Monday, February 15, 2021

Money Wisdom #500

"All money is a technology of future-making. We only accept a particular money as payment because we think it will be accepted tomorrow by someone else. Every transaction is a prediction, and therefore an affirmation, of a particular future.


If all money is a bet on the future, it is also a summoning of a future. When people design new money forms, it is usually with the goal of telling a new story about the future. Think of how euro notes have imaginary architecture — fictional bridges and arches intended to conjure a shared “European” past in order to project a shared European future.


Extropians also had a libertarian bent: They believed in the ability of money to create a cybernetic system that could power this new world. But if you truly believe, as the Extropians did, that you will outlive the world’s governments and even its financial institutions, how do you make a monetary vehicle that will too? How do you set a store of value that will persist and even grow as you await revivification in your cryonic chamber?

The answer, essentially, is cryptocurrency. You set your money and its value outside the things you think are crumbling. You secure it with the things you see as eternal: cryptography and markets.


There is magic in deferral. If we can just increase the time horizon, some things disintegrate but others fall into place. Despite imagining a future initially filled with chaos and collapse for ordinary people, Extropians consider themselves deeply optimistic.

Today’s cryptocurrency communities are similarly summoning a future. Some of those futures look a lot like the one the Extropians imagined; indeed, some of today’s Bitcoin old guard were themselves part of the Extropian groups decades ago.

Lana Swartz 'Bitcoin As A Meme And A Future'

in Noema (2021) (link)

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Money Wisdom #499

As I say, money, for proponents of MMT, when the term is used for items used in making payments, is said to be debt. Thus, in a chapter of Wray’s book focussed specifically on the nature of money, two subsections in which money is interpreted in this way are given the heading “money is debt”. Wray also identifies three “fundamental propositions regarding money”, one of which emphasises that “money [not a particular good] buys goods”, and another of which runs as follows: 

“Money is always debt; it cannot be a commodity […] because if it were that would mean a particular good is buying goods” (Wray, 2012, p. 264). 

I take it that the term debt is here understood in its traditional and legal sense as an obligation held by a debtor to satisfy a creditor. It is internally related to a credit, where the latter means a specific right to payment or satisfaction. Credit and debt, in other words, are two aspects of the same social relation – a credit/debt (or debt/credit) relation – connecting a creditor and a debtor; you cannot have one aspect without the other. Credit is simply this relation viewed from the perspective of the creditor; it is debt from the point of view of the debtor.

Tony Lawson Money’s relation to debt: Some problems with MMT’s conception of money (2019)

Real-world Economics Review, issue no. 89

Money Wisdom #498

"Although a unit of value ‘measurement’ or assignment is clearly a primary concept in any sustainable theory of money, it is not itself money. Rather, money, at least as I conceptualise it (or money proper, as Keynes calls it), comes into existence only if/when the community also positions a suitable kind of thing or stuff (denominated of course in the accepted unit of account, and so, as a kind, typically positioned elsewhere in the system previously) to serve as a general means of payment and, in the case of a successful money at least, a store of purchasing power. Money is that so (additionally) positioned kind of thing."

Tony Lawson The Constitution and Nature of Money 

in Cambridge Journal of Economics (2018) 42, 851–873

Saturday, October 17, 2020

MoneyWisdom #497

 "As a formative period of early Christian tradition, late antiquity was a setting of great upheaval and social, cultural, political, economic, theological, and symbolic transformation. It established certain parameters within which European civilizations developed and offered a fund of conceptual and practical resources from which to draw, as the West told itself stories about itself, fashioning an identity out of a distant and reconstructed past. As Western societies continue the process of self-examination that is always self-formation, the relations among the monetary economic, the political and theological persist as a deposit whose books and records require auditing. For this reserve has not ceased to generate interest, compounding in the form of theoretical and social returns, paying dividends both productive and destructive, life-giving and death-dealing. This is an inheritance that calls us to account."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.206

Thursday, October 15, 2020

MoneyWisdom #496

 "...many accounts of colonization note the imposition of sovereign currency and tax requirement upon occupied territory. Infusing a colony with new currency achieves many tasks. Ideologically speaking, it circulates the image of the ruling center among the populace. New subjects are gradually conditioned to associate such images the means of payment and acquisition of the basics of life. They are reminded of the lord by whose mark it is they buy and sell. Figuratively speaking, they must prostrate themselves before the image in order to prolong physical life, accepting its terms and regime of value. The imposition also inserts the particular weights and measures established by the power, permeating exchanges relations with certain denominations of wealth. This provides new sovereignly determined methods of categorizing and evaluating reality. Most centrally, perhaps, establishing a new monetary space draws all participants into relations of obligation with the colonizing center. They must now render back to the authority a portion of these circulating tokens, reclaimed in taxes."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.183

