Finance in Disgrace
Just one reason why accumulating money is intrinsically silly
As if ENRON and The Allied Irish Bank weren't enough, Madoff, we learn, made off with enough money to feed a small developing nation for several years. It was money that could have given hundreds of thousands a decent education. Madoff could have built hospitals too, and thrown a year or two's salary for thousands of doctors and nurses into the bargain. He didn't. Why not? It might have made him feel better and he wouldn't have had to say sorry...
No, the whole point was to make money because that's how the system was supposed to work. Freedom of enterprise was the freedom trumping all others, greed was considered good and riches were bound to trickle down even if all evidence pointed in the opposite direction. Meanwhile the Holy Market Forces were proclaimed self-regulatory. You can't buck the market, we were told. Not even Adam Smith believed that.
We were all expected to embrace these articles of faith. Inquisitors of managerial mumbo-jumbo stalked hospital and university corridors forcing public servants to take part in sadistic games of quality assurance competition and league tables. Altruism and public service were seen as enemies of the state because they directly threatened the money magic of the Market.
With the collapse of the US-led financial system it has become obvious that making money is about as constructive as practising alchemy. Exponents of both modes of magic believe that something can be made from nothing. Both practices are a waste of time and effort.
Money is first and foremost an abstraction. Even though you may have a banknote or two in your pocket, money has no real value in itself. Unless your banknotes can be used like vouchers to exchange for something else, they're literally not worth the paper they're printed on there's not much room left to write or draw on them and they're too hard and unabsorbant to wipe your nose or bottom with.
The only practical purpose of money is to avoid the encumbrance and confusion of bartering. For example, this house is worth how many sheep? This sheep is worth how much of this type of cloth? How much advice of this sort do I need to give you before you give me a pitcher of clean water?
Incidentally, I'm a musicology professor. I bet you don't give a fig for what I know, do you?
You start to wonder (at least I do) where the use value is and what, if any, is the relation between money as exchange value and the use value of services and commodities to which that exchange value (as money) is supposed to be equivalent. This dissociation, it seems to me, is one of capitalism's most stupid absurdities. The acquisition and accumulation of capital (money) becomes an end in itself without consideration of value in any other terms than those of exchange. Use value, in the sense of social, cultural and environmental benefit or improvement is, under capitalism, always subservient to motives of profit. That is of course both ridiculous and destructive.
You dont have to be a professor of social psychology to work out why rich and privileged people want the rest of us to believe were all greedy and always will be. So, if someone starts telling you that hoarding and owning stuff is biologically hardwired in humans, or that we are all in any other way intrinsically greedy as a species, you'll know they're talking bullshit. Like a lot of bullshit, it's bullshit with an agenda. Were all supposed to be just as bad as those who make obscene amounts of money at the detriment of others in the long or short term. Were all supposed to want to behave like them and to believe thats how we all are by nature. Were supposed to be smart (=devious), to have as little respect for others and for the planet as they do, and to want to uselessly amass wealth. They tell us thats reality! Well, they certainly got it abominably wrong [again] this time.
Humans would have not have lasted this long as a species without communal collaboration and cooperation. It is only since capitalism became the uncontested dominant mode of structuring human societies that we have had real problems with our natural environment and guess which sort of people were the last to admit we needed collective efforts to save the planet.
Personally, I'd like to know why Obamas surrounded himself with economic advisors who were part of the mad financial system all of us are suffering from. I've heard of setting thieves to catch thieves and of hackers to catch hackers but stars of finance manipulation have done sweet nothing to inspire any confidence or respect in me.
economics, the majority are always wrong. [Less protectively, contemporary
"economists" lie because the whole, purposed lie of usury and unearned taking
is unsustainable in any practical implementation, and because therefore,
no intelligent public would ever assent to the dispossession and usurpation
which the lies are designed to impose upon them. Thus...] The study of "money,"
above all other fields, is one in which complexity is used to disguise truth
or to evade truth, not to reveal it.
(John Kenneth Galbraith)
Smith favored government regulation whenever the "invisible hand" of free enterprise abused the rights of individuals and small business to enjoy the benefits of liberty, which sadly is the case today writes Judah Freed in examiner.com [2009-01-26]. He continues: From what I can tell, the people being nominated by Obama to the top financial governance positions mistakenly believe in the false god of unregulated free markets that Adam Smith never condoned. Obama promised a change, but these nominees look like more of the same.´ Yes. We have to monitor all of this very carefully. Personally, I dont see how a system based on speculating about the probability of numerical abstractions about the risks of abstractions of abstractions of probability about abstractions of real use values can ever be viable, let alone how any public body can be expected to follow and check the validity (what validity in such a world of derivative magic?) of every major transfer of monetary value inside that crazy system.