Thursday, February 28, 2013

Money Wisdom #90

"The very idea of money, which is to say, of abstract accounting for value, is logically anterior and historically prior to market exchange."

Geoffrey Ingham The Nature of Money (2004) p.25

Money Wisdom #89

"In short, the relationship between the orthodox conception of money in economic analysis and practical monetary policy is now tenuous to the point of incoherence."

Geoffrey Ingham The Nature of Money 2004 p.9

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Money Wisdom #88

"As Simmel explained, a feudal lord could demand specifically a quantity of honey and poultry from his serfs and thereby determine their labour. 'But the moment he imposes merely a money levy the peasant is free, insofar as he can decide whether to keep bees or cattle or anything else'.* With money, decisions can be deferred, revised, reactivated, cancelled; it is 'frozen desire'.** But, 'all of these consequences are dependent on what is in principle, the most important fact of all, the possibility of monetary calculation'.*** This third attribute of money, as a measure of value (money of account), enables the calculation of actual and potential costs, profits and losses, debts, prices. In short, money is the basis for the progressive rationalization of social life..."

* Simmel 1978 [1907]:285-6 ; ** Buchan 1997 ; *** Weber 1978:80-1

Geoffrey Ingham The Nature of Money 2004 p.4

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Money Wisdom #87

"How art and commerce came habitually to be regarded as symmetrical or commensurate involves both the aesthetic anxiety (linked with beliefs about God) that monetary form is intrinsic to art and the economic anxiety (linked with theories of adequation and representation) that aesthetic form is intrinsic to money. Christians, we have seen, believe generally in a God both universal (like the Jewish and Moslem God) and incarnate (like the Greek Gods); and so for many Christians money, which is both an inscription and an inscribed thing, was not easy to understand in terms other than as a Christlike iconic principle competing like the Gygean Devil for God's place in the world."

Marc Shell Art and Money (1995) p.133

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Ramble on Pitt Rivers and Hordes

This week I took a little trip to Oxford to visit the Ashmolean Museum and the Pitt Rivers Museum. The inspiration for the trip was a special exhibition of Gold Coinage in Britain which is running from the 23rd Oct 2012 to 23rd of April 2013 at the Ashmolean. With such a proliferation of 23s and the start date being on that most holy of days, Money Burning Day, a visit was a must.

To be brutally honest though, it was a bit of a let down. The Ashmolean felt a bit corporate to me. Just a.n. other big museum. And the Gold coinage exhibit was pretty small. Plus, I hate that the display notes are directed at disinterested 12 year olds. Why not assume your visitors are interested? If they're not, creating display notes that read like wackaging won't help. It will only serve to irritate.

Anyway. None of that matters because I went to the Pitt Rivers Museum first. It's like the best junk shop you've ever dreamed of, to the power of ten.

So to the ramble.

The most obvious thing to hit me was how Pitt Rivers (unintentionally) makes clear the arbitrary nature of currency. There is a section called Coins and Currency. We'll come to that. Let's start with Votive Offerings.

If you're unfamiliar with theories on the origin of currency, you may well ask what have these got to do with money? Some folks - especially those on the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) side of things - think that the things given to and received from temples and places of worship were the beginnings of modern currency.

Those MMT folks do tend to focus on the Greeks, though. They look to build a story about money developing through religious ritual and then ending up with the first coins in Lydia about 2700 years ago. It's worth remembering that Greek Philosophers thought that money had been 'invented*' in some earlier age. And take a look at this little fella. Nothing to do with the Greeks. He's from Malaya. Could easily be a votive offering but is actually described by its note as a 'crude form of currency'. Whatever goes on between money and the human mind, it manifests itself across different cultures and at different times.

I think that all objects can be 'currency'. I think the term 'currency' can be a hindrance  It creates a kind of material certainty about Money which confuses us. A trip to the Pitt Rivers makes it obvious that what is classified as currency depends not on the object itself, but on the context of the object. If the original possessor of the object says "This is money", then it is regarded as currency by the collector. I think it can be that simple. Look for example at this (the Klingon-esque blade at the top):

Nothing to do with money you might think. Here is the note associated with it.

"23. Ngala people, border of DR Congo (Zaire) and Central African Republic
Made before 1911
It was thought that this distinctive knife with its triple pommel was used for executions but there is no direct evidence of this. What is true, however, is that these types of weapon could be exchanged as currency.
Purchased in Belgium in 1911"

(It had to be number 23, didn't it)

There's something else that a visit to Pitt Rivers makes obvious too. Trade. There's loads of wonderful examples of shells, bracelets and mats that are well documented as being used as currency. Here's a few examples:

And then the following display makes it clear what our reaction was to all this. Back in the day.