MoneyWisdom #495

 "If it is true, as Simmel suggests, that the predominant style of art influences our way of viewing nature, then the quantitative structure of monetary relations, which is superimposed upon qualitative actuality, must greatly influence our viewing of it. The calculating intellect which operates through the money economy receives back from that same money economy some of the mental characteristics in terms of which it dominates modern life. There is an analogy between the mentality which the money economy engenders and the conviction that nothing is real in any ultimate sense if it cannot be measured. This objective and impersonal character of money, indeed its very lack of character, is important in the development of individuality. Money acts, as it were, in a double role: On the one hand it negates the subjective, the unique and qualitative factors, on the other it allows the individual to realize his personal ends by impersonal means."

S. Herbert Frankel Money: Two Philosophies - The Conflict of Trust and Authority (1977) p.25

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

MoneyWisdom #494

 "Counterintuitive as it may seem, to receive money from the sovereign issuing center is to receive a burden, a token of obligation. Reflecting on various historical instances of taxation, Alfred Mitchell Innes observes:

Every time a coin or certificate is issued a solemn obligation is laid on the people of the country. A credit on the public treasury is opened, a public debt incurred. It is true that a coin does not purport to convey an obligation, there is no law which imposes an obligation, and the fact is not generally recognized. It is nevertheless the simple truth. A credit, it cannot be too often or too emphatically stated, is the right to 'satisfaction.' This right depends on no statute, but on common or customary law. It is inherent in the very nature of credit throughout the world.

The issuance of currency betrays the imposition of debt by a governing power. The burden is shared and passed around to all of the governed, who labor and exchange under the mark of the king. Recognition is given that the power center has rightful claim to determine the weights and measures for transaction, and tacit thanks and honor are rendered to the one whose image is on the circulating tokens. Like Gregory of Nyssa, Innes asserts that the right or justice on monetary obligation needs no external law or statute. It is justice unto itself. In this case, it is right and just that the one who oversees economy, the one whose image makes possible transaction and resource allocation, should be the ultimate destination of value that is returned through the praises of tribute, tithe and taxes."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.182

quoting Alfred Mitchell Innes The Credit Theory of Money in The Bank Law Journal (1914) p160-161 

Saturday, October 10, 2020

MoneyWisdom #493

"The presence of ransom motifs in many of the patristic accounts [Aulén] summarizes is not happenstance, and these narratives do not merely tell an ancillary tale of divine concern in the midst of victory over the devil. Rather, they fit completely within and function as a central conceptual mechanism for such a story of God's triumph over opposing powers. 

This dynamic of conquest is crucial to recognize because tales of ransom, redemption and sacrifice are often told simply as gestures of divine love and compassion. From humanity's perspective, they certainly are this, but they also serve as so much more. An interpretive framework informed by monetary economy helps to reveal that ransom tales fit into and substantiate claims of divine reign and government. Ransome theory shows the inner workings of the divine oikonomia as it overcomes opposition and moves forward its governance of creation and management of redemption. [...] If ransom is simply told as a tale of divine benevolence without attending to the details of economic struggle at its center, this is analogous, for instance, to endorsing governmental programs in the name of the benefit they purportedly offer the governed without considering the forms of institutionalized, economic violence they might contain."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.173 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

MoneyWisdom #492

 "...for Plato, money is not simply another vice among others but is 'the chief instrument for the gratification of such desires' (Plato, Republic IX.580e). Thus the question of limits and boundlessness with regard to desire in Greek thought often relates to the anxieties around money. Developing Plato, Aristotle claims that the principle threat of money is precisely its capacity to fuel unlimited desire (Aristotle , Politics I:2256-58) Use of money to procure goods to satisfy finite needs is legitimate and, as such, permitted within oikonomia, but unlimited accumulation (chrematistike) of money is illegitimate or unnatural. Partaking of the order not of need but of desire, which knows no bounds, money directly indexes desire, for 'in this art of wealth-getting there is no limit of the end' (Aristotle, Politics I:1257). What is more, as Aristotle observes, money is unique in its capacity as a universal equivalent to define the values of all other goods and pursuits. Money is of a different order and functions as a potential governing framework, both in the register of desire and rational capacity to assess what is good. These monetarily inflected concerns about desire that stem from philosophical critiques of money lurk in the background and make themselves felt in Gregory's ensuing description of satanic entrapment and liberation.

