Silver is the instrument and measure of commerce in all the civilized and trading parts of the world. It is the instrument of commerce by its intrinsic value. The intrinsic value of silver considered as money, is that estimate which common consent has placed on it, whereby it is made equivalent to all other things, and consequently is the universal barter or exchange, which men give and receive for other things they would purchase or part with for valuable consideration: and thus, as the Wise Man tells us, Money answers all things.
In his 1691 treatise entitled “Concerning Raising the Value of Money”, John Locke laid the foundation for the single most pervasive and destructive myth of his time and of ours. Ironic that this text was the opening of an attempt to advocate for the Parliament to actually increase faith and confidence in sovereign monetary systems – a novel and tenuous proposition at the time. In the same manifesto, he paved the way for Adam Smith and others who would come to see the productivity of humanity through the distortion of rented anonymous labor for which humans prostitute their lives until their disability or, more often death. Paradoxically, while the White House and Congressional Republicans were exchanging epithets about each other’s dereliction of responsibility ignoring the self-evident reality that the capital exoskeletal remains of the U.S. economy are rapidly desiccating, I was listening to a cacophony of those who would seek to change the world clamoring for monetary funding for their endeavors. Projects that would power civilization by harnessing energy from the Earth and cosmos, would nourish, shelter, and hydrate the world – technologies that could be harnessed for ‘free’ – all were held in embryonic suspension waiting for monetary sufficiency to set them “free”.
John Locke was wrong. His progeny are wrong. And the charade in Washington D.C. is also wrong. On the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve, we know that the core assumptions derived from Locke are grossly flawed. We know that the Fed has not succeeded in its publicly stated mission of controlling and facilitating a healthy labor market and controlling inflation. But further, we know that the current theatrics do nothing but confirm that no one in D.C. (nor in their European counterparts) is yet willing to confront the central failure inspired by Locke’s maxim. Our shared problem is not the cost of energy, the size of our national debt, or the tirelessly maligned capital intermediaries. Our problem is our addiction to Locke’s maxim.
Just a quick reminder. When the Federal Reserve was born, the long-dated asset (the 30 year Treasury) was meant to serve as a stabilizing economic keel for the economic ship called the United States. In its first maturity cycle, we entered the Second World War masking illiquidity with massive wartime consumption. In its second maturity cycle, we had the combined suspension of the Bretton Woods gold standard and Congress and the White House paved the way for foreign governments – including the Communist People’s Republic of China – to purchase our debt and call it an “asset”. In the third turning, we had a string of atrocities in September of 2001 which distracted the nation from the grave statements made by the Bush Administration regarding “trillions” of dollars of fiscal holes in the coffers of the country. And, when the government was unable to respond, it turned to the assets held by citizens – their homes – and induced the abuse of mortgages as ATMs which in turn blew up in 2008. The “monetary system” that we extoll as our succor has, in fact, never completed a full cycle without war or manipulated intervention and has never stood on the full faith and confidence of American productivity. Rather it has relied on propaganda and inducement of foreign interests to be buoyed as the most tolerable illusion.
Einstein is quoted to have stated that, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” In the company of those who seek to transform our energy dynamos from centralized fossil fuel combusting grids to whirring magnets and toroidal vortices, Einstein’s quote is the staccato to the underlying pulsating beat of Tesla adoration. And to be sure, both of these brilliant minds were both genius and fodder for the industrialist hegemony into which they were born. Both were set upon by those who sought to control the mercantile future of their work and both were manifestly dependent on purse strings to their own undoing. I find it fascinating that in all the adoration of Nikola Tesla, J.P. Morgan is the villain. With all his brilliance, did Tesla genuinely remain ignorant of the source of the funds that were his remuneration? Did he really think that capitalists in the late 19th century were overcome with such a philanthropic sense of humanity as to not desire a metered power system? Was his genius, and that of so many suppressed and derided inventors to follow, so monotonic as to ignore the ancient truism: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God’s?” Not at all. The desire for the coin of the realm was too loud a siren to ignore and, when recompense was due, lately acquired morality had departed.
So here’s my adaptation of Einstein’s postulate. I offer it as my Archimedean Theorem VII:
No systemic breakthrough can be provisioned solely reliant on the same currency that maintains the incumbent status quo.
Think about it. We want politicians accountable to the electorate but we fall for those who have spent the most donor money in their campaigns. In the name of peace, we acquiesce to persistent terror. We want connections with people so we intermediate flesh with Facebook and Skype. We want knowledge so we drown ourselves in the edited, curated content Google chooses to render visible. And in a room full of would-be inventors for a “new” humanity, references to “non-disclosure” and “patent” out-numbered the clarion calls to collaboration. Why? Because that which separates us and ‘protects’ us is beholden to money. Must we accumulate the life-blood of the system we deride because in our hands we’ll do better?! Hogwash.
Now let’s be abundantly clear. Money – a transitive and temporary unit of stored value – serves a vital role in intermediating time and pulsatile seasons of production and consumption. Money provides exceptionally efficient neutrality in denominating social consensus in transactions. But money as judge, jury, and executioner of ideas, technologies, social benefit or power attribution is an offense to a mercantile system. It is a utility devoid of wisdom, ignorance, or any other attribute. And its utility, when celebrated as the artifact of supreme importance, is lost in its obsession. Now is the time for We The People to call John Locke’s bluff and start answering the exchanges between humanity with values that are as diverse as humanity’s capacity to apprehend. Only then will conscious enterprise stand a chance.