Money; most of us use it everyday. With these green sheets of paper we can purchase a house, a car, or a McDonald’s hamburger. But is money really wealth?
Before exploring this topic, we must hammer out as always our semantics. Currency (used interchangeably with money) is a commodity which possesses certain qualities. These qualities include fungibility. Fungibility is the quality of item to be subdivided and interchangeable. Take for example a tub of coffee grinds. Say the tub contains one pound of coffee. The contents could be subdivided into halves, fourths, fifths or whatever denomination. You could take grinds from one portion and interchange them with another portion (assuming the quality of the grinds are the same) and the value of the fractions remain the same. Another quality of money is durability. Durability is quality of the item to be reused. A diamond for example is durable. A diamond can be bought and sold repeatedly and it does not harm the integrity of the diamond. While a chocolate bar does not have durability. Once you use the chocolate bar (eat it) the chocolate bar is metabolized and obviously no longer retains its qualities as a chocolate bar and therefore can not be reused. Likewise the money must have stability. The stability of the money is based off of the limitations of supply of and the demand of the currency. For example if you found some undiscovered tribe on a tropical island in the pacific and they used shells for currency, using a shell to pay tribute to a chieftain would be acceptable. While in the United States the IRS would be a little bit less keen on accepting conch shells come tax season. In fact they would insist you pay in US dollars. Because there are various exchanges we are required to participate in which involve money, the money is given value due to it. Likewise it is preferable that money be portable and dense in value. It is easier to walk around town with a gold coin in your pocket than should you exchange that gold coin for its value in, say, sacks of feathers. You would in fact look quite strange walking about with so many sacks on your back while the coin is rather discreet.
It is with this understanding of currency that we can say the invention of currency is a good thing. It makes commercial transactions more efficient. And money makes the storage of wealth more compact and discreet.
Unfortunately this is no longer the state of currency. Nations centuries ago transitioned from actual value retaining currency to the issuance of certificates of value in exchange. This is paper money. Not too long ago a dollar bill was a certificate indicating you possessed a set quantity of gold being reserved in a bank. Should the owner of a dollar bill wish to exchange the bill for his share of gold, banks would be compelled to do such. It was not the paper itself which contained value but rather its ability to be redeemed for gold.
However, now the ability to redeem tangible gold in exchange for a dollar is no longer viable. This ability was done away with in the 70’s under the Nixon administration, marking the end of what is known as the “Gold Standard.” Enter the age of fiat currency. Fiat currency is a currency which is not in and of itself a commodity of value, nor is it representative or exchangeable for a commodity of value (previously gold).
At this time we must take into context broader macro economic trends. How they’d developed to the point of the remission of the gold standard and analyze how the disjoining of money to a valuable commodity has effected economic activity. In order to do this we must backtrack almost 200 years.
The agricultural revolution set into motion a chain of events which would come to characterize not only our contemporary economic practices but our day to day lives. Most certainly then, but even as recently as the turn of the twentieth century in several western countries such as America. Most people were directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. The agricultural revolution brought about the use of new technologies and methods of more efficient land use. These developments allowed a class of farmer to emerge amongst the rest and accrue large masses of wealth. With this wealth the farmers would purchase land from smaller farmers who failed to use their land as efficiently. This only precipitated the upper class farmer’s wealth as he was knowledgeable as to how to get the most wealth (crop) per acre. These now displaced small farmers now sought work. Most of these people moved in towards cities and industrialized areas. It was common for them to take up positions in factories.
However with the ever increasing number of previously rural peoples poured into cities. Industrial technologies became more automated. The rural farmer turned factory worker became disposable. The market for low skilled labor was vast. These people now endured lives more bleak and more impoverished than their days prior as small time farmers. They had little capital and could not afford to return to their agrarian ways as land became a hot commodity for large commercial farmers. This is the origin of what we now know as “wage slavery.”
The wage slave is a person who experiences a great discrepancy in negotiable power with his employer. He is willing to accept a waged job however unjustly low it may be because he does not have any other alternative. The wage slave does not have the capital to become a commercial farmer or an industrialist and usually has a hard time feeding himself, let alone his family. However if he opts out of low waged industrial labor he would no longer have a stream of revenue and die. While the small time farmer may not have had great expanses of wealth prior to the agricultural revolution he did have the benefit of the self sufficient (or nearly so) domestic economy. The domestic economy is the economy of the house. The man of the house would till fields and tend to live stock with the assistance of his sons. Likewise the sons would develop specialized skills to help the domestic economy as a whole and in times of good harvest allow the sale of surplus resources for a more dense reserve of wealth (currency, namely gold). This would act as a hedge against uncertainty in years to come and allow the domestic economy the dexterity to act and react to changing circumstances. The wife of the house would regulate the consumption of goods, prepare food, maintain the actual physical household and tend to children and the infirmed. Though the woman’s most notable value to the domestic economy was her fertility. Women and children in and of themselves were a deficit upon the wealth of the household. However the man viewed women and children as an investment as children do not remain so forever. The father knew the wealth his sons would create in their adulthood would far outweigh the initial investment of resources in his youth. Therefore the man of the domestic household would be incentivized to have many children. Likewise the women possessed fiscal value because of their capacity to create new members of the domestic economy.
In the wage slave economy the valuation of women and children was inverted. The physiology of the people did not change. People still needed to eat, to drink, to sleep, and to stay warm. But now the man is receiving a fixed wage and possesses few assets. Many lived in rented out apartments and dormitories. The additional cost of a wife and children drained his limited wage revenue. However now upon his sons reaching adulthood the sons would offer no financial kickback for his parents. Therefore men and women decided to have fewer and fewer children. This is evidenced by the fertility rates in the west today. Many western nations which still use wage slavery have fertility rates well beneath replacement rates. Whereas had we looked 200 years ago the fertility rates would be exponentially higher.