Having recounted both the changeable nature of humankind as well as the potential for deceptive appearances, Gregory proceeds to build a case for the presence of justice in humanity's plight:

[...] the mind, being cheated of its desire for that which is really good, was carried away to what is unreal through the deception of the counsellor and inventor of evil, by having been persuaded that that truly is beautiful, which is the opposite of beautiful. For his guile would have been ineffectual, had not the semblance of the good been spread upon the hook of evil like a bait.

The devil made use of the potential both for malleable human nature to be 'carried away' and for appearances to deceive. Gregory here introduces his famous 'fishhook' and 'bait' metaphor to describe the process. Humanity was lured into a snare just as a fish is led to bite a hook: because the trap was made appealing. 

Despite this deceit, Gregory holds humanity to account: 'Man then was freely involved in this disaster; he had yoked himself to the enemy of life through pleasure'. Driven by desire, humankind opted for bondage and slavery. Humanity is responsible for choosing, just as a fish is responsible for biting the bait. It does not matter that the bait is a deceit. To bite is a free choice, an act without coercion. Mutable humankind followed its own inordinate desires and, failing to distinguish between surface appeal and the true depth of beauty, chased an empty reflection. In doing so, it lost what it already had as gifts of divine grace. The consequences are therefore just. As there is a logic and order to redemption, there is a logic and order to the initial process of enslavement. God's fair measures to counteract this tyranny will match in inverse fashion the steps taken to bind humanity'. 

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.153

MoneyWisdom #491

 "While created in the image of God, humankind is not identical to God, having come from nonbeing into being and thus evincing capacity for change. As a changeable and dynamic form, humanity is always on the move, so to speak. Such processual nature heads towards perfection and the good, or toward its opposite, which is a type of nonexistence, a loss of being. The engine of movement is desire, the goal toward which it strives is beauty, and the mechanism of action is the will, which, Gregory maintains, is free."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.151

Friday, September 25, 2020

MoneyWisdom #490

 "Monetary overtones emerge noticeably in Christian discourse about the Son as a type of currency in the divine exchange that takes place due to the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. In other words, the potential connotations of the Logos as money come to a head in explicit discussion of Christ serving as some form of offering, sacrifice, payment or compensation rendered either to God or, in some cases, the devil. It is because the Son is the originary numismatic stamp and cosmic currency that he can in turn become the incarnate coin and serve as the payment or ransom so central to Christian soteriology. Likening Christ to gold - as the iconoclast Constantine V did - while perhaps meant to indicate the precious nature of the savior, invokes the long tradition of discourse about Christ as payment for sin. Christ is not merely valuable; Christ is value - the central, determinative value in the economy of salvation. As the treasury administrator and lieutenant in the Father's minting process enters the economy as its essential treasure and currency, Christ as the coin of God comes to the fore as the critical means of payment in a redemptive exchange."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.131 

MoneyWisdom #489

 "The implicit connotation of the Son as the type and die used to imprint the image of God on the coins of humanity - the Son who became incarnate as the chief coin of the Father - emerges in these various instances of material connection between coinage and Christ. Actual coins carry on the work of incarnation as material symbols making theological claims: they proclaim Justinian's imperial submission to Christ, they distinguish the hypostatic union from the body of the virgin mother, and they serve as ritual objects of iconophilic practice. Significantly, this conceptual connection between Christ and coins emerges in political contexts during declarations of, or struggles for, sovereignty. The implicit idea of Christ as principal coin of the Father's kingdom proves itself repeatedly useful in imperial attempts at consolidation of power."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.129-130

Money Wisdom #488

"A coin reflects the character of its issuer. Just as any individual could look at a coin and determine its originating center, so should one, implies Philo, look to humankind and see the marks of God, the issuing emperor. Therefore, one way to understand the imago Dei is within the register of numismatic imprinting. In fact, a chief term used for the nature or character of a person - charaktêr - is derived from the practices of imprinting or stamping an image upon a coin, wax seal, or other object."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.111

MoneyWisdom #487

"Christian theology [...] bequeathed to the West, as part of its inherited 'governmental machine,' a unified rupture of elements in political power and authority, the aporias of which continually plague the actual praxis of such authority in time and space. The sphere of sovereignty is made manifest with a praxis that executes the laws of the sovereign and manages its space through economy. Such administration makes present the transcendent sovereign, paradoxically making its absence present while permitting its distance to remain."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.38

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Money Wisdom #486

 On the painting of Willem de Kooning...

