Is currency evil?

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by DestroyCurrency?, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    This is exactly what I encountered when I visited several Eastern European countries in the 1970s, the heyday of communism. No one felt any incentive to work hard. "No one else does, so why should I?" They had a slogan for this: "We pretend to work, and the government pretends to pay us."

    The essence of communism is Marx's mantra: "To each according to his needs, from each according to his ability." This is a fairy-tale model of an economic system, and indeed a little-publicized fact is that Marx was a devout Christian and this slogan was elaborated from his favorite line in the Book of Acts. In real life, what a man takes from civilization must correlate with what he gives back, or civilization will collapse.

    And this is exactly what happened in the USSR and its satellite countries. Communism produces a negative surplus. It consumes more than it creates because its enterprises are so poorly run by people who have no reason to strive for success. They got by for a while by dissipating the surplus wealth leftover from the previous government. When that ran out they began conquering the neighboring countries and dissipating their surplus wealth. Eventually it all ran out--thanks in large part to the enormous fraction of their national budget devoted to supporting their military in the Cold War--while in contrast the capitalist economy of the U.S. prospered, precisely because of the military sector.

    When the surplus was gone, their economies collapsed and had to be reorganized on the capitalist model. Only China has managed to hang onto a semblance of communism, but only by the unique, traditional way the Chinese absorb all foreign concepts: by combining it with their own concepts. In this case they merged communism with Confucianism and capitalism, and it kinda works for them.

    Indeed. This is what happened in the Bronze Age, when cities became so large that business transactions were too complicated to do on a handshake. People were trading with complete strangers, fulfilling obligations that were incurred a year or more ago. At first, tradesmen, farmers and shopkeepers simply scribed chit marks on clay as evidence of what people owed them. Eventually this was elaborated into what we now refer to as "written language." Writing was invented by businessmen, not scholars or priests: the first written records were money!

    Who defines which skills are "important?" In a money-based economy, this is determined by the market. The fellow with the nicest house must be the one with the most important skills.

    The communists resent the fact that "the people" they claim to love so much might reward that house to a fellow who designs the most entertaining videogames or cultivates the strongest strain of marijuana. They want it to go to the fellow who thinks up the grandest theories of philosophy. But instead, in their countries, it always ends up going to the people who run the government.

    Well... there are such things as intermediate resources. I need a computer to do my job. They don't grow on trees but they're still resources.
     
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  3. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    Excellent point
     
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  5. DestroyCurrency? Registered Member

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    So all the top people in government would get the best houses, is that what you're saying?

    I would try to create the moneyless society on more of an anarchist model than a communist one, if thats possible. If you go to Infoshop.org, thats a highly debated topic, how much government is allowable in an anarchist model. In a anarchist society, gubmint would be more important than it is now, because it would have to take the role of private enterprise. As far as regulation, there would be less. So government would be more like a business than a government as we know it now
     
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  7. joepistole Deacon Blues Valued Senior Member

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    You are doomed, just as Lenin was before you. Unless you can change man, you cannot change the way we allocate resources. It is in our DNA. Without changing our DNA it is hubris to think we can change our nature...to change millions of years of evolution.
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Apparently you're too young to have seen the photos of the dachas owned by the government officials in Eastern Europe before Perestroika.

    The Chinese are much more savvy about these things. Has anyone ever seen a photo of a Chinese official's home? Much less his vacation home or his yacht?

    A moneyless society was practical in the Stone Age because:
    • There wasn't much of a surplus so there were no luxuries to buy or sell.
    • Everybody knew everybody so they all knew who owed what to whom. If somebody wasn't doing something nice for his neighbor as a reward for the nice thing the neighbor did for him, nobody would ever again do anything nice for him.
    But this model completely breaks down in a society that:
    • Is so large that most of the people are complete strangers to each other.
    • Has a wide variety of goods and services so barter is awkward at best and impractical at worst.
    • Is so technologically advanced that it produces a huge economic surplus, making luxury goods and services a significant portion of the economy--perhaps even the majority of it.
    In a modern society the economy simply can't work without recordkeeping. You just have to keep a record of surplus production or no one will know who needs to repay whom for what. A payment system is necessary, because one of the luxuries anyone can choose to have is free time in which they don't produce anything. If no one pays them for what they produce, they have very little incentive to produce at all: the communist experience.

    Eh. I suppose some people enjoy playing these little imaginary games. But if a group of people ever get together to form an anarchist society, I'll be very surprised if more than 10% of what is postulated in these little imaginary games proves to be practical.

