WHITE KNUCKLE THINKING
The book by RIchard Vague called “The Case for a Debt Jubilee” has already sold out on Amazon. More copies soon. The Table of Contents is on the book’s website. Startling as it may be to some, this is still not the most basic way that money can be completely redefined and resigned, at the pleasure of the national politicians. Too scary to think about. But Vague thinks about it, writes about it, and shares what he knows.
I’m no economist and eschew money, but now I’m reading websites like this one: https://paradigmlife.net/blog/better-understand-premise-money/
Already my vocabulary is expanding. “Fiat money is currency that a government has declared to be legal tender, but it is not backed by a physical commodity. It’s different than money backed by gold, because the value of fiat money is derived from the relationship between supply and demand rather than literal gold or the value of the material that the money is made of.” Evidently what the news people talk about all the time is “fiat” money.
“Our “money” has been off the gold standard since 1971, and every major international currency has followed suit. Now you have to ask yourself, “What is a dollar?” It used to represent a measurement of gold. Now it’s not really definable.” And it’s a lot more slippery than it used to be. No one could “launder” gold — just steal it.
The other big element sliding around is that of pretending that a company can be arbitrarily divided into shares that are “owned” by people who have no control over them. The value of these shares go up and down, as we watch slack-jawed on the news every night. No one taught us this stuff in high school. Both political parties like to claim they have control of this amount. And then there is the deviousness of claiming that a corporation is a person while claiming that billionaires are NOT corporations!
Years ago I read something about how insurance companies store their wealth in land. When I began my Montana ministry in 1982, I met a man who was a professional evaluator who wanted to be honest but was being asked to distort the value of certain land or buildings to suit the purposes of politicians and money-hustlers. They drove him out of business for being uncooperative. Now we read in the news how Trump and Putin use land to manipulate money, with outrageous mis-judgements of value.
One day my mother, who had a natural affinity for math, realized with shock that the Gross National Product (“heavy on the gross,” she used to say) included both the negative and the positive — just resolved them both into the profit involved. The climate disaster, the pandemic, are major profit-generators. No wonder it looks like the US is booming. But a little jiggering of the formula and individuals could find their income drastically changed before they had learned to spell “algorithm”, much less define it.
In essays I put this alongside the insurance company’s list of what body parts and whole lives are worth in terms of compensation. We’re used to the high school narrative of what the elements of a human body are worth if they were their essential ingredients. Things are looking up — the total used to be less than $10. Now “99% of the mass of the human body consists of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. They are worth about $576. All the other elements taken together are worth only about $9 more”
This amount is a distraction. Compensated human life value is figured by earning power, years of life left, and so on. (I’m not worth much.) In terms of money. Nothing like the millions of dollars for innocent victims at the end of a lawsuit for the violation of rights.
Be warned that you will run across paragraphs like this one for the military: “For losses listed in Part I, multiple injuries resulting from a single traumatic event may be combined with each other and treated as one loss for purposes of a single payment (except where noted otherwise), however, the total payment amount MAY NOT exceed $100,000.”(https://www.benefits.va.gov/insurance/tsgli_schedule_Schedule.asp)
We dehumanize ourselves in a hundred different dimensions, simultaneously, As a mass, as a single human, as a sacrifice — Another way of figuring human value is when building major dams and bridges. It is known how many people are likely to die in the process of building, but this number is listed and accepted. But few contingencies have been more ghastly, even war and famine, than the pandemic that just walks in among us, taking whole families as well as grannies. I don’t know how insurance is responding to this.
Since we have become so fixated on mercantilism, it has dawned on us that class divisions are wealth divisions in the most obvious but unrealized ways, like the cost of buying food or traveling to where one gets the food. It amounts to charging poor people more to live than it costs for wealthy people and is clearly a way of keeping some people poor.
It’s not just that this sprawling first attempt at understanding money and what it stands for is pretty confused. We’re all pretty confused about it. This chaotic reconstruction we can’t escape is really an opportunity to work on this in plain sight. A basic guaranteed citizen’s income? The reconciliation of money as it moves between nations? Systems that try to escape nations by inventing computer credits? Whether money should ever be objects a person carries around like greenbacks or even silver dollars? (Heck, we still used those in Browning when I came in 1961.) A debt jubilee is not just historical and biblical, it sounds reasonable. After all, it’s only money.