The title of the display is 'Trade Ornaments made in Europe'. A more accurate and revealing description might be 'Counterfeit Primitive Currencies'. It seems as soon as the west began exploring Africa and the Americas it began to manufacture counterfeit currencies to use in trade. There are examples in Einzig of how this practice inflated prices for the indigenous communities.

Here's a picture of the actual 'Coins and Currency' bit. Of course it doesn't look that different from the other objects except that we're told that these objects 'officially' have that quality known as 'moneyness' !

And talking of 'moneyness' (which is JP Koning's phrase) I can't resist sharing that most unputable-in-your-pocket of all currencies, the famous Yap stones. Only a little one this, just loose change really, but quite pretty.

I'm feeling somewhat guilty now for being down on the Ashmolean. I feel like I should include at least one picture here. I guess what I liked about the Pitt River was that it just presents a ton of stuff to you and allows you to draw your own conclusions. The Ashmolean holds your hand a bit more, which probably suits some. Anyway, I don't think the Ashmolean would regard this as a particularly significant item. But I do.

Issued at the time of the First World War by the Treasury (rather than the Bank of England - see underneath the signature) they served to replace gold. (Larger denomination) Bank notes had been around for ages of course, but I think the Braburys are significant because they are symbolic of (the beginnings) of a change in our consciousness about money. Perhaps because their introduction seemed to make sense to folks in terms of the war effort, they were readily accepted. This led people to think less about Money as Value embodied ultimately in a physical thing, and more of it as abstract, as embodied in symbol. (Both are wrong, imo). During the course of the twentieth century Coins and Notes, became Notes and Coins and the Bradbury was a big part of that story.

Seeing as you've got your money boots on now, fancy a proper ramble?


The Mitchell's garden adjoined the bottom of my parent's garden. The Mitchells had not long moved to Hertfordshire from Scotland, and with both sets of parents being keen to be neighbourly I was dispatched to play with Kevin and his Matchbox Hotwheels set a couple of times. He was a few years or older than me and was proving to be something of a handful. After seeing him just lick the icing from the top of his mother's homemade cakes and then throw soggy remainder into the bushes at the bottom of his garden, to my six year old mind, Kevin was definitely a naughty boy.

One day I was playing at the bottom of my garden when Kevin appeared over the fence.

"Psst. Guess what I found in the woods?" he said in a conspiratorial whisper.

"What?", I said.

"Diamonds." said Kevin. "Wait there."

Kevin disappeared back into the house quickly returning with a biscuit tin. He removed the lid and showed me that it was half-filled with bright sparkling brilliant diamonds. I was young, but I knew that diamonds were very valuable. I knew that in that tin there was huge wealth. I was even a bit jealous of his luck in finding them.

"Here" said Kevin. "Have you got any money? I'll sell you some if you like. I don't mind. I've got loads of them."

I was unable to accede to Kevin's generous proposal, because I didn't have any money. And I was confused as to why he wanted to sell them to me, rather than just share some of them with me as he had, by his own admission, so many. After all, we we're friends. We'd played Hotwheels together. I disappeared into the house. I told my father about Kevin's find. At first not mentioning that Kevin was prepared to sell some of the diamonds at a greatly discounted price.

My father, gently and wisely, offered me another possibility. Something I had not considered. "I'm not sure" he said, "they'd be real diamonds."

"They look like diamonds. And Kevin said he'd sell me some if I wanted 'cos he's got so many", I replied.

"Well then, I really don't think they're diamonds at all, Jonathan."

I avoided Kevin for a while after that. A little bit of me held onto the idea that he had found diamonds. And that I'd missed an opportunity for great riches. On the other hand, his family didn't get a Rolls Royce, neither did there seem to be an appreciable difference to their standard of living.

The nagging doubt about Kevin's diamond horde remained until I saw, several months later, a shattered car windscreen.


There were a few hordes on display at the Ashmolean. Perhaps they were the spark to my memory of that experience with Kevin. Although these were gold coins, not diamonds. Still hugely valuable, though. One horde was the equivalent of 10 years wages for a Roman soldier.

Diamonds and coins share a quality of material permanence that seems intrinsic to their ability to act as a 'store of value'. Not only that, Gold, silver and diamonds also seem to have managed to lodge themselves into our collective consciousness as almost divine representations of the highest value.

However, in the form of coins, gold and silver achieve a specificity, a date and a place, that diamonds lack. A coin has authority and authenticity inscribed.

