Score, part 5

So here are the issues with money:

From starting out as a convenient promisory note for goods you didn’t feel like carrying around in the marketplace, cash tokens have evolved in the public consciousness as something with actual intrinsic value. This is a mistake. In small amounts it’s worth goods and services, but hoarding it in large amounts just makes the machine creaky and makes whatever authority issues it have to print more. A more ideal version of money would be itself immune to the pressures of supply and demand. Hell, maybe money you haven’t spent in 72 hours should become worthless, and if you want to have a savings, you should buy something of lasting value with it. That would stop the hoarding.

Instead, the consumer economy tends to invest “disposable income” in disposable goods — a constant stream of clothes that go out of style or fall apart or electronics that work for maybe a year or two before they break or need upgrading or, perhaps more usefully, investments in “personal upgrades”: travel, enriching experiences, experiential entertainment, hobbies that amount to training in a craft or a trade. In any case, money is exchanged for deserved life experiences or lifestyle maintenance or upgrades after the necessities are covered — but there is no connection between money and decaying or consumed products. There should be enough cash in the system to represent the actual value of goods and services that are available to change hands, and there should be deliberate action to make sure that the right amounts are in the right hands at the right time. Ideally.

Because the system we have right now has evolved accidentally, emerging from social practices out of the materials at hand with no directing hands except for those who had every expectation of collecting all available wealth into their own hands, with only each other’s direct competition as a system of checks and balances. Oh, and the occasional bloody revolution.

The foam-based interest-and-credit economy is a symptom of evolution in an unstable and unsupportable direction — as well as a symptom of guiding hands that don’t have the best interest of the economy as a whole at heart. This is the root of the money-sink/money-spigot system, aggravated by, let’s face it, the not-necessarily-fair-or-just game-winning scenario of being able to retire from worthwhile labor merely because you’ve hoarded enough essential trade lubricant to generate an income from interest and dividends, which only happens when your hoarded fake wealth has passed some sort of critical mass/density/Schwarchild-radius phase-change threshold…. Did you follow that?

Imagine trying to explain that scenario to an alien intelligence from another world. That’s my usual measure of how busted things are: how long it would take to explain to someone not from Earth and/or whether they would ever actually buy that I wasn’t making it all up.

Anyway, the only justice in the aforementioned game-winning scenario is the myth that it’s an achievement available to anyone. And that’s simply not true. Some people start their run on the game with a sizable wad handed to them at birth or by huge payoff of some gamble or insurance policy or inheritance. Some people in the game-winning scenario make it a point to restrict opportunities to family and friends and people who are already in their networks, and take every available action to ensure that the club remains exclusive.

Perhaps it isn’t even conscious. The confusion of deserving with having fat stacks of cash creates a gradient field that pushes against those with no money and attracts those who already have plenty to those money-sink/money spigot singularities, especially since it’s the agents of those singularities who decide — or create the artificial measures which aid the decision-making process — who is deserving of newly created fake-money-but-soon-to-be-real-money investment funds.

Like for any system where there is a measure that is only loosely connected to the property it is intended to gauge, it becomes far simpler to “game the system” and run up the score than it is to actually increase the property in question. For example, if a company notes a correlation between calls made per day by a sales team and an increase in income from sold products, then they may institute a policy of rewarding or punishing agents based on the number of calls made per day. It’s too easy a measure to take and too unlinked from the bottom line, however. Agents who are behind on sales calls can call numbers at random. Agents who find cold calls onerous can call friends and family or perhaps make a habit of calling voicemail for people they know are away from their desks. And suddenly you’re rewarding your laziest, shirkingest workers while your best producers languish and worry about being fired.

Any measure can be gamed — and will be — but if no attempt is ever made to correct the situation, the measure simply turns into a score for the game. The problem with money being the false measure of deserving is that there are people who aren’t even allowed to play that game trying to buy groceries with their paltry, dwindling score.

I propose we work to find a better measure of deserving than the one your typical loan officer uses — one that is unconnected to the accident of birth and/or relation, one not subject to artificial scarcity or hoarding, and one that can compete in the free market with money as a measure of someone’s worth (since the worldwide abolition of money is unlikely in the extreme).


December 10, 2010 · by xalieri · Posted in Everything Else  


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