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I'll start with my usual non-disclosal- Not only am I not an economist, I have no professional accomplishments I care to share.

Other than I can write and have a certification in adult education, how grown up are you?

Because today we're going to talk about money and that tends to bring out the worst features of people.

There at least 3 views of money and I'll dispense with the most ignorant first- Money is a store of value.

"ek" you say, "what about my 401k?  My Stocks and Bonds?  My Trove of Gold?"

Can you eat it?

I say that without cynicism.  You are caught in social convention.  "Confederate" currency is exactly as valuable as it's always been, even more so because of scarcity.

It's worth exactly what you can trade it for that has more utility than a tattered scrap of paper.

Yes, we have no bananas

I think Mr. Mellish is a traitor to this country because his views are different from the views of the President and others of his kind. Differences of opinion should be tolerated, but not when they're too different. Then he becomes a subversive mother.
During World War 2 bananas became a prized and valuable commodity in England because many of the ships that would normally transport them were conscripted for vital war materials instead of tasty potassium filled breakfast cereal toppings, or sunk by U-Boats.

But the thing about bananas is that they're rotten after 3 weeks and valuable only to fruit flies at a distinct discount whereas Sherman tanks light up like Zippos every time.

What about Gold?

What about it?  It's ductile and non-reactive.  It's a good conductor.  It's shiny and yellow, just like a banana, and it doesn't attract flies, only homicidal madmen.

The Classical View of Money

You know, I really am a centrist and that I post in Anti Capitalist Meet Up is a reflection of how right wing the dialog about economics has become.  This argument is straight out of Samuleson.

In the beginning there was a market in the sandy streets of Ur.  Some people had Cows, some people had Goats and some people had Chickens.  Some people had pots you could put things in.

Now it is hard to arbitrate the relative value of Cows, Goats, and Chickens to say nothing of the difficulties in storing them (there is the cost of food offset in part by their other useful by products like eggs, milk, and shit) so pot makers started manufacturing Cow, Goat, and Chicken tokens (made of dirt) that you could trade or store (in pots, also made of dirt) in a hole in the desert (acres and acres of dirt).

But theoretically you could take purse full (this is Ur dummies, no pockets) of Chicken tokens down to the market and walk back with a flock of Chickens.  Or you can go to the Goat vendor and negotiate a trade of virtual Chickens (he'd have to go to the Chicken vendor to redeem them) and walk back with a garbage disposal unit.

Or, if you had a big enough pot in the desert, you could get a Cow to tip (some people think this is funny, I think it's just cruel).

But ek. what does this have to do with money?


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

So I go out to the desert and dig up a Cow pot of Chicken tokens and take them to the market in Ur and...

What's that you say?

There hasn't been a Cow market in Ur for 5,000 years?

Shit.

Well, at least they have some interest as antiques (always auditioned for Judas hoping to get Pilate and ended up Herod.  Natural Tenors are a rare thing.).

My point (and Samuelson's) being that money has no intrinsic worth except as a medium of exchange and a temporary store of value.

In fact Cow shit is a better investment because you can grow things in it and the longer you leave your pot of Chicken tokens out in the desert the more it resembles dirt.

The Modern Monetary Theory of Money

OK ek. You've used classical economics to convince me that-

* You're a fool (in the classical sense).
* You think money is an illusion designed to distract.
* A little inflation is a good thing because it encourages people to invest in Cow shit which grows things instead of pieces of dirt placed in pots of dirt buried in dirt.

What difference does MMT make?

As an Eco 101 I wrestled with that question.

The fundametal difference is which came first.  Chicken token or Dinosaur egg?

The MMT rise of currency has it's roots in social obligation.  Remember those giant rings of stone?  So a guy with a big club comes and wacks you into submission and demands you erect pyramids in honor of his escaping.

No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn.

Anyway, MMT says that instead of a bottom up marketplace of money we instead have a top down imposition of servitude that can be forgiven by sacrifice of Cows, Goats, and Chickens.

Or Chicken tokens.

Now don't get me wrong.  I'm attracted to MMT because it at least recognizes the ridiculousness of currency and has at is heart the understanding that the only real value of money is as a medium of exchange.  Everything else is just arbitrary.

As are deadlines.  I expect you will try to distract me from Baseball.  Good luck with that.

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tonight's ACM has been poorly reposted on: (6+ / 0-)

    The Stars Hollow Gazette:

    http://www.thestarshollowgazette.com/...

    DocuDharma:

    http://www.docudharma.com/...

    Wild Wild Left:

    http://www.wildwildleft.com/...

    FDL:

    http://my.firedoglake.com/...