"The female genital symbolizes creativity and de Kooning, in painting woman, is painting creativity, and when he can no longer paint woman, he loses his creativity, or else goes through the motions of being creative. His postwoman works are pseudocreative rather than authentically creative. 

When the female genital becomes totally manifest - oppressively evident, confronting and overwhelming the viewer with the self-evidently female - the female body has almost completely disappeared: The female figure has itself been almost completely overwhelmed by the sign of itself - the most vital fact of its authenticity, the smallest but most significant part of its femaleness. Totally exhibitionist, the female body dissolves - into its roots, as it were. One can understand this an example of locker-room irony, and there is no doubt such an unflinching disclosure of the usually obscure 'mystery of life,' and even more heroically as a militant, fearless, in-your-face revelation of the unconsciously terrifying intimate reality of the female body. De Kooning is a Perseus who uses painting as a mirror in which to stare at the Medusa - the female genital, surrounded by its snaky roots - and not turn to stone."

Donald Kuspit Venus Unveiled: De Kooning's Melodrama of Vulgarity in
Uncontrollable Beauty - Toward a New Aesthetics Ed Bill Beckley (1998) p.285

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Money Wisdom #485

"Do not neglect or forget the gods. This was the essential commandment of the Hellenic world. We humans were not asked to have faith as with the Christians or to obey the law as with the Hebrews. We were asked not to forget or neglect the gods. Surely this caution has some relation with the role of beauty in Hellenic culture. But how? Perhaps it means that art, as anything else we humans do, remembers the non-human and immortal powers - as the gods were defined in antiquity.

Then, we could lift the repression from beauty by anchoring the mind in nonhuman values. For surely the humanist program is not enough: Social protest and political concern, the exploration of self-expression and the full exploitation of the materials, the reaction of one school or movement to another school or movement, to say nothing of the drive for fame, career, and money, are not satisfactory anchors of the mind's intention in making art. Beauty cannot enter art unless the mind in the work is anchored beyond itself so that in some way the finished work reflects the sacred and the doing of the work, ritual."

James Hillman The Practice of Beauty
in Uncontrollable Beauty - Toward a New Aesthetics (1998) p.273

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Money Wisdom #484

 "...importing monetary and broader economic language into theology informs theological systems in unique and substantive ways. To speak of Christ metaphorically as currency and coin, for instance, is to ascribe to Christ key attributes of monetary economy in ways that establish elements of Christ's identity. These attributes in turn become footholds and bearing points for subsequent theological formulations and expanding networks of doctrinal claims. The monetary metaphor may thus come to inform the logic of the entire system. As a central building block of the broader edifice, the metaphor may even be forgotten or dismissed. This can be seen in the way the metaphor of redemption, used to speak of salvation, can be repeatedly invoked in Christian context without an awareness of its thoroughly economic derivation and sense."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.20

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Money Wisdom #483

 "What might accepting money's influence on theology and theology's shaping of economic order mean for theological projects of personal, communal, and social transformation?"

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.11

Money Wisdom #482

"Medieval philosophers were fascinated by mirrors. They inquired in particular into the nature of the images that appear in them: What is the being, or rather the non-being, of these images?


Two characteristics are derived from the insubstantial nature of the image. Since the image is not a substance, it does not possess any continuous reality and cannot be described as moving by means of any local movement. Rather, it is generated at every moment according to the movement or the presence of the one who contemplates it: "Just as light is always created anew according to the presence of the illuminator, so do we say that the image in the mirror is generated each time according to the presence of the one who looks." The being of the image is a continuous generation (semper nova generatur), a being [essere] of generation and not of substance. Each moment, it is created anew, like the angels who, according to the Talmud, sing the praises of God and immediately sink into nothingness.

The second characteristic of the image is that it cannot be determined according to the category of quantity; it is not, properly speaking, a form or an image but rather the "aspect of an image or of a form" (species imaginis et formae). In itself, it cannot be described as long or wide, but instead as "having only the aspect of length and width." The dimensions of the image are therefore not measurable quantities but merely aspects or species, modes of being and "habits" (habitus vel dispositiones). This characteristic - being able to refer only to a "habit" or an ethos - is the most interesting signification of the expression "being in a subject." What is in a subject has the form of a species, a usage, a gesture. It is never a thing, but always and only a "kind of thing" [specie di cosa]. 