While this analysis may seem cold and utilitarian I feel it necessary to assess the human implications of such a radical realignment. While in cold numbers women possessed great value due to their ability to produce children. The domestic economy was far kinder to women and children. She was taken care of protected by a loving husband. She was surrounded by children who loved her and was able to live a fulfilling life in accord with her femininity. Children were not commoditized as wage slaves. They were not subjected to working in dangerous factories or lung blackening coal mines. Children were overseen by their parents and developed a wide range of skills both for their professional and human development. Children enjoyed a strong and interconnected network of extended family who loved them and granted them security.
It is frightening to follow the numerical trends in regards to demography. The industrial owner is tasked with a balancing act. He is motivated by making as much money as possible. However if he pays his workers too little they die. If the labor pool begins to die off the commodity of labor becomes more scarce and therefore more expensive per hour. But if the owner pays his workers too much they will have excess capital and can create alternative means of income and no longer be dependent upon him. And as these formerly rural farmers become urban industrial workers they no longer create a variety of products. They not only become dependent upon the industrial plant owner but also upon the stability of currency. On a 10 acre plot of land a domestic economy could not only produce the food it needed but also a range of products. These products could be furniture grown from their lumber, shoes made from their own leather, or textiles grown from their own fibers. A small urban apartment isn’t quite conducive to this sort of domestic production to say the least. Should the value of currency destabilize large swaths of people now become completely defenseless against the turning tide of economic disintegration. This situation is only exasperated by the hyper specialization of tasks they are capable of performing. Should you drop a bureaucrat who’s sole job is to manage the time clocks of the various workers in a warehouse, he will most probably not be capable of surviving off of the land on his own.
To add an other layer of dependents we see the exponential raise in the class of merchants. This is the allusion to the title of the article. Makers and movers. Let us say Tom the cobbler were to make a pair of shoes. The shoes he created are actual manifest wealth. The shoes are a commodity. Tom sells these shoes to Joe the merchant for a gold coin with the value of $5. Joe the merchant then turns around and sells the shoes for $10. It may appear that Joe created an additional $5 into the economy. In reality Joe did not contribute anything at all into the economy as far as the production of wealth is concerned. Joe is not a maker of wealth. Joe is a mover of wealth. With this paradigm now reflect. How many movers do you know? How many makers do you know? Typically most of us know far more movers than makers. The combination of movers, bureaucrats, and hyper specialized low wage earning laborers creates the ideal circumstance for economic catastrophe. The capitalist loves to allude to the laws of supply and demand. Let us evaluate the situation from the supply and demand angle. Consumer=someone who works for currency as opposed to commodities. The consumer needs commerce to survive. If commerce ceases his currency is useless. Consumerism is the economic model relating to the network or atomized consumers. In a consumer economy children = resources in without gains. Fewer children = fewer consumers. Fewer consumers = less demand. Less demand = less profit. Less profit = lay offs. Lay offs = more welfare recipients. More welfare recipients = more taxation. More taxation means less profits. Less profit equals = more lay offs.
Even if the currency used in a consumerist economy was stable, the mathematics or demographic extinction will not allow this wage slave-industrialist dynamic to continue indefinitely. But of course the currency used in this circumstance is not stable and is in fact fiat. So with these two factors acting in tandem we can easily foresee the disintegration of the current macro economy. As it is fundamentally unsustainable.
So what is one to do? While this analysis may seem “doom and gloom” it is actually the contrary. It is refreshing to know this state of affairs can’t exist indefinitely. Now is the time to get ahead of the power curve. Use whatever means you can. (Of course within the confines of the laws of the state and of morality) to attain as much capital possible. Use this capital to diversify your streams of revenue. There is the old adage “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” How’s about you not rely upon the will of some owner to feed you in the first place and bite the hands of those who transgress against you. Become makers not movers. The ultimate aim however should be to restore the domestic economy. Treat your extended family as though it were a company. Cooperate with one and other. Pool resources in order to have insurance against medical, financial, or climactic emergencies. Begin again to see your children as an investment in the future.
I will finish with an analogy that will sum up the differences between the domestic versus consumer economy. They macro economy is like an organism. Our bodies grow naturally. We grow our muscles where needed. And our body heals its self from injuries. The domestic economy is a perennially proven approach to health. It is responsible. It grows incrementally. But it is also holistic. If the domestic economy were a person he would eat healthy, do cardio, and concern himself with over all wellness. The consumer economy is like the ‘roided out gym rat. He neglects the health of his mind and internal organs for a artificial gain of muscle. Perhaps the steroid taking gym rat could bench press more than the prior guy. However the name of the game is not vanity. The name of the game is longevity. The gym rat will be a walking mass of block of muscle for a couple of years. Then he will die from cardiac arrest in his 40’s. Though the man who took good measured stewardship of his health could anticipate a long life perhaps even extending to the triple digits. Don’t cut corners, not exchange short term gain for long term defects. Chose to live a more austere frugal existence and liberate yourself from the clenches of the consumer economy. While the allure of products and comfort may tempt you. Remember that should you delay that gratification in the moment. You can spare your children and your grandchildren the infantilizing dependence of wage slavery. And you can go down as the forefather who set the stage for a better life for his descendants. And you will be the man to whom they will give thanks.
By Jean-Baptiste Boudreaux, originally posted on acadianrevival.home.blog.com