Thursday, September 1, 2016

E-money Re-visited

I am sorry to again flog this nifty new idea that all money belongs in banks where it can be watched and controlled.  I don't like the implications. After earning it, it is OUR money. Money is supposed to be a kind of civilizing "tool" that can serve it's 3 functions, varyingly, based upon what the users "allow".  We use it as a basic unit of account, a standard.  It is also a currency - medium of exchange but finally a store of value.  It is possible to define money so as to do each of these jobs more precisely or less rigorously.  It is supposed to optimize all 3 but if its exchange function is promoted over its store of value function then perhaps those dependent upon it for "savings", are losers.  Such is in fact the case.  Savers are being savaged.  There was a time when money was something external to human definition.  It was not an agreed upon ideal but an archetypal "thing"-Real.  That concept of money being Real is under attack. As only a number in an account it is a permission in a relationship, not a thing.

E-money is designed to accentuate the idea of "currency" and phase out the idea of "store of value".
Once you have determined who gets to create money and who has to use it then saving can be "managed"  An entity that can limitlessly create new money does not need to worry about "saving".  Our government has unfortunately worked itself into that condition.  It has so much old   debt that even being able to create new money out of new debt is not enough to pay all its responsibilities.  Hence, a new solution:  electronic money.

E-money has to be held in banks and is therefore vulnerable to negative interest rates.  Negative interest rates are nothing more than a fee for holding currency.  Money that is held or saved is taxed at a rate to encourage its expenditure.  Earned money then CANNOT be saved, it must be invested which is subject to risk.  When you receive money and negative interest rates are in effect, you have to buy something with your money.  If not, it "decays".  Taxes or transactional costs can be imposed on all electronic expenditures and this can encourage or discourage various activities.  Money becomes a tool for governmental control.

When we conceptualize this NEW monetary system we see that the formerly prudent, are losers.  What they have loaned or accumulated is gradually undermined by negative interest rates and positive inflation.  Consider 12 years of -6% interest rates and +6% inflation.  An income of $100,000  buys only 1/2 as much and any debts or bonds are twice as easy to re-pay. Savers are ruined. The point of all this is of course maintaining the power to create money.  This benefits a small minority close to the source of the money creation and is a cost to everybody else.  If you accept that the government can create whatever amount of money it needs for whatever reason (soldier in distant lands or provide everyone a basic income) then taxes are just an insult because they are not necessary.  No one needs to pay taxes if the government can create whatever money it needs.

So we are actually moving to a new monetary system.  We formerly had a gold system that was slowly changed from 1933-1971 to a "dollar" system based on Treasury debt.  Now we owe too much so the system needs to change again.  We could go back to a more honest gold system but that would undermine the current elites.  It would also provide a LOT less money.  If we reduce the amount of money--a lot less economic activity is possible.  That could be considered a good thing for an overstressed environment.  Years of monetizing our natural world has actually made us poorer though we continue to consider turning forests into lumber and fish into cat food-economic improvement or a measured increase in GNP.

So I think that is the real issue.  Our monetary system needs to help us value our natural patrimony of air, water, and soil accurately.  We cannot let a drive for more money kill the natural environment.  We can make up whatever symbols we want to of success but if the fundamental source of our wealth is destroyed then we will be lost as well.

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