Electric Politics
 
Donate to Electric Politics

Blank
Blank
Blank
Green Party USA
Blank
Socialist Worker
Blank
CoffeeGeek.com
Blank
Grist
Blank
Whole Foods
Blank
Whole Foods
Blank
Ben & Jerry's
Blank
Al Jazeera English
Blank
911Truth.org
Blank
Sierra Trading Post
Blank
Black Commentator
Blank
Black Commentator
Blank
Pluto Press
Blank
In These Times
Blank
USNI
Blank
In These Times
Blank
CASMII
Blank
CounterPunch
Blank
CounterPunch
Blank
News For Real
Blank
News For Real
Blank
If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger
Blank
News For Real
Blank
The Agonist
Blank
The Anomalist
Blank
Duluth Trading
Blank
Digital Photography Review
Blank
New Egg
Blank
Free Link

INTERMITTENT NOTESXML

On the Power of Naming Things

Exclamation point graphicFor the sake of argument, let's suppose that I'm right: if we want a functional, modern, democratic national government we must have an entirely new constitution and, in spite of the current odds against, that eventually we will have one. But, then, should we keep the name of our country the same? The United States of America seems such a throwback to the colonial era, in sync with our current dysfunctional government but perhaps not quite an appropriate name for a new government. And what about the American flag? Too much change in either our name or our flag, or both, would be difficult, perhaps in themselves as much a barrier to reform as it will be to devise and gain acceptance for a new constitution. Just something to ponder...

« In Praise of Milk | Main | Miscommunications With Iran »



Comments


The best thing that could happen is for the union to dissolve. Let the "red states" form their own country, and the rest of us can have ours and neither country will be big enough to be an imperial power, thus saving a lot of money and lives.


I think there is a bit of throwing the baby out with the bath water there. Unless we really examine what the problems are, it is far more likely we will end up with something far worse, since the current vested interests would be sure to write any new constitution even more in their favor.

This country has had the extreme good fortune of enormous natural resources, territory, various industrial, technological and information revolutions to propel it to where it is today and rather than just throw up our hands and quit because the road ahead looks uncertain isn't a very wise move. Thirty years ago, Carter suggested we tighten the belt, but Reagan said to just put it on the credit card and so we have. Now that option has run its course, we can either break up into tribes and fight it out, or examine the nature of our predicament and see if there is any other recourse. This is an essay I've been thinking about for some time and writing recently:

Money is not a commodity. It is a contract. If you give someone a piece of paper that says redeemable for one ounce of gold, guaranteed by the taxpayers, the federal reserve, or whatever, it is a contract. It is not so much notational value, but notational trust in the entity issuing that note and it is the fact that civilization has managed to commodify trust that has first created a global economy and society and is now driving it over the edge.

Economists have long sought aboriginal peoples using primitive monetary systems in order to understand how they originated, but haven't found any resembling a modern sense of common currency. That is because native societies are built on organic trust and reciprocity and when they break down, the result is schism and conflict. It is only as societies grew too large for individuals to be relatively familiar with most other members of the group that forms of tradable currencies became necessary.

Centuries ago there wasn't enough economic data to determine how much currency the economy needed to function, so this banking system evolved where the money is essentially borrowed into existence. Since debt tends to grow in tandem with economic growth, this proved quite effective. The problem being that growth was required to pay off the debt and debt grew to finance the growth, so it tends to spiral out of control, until some form of event causes sufficient debt to be written off and the system resets. Now modern math, social fears and norms, along with computer information processing have manage to sustain the growth of debt far beyond any previous bubble. Those controlling this system have both closed off as many avenues of debt relief possible, while allowing the growth of debt to continue. The result being that the currency is being drained out of the larger economy and only those parts of the economy which sustain the enormous bubbles of stored currency have access to this flow of funds. It is like huge storm clouds of excess wealth over a parched economy.

