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What Exactly is Money?

A separation of truth and myth about our monetary system

By Jon Ronnquist

December 13, 2008 "Information Clearinghouse" --- The problem with money is essentially a question of faith. Money is a promise represented in paper, metal and digits and is as valuable as it is trustworthy. And because trust is a volatile and abstract thing at best, so is money a risky business. Its usefulness is of course undeniable. In a world as complex and multifaceted as this one, barter becomes increasingly limited as a practical means of exchange. And yet we should do well to remember that for all its practicality, money posses a very real danger, the obvious one being devaluation. But that is by no means the only or the most serious threat posed by money. As in all matters of faith, manipulation is the far greater evil.

The gold standard against which currency was once levelled is now the distant memory of a bygone age. Whatever value is represented by your Dollars, Pounds and Euros is now set solely against the trust of the user, which is to say what buyers and sellers believe it to be worth. And so it should be and must be. No man would take money for his livestock or labour if he did not believe it would be accepted in kind by the purveyors of his own needs. This is basic economics and I see no reason to bore anybody with such things. The point is that money, as a concept, is sound and necessary. But what happens when it falls into the hands of those who see money as something more than a simple mechanism of trade? Those who see in it also an opportunity to consolidate power. Then we are in trouble.

There are several axioms which govern the function of money. Adhered to, they guarantee fair and good use. Abused, they are the gateway to untold troubles. First, money is not a commodity, but a public service. In itself it has no real value or use beyond the facilitation of exchange. If this is hard to digest, try eating it, planting it or getting it to mow your lawn. And like all essential public services, it fares best in the hands of representative government.

Second, money must exist in a quantity that is relatively equal to the volume of exchange it expedites. Where the supply is insufficient it creates an artificial strangulation of trade, where necessary and vital transactions become arbitrarily halted for want of worthless paper. Where it is allowed to exist in excessive quantities, the value of real goods and services is artificially lowered to the detriment of all. A money supply which is not regulated professionally and competently will begin to outweigh it own benefits.

Third, some cap must exist on savings. Money removed from the supply and set to one side must be replaced to ensure it does not violate its own primary purpose by deflating. If it is reintroduced in excessive quantities it will also have the effect of causing inflation. This does not become a problem if deposits and withdrawals from saving are relatively balanced. It also illustrates that huge stockpiles of unreasonable wealth violate the laws upon which money operate and should not be allowed.

Fourth and last, money must be introduced into circulation as payment, not debt. To make money available on the condition that it must be taken back out of circulation in equal or greater measure is a violation of its purpose and leads to all manner of problems. Earth in the twenty-first century being the most obvious one.

As populations rise, production increases and trade expands, more money must be made available to facilitate it. The question of how this is done fairly is simple but requires first and foremost a sound government. Money must be introduced through payment for goods and services of universal benefit to the population. This means direct investment into public infrastructure, services and institutions. Healthcare, roads, bridges, libraries, parks, highways, schools, research and science, welfare institutions, water and power infrastructure, the maintenance of public parks and wildlife reserves and public transport to name a few. In this fashion the benefit is egalitarian and money will trickle into first the secondary economy (automobile production, private services, finance, electronics, etc.) and eventually into the luxury economy (holiday providers, premium branded good, unessential services, etc.). The extent to which the second and third tiers of the economy are successful is dependant on the state of essential services, as it should be. Otherwise we get luxury sports cars driving down deteriorating highways and criminal opulence in the face of inhumane poverty. And for those who are thinking this is some kind of socialist/communist rhetoric, I pray you wake up soon. This is reality. What we live today is a twist on that reality and one that we better star seeing for what it is. Contrary to popular belief, the great failed Marxist experiments of the age are not failures of those philosophies so much as proof that there is no room left in the order of things to even try them.

It is a dominant idea in modern politics that too much government is “bad for business”. But that is an argument made by business that has no place in the civilized world and it is true only from that very narrow and twisted point of view. And where the common man agrees, it is only on the understanding that modern government are not really governments at all, but representatives of private power. A government run by and for the people is an absolute must if society is to progress at all.

If a government is charged with the responsibility to uphold the rights of those it represents it must be empowered to do so. The right to political freedom, democracy and a fair chance at success are all very pretty sentiments, but what about the right to work, to food, water, shelter and education? Surely these things are as important. For government to ensure all the rights of citizenship, it must have either ownership of or at least firm regulatory power over all the institutions which provide them. But unless you can find a private enterprise willing to provide these services without profit as its primary concern, they are best left to government. Essential human needs, which are all derived from the very earth we inhabit, must not and can not become sources of private profit. This doesn't mean that those who bear the greatest burden of responsibility should not be compensated accordingly, it means the institutions themselves should not be allowed to develop selfish domineering ambitions and the stockpiles of wealth to pursue them. This is not socialism, but humanity.

Another thing that should not be allowed to happen to money is it's pining against the value of other currencies. When it is, it immediately becomes a commodity in its own right, traded like goods with the aim of increasing wealth. This is an essential violation of the axioms which govern money and a gateway to extensive abuse. Trade done over borders would need to be handled in a global market place with its own currency, against which only commodities are assigned value, not currencies. The value of sugar would be assigned in this currency on any given day based solely on existing demand and so on. Such a trade currency would have no paper form, but would only be a numeric value assigned to all traded commodities, its purpose being to form a barrier between different national currencies to avoid them becoming commodities.

The alternative would be one government, one people, one currency. But this is a utopian dream that would require a separate dissertation all together. My reference to a world government should not be confused with the one being pushed for today. The New World Order as it has come to be known, is entirely devoted to what would sit at its head, not who it would pretend to represent.

