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View Diary: The Myth of the "Consensual" Marketplace (124 comments)

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  •  I believe money behaves gravitationally (3+ / 0-)
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    greenotron, Troubadour, Kevskos

    I think it's a good analogy for how there can be multiple sustainable piles of money of greater or lesser size, and how these piles can form themselves into larger systems, exchanging energy (unequally) and eventually being consumed by ever larger but progressively less mobile piles of money.  By analogy, the 50 richest people in the world are like the Great Attractor: able to exert a gravitational pull on multiple galaxy-sized piles of money: entire industries and the economies of entire nations.

    The thermodynamic analogy would have money gradually dispersing itself equally into all pockets, which is manifestly not what's happening.  Figurative heat death would occur when everyone has some, but no-one has enough to make more (i.e. profit).  But even profit may be unsustainable because by analogy to energy and entropy, entropy can only be decreased locally at the price of greater entropy in the system as a whole.  You can only have more money if someone else has less, whether by charging more than your product is worth and/or paying your people less than their labor is worth.

    Market failure in the gravitational model is basically a black hole; the attractive force of a sufficiently concentrated pile of money is so great that it exerts a greater force on other nearby money than would the same amount of money in a less concentrated form.  This infernal engine can create money, but a big chunk of that new money just goes right back into the hole.

    •  My physics analogy creates confusion because (1+ / 0-)
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      of the differing roles of matter and energy.  Suffice it to say that there is indeed a natural tendency for resources to travel by the most efficient possible way from their origin into the control of the wealthy few, and that not only do we have the right and the ability to divert that process, but to reverse it once it reaches that destination.

      I demand that you prove you're alive.

      by Troubadour on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 12:01:17 PM PDT

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      •  which is the public sector's job (4+ / 0-)
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        Troubadour, Kevskos, Chi, mike101

        Absent an effectively unlimited external source of "free energy" (the Sun, the printing press, debt-fueled growth), all thermodynamic systems are unsustainable: they'll eventually exhaust a fixed amount of energy.

        The economy needs a strong redistributive mechanism to send the money back down to the base of the food chain to keep the whole thing going.  Tax profits, tax "excessive" income, tax unproductive investments (i.e. making money from money), and then spend that money in ways that will keep the supply-demand cycle running strong: enabling consumption, but also investments in productive capacity that actually do grow the proverbial pie.

        All of which is quite beside the point I was trying to make in my original comment, which is that maybe people want more out of life than to work and buy things.  It's the difference between an animal existence of physical survival versus a human existence dedicated to some higher goal (even if it's only pleasure), with survival as a mere byproduct.  You can argue that we achieve this collectively by organizing ourselves into nations and corporations, but I think that only the rich are able to achieve it individually, while the rest of us are really only able to do our jobs.

        •  Yes, the public sector needs to perform (3+ / 0-)
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          Kevskos, mike101, Visceral

          this redistributive function through progressive taxation and provision of services like education and healthcare.  However, as we've seen, it's just not practical for the government to keep up with all the infinite ways large and small that business devises to screw people over on a daily basis, so for that we need to reorganize the private sector so that people are better able to defend themselves against economic power.

          What you're talking about doing something more with life, that's kind of outside the realm of what can be addressed by politics - all we can do is try to find the right combination of both public and private mechanisms that give people the most freedom and opportunity to be themselves.  The internet helped a lot toward that goal, but obviously we need to bring the same democratizing influence out into the hard world.  That requires certain practicalities, like bargaining parity, that have nothing to do with whatever people ultimately choose to use their wealth for.  But we can say it would probably lead to more paid time off, or at least make it more of an option for people willing to make it a priority.

          I demand that you prove you're alive.

          by Troubadour on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 12:41:06 PM PDT

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    •  Money is worthless and we can take turns (4+ / 0-)
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      Troubadour, Kevskos, Chi, happymisanthropy

      using it, just like we use the letters of the alphabet to write. My use of the letters does not reduce anyone else's ability to use them, as long as they know how. Dollars are symbols of value owed, just as written words are symbols of thoughts spoken or not. The symbols are real, but their value is immeasurable. Like an inch.

