Thursday, 5 March 2009


Hard to avoid as a subject at the moment and, driving to and fro, the radio is constantly occupied with one or other aspect of it. In that respect it is a simple enough matter of possessing the means to purchase things. That, apparently, is one of four definitions or functions. Wiki gives a rhyme that lists them:

"Money is a matter of functions four:
a medium, a measure, a standard, a store."

As poetry goes it is not of the best, but as mnemonic, I expect it does what it sets out to do.

The bit we chiefly know about is money as medium of exchange. It means you don't have to give the other person a thing he wants before he will give you what you want. Rhyme for that: It's better than barter / You get what you're after / And not what you're not / Despite what you've got. (Thank you, that will be five pence please.)

The idea of a unit of account depends on having a stable standard, which is no good in times of inflation, but is useful in keeping track of how you're doing compared to last week or last year, providing the standard itself is reliable. Rhyme: It's fair / Providing it's there. (That one is worth only tuppence, but buy now in case there's a run on them.)

Another idea is store of value. That is what your money is worth in terms of, say, real estate, gold, precious stones etc. Rhyme: If you can afford it / Hoard it. / Gold / Can be sold. (I'll want 7p for that or, alternatively, a small corner of your garden).

That's three, but one of them no doubt subdivides. Still, it is not the distinction between these that interests me so much as the kind of mega-manoeuvre we are constantly hearing about now.

It seems to me we have been dealing, in the last twenty odd years or so, with money in terms of energy. So money is defined by the activity it generates. If, on the promise of being paid sometime, people get to run around fast enough, the energy they generate will be worth more money. So money goes round faster and faster, and it doesn't really matter where it finishes up, it's the sheer ergs of it that matter. It is energy that is the medium of exchange. The goods you buy and keep buying are embodiments of the energy that passes through them.

And this theory has a kind of prettiness about it, a tidy Einsteinian conceptualisation of what your work is about. Matter becomes energy. It is about more work. And more work. And isn't that what we are doing? It isn't so much that we are working to spend, we are spending to work, to make everything work at the speed of light. It's almost the labour theory of value as seen through the looking glass. As you'll remember, when life proceeded too pedantically according to the labour theory of value, a bunch of Stalinist Stakhanovites were set to dig a trench, and another lot were sent to fill it up again. Please don't laugh. This is exactly what happened.

But then what happens when you over-expend your energy? You get a heart attack. The great minders of the mills, the lords of the universe, the various vile, vapid and vicious versions of the deus ex machina, get first call on the surgeons and anaesthetic. The rest? Six hours in the corridors of the NHS. Oops. No heartbeat.


Background Artist said...

There are lots of youtube videos about the concept and history of money and fractional reserve banking, some of which have been banned. There was a two hour presentation from the eighties which youtube whipped off, that I saw in the late summer when my free-style research lead me to these vids.

I got well into various conspiracy theories, including the one about the WTC being an inside job, after stumbling across various far out theories and the the doors of all this area opening and I started accessing information which I had not heard of before. I ended up pulling back from it all after a few months, coming to the conclusion that I would go mad trying to figure out if the more extreme stuff had any basis in reality.

This is a five part series of ten moniyute vids which gives the basic low down on the history from the pov of whoever made them.

The opening asks a pretty pertinent statement, saying that monetary theory is not even mentioned in the education syllabus, and when charting the history of modern banking, throws up some very interesting info, mainly about the battles of how the Federal Reserve came about, which contrary to what we may think, is actually a private entity of various banks and not *federal* in the sense we may assume.

The history of Money on youtube

George S said...

Thanks for the link, PiR. I'll look at it. It is a rather fascinating conceptual area.

Not that I will necessarily understand - or have the time to make much use of what understanding I might have. Or indeed the money.

George S said...

Thanks for the link, PiR. I'll look at it. It is a rather fascinating conceptual area.

Not that I will necessarily understand - or have the time to make much use of what understanding I might have. Or indeed the money.

George S said...

Watched the films, BA. Well made. The problem remains twofold:

1. While the debt system is functioning it does generate work and wealth. More money circulates and people spend it, whether it is called debt or not. In other words their sense of well-being is not easily surpasses that of a handcuffed, stone breaking slave as in the film. They are consumers and read consumers' reports.

2. So far it is what we have. Replacing it is likely to be a mistake-fraught revolutionary process, as it has been in the past. That may happen of course, but it won't feel like a panacea while it is in progress. Or even afterwards perhaps. But we may be driven to it, and there may be a fine spirit in which to pursue the object. As my ex-mentor, the poet Martin Bell put it in a poem: 'When he grows up there'll be a revolution. / Hurrah/ Hurrah. Hurrah. Hurrah. Hurrah.'

He could write an iambic pentameter when the mood took him.

One could always run to the occasional recourse of executing a few bankers now and then. There are worse things one might be doing.

And it still seems to me that the current situation is different from the one before, say, 1983 or so. Which itself is a long way on from 1697. That is to say there is a new element at work in the wholesale unchaining of debt from collateral.

George S said...

er... typo. Read

'...their sense of well-being ieasily surpasses that of a handcuffed, stone breaking slave...'

Background Artist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Background Artist said...


What I hope comes out of this, is the move into alternative energy, using wave, sea and wind, which will fundamentally change our entire realtionship with the world and each other, maybe.

Poet in Residence said...

In the USA the green stuff is the shared wafer. In God We Trust.
In the UK brass is a simple promise. When L K O'Brien signed those notes we knew where we stood. Knew we could trust those banks and institutions.
In the EU the euro is many bridges.
A different bridge on every denomination from €5 to €500.

Money is a state of mind.