    The emotions that people will experience when they actually have to live this way, instead of pretending to live it on SimCity, are totally unpredictable. And these emotions will generate relationships and activities that no one foresaw.

    A really big question: will people in this little paradise be allowed to own guns??? If so, it certainly doesn't qualify as a paradise by my standards!
     
  9. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    The problem with a stall is that, without luck and skill, the plane crashes. Some attempts to manipulate economies and force them to stall have been disastrous. Latin America under the Word Bank comes to mind, but there are plenty of examples. They result in systematic torture, massacres, atrocities against women and children, and scorched-earth militancy.

    On the flip side of this, I happen to agree with you from an environmental standpoint. Growth is bad for nature since it destroys habitats. A better conceived system would be one that figures out a way to shift from our present destructive impact on Earth to one that tapers to a negative growth rate, yet magically achieves some of the utopian goals you're talking about. It probably needs about 100 years to trim itself, but that's assuming a world consensus and cooperation, which is impractical.

    The more likely way to get there is through the creation of prototype biospheres that are so great that folks want to remain there after the expiration date of their trial experience. These would need to be completely self-sufficient little islands of paradise that yield a lot, for practically nothing more than the cost of harnessing renewable energy resources, plus the rest of the startup investment. They would have to prove themselves in the manner of small scale models before there would be a desire to create more. At some point they could start drawing young people away from the cities the way cities drew their parents or ancestors from the farm. At some point this would lead to the negative growth that seems to be required for this scenario to pay off. It would be the demand for the higher quality of life in the biosphere which would lead to its success. Without that, though, there probably isn't any viable recourse except to continue cutting down wild areas and turning them into construction sites.

    It may seem that way but it's better explained as the natural consequence of wealth, as defined in the economy by demand, capacity, raw materials, labor, profits, etc. Currency itself has been explained several ways here, but I would add the following. Every dollar of currency exchanged for every good or service rendered is one dollar of faith that the paper bill will bring the seller one dollar of value in some other good or service exchanged for that same dollar. We could trade in fish, but they deteriorate rapidly, and that faith wouldn't sustain itself. Stone is durable, but it's bulky and heavy and has no intrinsic value, other than certain types of stone or gems. By this analysis we arrive at paper which is the most practical form of faith we have.

    Staples like rice and bread are sold in bags - no frills there. In the typical produce section the items are delivered in cartons that expedite shipping and then they are laid out bare for the shoppers to pick. Canned goods are packaged for long term storage. Boxes are useful in economizing storage space, and then you have bottles and all kinds of plastic containers that are readily sterilized at the plants where they are filled. I think all of these containers are used according to designs that best meet the different constraints that affect the cost of goods sold.

    Ideally, we would all have hydroponic fruits and vegetables at an arm's length that require no waste in packaging, and perhaps a few chickens to provide eggs and/or meat, a cow--who lives on silage we somehow produce with net zero emissions or better, plus any other food sources we can come up which need no packaging.

    I think the lowest impact containers might be homemade ceramic jars which can be glazed to seal out germs. I would include that as a base technology for the utopian biosphere, recognizing that this surrender of modern technology and convenience--once we try to minimize our impact--leads to primitive living by today's standards. It's a huge change in lifestyle. But I think it can work. Ideally.
     
  10. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

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    Was my response?
     
  11. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Don't forget the fact that, since prosperity turned out to be the best contraceptive, the birth rate has been falling steadily since the mid-80s. It is universally predicted to drop below replacement level (2.1 children per woman) around the end of this century.

    At this point we'll have a problem that all the computer models in the world may not prepare us for: the first decrease in population since around 60KYA. Every economic model since Adam Smith assumes without comment that the engine of prosperity is a steadily increasing supply of producers and consumers. What will happen when that supply begins to dwindle?

    This will stutter to a halt in around 90 years. If the planet can survive till then, this too shall pass. And it surely will, since the sparsely-populated Western Hemisphere (in California, widely regarded as an urban state, 75% of the land is farm, forest and desert) could feed twice as many people as now live on this planet, without having to cut down any rainforests.

    Uh... paper has no intrinsic value either.

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    But in any case, today the vast majority of the world's money exists in digital form. Kinda scary, since computer security has not kept up with the skills of the hackers, particularly the ones employed by governments.