So deeply is the power of a gold coin lodged in the modern mind - or was so until the beginning of the C20th - it is easily forgotten that the most significant of all representations of value to man across the span of human evolution isn't gold or silver; it's livestock and slaves. They have the advantage over metal coins, in that they can't be clipped or counterfeited. But where this fear of fakery was allayed, and a critical level of acceptability - of belief - was present, the coin connected to Value in a way that changed the world.

It perhaps easy to forgive those people then who believe that a gold coin has an intrinsic Value. After all, the gold coin was supposed to make us believe that. Convincing us of its value was its raison d'etre.

Even today, a baseline common sense argument holds sway for many economists. Their story is that gold coins were a technological solution, albeit one that spontaneously arose, to the problems of trade. Precious metals have a inherent value, they're also malleable but hard-wearing enough to work well as currency. Another view, one that's made a significant headway into the mainstream in the past few years, is less concerned with a notion of the intrinsic value of gold, and instead emphasises the value given to the coin (or note, or whatever form of currency) by the inscription.

Away from the world of economics though, such ideas seem a bit academic. Pragmatism seems to be the preferred approach for those who actually have to deal with money. This is true for those indigenous people who rejected modern coinage in favour of their own types of currency be they cowrie shells, cloth mats, or fish hooks; or those who even today receive their pay in modern currency but transfer their wealth into cattle as soon as they can. And pragmatism is the rule for our modern day bankers and politicians too. When you have pressing financial matters to deal with you don't want to be hamstrung by some metaphysical debate about whether Value resides in the material or the inscription, whether money is real or abstract, whether money is object or subject.**

Leave that to the philosophers and academics. Politicians and bankers are already armed with Keynes anyway. He spent five years or so researching the origins of money - he referred to the time as his ‘Babylonian madness’. His Treatise on Money published in 1930 managed to squeeze a sociological 'abstract' conception of money into a 'real' mathematical model of savings and investment. Or should that be a 'real' conception about money into an 'abstract' mathematical model. Either way, he was the priest of an impossible marriage.

These necessarily pragmatic approaches to the origin of money - and its fundamental nature - make describing economy as it appears to us that much easier. We can find a reason for anything that happens. In fact, we can find several reasons. Economics, is very useful as a form of employment for economists***, and at providing a script for politicians and bankers to create a performance that justifies any action, or any inaction.

But then what about Truth? Clarity? Consistency?

Clarity seems a scarce resource in any of our explanations of Money and economy. But consistency (of theory) seems more abundant at the edges. The quality of consistency seems to exist in what economists like to term 'heterodox' theories. To my mind though, the breadth of theory provides a base upon which mainstream economics has built an unstable tower. Are any of the heterodox theories the Truth? Are the foundations of the tower solid?

It would be helpful if they were. Currency thrives on certainty.

I liked the certainty Hayek gave us. He seemed like a truth-seeker to me. He created a consistent theory of economy and for many, his theory seems, or for a time at least seemed, the best way to explain economic reality.

My problem was that it never really explained what Money was. It explained price, and Money was supposed to be born from that.

Hayek's stages of metaphysical evolution were Value, then Price, then Money. This is a change of causality where Money becomes the best technical solution to the problem of making Price visible. The difficulty I have with that, is that it doesn't describe our relationship with these phenomena now, or in the past. Hayek's theories are like the projection of an ordered mind that describes our material reality with an extreme precision, but says nothing about the totality of our experience. The myriad of currencies, symbols of value and votive offerings on display in the Pitt River show a plurality and multiplicity of economic experience that Hayek's perspective seems unable to absorb. It can only assimilate the objects by denying them their context. An object's role as currency, their very existence as artifacts is for Hayek, fathered by Price. But the essence the objects share isn't Price. They only have that quality in relation to each other.

In a philosophical sense, Price is non-essential to the objects. Value, on the other hand, is essential. Leaving us with THAT question, what is Money?' Does Money only exist between the objects, like price? (i.e. is Money a social relation?) Or is Money part of the essential nature of the object itself? (i.e. is money commodity).

And if the human race disappeared tomorrow how would that change things? Would the objects still have value? Would Money still exist?


Its difficult to make sense of these issues of certainty and uncertainty about Value. We'd dearly love to be certain about it. The ritual of the Trial of Pyx, still performed annually in the UK, where a representative of the Monarch tests the quality of the coinage produced by the Royal mint, tries to establish a certainty about Value. It looks for Value in the authenticity of coin, in Money.

I don't think they've ever found traces of Value or Money though. They seem illusive to any material investigation. I think you're infinitely more likely to find half a kilo of cut diamonds in a Hertfordshire wood.

On the way back home from Oxford, news of the latest Diamond heist came on the radio. Perhaps another reason why I've been thinking back to that incident at the bottom of the garden. £32 million pounds worth of diamonds were stolen. They're practically untraceable. Now would be a good moment for Kevin to resurrect his counterfeit diamond scam, I reckon. They'll be plenty of people in the market who really want to believe they're the real thing. News of the robbery might just give him the edge he needs.

