Monday, February 23, 2009

Money - 4. An Introduction to the Power of Money

No-one really knows what money is. That may seem odd. We know about some very strange things like quarks and quasars. But not money.

It's wise to bear our lack of understanding about money in mind. Many people claim to have a better idea about it than you.
Economists and Bankers, Entrepreneurs, Businessmen, Politicians and Academics; each claim wisdom. Money is 'nothing but numbers', a 'true measure', a 'means', a 'liberator', 'money is, what money does'.
In fact, money can be anything we believe it to be. This can make it difficult to know what money is.
Theories about money are plentiful and can fit any circumstance. They are comforting to us, but fundamentally unreliable. Experience suggests that having confidence and trust in our understanding of money is important for our well being. But our current 'wisdom' engenders faith at the expense of the truth. That misplaced faith leads to events that appear anomalous and worrisome. It also mitigates against a deeper understanding of Money.
Say to people, "money is power" and few will disagree. It's our everyday experience of it. It transforms our needs and wants into comfort and satisfaction. That's akin to magic.
At least, you could forgive a child for thinking so. As a child, I was entranced by money. I treasured my collection of coins. I'd hold one in my palm, feel it's weight, and imagine it's journey from mint, through pockets, via tills, in and out of banks, until it's final rest with me.
Coins provide our children with their first introduction to the power of money. Their innocence grants them an insight denied to us.
Parents unconsciously hint at the greater distance of our economic relationships as they accompany the first purchase of sweets or toys with the customary 'Give the man the money'. Later, we teach children to count their change; a lesson in the different trust levels in economic exchange. Children know that money is something extra-ordinary.
There is a sense of the sacred about money. It has 'other-worldly' qualities.
Money is metaphysical. Cash and bank balances are our tokens and our measures. Money is metapsychical. It exists outside of our consciousness. Like time. Or, if you believe in such things, a God-concept.
Science just doesn't have the grasp for it. Money is so involved with what we are as beings, and who we are as people, that it remains a 'fuzzy' idea.
Money exerts an influence on all human life. It appears to us, through the lens of a market, as Price. A unique, momentary conglomeration of information.
Money determines the price of everything because it knows the value of nothing.
Our experience of Money is that it's a force against which we sometimes cannot stand. The cost of things always has to be reckoned with. Sometimes the things that are dearest to us die because of a lack of money. We struggle to live with the Power of Money and yet we neither love it not hate it. We just accept it as the way of things, and build our lives around it.
Price is to Money as weight is to gravity. They are both mundane measures of profound powers.
Money influences social systems and produces changes in behaviour. Price is the measure through which know money. Gravitation acts upon things with mass, causing them to attract one another. Weight is the measure through which we know gravity.
Its difficult to comprehend that our weight is not ours. We have mass, gravity gives us weight. Its even more difficult to comprehend that money is not ours. Money is the name we give to a force that we don't understand.

That's my take on it.

Here's someone else's:
By possessing the property of buying everything, by possessing the property of appropriating all objects, money is thus the object of eminent possession. The universality of its property is the omnipotence of its being. It is therefore regarded as omnipotent. . . . Money is the procurer between man’s need and the object, between his life and his means of life. But that which mediates my life for me, also mediates the existence of other people for me. For me it is the other person.
Karl Marx - The Power of Money, 1844
Here's a like to the entire article.