    Actually, wrapped food is one of the technologies of the Industrial Era that contributed to a quantum improvement in public health. Food used to sit on shelves so everybody could touch it, and if it fell on the floor they just put it back up.

    The other key technologies were covered sewers, a steady supply of clean water delivered to every home, and (you may want to sit down before you read this one) the automobile! Up until the 1890s, the streets of every major city were calf-deep in horse manure. Although engineers played a major role in public health, so did scientists, who invented vaccines and antibiotics. The result of all this is that the infant mortality rate, which had been 80% since the Paleolithic Era suddenly dropped below one percent. For the first time in human history, the entire population was not burdened with grief over a recently-deceased child. I can't even imagine what it felt like to live then. It's amazing that they could produce music and comedy.

    Unfortunately this resulted in a spike in the population curve, which was doubling every 20 years in the mid-to-late 20th century. For more than a hundred thousand years, having as many children as possible was necessary to keep the species from extinction. Old habits die hard.

    Humanity will be better served if we concentrate our ingenuity on building an economy that doesn't require a steadily growing population as its engine of prosperity. Sustainability will take care of itself about halfway through the 22nd century.
     
  12. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    I don't know. I'm getting confused. But if you say that Evil is completely subjective then there is no [objective] answer to the OP's question.
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    We do have instincts about right and wrong, so to a very limited extent evil is not subjective. Unfortunately we've only gone through a few hundred generations of breeding since the Stone Age, and that's just not enough evolution for our instincts to adapt to the extremely non-natural environment we've created for ourselves.

    We are still tribal people, trusting and caring for a few dozen tribe-mates we've known since birth. In the Stone Age, other tribes were hated and feared competitors for scarce resources, and the Inner Caveman who lives deep inside every one of us still thinks that way.

    We know consciously that by combining our tribes into larger communities, we have a much better life than our Stone Age ancestors due to division of labor and economies of scale. All the new technologies we've invented, such as farming, metallurgy, the wheel, engines, telephones and computers, allow us to work while sitting down, leave us a lot of leisure time, make us healthier, and give us a lot of fun stuff to do.

    Yet we can't help unconsciously being wary of people in other "tribes."

    So when the Christians and the Muslims and the Jews start throwing spears at each other (oops, I meant to say "nuclear missiles"), is that EVIL? Or is it just our Inner Cavemen protecting us from another tribe so they don't steal our food, burn our villages, and rape our daughters?

    Are we all evil simply because the civilization we've built is evolving faster than we are?

    Our dogs have it easy. They breed faster so during those same 12,000 years, they have undergone more than ten thousand generations of breeding, and their instincts have actually evolved. You can take your dog anywhere in the world, and he'll make friends and play with the dogs he meets there.

    Dogs are ready for civilization. Its we who have the problem.

    Uh, is there some way we can put them in charge?

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  14. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

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    Reminds me of favorite ploy I used in high school to both annoy and get others to think. I claimed dogs were the most advanced and gifted creatures, not man. All their natural facilities with possible exception of sight were much more sensitive than man's Their intelligence came up short ONLY be cased we judge them by our standards. Finding hidden drug in stack of suit cases etc. they were clearly superior. Almost never killed another dog. Worked with great cooperation when hunting or pulling snow sled, etc. Even shared food from a common bowl unless very hungry. Etc.
     
  15. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    That's an interesting response, something to think about. I personally think "evil" is a term we assign to something perceived as a threat to society. Sociopaths, terrorists, nuclear arms race, etc. It also applies to tribes as you say, or more relatably races or nationalities (white people as "the blue-eyed devil", Jews, blacks, Chinese, Americans, etc) that are in a position of power...because if another race or nation is in a position of power I do think there's an inherent feeling that they won't have your best interests at heart...and so they are labeled evil. However, my sister lives in Hawaii, I visited many times, and I've never heard Hawaiian natives (for example) be described as evil; few people consider them to be a potential threat to their society. "Babies aren't evil" is a sentiment that most people would agree with; I contend that it's because babies are powerless and therefore not a threat rather than because they are innocent.

    My point is that I believe "evil" is purely subjective and relative. If something is not a threat to you, it isn't considered evil.
     
  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    You're talking to the wrong people. Ask the Hawaiians how they feel about the Haoles.
     
  17. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    You're making my point. We don't view native Hawaiians as evil, yet they view Haoles as such...because Haoles had the power to disrupt their society. It isn't anything intrinsic to foreigners, it's the relative assignment of a threat from one group of people onto another group of people.