*It might fairer to say something on the lines of 'money arose spontaneously from set of social structures and practices' or similar.

** There is an equivalent debate in religion between iconclasts and iconodules.

*** JK Galbreith said that, not me.

Money Wisdom #86

"The language of modern man is a spoken language imitating written language. Rousseau considers the difference between hieroglyphic writing, by which things are represented, and modern abstract alphabetic writing, by which sounds are represented. Alphabetic signs, in fact, encourage the reader to forget things; the representation must pass through sounds rather than directly to things. For Rousseau, the historical development of the alphabet corresponds to that of a monetary economy and to that of a police state."

Marc Shell The Economy of Literature (1978) p.123

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Money Wisdom #85

"It is justifiable and indeed necessary to include among primitive currencies any object that fulfils to a reasonable degree either the function of a medium of exchange or that of a standard of value, standard of deferred payment or means of unilateral payments. An object that performs solely the functions of a store of value does not on that account qualify for being considered a money."

Paul Einzig Primitive Money (1948) p.325

Money Wisdom #84

"The separation of monetary and non-monetary functions is also behind the definition according to which money must be a thing unto itself in contradiction to all other objects (Menger, p93 - LSE reprint of 'An Article on Geld from 1900). Those who use this definition visualize a huge balance with all the money in one of the scales and all goods and services in another. This picture does not in the least fit primitive conditions where the majority of currencies have some non-monetary use and the same quantity, therefore, are apt to appear in both sides of the scales of the balance, though not necessarily at the same time. Moreover the simultaneous existence of several currencies have made it difficult to apply a clear-cut distinction between money and goods.

The existence of a price-mechanism through the functioning of the monetary system is yet another basis for the definition of money. It links up with the definition based on a sharp distinction between money and goods, since price-mechanism in the modern sense can only work on the basis of such a distinction."

Paul Einzig Primitive Money (1948) p.324

Money Wisdom #83

"The majority of definitions of money may be classed in two main categories; those which regard money as a commodity and those which regard it as abstract unit."

Paul Einzig Primitive Money (1948) p.321

Friday, February 15, 2013

About the Blog

My blog is half artistic endeavour, half academic pursuit. Mostly, it tries to answer the question 'What is Money?' Something that's fascinated me ever since I can remember.

From 2007 I've done an annual ritual money burning. In 2008, I wrote about it. Now every 23rd October I burn some cash. I understand this seems like an odd thing to do. But it's been great for me. The ritual now has meaningful place in my year, a bit like a birthday or Christmas. I see it as a sacrifice; specifically a sacrifice of my custodianship of Money's power. I've described the ritual as the ultimate act of forgiveness.

With Money being so much in the ether I think trying to gain a personal and 'visceral' understanding of it is important. Having a salary and a solid career all your life will inevitably inform your view on Money. In my early 20's, I was a market trader. That's a real one, not the stocks and shares type. They're a dying breed now. Buying and selling, exchanging cash and goods hand to hand was not a unique experience by any means, but for me it was formative.

Eventually, in my late 20's I studied money formally and my market trading experiences informed my perspective. I went to the London School of Economics (L.S.E), had a wonderful time, managed to get a 2:1 and started putting my feelings and ideas about Money into an intellectual framework. I was unimpressed with what little Economics had to say about Money. Indeed, at its worst, I found Economics to be a sophisticated but meaningless abstraction useful as JK Galbraith said, 'as a form of employment for economists' and not much else.

Whilst at the L.S.E. I spread my net as wide as I was allowed and then a little wider still, and tried to find out what Philosophy, Anthropology and Sociology had to say about Money. I also fell in love with Freud. It's a romance that's still ongoing, despite us not seeing eye to eye on Money. Around the time I was deciding whether or not to stay on for further study, I got a comment on a paper I'd written in which I'd claimed that Money seemed more like Gravity than anything else. My Philosophy Professor said that was 'plainly crazy'.

It smarted a bit at the time, but it helped me to make a decision. I went off and started a sex site called NaturalSex with Sally, my wife, and her friend. As you do. I had a great time doing that, but ended up a bankrupt.

I have some vague idea about understanding one's sexuality being a key to self-realisation. I'm not saying that this was the motivation for my choice at the time. That had more to do with horniness, fortuitous circumstance, and of course, a desire for easy Money. We were filthy fuck-monkeys who willingly engaged in as many unnatural acts as we could. But we tried to be principled. To be fair to each other, and to everyone else involved. And although we chose never to charge for sex, our income was certainly dependent on our sex life for a good few years.