    Apologies, couldn't fix the pictures and links, so put up as is!! Hence the poorly!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 03:09:16 PM PDT

  •  thanks so much for this - much food for thought (4+ / 0-)

    as with the gift relation, poop like desire indeed may be more valuable because of the differences in exchange value versus use value and as we know from the Febreeze commercials the fictional presence in a well-scented place seems temporarily more valuable than its reality. The construction of wealth is what's ultimately important

    Everything else is just arbitrary.
    it is the sign of money (as value signified) rather than its signifier that for many drives folks toward metals as the store of value but of course that's a fool's bargain as well, since there are a lot more pawn shops these days ready to accept your broken jewelry and let you believe you're a good Ron Paul LIbertarian: Charlatanism versus Chartalism

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 03:19:55 PM PDT

  •  ACM Schedule (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annieli, JayRaye, ek hornbeck

    November

    3rd: Geminijen
    10th: NY Brit Expat
    17th:?
    24th: Annieli

    December

    1st:
    8th:
    15th:
    22nd:
    JayRaye
    29th:

    OK, we need to fill one Sunday in November and then 4 (yes, 4) Sundays in December. Can anyone volunteer? We need you to keep going people! Contributions anyone?

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 03:22:50 PM PDT

  •  Ah, but EK says NY Brit Expat (5+ / 0-)

    Money is a store of value. It is an imperfect store of value, but it is a store of value. Why else do people hoard it? Why else is the amount in circulation different from the amount of money in existence? That store of value depends on people's expectations that it will remain of value; now that was a bad bet in the 1920s in Germany, but that is why people stored money in their mattresses after the banking collapse in the Great Depression. It wasn't only because they didn't trust the banks, it was also because they believed (or expected) that the money would not lose its value too badly. In fact, the difference between the quantity of money in existence and that in circulation was what enabled Marx to overturn the Ricardian quantity theory of money or invert it to be precise.

    Also a social obligation or a socially recognised convention where the money will be accepted means that it is more than a medium of circulation, it is also a socially recognised measure of value. Oh oh, Marx again. But Marx has a commodity money argument which in the absence of gold does it hold? Well, why do we recognise the relation between things as mediated by money, that is due to the socially recognised measure of value thing above ...

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 03:38:59 PM PDT

    •  post-keynesian money arguments (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, JayRaye, ek hornbeck

      addressing endogenous money also recognise the store of value component; that derives from a Keynesian perspective.  Samuelson was a Keynesian certainly (see the neoclassical synthesis), especially when addressing macroeconomics discussion and economic policy (you can thank him for JFK abandoning the balanced budget argument after election), but he has always been the man that stitched up the neoclassical sheet whenever (and that is pretty damn often) theoretical holes and inconsistencies appeared in it. He is not really classical, neoclassical is the term; classical money arguments you need to look at Hume's species-flow stuff, Ricardian quantity theory of money, the debates between the currency and banking schools.

      Now, MMT, that is another story. Which unfortunately, I do not understand sufficiently; am a real economy person! :)

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 03:45:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am way out of my league here as I tend to pay (4+ / 0-)

      little attention to monetarist solutions to our economic problems and could probably use an update. I gather there is some humor and word play going on among the participants, but frankly you'll have to enlighten me since I
      don't really know the difference between a charlatan and chartalism.

      A few things I have heard but don't really understand and would appreciate if someone would enlighten me is that there is an argument as to whether private  banks or the government should be the holder and arbiter of our currency (My common sense reaction is to go for the government if it is in fact a democratic government). Two other points I have heard but don't understand is that 1)post Keynesians (latest version) don't believe in raising taxes as it stops development which I don't really understand and on a gut level don't agree with and 2)they accept the idea of the credit default swap (?) which I vaguely remember being blamed for a lot of the hucksterism and fraud in the 2008 debacle (this point is so vague it may not even be worth a response, but I hope someone will respond to the other questions re tax policy.

      Finally, money as the socially accepted signifier of value is certainly true, but clearly only a socially accepted delusion as the value of money as it relates to real value in the real economy is clearly a non-relationship. Here I am more interested in showing how, as Marx noted, money is simple the means by which workers are separated from the value of their labor resulting in great economic inequalities. In this sense I am interested in a discussion of monetary policies that will reduce these inequities.

      •  I hope you're not calling me a post-Keynesian. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annieli

        I make my main points as a full classicist.

        Marx would be proud.

