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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Money, debt, magic...

The Chaotist current (a rare esoteric school of thought of the second half of the 20th century) provided me with some useful tools to understand the nature of Reality and how magic (or
magick as they spell it) is nothing but the ability to persuade others as in the case of publicity (or of course the more classic but otherwise similar case of illusionism). In this sense it is a useful break up with the dominance of rationalism and materialism in modern thought helping us, once you get pass their esoteric formalisms, which are nothing but a cover up, a misleading cue and/or an elaborate joke, to understand the deep reality behind mere objectivism. That is the mental or subjective reality and the social reality that arises from the interaction of these subjectivities.

Another contemporary current that heavily dwelt in the importance of subjectivity but from a Marxist and more rationalist and revolutionary perspective, was Situationism. That's the kind of forces that LSD and the like liberated, I guess.

Maybe the most important concept I appropriated from Chaotism is that of godform, which, as I understand it, means some concept believed by many to be true, turning to have some sort of life of its own, not being fully controllable by anyone in particular. Typical cases of godforms are, of course, gods or equivalents such as Yaveh, Vishnu, Zeus, Allah, 'God' (Deus), Buddha, Tao, Baron Samedi, Pachamama, Yemaya, etc.

Regardless of their values and connection with aspects of reality or interactions between them, what really imbues them of a life of sorts is the belief of their followers. They feed on faith and die off when people stops believing in them.

Ideologies are also godforms, again regardless of their goodness or evilness: they feed on faith and can die off if people stops believing in them. Only the most powerful magi (some prophets, messiahs, caliphs, popes, buddhas, ayatollahs, master propagandists or great revolutionary leaders) can have some control over them, however, human life span is rather brief, while that of godforms transiting the social continuum can be much longer (though eternal is just an exaggerated claim).

But the godform of our time above all others is Money. As everyone with a critical mind who has studied Economics (as I did for some time) knows this discipline is not any science but a doctrine and dogma. Of course, it has some scientific elements of sorts, nothing can exist against the daily reality check, but these are just tools for the main objective of the discipline that is to create a cult around certain school of economics, namely liberalism.

Money as such is merely a token of debt, which by virtue of its token nature can be circulated more easily than merchandises. I produce something with my recognized work and I get paid in said tokens, which represent social debt in my favor which I can the spend in things I need or desire. It requires some historical developments such as social and economical complexity and private property, but otherwise it is that simple. Either it is a consensus valuable item, such as cows, salt, shells or gold, or it is guaranteed by the power of social organization itself, namely the state, in which case it can be perfectly a paper note or even a mere accountancy annotation on a register, which is what you use nowadays when you write down a check or pay with a debit card.

But their token or merely accountancy nature makes control of money, such an important social and economic tool, a key resort of power. You can gain control of money by accumulating it but the real power is in issuing it. There are two ways of issuing money: physically creating it, which is normally a privilege of the state (though historically often subcontracted to private minters), or virtually creating it by means of accountancy magic (i.e. lending well beyond what one has, a privilege of banks mostly). The differences between the various types of effective money supply are typically called M1, M2, M3 and by other similar names (M1 means physical cash plus "real" accounts while M3 means the whole amount of virtual money circulating in accountancy annotations). M3 can be many times M1, as you can see in this graphic for the Eurozone (the USA does not anymore publish M3 figures, surely to hide some grave economic facts caused by over-printing and over-lending by the Fed):

There are much worse cases than EU, indeed, specially in regard to disparate growth of M3 in comparison to M1 and M2. As the exclusive components of M3-M2 are almost never in the hands of common people (as well as most of M2-M1), the disparate growth of this kind of virtual inflationary money supply generally means that the elite becomes richer while the commoners lose.

But maybe more important than all these esoterisms of the Economic "science" it is the fact that bankers can lend money they do not own (they lend on account of your deposited money) and that gives them key control over all the monetary flux, specially if they act with some consensus (oligopoly) and have the complicity of the states, much more if they meet regularly at global level (Davos, Trilateral Commission, etc.) and have secretariats and offices to ensure that their wishes come true (IMF, OCDE, World Bank, etc.).

Where do I want to go? Actually I mostly wanted to introduce a couple of economic articles published at Global Research:

Zoltan Zigedy writes from Hungary on the debt trap imposed by the IMF to his country (and so many others - I recently mentioned India for example)

For decades, left critics of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have maintained that the IMF is merely a tool for enforcing the interests of financial elites, especially those in the US. Predictably, this view has been scornfully dismissed by those in power and their media lackeys who posture the institution as the benefactor of needy countries. The persistent history of the IMF’s extortionate funding, linked to austere cuts in social spending, is simply dismissed as pressing fiscal responsibility on countries lacking the spine to address their profligacy. Such are the myths that sustain faith in global capitalism.