In May 2013 Sally and I separated after 28 years. I can't say for sure whether or not I achieved self-realisation. I think that's probably a lifelong thing. But what the experiences NaturalSex did bring home to me, is that Sex cannot be understood through reflection alone. Practice is vital. I think the same is true for Money.

So it's the combination of the ritual, the visceral and the academic that now underscores my understanding of money and my attempts to answer the question 'What is Money?'

That understanding goes something like this.

  • Money is an aspect of reality that mediates Value and enumerates certain relations through currency.
  • Value is the fundamental force of the universe stimulating everything from atoms to animals to evolve.
  • Money reconciles the monism of Value and the dualism of human experience through the medium of Mind.

This all might sound a bit metaphysical. So, in keeping with the last point, there are two strands to my attempt to create something more earth-bound.

One, is to create a model of the relationship between Money, Value and Mind. So far this involves Robert Pirsig's description of Value and Sigmund Freud's description of Mind. I think that understanding Money in the context of Value and Mind might give new meaning to the numbers Money produces.

The other, is to do things that explore our conceptions about Money. My ritual money burning being the obvious example. I think it's important to reveal and give expression to my relationship with Money and to encourage acts of revelation in others.

I don't write much about Sex and Money, but I probably should. The most important things are often the hardest to write about.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Ramble around KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money by JMR Higgs

A book with this title was always going to grab my attention and excite me. And it rather brilliantly didn't disappoint. I've done a rave review of it here on amazon. (Don't forget to 'like' my review if you feel like giving my ego a little tickle).

So, yeah. Read it.

But this is a ramble. Not a review. So let's start where we know we're going to end up with anything that mentions the M word (Money rather than Magic or Music). Money and currency. The literal truth is always a handy tool when thinking about Money. What actually happened on the Isle of Jura on the 23rd August 1994 was that the KLF burnt £1m of currency. Appreciating this, obviously opens up a question about the relationship between and meanings of Money and currency (something which regular readers to my blog know I go on about a lot).

Of course, the debt issued by the Bank of England and represented on those burnt notes still exists on their books. The KLF has destroyed its claim (or custodianship) on Money that the currency represented, but John's (JMR Higgs) conclusion (if that's not too strong a word) about the KLF destroying money is incorrect.

That's not to say of course that the burning did not have huge significance. In this post I describe it as the greatest artistic statement of the C20th. I've sometimes shied away from this statement. I've felt a little embarrassed that I made it. After all, there was a lot art created in the C20th. But John's book has renewed my confidence in what I've said. After doing my own money burning and thinking about Money I've come to believe that what the KLF did was - and Money burning in general is - an act of 'pure forgiveness'. (This is literally true in a strictly economic sense)

I've discussed this idea before on here, of course, most recently in relation to Derrida's statements about forgiveness; the idea that pure forgiveness is impossible.

John recognises this aspect of the Money burning. He talks about Drummond and Cauty wanting to get their souls back from the devil - burning the profits gained from the Music Industry being the price to be paid. And also in the recurrent theme of doing the impossible. To Derrida's post modern view pure forgiveness was an impossibility - this had particular significance because it was an idea he applied to the post-apartheid reconciliation in South Africa. Forgiveness becomes almost a type of exchange.

(One could argue that getting your soul back from the devil is an exchange, thus making the idea of pure forgiveness invalid).

I suppose at a push, if my life depended on it, my claim would be that the KLF in burning a million quid performed the largest single act closest to the idea of pure forgiveness in the C20th. This is significant. You know, forgiveness has history. Jesus dying and all that. It resonates.

Anyway, that's about as much a ramble as I wanted to take. There's a lot more to see. Jung, Discordianism, synchronicity  23, magical thinking, mind and matter, Robert Plant as a Golden God (who undoubtedly cums gold). But it'd be real easy to get lost amongst that lot.

I'll just tell you my own little story.

My own tangential link to a small part of this story came in 2006. I knew I was going bust after the sex site failed. To earn enough money to feed the kids I'd been doing odd driving/tour managing jobs. But this was not going to save me. I needed a deal and a lot of luck if we weren't going to lose the house.

One of the jobs I had the previous summer (2005) was with Alex Paterson (from The Orb, which Paterson formed with Cauty in 1988). He was working on a project called The Transit Kings with which Cauty was also involved. I was lucky enough to take him and a bunch of folks, although not including Cauty down to the Big Chill Festival where they were performing this brilliant track The Last Lighthouse Keeper. I think it might have been the only ever live performance of it, I'm not sure. Of course, knowing of his relationship with Cauty I took the opportunity to talk about the burning with Alex.