        •  Marx rejected the quantity theory of money (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ek hornbeck, annieli, JayRaye

          and also argued that money was a store of value, a socially recognised measure of value as well as a medium of circulation. He also articulated an endogenous money argument based on the idea of money being a store of value (in contrast to Ricardo); I am trying to decide whether your discussion owes more to Locke and McCulloch and a tiny bit to Marx who does address the different forms of currencies and why gold was chosen ultimately or to David Graeber given the obligations and debt thing. :)

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 05:53:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  less a discussion of solutions and more (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ek hornbeck, JayRaye

        a discussion of money and its roles in economic theory. In terms of the latest post-keynesian stuff on taxation in the current context, they argue that raising taxes is wrong as it will have a dual impact if I have understood it correctly: 1) slow investment; 2) there is no reason to do it as there is no problem with the deficit at all in the current crisis; since the US has a sovereign currency, there is no problem with deficits as they can simply print currency or create debt. Again, not a problem ... the US cannot default on the debt and a deficit is needed to stimulate the economy (to quote John Harvey, when the gov't is in debt, the private sector is in surplus), shrinking the deficit will send the economy into a tailspin as the autonomous spending of the gov't is providing demand to the private sector and increasing growth.

        I don't know their position on credit default swaps; that would require someone with more understanding of the discussion like BruceMcF rather than me. Sorry ...

        Monetary policy only addresses the money supply and the rate of interest ... it is fiscal policy (e.g., taxation policies, wage and conditions of work guarantees, and a universal social welfare state) which can be used to address inequities in a reformist sense, but never eliminate them as they are part of what makes the system go round ... they are Keynesians not Marxists my friend and comrade. :)

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 05:47:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Which person is it ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NY brit expat, ek hornbeck, JayRaye

        ... arguing against tax increases in "it stops economic development" grounds and "accepting credit default swaps"?

        I took my core macro at UTK from Paul Davidson, and while it was before credit default swaps were a high profile issue, there was never anything like an across the board opposition to tax increases. The position in the early 90's was keep the cash interest rate low and steady, use regulatory oversight to reign in out of control financial institutions, and functional finance on the fiscal policy (tax and spend) side.

        Functional finance would not favor raising aggregate taxes under current economic conditions, but would certainly favor shifting to a more progressive total tax burden at the current aggregate tax take, which would of course raise taxes on some incomes (those most likely to have seen steep tax cuts over the past thirty years) and cut taxes on others (those most likely to have seen net tax increases over the past thirty years).

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        by BruceMcF on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 06:23:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  thank you Bruce ... I knew you would (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ek hornbeck, BruceMcF, JayRaye

          have the answers to these questions ... development made no sense to me. John didn't want to increase taxes iirc, but that had nothing to do with development but rather as you said here the reasons. He didn't disagree with me when I argued for a more progressive total tax burden.

          "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

          by NY brit expat on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 06:30:13 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  In the broadest sense of 'development' ... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ek hornbeck, NY brit expat, JayRaye

            ... recessionary fiscal policy during a depression would undermine economic development.

            But not across the board: during an economic boom, the functional finance position is to raise tax receipts so that government spending does not generate inflationary pressure.

            The difference between the monetarists, who think that deficit spending is always inflationary, and the functional finance type Post Keynesians, who argue its only inflationary when we are fairly close to full employment of equipment and labor, is that the Post Keynesians recognize that in depressed economic conditions, when the government offers to buy more stuff, businesses are able to use those orders to finance the production of more stuff ...

            ... which is more money chasing more goods, and there is no particular reason to expect that to be inflationary.

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            by BruceMcF on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 06:36:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, get ready for next time... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NY brit expat, JayRaye

              when I argue that inflation is a by-product of monetary subjugation and not at all bad via Krugman.

              •  What kind of inflation? (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ek hornbeck, JayRaye

                Another malignant influence of monetarism is that with their grossly oversimplified mechanical theory of inflation, they do not distinguish between inflation due to changing terms of trade, inflation due to changing relative prices in the midst of strong employment, or inflation due to debt crises with debt denominated in a foreign currency or real asset.

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                by BruceMcF on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 10:32:59 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  All Zimbabwe to them. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  JayRaye

                  I hesitate to use another example for reasons I'm sure you can sympathize with.

                  •  Argentina turn of the century? (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    ek hornbeck, JayRaye

                    Indonesia (briefly) in the Asian Financial Crisis? Brazil in the 80's? The Confederate States of America?

                    Every single hyperinflation I can come up with involves a deb crisis where the debt is denominated in either a foreign currency or in real products.

                    Most inflationary episodes have basically zero risk of going all Zimbabwe, and when you combine that the mainstream economists see full employment at a much higher level of actual unemployment of resources than any sane person untrained in mainstream economics would do, they see a Zimbabwe lurking in situations that aren't even a risk of moderate inflation for a limited period.

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                    by BruceMcF on Mon Oct 28, 2013 at 08:57:52 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  Money functions as a store of value. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ek hornbeck, NY brit expat, JayRaye

    This is the difference between a General Theory approach and the mainstream econ approach built on fairy tales about money magically emerging from barter markets.

    Modern money when it is working properly functions as as store of value. Not "is".

    What difference does it make? In the first, "store of value" is a role that various assets can play. "medium of exchange" is a role that various assets can play. "Standard of deferred payment" is a role that various assets can play. "Unit of account" is a role that various assets can play.

