Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Confidence Depends on What We Want Money To Accomplish

The symbolism of money is part and parcel of our own economic lives. In other words, money stands for far more than abstract concepts of power struggles and capitalist (or socialist) fantasies which stand in the way of what we really want...oh wait. How exactly does that keep happening? Why do we constantly try to separate ourselves from vital parts of our own economic realities?

Political parties try to isolate themselves into partial economic elements, and then wonder why those other "separate" elements engage in contradictory activities which were never ascribed to them. As a self proclaimed Marxist, Chris Dillow (Stumbling and Mumbling) wonders in this post what has happened to the self preservation instincts of capitalism. Why - for instance - would finance have "allowed" itself to get into a position of negative interest rates? Isn't that a bit like shooting oneself in the foot? What happened to the ideal of economic progress, and why do so few uphold it in the present?

Both sides of the political aisle are dysfunctional to the degree that they ascribe absolute qualities to one another. Not only do those qualities reflect victim and aggressor roles, but assumptions are made which don't really apply to either side in many respects. The reality is we all need to both produce and consume throughout the course of our lives. What's more, monetary systems need to reflect these roles as closely as possible, through both production residuals and lateral time arbitrage.

Yet many no longer have an adequate way to express these basic human instincts in either personal terms, or understandable social terms with other members of community. All too often, a nation's history - as told to the general population - can become overly simplified in production and consumption terms, which only makes political agreement even more difficult to come by. Underneath it all, a lack of agreement or understanding regarding monetary processes permeates the dialogue.

In a diverse society such as the present, entire new dimensions of product categories are needed, in both spatial and knowledge based terms. Vast skills potential remains untapped, but much of it needs environments that are easy to move and change about, depending on the always changing projects of the moment. In the same way that economies were previously able to create solid structures by virtue of far flung markets, they now need balance with less solid components for nearby economic activities, commodities and services possibilities. Just the same, that dynamic potential remains held back by the structural dictates of earlier centuries in both knowledge based and environment based terms. When people lose the ability to make sense of their greater aspirations amongst one another, the stability of their most basic representations also comes into play.

Hence the stability of money aptly represents our own social stability, and whether or not we can find agreement to coordinate societal needs. Money is all about the intersection of our time, our purpose, what we create, and how we validate what we create. But sometimes we forget the true purpose for money as representative of our own economic activities. That's when opposing factions try to impose their own interpretations, as to what they believe money is meant to accomplish.

What's more - opposing factions with their growing insistence and extremism share a commonality: a lack of confidence about the monetary representations of the present. For those who consider themselves today's "makers" of production, inability on the part of populations to meet their defined specifications, supposedly means that money must be "held back". But all that really means is that some prefer no growth at all, if it can't take place on specifically defined high income terms. What's more, the consensus of holding back on growth is expressed in authoritarian terms, and both sides of the political aisle tend to agree with one another in this regard. Even so, the agreement between these factions as to product definition, tends to be missed by populists on the right who continue to be misled in budget discussions.

For some on the left, the issue is that money must be "loosed", if the demands and expectations of the "makers" are to be met. While this reasoning takes many forms (from living wages to endless money printing potential on the part of government) the problem is that it does not equate the use of money with the actuality of economic time capacity. Some who also advocate for a basic income nonetheless see compensation of today's unemployed as a non productive if necessary solution. What is not considered on either side is the untapped potential of the unemployed, which simply needs to be accessed through different monetary and skills based means.

A significant problem for the "makers" interpretations of money, is that of sticky markets. Many would see to it that product remains defined so as to be exclusively accessed. However they may feel about the attributes or mechanisms of aggregate demand, restraint is often viewed in moral or pragmatic terms. In other words, too little recognition exists re product inflexibility - which is by far the greatest problem for income of any static or sticky definition. The inability to reimagine production capacity as the true fulcrum for economic stability, is indeed the main blind spot on the part of both left and right.

No one can afford to assume that money has little meaning beyond the power of political will, for it is just not that simple. Even though it's too easy to dismiss money as a product of power, the trajectory of a long term economic equilibrium never lies, and in the end all definitions of power bite the dust. And long term trajectories depend on the degree of confidence on the part of every economic participant, as to the feasibility of carrying out one's stated intentions and desired actions.  What do we want money to accomplish? Is it really about human potential and aspiration, or instead making certain that some people don't have the means to realize potential because they are perceived as threats?

In the course of our lifetimes, resources come and resources go. Sometimes society looks at them and reasons: see, these are the drivers of economies. This is "supposed" to be what provides true wealth. And with some degree of knowledge and skill, these initial gifts of economic serendipity-into-product transform into mansions and appearances of abundant living all around. But then we get stuck. We start to think that the mansions and the apparent abundance are the drivers of wealth and that all other capacity on the part of human beings must get in line for its chance to take part in what was already imagined.

But the human imagination never gets a break, and well it shouldn't. Today there are many, who seek to keep the human imagination harnessed to mostly the desires of a few visions. Even those that complain about this aspect of wealth creation are still too quick to acquiesce to its demands, instead of taking initiative to bring knowledge use and skills wealth back into balance with the wealth of hard assets. All who keep their eyes on balance sheets as the prime mover of futures, acquiesce to the status quo.

Don't assume someone or something else has all the responsibility for the outcomes of the near future. For even if others wear the "appearance" of responsibility with some title or privilege, that only goes so far. Likewise, some are willing to step up to the plate to take the reins of power if nothing else positive happens, but by no means does that mean they are the ones with the best answers. It just means that we didn't suggest our own potential answers in time to provide any real choices. With a little luck, confidence does not yet have to exit the stage.

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