Anyway, as 2006 got underway I was looking for a deal. I was looking for someway to make some money. What I came up with was an idea to make an album for the World Cup in 2006. I set the wheels in motion with an old contact who owned a record company (I use the term loosely - shclock merchant would be more accurate) who now supplied supermarkets with CDs and DVDs. He was keen. A good start. This was a public limited company with plenty of dough. Next stop, I got on the phone to Alex. Would he be interested in creating a kind of Orb-esque soundscape of football songs and chants?

Alex is a big football fan. He was keen. So far so good.

Then came the stumbling block. The album would have to have 3 Lions. The supermarket schlock merchant was never going to play without it. I approached Sony. No deal. I didn't give up. I approached John Thoday, the boss of Avalon, and Skinner & Baddiel's agent. He seemed interested. Whoaw!

But time marched on. And on. For whatever reason the deal never happened. Getting 3 Lions proved too tricky. By the time we hit the end of April 2006, I called a halt to it. By August 2006 we'd lost the house.

The main football song that year came in the form of the FA endorsed World at Your Feet by Embrace and produced, funnily enough, by Alex's former school friend, sometime Orb member, and actor in the KLF story Martin Glover (aka Youth). I seem to remember that Alex did a remix of it or something, but can't find any record.

Anyway, the funny thing is, I later found out...... well, I let wiki tell you....

"In 1998, the Scottish Football Association invited Drummond to write and record a theme song for the Scotland national football team's 1998 FIFA World Cup campaign.[59] Drummond decided against doing it (Del Amitri got the job) but he wondered if he had twisted fate by declining, because the other major football songs of that year were made by associates of his: Keith Allen ("Vindaloo") and Ian Broudie ("Three Lions"), two men he had met on the same day when working on Illuminatus! in 1976, and former protege Ian McCulloch."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Money Wisdom #82

" Years after the K Foundation had ended, Drummond had a flash of insight. "Most of the people who wrote about what we did, and the TV programme that was made about it, made a mistake," he said. "I was only able to articulate it to myself afterwards with hindsight. They thought we were using our money to make a statement about art, and really what we were doing was using our art to make a statement about money."

This tallies with comments made by Cauty at the time. "We nail [the money] to a bit of wood so that it can't function as it wants to. It's to do with controlling the money. Money tends to control you if you've got it, it dictates what you have to do with it, you either spend it, give it away, or invest it. We just wanted to be in control of it."

JMR Higgs KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money [Kindle Edition](2012) 2636/3140

Money Wisdom #81

"And because the money was burnt in this liminal period between the two waves of history, the meaning of the act was not absorbed or dissipated by either of them. The timing, in other words, was perfect. The subconscious was fully exposed when the deed was done."

JMR Higgs KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money [Kindle Edition](2012) 2427/3140

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Money Wisdom #80

"It was the pointlessness of the whole thing that got to people. When it was revealed in 2000 that Elton John had somehow spent £40 million in 20 months, including £293,000 on flowers, people reacted differently. There was much head shaking, tutting and many jokes. but generally speaking people didn't take it personally. It was Elton John's money after all, and his extravagance seemed in keeping with the personality that earned him that money in the first place. His wasted money, at the very least, had made a number of florists happy.

When Cauty and Drummond wasted their money it felt it different. Seeing video footage of the burning was a genuine shock. Their money looked like kidney dialysis machines, beds in homeless shelters or funding for young artists in a way that Elton John's wasted money didn't. This wasn't money being wasted; it was money being negated. The argument that it was their money, and they could do what they liked with it, didn't ring true. What they had done felt wrong."

JMR Higgs KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money [Kindle Edition] (2012) 127/3140

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Money Wisdom #79

"Plato was uneasy that a money of the mind informs thinking and cannot be expelled from it. He knew that money and its forms could hardly be eliminated from the academy where human lovers of wisdom converse - economic hypothesising informs logical hypothesising and change making informs the dialectical division of the One (kermatidzestahi). And he took into his account of metaphor and truth the tense symmetries between money and the idea or between rhetoric and its counterpart dialectic."

Marc Shell Art and Money (1995) p.63

Money Wisdom #78

"What is essential to understand at this point is that until now [until Parmenides' the One and the Many - Jon] there was no such thing as mind and matter, subject and object, form and substance. Those divisions are just dialectical inventions that came later. The modern mind sometimes tends to balk at the thought of these dichotomies being inventions and says. 'Well, the divisions were there for the Greeks to discover', and you have to say, 'Where were they? Point to them!' And the modern mind gets a little confused and wonders what all this is about anyway, and still believes the divisions were there.