    Modern money, when it is working properly, plays all four roles.

    Its not intrinsically a store of value: its functioning as a store of value is extrinsic, as its due to the rules of the monetary system.

    And in history, the function that mainstream economics gives the least attention, the "Standard of Deferred Payment" function, was the original function. Money more likely started out as chits that recognized that you had taken a certain amount of your harvest to be stored in the strongman's (or temple's) warehouse.

    As far as how they changed from being clay tokens to metal tokens ... I'd expect that once they started circulating as units of exchange, clay tokens were not very durable, so they shifted to more durable metals as chits.

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    by BruceMcF on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 06:51:22 PM PDT

    •  Nor are Bananas. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annieli, JayRaye

      Now let's talk World Series futures and other bets on 00.

    •  definitely metal was durable (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ek hornbeck, BruceMcF, JayRaye

      and could easily be broken into smaller units that was the general perspective way back when to explain why the shift to metals ..

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 07:23:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Though the money ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ek hornbeck, JayRaye

        ... was not breakable into bits at first, since it was the ruler's visage stamped on the metal that made it money.

        In East Asia, it was common for smaller value coins to be stamped with a hole in the middle, so that they could be tied up into strings. You could break up a string of coins without having to break any coins at all.

        We chopped up coins to form small change in the US in colonial times, but then against that was when we were fringe settlements playing a peripheral role in the Atlantic system.

        Indeed, its interesting to recall that gold developed into the medium for international settlement in the Atlantic economy because China was on a minted silver coinage monetary standard which dominated the East Asian carrying trade. That was at a time when semi-peripheral Europe had great interest in a number of East Asian products and core East Asia had very little interest in European products, but due to the mountains of silver conquered by the Spaniards, the Europeans were able to buy themselves into the East Asian carrying trade with silver and use the profits to buy East Asian export for sale in Europe to raise more silver to keep the process going.

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        by BruceMcF on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 09:29:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  So change the name! (0+ / 0-)

          What, to "Nine Pieces of Whatever We Happen To Have in Our Pockets At The Time"? Oh, yes, that sounds very piratey...

          •  Pirates also ... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ek hornbeck, JayRaye

            ... on the fringe of the Atlantic economy ... things that people out on the fringes do to get by are similar to stories of prisoners of war from money-using societies using cigarettes as money ... that doesn't mean that money came from barter, it means that people stick to the institutions that they have internalized even when it takes some ingenuity to do so.

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            by BruceMcF on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 09:41:16 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Which fuels Gold Bugs. (0+ / 0-)

              When the market is dust like Ozymandias it's all just dirt.

              That ain't MMT.  It's classic.

              Sorry about your team.  Baseball is a great distraction.

              •  I don't know what isn't MMT and is classic. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ek hornbeck

                I was born in Central Ohio ... the Reds lost in the Play-In game before the real Playoffs began, but the Buckeyes and the Bengals are going great guns, so I'll be right.

                As far as the rest of your comment, I've gotten lost in what its saying about what.

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                by BruceMcF on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 10:13:51 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Found my way to this piece on the UNDP's HDI... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ek hornbeck, JayRaye

                http://scholarworks.umass.edu/...

                Heady stuff all this and that. Seems as though it is time for more easily accessible terms and dialog. It seems as though there is a significant qualitative difference between the dynamics of "small town," person to person commerce and the dynamics of interstate and international trade and finance. It seems there is an important difference in the way we address and appreciate money when it is in regard to people we are familiar with versus when it is in regard to strangers.

                If there were no strangers, we might not need money. And as we may be able to become more readily familiar to each other as a result of developing communications technologies, and the development of new understandings of social relationships, and of the nature of, and the need for large institutions, all leading to potential changes in the needs for and modes of measuring value.

                Thanks for the interesting work.

                "Have a good time... all the time." -Viv Savage

                by The House on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 10:16:41 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  ...wherein I post without proper proofreading... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  ek hornbeck, JayRaye

                  And as we may be able to become more readily familiar to each other as a result of developing communications technologies, and the development of new understandings of social relationships, and of the nature of, and the need for large institutions, all leading to potential changes in the needs for and modes of measuring value... we may be able to one day dispense with the creation of expensive coinage and paper currency.

                  ... that's what I meant to say.

                  "Have a good time... all the time." -Viv Savage

                  by The House on Sun Oct 27, 2013 at 10:20:30 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

  •  i missed this last night (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ek hornbeck, JayRaye

    sorry

    i am teaching a book right now and rereading it for tomorrow's class: "Rethinking Money"

    since 2008, i have been convinced that our money itself is the problem.

    fortunately people like the author's of this book understand how to get out of this trap and the best thing about this is : it is happening spontaneously as people realize that money is the problem.

    if i can ever get my head above water, i will do a series of diaries about teaching this.

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