But a close look at the IMF in action reveals the politics lurking behind its high-sounding mission statements. Read the whole article...

It is painfully ironic that Hungary, the poster child of EU and IMF draconian deficit contention policies and former socialist bloc recycling to capitalism is subject to such a extortion by the imperial financial oligarchy.

Naturally this is raising nostalgia for communism because, whatever the faults and limitations of the old system, nobody ended up begging in the streets or having to live on welfare for lack of jobs.

It reminds me when, 21 or 22 years ago, I went on a visit to the European Parliament with people of the movement against the Leizaran highway (as unpaid and informal journalist for an alternative news agency). Besides of our host, we were welcomed and briefed by some liberal MEP who said that EU was ready to welcome specifically Hungary "if they adopted democracy". I had to ask an uncomfortable question: what if Hungary adopted democracy but kept a socialist economic system? He replied that in that case they could not enter EU because blah blah market economy blah blah.

I had to ask, you know. I was barely 20 but I knew already that it was not a matter of mere formal democracy.

The other article, by Ellen Brown, is quite curious because it is an apology of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia... before it was privatized.

The bank was created with zero capital and a small loan from the government on the quite reasonable belief that central banks are backed by the whole wealth of the country (i.e. by the moral authority of the government as social organizer and representation). It was the only bank with zero capital, yet it worked perfectly well (what illustrates well the virtual and faith-based nature of money).

But woe! The bank not only lent at low rates to private financiers, as most central banks do, but it also lent to the general public at similarly low rates and kept a reputation as "the people's bank" until its privatization 15 years ago. Of course, that's considered "socialist" by Thatcherian/Reaganist standards but it's what used to work and therefore it is being demanded again.


Lou Alvis said...

I have been working har to explain the myth of money..
this work of your is a great help

Maju said...

It's a myth but not a myth like Herakles and Geriones but more like the Bible, it's a presently alive godform and as such it's vested of enormous virtual ("magical") power of its own, even if it lacks an autonomous mind it does have an algorithm of sorts implicit.

This is not like in Erik the Viking's film where the unsuccessful missionary, for lack of faith in the Nordic religion, can ignore the "facts" of Valhalla and that way save his friends and the world. That scene has a good point but it's not that simple. The same there was no room for unbelievers in Medieval Europe and they easily ended dead, imprisioned or otherwise marginalized and ostracized, non-believers in Money can't easily escape its power because after all, a godform's power is embedded in the social fabric.

In a sense it's more like A Brave New World's last chapter, when the dissidents can choose to integrate themselves with the ruling elite and betray themselves or stay true to themselves and be exiled to an island (removed from the social fabric). Similarly, when you understand the nature of money and the power of publicity and propaganda ("magic"), you can try to use it in your favor as some sort of apprentice of dark mage (no success guaranteed but it's an option) or you can choose to fight against it, which certainly only guarantees troubles ahead... at least for as long as the godform rules.

Of course, nothing is eternal, and we now live a deep structural and even survival crisis that demands radical changes. This has been generated by money, or more precisely Capital. As any thoughtful Marxist (and Marx was maybe the only real economist, at least among the classics) would put it, Capital has liberated enormous social forces and has driven progress to unexpected heights but it's highly unstable and definitively immoral (unworthy by the basic human socialization parameters, which are those of huntergatherers and communists: each one according to their capabilities, to each one according to their needs).

More specifically, Deleuze and Guattari stated in Anti-Oedipus that Capital decodifies and that way it destroys the old territorial (feudal and such) regime. It does by means of corrupting and manipulating every resort at hand, doesn't matter if it's the law of levers or the Holy See, planet Earth or your children. That way faith in anything other than money is destroyed in a cyclical manner (conservative cycles are pushed by "paranoid" forces that dream of pre-capitalist society, an impossible dream - and an undesirable one as well for us). So in a sense the "schizoid" Capitalist force is (or rather was) the desirable one for revolutionaries, waiting for the godform to exhaust its cycle.

As I understand it, the cycle is now exhausted. Capitalism can only decline from now on and this decline is likely to be relatively or even pretty much abrupt. So it's time to go beyond it: to place, knowingly, another godform as supreme ideal, a godform which fits our human needs for communitary integration (and not this extreme alienation) of our productive and political efforts in the natural matrix that gave us birth and ultimately sustains us.

So I'm all for a eco-communism with grassroots democracy, impeding accumulation of wealth in private hands.

It requires a change of paradigm and this in turn requires organizing the social fabric around the alternative vision. I think it will happen because the alternative is basically extinction. The forces liberated by Capitalism such as nuclear energy or others are too dangerous to be managed with the wrong ideology of individual profit. These forces make us incredibly powerful but we need an ethical society and economy in order to manage them with some safety.