Robert Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974 [1999]) p.372

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Money Wisdom #77

" districts adjoining French Indo-China a fair supply of lipsticks was secured before communications had been interrupted by the Japanese occupation of that country. In some towns lipsticks became a favourite medium of exchange. Almost anything could be bought against payment in scores of lipsticks which changed hands many times without being used."

Paul Einzig Primitive Money (1948) p.313

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Money Wisdom #76

"During the siege of Leyden by the Spaniards (1574) leather money was issued. It did not remain in circulation, however, for the half-starved population boiled the pieces of leather and ate them."

Paul Einzig Primitive Money (1948) p.309

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Confusing Money and Currency - ARRGH !

I just read this in Einzig;

"Nettels [in The Monetary Supply of the American Colonies before 1720 p203] makes the observation that the reason why the colonies chose to supplement the inadequate supply of coins by the monetary use of commodities was that they must have felt it imperative to prevent the prices of their staple products from being depressed by the scarcity of money. But for the monetary use of commodities, the inadequacy of the supply of coins would have unduly depressed local prices, and would have influenced the terms of trade strongly against the colonies; that is larger amounts of exports would have been required to pay for the same amount of imports."

Paul Einzig Primitive Money (1948) p.288

This sort of thing happens when you apply economic theory your currency/money soup. It makes me realise how well David Graeber did in his Debt - the first 5000 years to avoid stuff like this (although he still shows the usual confusion over currency/money). I think Graeber - and anyone who has read his book - would immediately pick up on what would be the first thing that happened in the event of a shortage of coinage; the use of credit would expand. The link between a shortage in the 'money supply' and a fall in prices is proposed by economic theory (less 'money' chasing the same amount of goods, prices fall; more 'money chasing the same amount of goods, prices rise).

But Einzig and Nettels applying it to a real life situation is making an is (or rather a was) from an ought. Clearly prices did not fall unduly despite the shortage in coinage. So Nettels looks for a reason. Unsurprisingly, he finds one. This is standard fair in Economic History. And it pisses me off.

Money cannot be scarce (or abundant). Applying a quantitative measure to it is philosophically wrong. I mean, what the hell do you think Money is? Stuff? Its nonsensical to talk about in such terms.

And currency (and commodity) is arbitrary. Recognise this (as clearly the early settlers to 'the colonies' did) and it is clear that all objects are currency (or at least can be regarded as such).

Price is put on such a pedestal in economics (not least by Hayek) that it blinds us to the truth of it. Split up these two conceptions of currency and Money and you get a different view of price. One that, whilst recognising the 'natural dynamics' that Hayek identified, can also place currency and price within a context of social and structural relations - which is where they actually exist! 

Rant over.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Money Wisdom #75

"The English word "fee" originated from the German word vieh (cattle) through the intermediary of the Anglo-Saxon word feoh, meaning cattle, property, treasure, price, reward, levy, tribute, money."

Paul Einzig Primitive Money (1948) p.259

Golden Showers and the Immaculate Conception

As well as reading Einzig's Primitive Money at the moment, I'm dipping in and out of Marc Shell's beautiful book Art and Money. I said in my review of Shell's Money, Language and Thought that I didn't think my reading of the book had done Shell justice. The book relied on the reader having a decent knowledge of the literature discussed. Some of it - such as Poe's The Gold Bug I'd never read (since rectified) - but where I had read the work (especially relatively recently like Faust) I found Shell's analysis elucidating and fascinating. At the risk of sounding moronic, Art and Money is brilliant because it has pictures! This of course, makes Shell's analysis far more accessible because you can see what he's talking about. Anyway, I'm loving the book, and although it's really expensive (I picked up my copy secondhand from Abebooks for a bargain price) and even though I'm only a short way through it, I heartily recommend it.

Oh wait, with that title you were expecting something a little more fruity weren't you?

Don't worry, I won't disappoint. (I've even got pictures !)

The story begins with a tale in classical mythology (which are often quite porno) about the daughter of the King of Argos called Danae. The King had been told by the oracle that Danae would have a child who would grow up to kill him. Of course the old guy doesn't fancy that much, so he first locks his daughter up then has her thrown into the sea. Unknown to him though Danae had it off while in jail. Well, sort of. Jupiter had managed to inseminate her in a shower of gold. She gets fished out of the sea, has Jupiter's son, son grows up, kills king. This myth has resonated through the ages in artistic form.....

Danae by Dionisio Flammingo ca. 1600

Danae by Gustav Kilmt 1907 (That's a bit kinky, don't you think?)

....And ! The story has resonated in mythological and literary form. Not least of course in the various explanations of the Immaculate Conception. Christian theologians used the classical myth to craft an explanation of how Mary got pregnant. According to Shell the C14th Ovid Moralized 'emphasizes the ideas that the substance of God's semen is gold.... that it enters Mary through the ear.'

