Sunday, August 08, 2010

Decomposing America

I've been having a "debate" with a right wing nut over in social group land. He claims to be a millionaire businessman but Margaret thinks he's a poser. Nevertheless it has been interesting seeing just how angry and pissed off he is. He sees the changes coming up in our economy as being a direct threat to his way of life. He's in construction but he thinks the new economy will not help him out much. The "New Economy?" you ask? Yes, the old one was getting frayed around the edges so we got a new one coming in. The essence of it is that the corporations running the government have been devouring one another for some time now and we are reaching a tipping point. The Fascist Regime which is America is part of an older template for human social interaction based primarily on relative wealth. Read: class war. The money has been trickling up to such an extent that businesses have been happily sending factories east to make even more profits. A problem with this short sightedness is that the unemployed buy very few things, no matter how "affordable" they are. But the reason for this older form of economy is the transformation of labor into money. The flaw lies in the nature of money and it's perversion by our society.

Money is a tally device, a means by which labor completed or promised is kept track of by counters of metal or paper strips. The coins are fair for metalworking and the colored strips of paper make lousy toilet paper but good eyeglass wipes. If a person should work for ten hours they get a counter marking their rate of pay and hours worked. it is possible then to transfer this counter to another person in exchange for their labor. This is a sort of Ponzi scheme where everything works until the papers fail to deliver. For instance, say a ditch digger works ten hours and gets a paper saying ten hours @ $10/hr equals $100. In point of fact the dollars have very little intrinsic value but they represent ten hours labor @ $10/hr. If that $100 is given to a doctor, say, one might find that it covers one hour of labor, not ten. So, although the numerical markings on the paper have not changed the value of the paper has. Furthermore it is possible for someone to get their paws on a pile of paper when they have done nothing to earn it. It might be a promise or it might be theft. Let's say I find a wallet with $1000 in it and I keep the papers for myself. Aside from the question of right or wrong there is the displacement of labor contained in this act. I can now hire ten men to dig ten hours at $ and get my basement fixed. Nevertheless it can be argued that there is an imbalance which will have to be reckoned with eventually.

In our society here in America, we can also write our own script through checks and money orders. We can write contracts for millions of hours of labor with no coins or paper passing hands. In short, currency has little or no value except to tally labor completed and/or promised. In recent years more and more of the tally markers are numbers on a computer screen. Eventually it would be possible to remove money from the system and replace it with a tally board of relative labor values and time spent in labor activities. Labor is not passive, it changes things. An hour with a doctor might result in a headache being cured or it might be a tumor detected and saving a person's life. Money takes on a local value determined by the value of that person's skill set. It is further modified by the immediate need for that skill set. When a pipe is not leaking a plumber's time is not so valuable.

Money was invented by the rich and powerful to hold sway over the poor. It tips the scales in society. If a person were to accumulate a considerable amount of money they would hold sway over those with none in a time of universal need. In a drought the money could be used to hire diggers to make a canal from a river to the farmlands. But nothing stops the diggers from digging before any money passes hands. The money is not even the motivation for digging, the water is. In a moneyless society the ditch would still get dug and all would benefit, but in a monied society if enough money is not present the ditch does not get dug and the farms suffer. An example is in Haiti where a lady owned several mango trees but hadn't enough water to grow more. The river was a few yards away and she needed a ditch. Arrangements were made for the ditch to be dug but because this was in a money environment it took many weeks of negotiating over who would get how many paper tokens in exchange for the use of the land and the transportation of the water for irrigation. It might be noted that the ditch can serve more than one farm. In a moneyless society it would quickly be determined that the ditch had value and workers would dig the ditch to increase the mango yield, serving many people in need.

I have had people question my contention that money per se has no real value and actually slows down an economy which is dependent on it. Prior to the invention of money work was accomplished by people in exchange for the common good. Like rice farmers working together for the common harvest things got done. We have used money for so long we have forgotten how to make things happen without it. I suggested recently that we have thousands of empty houses in America and thousands of homeless people. In a moneyless society it is obviously for the greater good to get those people into those houses. I am told that people who get houses "for free" will not appreciate the houses and will trash them. The bigotry revealed in this statement is really pretty obvious: the poor are slobs. The benefit to society should be obvious as well. People in houses get sick less often than people who live on park benches. There is no good reason for keeping the homeless as homeless, anymore than it is reasonable to keep people from working. Our bridges and roads are unsafe, we haven't enough light rail lines and virtually no way to move people around large cities without polluting the environment. All of these issues can be solved by people working together for the common good, and this labor pool would need to live in houses. The solution should be clear.

We would be surprised if firemen came to our burning home and declared their rates for saving the house, yet that is exactly how it worked a few years ago. Public financing of fire protection became a group effort because of the group impact of fires. Nobody goes to a fire with their hand out. Things change and we should be open to the passing of outmoded ways of getting things done. If we made food, housing and health care basic human rights afforded to all we could eliminate money, which would eliminate economic classes. People would work one on one with a fair exchange of goods and services being set up by the parties directly involved. One more item to scratch off the list of governmental functions.