The Latin term species, which means "appearance," "aspect," or "vision," derives from a root signifying "to look, to see:' This root is also found in speculum (mirror), spectrum (image, ghost), perspicuus (transparent, clearly seen), speciosus (beautiful, giving itself to be seen), specimen (example, sign), and spectaculum (spectacle). In philosophical terminology, species was used to translate the Greek eidos (as genus was used to translate genos); hence the sense the term takes on in natural science (animal or plant species) and in the language of commerce, where the term signifies "commodities" (particularly in the sense of drugs and spices) and, later, money (especes). 


The mirror is the place where we discover that we have an image and, at the same time, that this image can be separate from us, that our species or imago does not belong to us. Between the perception of the image and the recognition of oneself in it, there is a gap, which the medieval poets called love. In this sense, Narcissus's mirror is the source of love, the fierce and shocking realization that the image is and is not our image. If the gap is eliminated, if one recognizes oneself in the image but without also being misrecognized and loved in it - if only for an instant - it means no longer being able to love; it means believing that we are the masters of our own species and that we coincide with it. If the interval between perception and recognition is indefinitely prolonged, the image becomes internalized as a fantasy and love falls into psychology.

In the Middle Ages, species was also called intentio, intention. The term names the internal tension (intus tensio) of each being, that which pushes it to become an image, to communicate itself. The species is nothing other than the tension, the love with which each being desires itself, desires to persevere in its own being. In the image, being and desire, existence and conatus* coincide perfectly. To love another being means to desire its species, that is, to desire the desire with which it desires to persevere in its being. 


The transformation of the species into a principle of identity and classification is the original sin of our culture, its most implacable apparatus [disposiuvo]. Something is personalized - is referred to as an identity at the cost of sacrificing its specialness. A being - a face, a gesture, an event - is special when, without resembling any other, it resembles all the others. 

Giorgio Agamben Profanations (2007) p.55-58

* striving - an innate inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself

Money Wisdom #481

"Insights on the nature and function of money afford additional opportunities for conceptual comparison between economy and theology. Money serves as a useful point of entry into such considerations because it brings to the fore questions about the materialization of transcendent value and the role of representation, issues central to debates about God's relation to the world..." 

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.5

Money Wisdom #480

 "It has become commonplace today to speak of a widespread, so-called faith and hope in money and markets. The ubiquitous power and influence of the economy appear to require, or at least inspire, religious language and invocations of the divine. [...] Money is depicted as an object of 'worship', as enthusiastic participants in the global economy prostrate themselves before the 'altars' of capital, seeking economic 'salvation'.


Particular early Christian theological ideas incorporate and retain traces of monetary economy. Monetary language, concepts and practices prove useful in clarifying and formalizing certain emerging and central  theological claims. This infusion of monetary thought and practice into core Christian doctrine means that Christian ideas, practices and traditions help to convey this theological and economic combination into new social and political formations and legitimate evolving customs and institutions of monetary economy. If money lends its logic to the structuring of theology, God-talk repays by offering its prestige and sacred power to the world of exchange."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p1-2

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Money Wisdom #479

What [Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics by Robert Skidelsky] reveals is an endless war between two broad theoretical perspectives in which the same side always seems to win—for reasons that rarely have anything to do with either theoretical sophistication or greater predictive power. The crux of the argument always seems to turn on the nature of money. Is money best conceived of as a physical commodity, a precious substance used to facilitate exchange, or is it better to see money primarily as a credit, a bookkeeping method or circulating IOU—in any case, a social arrangement? This is an argument that has been going on in some form for thousands of years. What we call “money” is always a mixture of both, and, as I myself noted in Debt (2011), the center of gravity between the two tends to shift back and forth over time. 

(my emphasis)

David Graeber Against Economics (2019) 

A Review of Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics by Robert Skidelsky

in The New York Review of Books (link)

Friday, September 4, 2020

Money Wisdom #478

"Eusebius's reflection on coinage under Constantine highlights his awareness of the role money plays in a system of rule an administration. Money is communicative and proclamatory , declaring the nature and values of the sovereign. It draws upon the imperial image, sharing in and augmenting its authority. Money is itself a critical image of the nature of sovereign character, a representation reaching out into the governed sphere."

Devin Singh Divine Currency (2018) p.93