Excerpted from Golden Handcuffs - An Essay on Money
We've been indoctrinated to eschew this conversation. And the reason is quite simple. If you want to control a society, the single best way to do so is to create an idol so inextricably linked to everything so as not to invite the meddling examination of a conscious mind at liberty. Make the idol seemingly innocuous - maybe out of something entirely impermanent like paper - so its gravity cannot be considered. Let it be the seduction whereby parents first instill incentives for good behavior or household chores with their children. Encourage religions to use it as the agency of laudable values like charity. Separate society between those "with" and those "without" to instill the essential dogma of scarcity and control. And before long, power, greed, dominion and oppression become entirely justifiable based on an alleged uniformity of perverted human 'nature'.
Let's get a few things straight. The notion that human beings can benefit from representational artifacts which signify the conveyance of value - money - has some practical utility. Yet why are we vaccinated against challenging the consensus illusion we call money today? What would be so dangerous if people actually remembered the obligations they've made and repaid them in appropriate form or scale? It's appropriate to examine the underpinnings of what we call "money" so that we can tell the difference between community recognized stored value units and imposed agencies of power, seduction, and control.
Money: Imperial State Succor
In the version of history we promote to justify our incumbent systems, we see taxation and tribute as far back as the first records of civilization on the fertile plains of the Tigris and Euphrates and the Nile Delta. As with all systems, the impulse for perpetual growth gives rise to the expediency of subterfuge schemes promoted as efficient or in the public interest. After a certain scale, a conqueror can no longer consume the fruit of the land and the product of labor and, refusing to discern sufficiency or enough, dictates monetary tax and tribute to fund greater expeditionary tyranny. Far from responding to the exigencies of seasonal value storage, money served as a means of anonymizing both production and the producer. And the more imperial the impulse, the more important the control of mintage. After all, it's not just gold or silver - it's gold and silver imprinted with the visage of the deity.
Building absolute reliance on state-controlled money serves as the most efficient basis for taxation. Anytime money moves, its movement can trigger a moment to reinforce the hegemony of the state. Whether it is perpetual indenture by citizenship or reification of trade and the restraint thereof, nothing serves incumbent power as pervasively as the control - and the assent of the controlled - of money.
Barely a century after the American colonies revolted against what they saw as the tyrannical British impulse to levy taxes for the explicit purpose of maintaining an occupying military force they turned to taxation regime to pay for the Civil War. The consolidation of the banking and monetary system in 1913 with the formation of the Federal Reserve was accompanied by the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave Congress the authority to levy taxes and paved the way for the financing of a century of World Wars. And to be sure, in their haste to impose income tax, the government came to the painful realization that taxing to excess those who were wealthy was a risky proposition. With general taxation came massive concessions to the extremely wealthy who, if willing to participate in the encumbrance of the general population, would be given the capability to shield their wealth through tax deferral and outright avoidance. It is no surprise that money - not personal character and integrity - define the players on the political landscape in much of the Occidental world.
Emancipation from the monetary addiction is the ultimate act of liberty and, when suggested or practiced, is met with fear from the enslaved and suppression by the threatened state. The mere suggestion that one can act and engage in community and elect to give and receive value that is not denominated is received as treason both by the oppressor and the oppressed.
Money: Network Intelligence
Through the contrivance of monetary unit reductionism, agencies of control can understand the associations of people and their engagements. One of the primary uses of the not for profit corporate designation is to provide governments the capacity to know who is supporting what. On taxation forms, itemized deductions for charitable contributions, certain educational or business expenses and the like provide intrusion in the name of "savings". Monetary and taxation authorities are relentless in their insistence of representing all human exchanges in their monetary equivalent in part to extract tariffs but equally for the intelligence of association that such exchanges represent.
Value for human exchanges of physical reality or services and experience are assumed to be reducible to a monetary quantification. This taxation of ephemeral value - an innovation of the Napoleonic accounting schemes in the early 1800s (also to pay for war) - encroaches into numerous social experiences. Illusions of appreciation of monetary value of physical artifacts (like real estate) are used to manipulate national economies and provide socialized subsidies for certain sectors (like banks and insurers). Equally, illusions of depreciation encourage consumerism and extinction of natural resources - another subtle socialized subsidy for industrial producers. We're not encouraged to discuss either of these illusions nor the masters they serve as doing so could destabilize entrenched interests.
Money: Agency of Separation
We're bombarded with statistics (counting money) telling us of massive asymmetry in monetary wealth between strata of society and between nation states. "Rich" - measured by horded retention of profit vs. "Poor" measured by the absence of horded reserves are ubiquitous distinctions that are recklessly reinforced by incumbent and anarchist alike. Ironically, the unconsidered nature of the very notion of profit is the manifestation of this agency of separation.
And after all, what is profit? Profit can be an excessive rent charged by one party over the cumulative cost to provide a good or service to another in which case a premium is demanded by the purveyor of said good or service. Alternatively it can serve as an explicit metric of the failure to account for the true cost of the production of a good or service. And in both cases, incentives for perverse separation are inextricably bound. From Adam Smith to Karl Marx, the neglect of the planet and its inhabitants are intrinsic to the odious addiction to profit. If, for example, I am an industrialist seeking a consumer base, my objective is to pay for resources and compensate labor at the marginal rate that allows the earth and laborer to barely make it with just enough excess income to buy what I want them to have. The more I can reinforce the perception of scarcity or the illusiveness of my offering, the more I can appeal to the aspirational identification that inspires indebted consumption. In the best of all worlds, I can price my product just beyond the transactional cost that would be deemed "affordable" so that I can charge additional rent (in the form of financing) to actually extract greater than market value in the form of interest.
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