my own well being", where money, as it happens, is the most convenient tool. Also, as it happens, I'm one of the lucky ones: I love my work. So, working does make me happy, and I've convinced some other person that what I do in my free time - because whether or not someone pays me, I do it - is worth money to them.

You're right: as a society "we" do have to worry about feeding ourselves. But, because "food production" is rather more efficient than it was in the old days, not everyone has to have a hand in it. My point there, was that money allows us to be more efficient, and to produce more.

As for the human feces as fertilizer...well hey, whatever works. Perhaps a bad example. They use it in China, you know? But I get your point, I'm not sure that it's a money issue, though. It's a human nature issue. People always have and always will go after the bottom line. Some people have ethics, some people don't. I don't think that any system that allows any reasonable amount of personal freedom can hope to stop every person with lousy ethics. All we can do, is be vocal that so-and-so is a rat bastard and shouldn't be done business with.

One of the problems with using subjective ideas "love", "brotherhood", or whatever in relation to something like resource management, is that they're well... subjective. Money isn't. Money is money. And my idea of brotherly love may well be rather different than yours...

I'm not sure where I'm going now, so I'll stop. hmmm.

-- I have desires that are not in accord with the status quo.
[ Parent ]
Money as we know has no place in the future (none / 0) (#40)
by MantorpCity on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 11:03:09 AM EST

It's going the way of the Dodo and dinosaurs.

It'll look like yout VISA card. Or an implanted chip.

Collectors might hang on to cash and trade bills for e-currency/credits.

Who want to shovel sh*t? Who wants to eat it? (none / 0) (#42)
by Paul Harm on Fri Jan 05, 2001 at 11:48:56 PM EST

Maybe I'm misreading your article, but it seems that you are making all time expenditures equal. That is spending 6 hours doing task X is equivalent to 6 hours doing task Y. As the subject of my reply might indicate, I don't believe that this is the case.

There exist major tasks that are more unpleasant and more dangerous to the worker, than others. Let's say that there was a debt of servitude that you owed me, as the result of my performing six hours of flower arranging for you. I then ask you to return your six hours by cleaning out my septic tank. Does this seem reasonable? I would suspect that some sort of differential would have to be applied--say, six hours of flower arranging equals one hour of septic tank cleaning.

I'm also not sure how your system lessens the discrepancy between the real value of a good or service, and its symbolic worth (whether in "time" or "money"). Here's a dumb example: Alex spends two hours making a pot of soup. Bob spends two hours making a pot of soup. Alex's soup is so salty as to be almost inedible, and has a somewhat rancid aroma. Bob's soup is delicious, and is almost impossible to eat only one serving of, a soup to end all soups. I would definitely say that Bob's soup is more valuable than Alex's. But according to your system, they are identical in worth. How do you reconcile a labor theory of worth with real differences in use value?

If differentials were allowed in the first case, where there is a difference in harm to the worker, I'm not sure how you could avoid differentials in the second case, where there is a difference in value to the user. This would seem to push "time" far into the world of symbolic goods, making it much more like money. But not having such differentials would not only be unfair, but would probably destabilize the system of exchange.



Who wants to sh*t in the first place? (none / 0) (#44)
by dj@ on Tue Jan 09, 2001 at 10:54:58 AM EST

Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. I've been thinking quite a bit about how to respond.

My first instinct would be similar to yours, that you would have to have increased incentive for the nastier, more dangerous, boring, disgusting, and undesirable tasks in society. Since the reverse is almost true, I don't really know how to respond to your comment. Society seems to reward based on the level of complication invovled in a task, and hence, its scarce and elite nature. Because of this, I don't think I need to justify how to get people to do the less desirable tasks.

If I had to try to give an answer, I would say that if you make your own sh*t, you should be responsible for it too. If you had a choice between crapping in the woods, and transporting waste by bucket brigade in one large amount at the end of the month, you would probably choose the former. If you had to share in the responsibility for removing waste, you would probably want to find a way to make it as pleasant as possible before agreeing to do it. In addition to that, you would probably rather not have that be your only function or task in society, since I don't think you would really gain by heavy specialization in that department.

In regards to the soup and the actual value of time, the idea is to ensure that you are not only exchanging equal time, but also equal value in the process. If I botched the soup that was meant to repay you for the delicious dinner that you had made me, I would do it over again until you were satisfied. Otherwise, you would be reluctant to do "business" with me in the future. That is where the trust part comes in.

That said, it would probably better, if possible, not to make exchanges based on multiples or ratios of time. If you performed six hours of flower arranging, I would prefer to perform six hours of weeding in the garden. Then, if you needed help cleaning out your septic tank, I could help you for six hours doing that, which you could then repay by helping to clean out mine the next day. If it was *our* septic tank, there might not be as much concern.

Finally, there's nothing wrong with shoveling sh*t in the first place. I've heard of executives who will actually pay to come from the city and work on a farm for a week, as some type of retreat to clear the mind or something. I used to live on a farm, and I've cleaned out chicken coops, manure alleys, barn stables, etc. Those were essential tasks for the development and maintenance of the farm, and I didn't mind doing them at all. I quite enjoy that type of work on occasion. It's quite another thing if it's my only job, and even more onerous if I've been "assigned" to it.

[ Parent ]
What Do You Think About the Design of Money? | 44 comments (40 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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