The above is a rough outline of what money is supposed to be and how it is supposed to work. Unfortunately reality is a stark contrast to this. The reason is quite simple. Every axiom outlined above has been heavily violated by those entrusted to care for our monetary systems. In doing so, money has come to serve a second and very sinister purpose, one that almost seems to justify its eradication from use all together and the introduction of a clean start.

Before the post office, the water works, the phone companies and the coal mines were auctioned out of the hands of the people and into those of for-profit private enterprise, another public service was sold to the private sector, the money works. In an age none are old enough to remember, and a frighteningly small percentage of us even know about, the production, supply and regulation of national currencies was surrender by government after government. If anyone wonders when things really started going wrong for planet earth, that was the day. Almost every daily hardship we suffer now has its roots at least partially set in this dark era. But more important than the fact is the reason. It would be nice to believe that it was simply the suggestion of a group of concerned citizens who thought they could do a better job and that governments obliged out of genuine concern for its populations. We do not even need to know what was said or exactly how this was done to know that is not true. The men responsible and their successive dynasties have had a long time to prove their intentions and the proof is overwhelmingly in favour of the notion that it was done with a view to turning the world into a feeble shadow of its former self. Why would men do this? For power? Control? Sure. What are they afraid of? You and me. But I fancy that they see us not as we are, but with red eyes, split hooves and forked tails. But whatever the reason, the facts remain the same.

The first and primary violation of these new private national banks was to create money only as debt. This of course ensured that a country's debts would grow in direct proportion to its economy. This is a fact so illogical that it leaves the mind boggled and helpless to make sense of it. But only so long as you assume the intent was benevolent. See it for the sheer evil that it is and you need be confused no more. Think of it this way. A trader does business between two markets several miles apart. To move his products back and forth between them he needs carts. But carts cannot be made or owned, they can only be borrowed. And for every cart that is borrowed two must be returned in due course. So he borrows ten carts on the understanding that he must return twenty by year's end. Only by year's end he not only has but ten carts, he needs another ten to keep up with his expanding business. His only choice is two borrow forty new carts. Twenty to return as payment for the first ten and twenty for use. And now he owes eighty carts by year's end. And the better things get, the deeper in debt he is. And the circle can never be broken. So why doesn't he just make his own carts? It would be easy enough. Only by the time he comes to this simple conclusion, the law, the courts and the police are all in the cart borrowing enforcement business.

And so it is with the money supply today. All the money, the land and the commodities on earth could not pay all the debt. And as interest is ever due and mounting, borrowing must grow to keep up. Where does the cycle end? By all appearances, it's ending now. And what has come to an end exactly? Production? Resources? Human intelligence? No. Borrowing has slowed down, thereby interrupting the unstoppable cycle and calling a halt to trade through an artificial scarcity of money. Is this real? No. Your willingness to work hasn't changed and nor has your desire for the things you would buy with your earnings. Everything is in place to allow life to go on, bar one thing. The worthless paper and coinage that serve as nothing but a tool of interaction. If everyone simply agreed, we could start printing our own money at home and use it to go on as we did. Provided it didn't get out of hand, (which it would on account of the prevalence of certain mindsets) life would just go on. Because money is just paper and an idea backed by trust, nothing more.

But when it is controlled out of personal interest by a greedy few, we can see how it is also a very effective control mechanism. First replace supply with loans, then when the country is irreversibly in debt control those loans. Withdraw credit for a while, strangle the economy until it screams for more debt and supply it. Or flood the economy with worthless money and then recall debts fast and wait for the inevitable chaos to ensue. Delegate your divine right of money creation for interest to commercial banks and watch the population strangle itself with unmanageable debt. Allow Wall Street to create value out of thin air by turning confidence into price tags which soon have no comparable relation to the things they are attached to, as banks increase lending to make them affordable to you and me. Wait for the population to buckle under under the strain of unmanageable debt, then lend more to their governments. Watch wars begin and lend to each side. Every time the cycle comes full circle, the concentration of power is a little less diluted and a lot more frightening.

Ever wonder why your representatives in government seem helpless to make real changes to bad situations? It's because the situations are only bad from where you're standing and he or she couldn't change them if they wanted to. They just don't have permission. From who? From the people that own your mortgage and his. From the people who lend your county, state and country the paper it needs to go on at all costs. From the people who own your car, your TV and your fridge. If you want something to change, you need to ask them. And they won't want them to change.

So what does a man do? Call me an anarchist, I'm beyond caring about semantics and sentiment and being a good boy. If you can't afford to comfortably repay what you owe in a reasonable amount of time, don't pay it. Declare bankruptcy, leave your phone off the hook, move to Mexico. So you'll be persona non grada with the credit people. They never liked you in the first place and now you'll never have to do business with them again.

The point is that we need to see money for what it is. It's just paper and that's all. Would you revere you toilet roll in a similar fashion? That's because you know it's just toilet paper, useful, handy but not essential. And when it runs out there are other ways, you don't have to stop using the toilet.

One means of circumventing a crash created by a lack of national currency is the creation of a local currency. This has been done throughout history on many occasions to counter the collapse of national banks. It's a shame to think that the ingenuity such a bold plan would require is fatally lacking in most modern communities, who have become so dependant on the vicious circle of big banks, big employers and big chain stores for their survival that such a radical departure from the comfort of the status quo would almost certainly be beyond the imagination. Saying that, pressure can have a miraculous effect on the mindset.

I don't know if things are too far gone to allow for hope of real change, but I think we are about to find out one way or the other.

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