The image above shows first another painting of Danae, and then in the lower image The Annunciation c15th by Martorell we have Gabriel announcing the coming of the Lord to Mary. Shell describes this in the following terms 'Mary receives God's semen in the form of the angel Gabriel's chrysographic letters - "words written in gold, literally ". 

In a brief look around I've discovered that there is something called Mariology which is according to wiki the systematic study of the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of her place in the economy of salvation, within the theology of the Catholic Church - it's ongoing study!

Anyway, leaving aside the Catholic church (and others including Islam) to decide how they think Jesus was conceived (I have a pretty good idea myself) this idea of Gold being God's semen is interesting. I've seen stuff about Hinduism regarding Gold as the semen of Agni the Fire God. And in respect of God's semen just being jolly good stuff generally there's also the whole story of manna; this is The Collection of Manna by Maitre de la Manne from the c15th.

One of the other things about Money & semen I noted recently was (I think) from Einzig - sometimes (where it was used as currency) salt was regarded as sacred because - obvious if you think about it - of the salty taste of a certain life-giving fluid.

Another idea Shell brings into the mix - I'll be very brief here - is incest. In the Christian story "Mary has some sort of intercourse with one who is simultaneously her brother, father, husband and son" (p. 29). Christian authorities also embellished Danae's story in their interpretation by suggesting that it was Danae's uncle who impregnated her. Obviously Freud could have a field day with all this. But this idea of incest is particularly pertinent to money. Interest - the begetting of money from money was regarded (and still is by some) as unnatural. Even now we are very quick to describe what we see as unhealthy financial relationships (between say the big banks and the state) as incestuous.

[A key problem for the medieval theologians was balancing the idea of the evil of usury (of money begetting money) with the expanding economic activity that was all around them in the markets and towns. There's good discussion of the multiplying power of Money and in particular Michael Wolff's work on the medieval philosopher Olivi and his adoption of the term rationes seminales - yes, rationes SEMINales (its THAT obvious) to describe the transformation of 'sterile coin into fruitful capitale' (See Joel Kaye Economy and Nature in C14th p122)]

Now, I feel like I've misled you somewhat. Golden showers has a somewhat different meaning in the terms were talking about here. I've not come across anything in Shell yet that talks about money & piss, but I'm hopeful ! Freud of course bangs on about Money and shit, but there is a famous footnote that stuck in my mind. Its from Civilisation and its Discontents and it talks about primitive men pissing on a fire to put it out in a kind of homoerotic act of competition. The first of those primitive men to renounce such sexual desires, and to bring the fire into the home under the guardianship of a woman at the hearth, gained an advantage over his fellow man. (Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents, Standard Ed., tr. James Strachey. Penguin VolXII, 1985. pp. 278-279). Now I love Freud. But even for me this might be taking things a tad too far.

One of the other things that Shell's work triggered off in my mind was a memory of something I read on Twitter the other day. For some reason the view of the feminist anti-pornography campaigner Gail Dines was tweeted into my timeline. Dines claims that bukkake is 'one the most degrading acts in porn'. She thinks its a version of the money shot (a rather apt name in this context, don't you think?) taken to its most extreme form. My comment was that Dines clearly had no German DVDs in her porn collection, if she considered bukkake the most degrading act. A fair point I thought.

But leaving aside Dines and her silly repressive views, this whole shower of gold/semen from above thing does seem to be some sort of deep archetypal event. From Egyptian hieroglyphs, through classical mythology, right up to 21st century porn, the money shot seems have a powerful place in our psyche. Hardly surprising I'd say. I'm not sure it'd possible to draw out all of the connections between Money and spunk (Spunk is a better word to use in this context - semen is more medical than cultural); they may be intertwined too deeply in our minds for us to make any real sense of them.

However, I think its great that Shell identifies the Money/Spunk nexus in Art, and tries to give a context to what we are seeing. It's really is a beautiful book. Gets you horny, makes you think. What more can you ask?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Money Wisdom #74

"IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice (1812)

Money Wisdom #73

"From time to time Weston's expedition [to the Goajira Indians of Columbia] was invited to purchase young girls at bargain prices, for three or four head of cattle, equivalent to about twenty-five or thirty dollars. The daughter of a poor man may be worth only two or three head of cattle, but if the parents are rich or of high rank, then her price is a hundred or even two hundred head of cattle. Apparently, the value of a woman among the Goajira depends not so much on her beauty or other accomplishments as on her social standing, which again depends on the number of cattle owned by her parents."

Paul Einzig Primitive Money (1948) p.187