A fair amount of computer ink has been spilled on the screen here at heteconomist on the topic of money. For as long as there continues to be a monetary system, this remains an important topic. However, in a better world, which is becoming technically more feasible by the year, perhaps is already feasible, there would be no need for money at all. Accordingly, I have signed The Free World Charter. Well, I would have signed it earlier but became aware of it only now.
I spent a lazy hour browsing past discussions in the 'Future Society' and 'Job & Income Guarantee' categories. A comment by Jim O'Reilly caught my eye. In part, it reads:
[M]ost of us probably spend a fair number of hours regularly thinking on our own about how to advance to a better world. That’s a bit of a waste though as we’d be far stronger if we combined our efforts. Is it absurd to think of combining resources and working together in a project that would try to make a sound case for “utopia”? Or is that madly beyond our pay grade?
I like the idea. The task is daunting, but also exciting. It would be a worthwhile contribution if we could add to the public discourse on this question.
Patience may be a virtue, but frankly I have waited long enough for others – whether the International Working Class, Wall Street Occupiers, the Tea Party, or some other Subset Of Society – to prepare a viable proposal for a better world and put it into action. It seems mother was right. If you want something done in this world, you have to do it yourself. So, I have taken it upon myself to announce the next step in our evolution as a species. If what follows seems too easy to be true, it is only because it still falls far short of where we should be heading. It is, at best, a humble beginning, or perhaps a stepping stone on our way toward liberty, equality, fraternity. The modest proposal is in five parts: 1) The Clean Slate; 2) Temporary Reorganization of Labor; 3) New Currency, Tax Obligation, Basic Income; 4) Free Stuff; 5) Democratic Determination of Priorities, Environmental Standards. I consider it a blight on my character that initially I thought it safer to file this post under 'Humor', solely on account of its audaciousness in stating what is rarely spoken but both simple and obvious. It has now been moved to the more appropriate category of 'Future Society'. My only consolation is that the enemies of liberty, equality, fraternity will find very little to laugh about in what follows.
Here is a link to an interesting four-part lecture series by Mary Mellor, filmed in February 2012 (h/t Tom Hickey at Mike Norman Economics):
The first part traces the historical development of money, emphasizing its social nature. The middle two parts concern money and banking, and the crisis. The fourth part, which most motivated me to link to the lectures, considers the social potential for democratized money to enable sufficiency, sustainability, and social justice.
Come on, what's going on? This should have happened already! Love not war. Cooperation not competition. Liberty, equality, fraternity. Too easy! What's the hold up? Let's go!
The recent discussions over what is or is not Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) have brought out some differences in perspective on broader questions of where we might want to head as a society. As far as I am concerned, the Modern Monetary Theorists have defined their theory to include both descriptive and prescriptive elements, and that is fine. For non-academics who have taken a strong interest in MMT in the blogosphere, the definition provided by the academics has clarified our position relative to it. There are some on the political right who would not consider themselves to fall within the definition. And, of course, there are some of us on the political left who likewise consider ourselves outside the definition. In this post, I thought it might be interesting to touch on what appear to be some similarities and differences in vision between those on the left and right.
My recent posts on the possibility that fiat money could provide a path to a better (perhaps even communist) society have drawn very intelligent and stimulating responses. These are prompting me to think harder about what kind of path this might be. It occurs to me that it might actually be possible, by the completion of the fiat-money phase, to leap over Marx's lower form of communism, as described in his Critique of the Gotha Program, straight into a rudimentary form of "from each according to ability, to each according to need".
I thought I should elaborate a little on a comment I made in a recent thread. It concerns the question of how it might be possible to get from where we are now to a free and liberating communist society. For readers who have no desire for such a society, I hope there is something of interest, even if only as an idle reflection.
I am struggling lately (in a good way) to keep up with all the great discussion in the various threads, but really appreciate the diverse commentary. Timezone differences can be a nuisance. Just as I was about to go to bed, brendan put up a critical though interesting comment in response to one of my recent posts concerning the democratic potential that I think is offered by fiat money. I decided to sleep before attempting a reply, only to wake up to find that additional interesting discussion had occurred while I was away from the computer. So, as I said, I am behind the eight ball. The comment by brendan included the opinion that MMT seems like a "theory of state capitalism". I thought this topic deserved a post of its own.
In my previous post, I mentioned Karl Polanyi's argument that early capitalism included an attempt to integrate money completely into the logic of a pure market economy, eventually through the introduction of a gold standard in which money was conceived as a 'commodity'. I then suggested that the eventual breakdown of the gold standard, and the subsequent breakdown of Bretton Woods, opened up social possibilities that we have so far failed to make effective use of, even though (on the basis of MMT) a flexible exchange-rate fiat currency system seems to offer scope for greater economic democracy.