    The OP's original question can be answered in this same manner: do you view currency as a net positive or net negative influence on society? Compared to the alternatives I would say currency is a net positive, and that Communistic ideals are completely misguided and ultimately destructive. Conclusion: Communism is evil from my perspective, and the consumer society is a good thing.
     
  18. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    Right. What I meant was to distinguish gems from all other stones. That being said, the various experiments with silver and gold certificates attached some faith that makes up for the lack of intrinsic value of the paper that currency is printed on. Based on the remarks of people who opine that "the dollar is worthless" (aside: PM me, folks, and I'll give you an address where you can send all of your worthless dollars!

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    ) and who are quick to allude to the putative superiority of gold and silver certificates (copper is now as good as gold once was - if not better) it looks like the older strategy of tying the value of currency to tangible property with intrinsic value, almost like a stock certificate, bearer bond, deed or title, has quite a profound effect on the public perception of currency and the varying degrees of faith they have in the money they routinely use. In any case, I think that by the time gold and silver certificates were phased out, enough long standing faith in the value of currency was established to carry forward as a matter of sheer momentum. The rest of the causes of inflation and recession could then be addressed by methods like stimulus, to include engineering the money supply. I say that as a matter of mere conjecture since I have no idea what "stimulus" means in an economy that bases its currency on gold or silver.

    I should also mention that one of the important qualities of currency is that it reveals important indicators about the health of an economy. When the money supply is low it reflects high economic activity. (The alternative is that people are stuffing it into their mattresses, which indicates unprecedented faith in its value.) We might look at this the way economists--faced with a given problem like recession or inflation--consider the advantages and disadvantages of the various kinds of intervention done to stimulate economic activity.

    Incidentally, Americans have in the past been given to complain that the currency should be tied to gold and silver, believing their paper was worthless, while at the same time the foreign black market exchanges that bought and sold greenbacks--like gold and diamond dealers do today--were raking in profits. So another side of this is that the value of currency is tied to other somewhat unpredictable psychological phenomena--in this case, the fall of a local economy against the US (or: now increasingly global) economy, and the sense of impending doom that drives these foreigners to invest in greenbacks, while Americans may have felt pressure to convert them to precious metals, gems, etc. as fast as they could.
     
  19. Carcano Valued Senior Member

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    Or, he might attack them simply for being male.

    Toss a group of dogs a slab of fresh meat and you will discover quickly enough how friendly they are among themselves.
     
  20. R1D2 many leagues under the sea. Valued Senior Member

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    The title of thread is currency evil. Is a question to me. So I will say to the title that its not but the Love Of Money can be and is.
    As for the thread opening statement. Why change what's in place, its working.
     
  21. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    I often see statements like the following.
    I wonder if those who make such statements really believe such a concept.

    The implication is that with regard to ethics, good/bad, et cetera, a pedophile who brutally murders a 7-year old child is no more (or less) evil than the citizen who avoids lying, cheating, stealing, & unprovoked violence.

    From my POV: Pedophiles, cultures which practiced human sacrifice, those in Salem who burned witches, & those who ran the Spanish inquisition were evil. In the case of the latter activities, the culture itself was evil, perhaps providing somewhat of an excuse for the citizens.

    BTW: Are there posters who have read the story by Ursula Le Guin? The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.

    I consider those who walked away to be decent, good, whatever & those who stayed to be evil.
     
  22. RJBeery Natural Philosopher Valued Senior Member

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    It sounds like you're confused on the definition of subjective. It just means that it cannot be proven objectively; there is an element of opinion involved. Just because you cite hyperbolic examples that largely force a consensus does not mean they are objective in any way. TASTE is subjective; yet I suspect we could find more Nazi sympathizers in the world than people who think a shit sandwich is delicious.

    There are things in the world that are objectively true; they can be rationally proven with logic, definitions, etc. Taste and evil are not examples of those things.
     
  23. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    In the world of our ordinary existence, we must be content with cogent arguments & conclusions which satisfy our sense of reasonableness & fair play.
    The conclusions that can be proven to be objectively true only exist in the mindscape of mathematics & formal logic.

    Actually, neither mathematics nor formal logic prove anything to be objectively true. What can be proven is that certain statements are logically consistent with a particular set of axioms.

    BTW: Some of the terms used in stating a set of axioms must be viewed as undefined primitives.

    It is interesting to note that a consensus is not worth much.
    The above was a statement by an amazing fictional character: The Master of Sinanju, a fictional character.
     

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