If one were to compare society to the body and the ecosystem, government is a form of central nervous system, while finance is the circulatory system. For a long time, government was a private function, spanning the range from warlords, to their gentrified descendants, monarchs. Eventually though, societies grew more dynamic than dynasties could control and the patent on governance passed into the public realm. Now we are reaching a point where private banking is proving too inefficient and corrupt and there is a growing awareness that it really must function as a public utility. Monarchists used to say "mob rule" could never work and those now in control of the financial system say public banking can never work, but democracy functions by pushing power down to the level it is most responsive and responsible, rather than concentrated all in one location or group. Similarly a public banking system would have to be dispersed and locally based as well, with regional alliances forming as the economy recovers.

While banking and finance are the circulatory system of the society, money is the blood coursing through it. Not only does it transport energy and necessary minerals around the body, but blood is a foundational ingredient to these various organs as well. So if we think of the organs as private property and the vessels as public highways, the blood crosses this divide and most people are not disposed to think of the contents of their bank accounts as anything other than personal property. So how to build an argument explaining the larger reality?

What gives money its intrinsic value is the willingness of the larger society to assign it value and trade you other forms of value for it. As such it is a multi-party contract and its value is derived from faith in the system it represents. The simple fact is that we really don't own this money, because it would be close to worthless if it were our own currency. That's not your picture printed on it and if it were, no one who did not know and trust you would take it. Just try printing up some and find out who holds the copyrights on the common currencies. Now if it is a private system issuing that money, be it Caesar, the king, or a private banking consortium, then the rest of the economy is a vassal state. If it were a public system, then profits derived from its management can be spent maintaining the infrastructure of the larger society and not just build castles for a few.

If people understand that money is a form of public utility and not actual private property, then they will naturally be far more careful what value they take out of social relations and environmental resources to put in a bank account. This would serve to make people's own self interest a mechanism to put value back into society and the environment. Thus building back up the more organic forms of trust and reciprocity, of which money is the notational derivative.

As for improving government, it should be noted that there is not a logical budgeting process in place. These enormous bills are bundled up by the most powerful interests and enough extra is added to gain sufficient support. The result is production of public debt to feed the banking system. To budget is to order one's priorities and spend accordingly. A possible method to apply this to government might be to break these bills into their "line items" and have every legislator assign a percentage value to each item. Then reassemble them in order of preference and have the president draw the line at what is to be funded. This would still divide responsibility, as well as spread power out over the larger political system. The percentage voting would give legislators far more maneuvering room than a yes/no system.

Since this would undoubtedly reduce Federal spending on local needs, having a bottom up public banking system, that would funnel wealth back into the local economies, rather than draining it off to New York, to be borrowed by Washington and then sent back to those communities, would fill that need.


In devising such a new constitution, we might want to rethink the political geography of N. America. Going back to Joel Garreau in the early 1980's there have been a number of analyses that look at the cultural, social and economic regions of this continent. Do these regions make sense as political units? A question to explore.

Cheers


"Eventually though, societies grew more dynamic than dynasties could control and the patent on governance passed into the public realm. Now we are reaching a point where private banking is proving too inefficient and corrupt and there is a growing awareness that it really must function as a public utility."

I have not yet heard an explanation as to how control over the money power can be democratic. Real democracy is only found in the popular assembly and yet the larger the assembly becomes the less responsibility each individual in that assembly will have for its decisions. The less responsibility there is for each member, the less motive there will be to participate. As a result, as the assembly gets larger, actual power in the assembly will tend to fall more and more into the hands of small factions of ruthless intriguers. Subsidiarity so as to keep the size of the assemblies manageable seems to be the logical solution and yet I do not see how that could work for money-printing as opposed to say, building bridges. The only way would be to allow numerous currencies, each issued by a separate assembly, to circulate in the same country. However, sooner or later, some "currency of currencies" would have to emerge and the question of who controls the issuance of that common currency would arise again.

Leave a comment