      We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

      by hannah on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 12:17:10 PM PDT

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      •  money is an asset in its own right (3+ / 0-)
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        Troubadour, Kevskos, mike101

        People who have more money can do more things than people who have less of it.  Just like someone who eats one bowl of gruel a day can never become either a bodybuilder or a fatass on a scooter, someone who has very little money is simply not able to do much of anything, regardless of their intentions or abilities.  What little calories they take in are entirely devoted to staying alive, not to growth, and the margin between maintenance and atrophy from caloric deficiency is very thin.  It's the same with money and whether it's an individual, a country, or a business.

        There is only a finite amount of money in the world in much the same way that there's only a finite amount of value in the world: from resources like energy and metals to the brains, hands, and mouths of people, there's only so much that can be done even if money were no object.  But it's increasingly difficult to change that side of the equation because the supply of money is being artificially restricted by paralyzed banks and contractionary fiscal policy, being monopolized by people who already have more than they could ever spend productively, or being outright denied to people on the grounds that because they've never gotten a lot to eat, they're too physically and/or mentally stunted to do a lot with it.

        Too much money can be a bad thing; no matter how many hours a week you spend in the gym, if you're eating too much more than that, you're still going to get fat.  Printing money and/or issuing debt beyond actual economic activity will just raise prices, and if you don't raise wages and/or issue more debt to keep pace, you'll end up breaking the economy.

        •  True, the money supply is being artificially (0+ / 0-)

          restricted, rationed, in hopes of maintaining its use as an abusive tool. However, it doesn't have to be that way. In cultures where people's access to sustenance is not restricted by private property rights, they can sustain themselves quite well, as long as thieves don't take what they harvest for themselves.

          Property rights are a major culprit. But, I won't go into that now.

          Monetary certificates differ little from marriage certificates. The relationships they symbolize and formalize with public recognition can and do exist regardless of the certification.
          We owe sustenance to the next generation because the prior generation sustained us. That some people reject that obligation doesn't negate it. It just means that some people are self-centered anti-social beings. Probably got born that way. Maybe they were damaged in utero or on the way out.

          We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

          by hannah on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 02:08:00 PM PDT

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          •  How can there be thieves without (1+ / 0-)
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            property rights?  Isn't theft, by definition, taking that which belongs to another?

            •  I don't think there has to be a claim to ownership (0+ / 0-)

              for thieving to occur. Some critters just sneak what they want. I tend to contrast thievery with exchange or sharing. Thievery is the way of the predator. When humans do it, it's really primitive behavior, especially since language makes it possible to inquire whether anyone else has a claim.

              Rights, of course, have to be respected to even exist.

              Are rights assigned or claimed?

              We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

              by hannah on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 03:24:12 PM PDT

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              •  rights are a function of power (0+ / 0-)
                Are rights assigned or claimed?
                A powerful person both assigns rights to less powerful people, as well as claiming rights against less powerful people.  A group of less powerful people claiming rights against a powerful person is attempting to increase its power and use it to reassign rights.  

                For most of human history, the only claim to rights (implicitly the rights of the aristocracy) that society respected was the fact of exercising them.

      •  My physics analogy for money would be (3+ / 0-)
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        Chi, Kevskos, Visceral

        force-carrying particles, like photons.  They have no mass, so they have no value as a particle despite partly behaving like one.  Rather, their importance stems from what they transmit - energy.  Money is itself, in fact almost literally, a means of transmitting energy, since energy is the utmost foundation of an economy.  Of course, what you do with it once you have it determines whether the economy that results is a highly-evolved one (like Norway) or a shallow one (like the UAE).

        I demand that you prove you're alive.

        by Troubadour on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 12:46:11 PM PDT

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        •  I guess I see money as more like energy itself (1+ / 0-)
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          In a society that uses it, money is the the thing that allows economic activity to take place at all, since in the absence of money, it doesn't really matter what could take place: it won't.  A system with lots of money flowing around will be dynamic, while a system with little money flowing (whether there's little money period, or because it's locked up in physical assets, or because it's monopolized and its movements artificially restricted) will be much less dynamic.  The UAE's economy might be shallow, but there's a lot of money there; alternatively, you can have a deep economy without a lot of money - i.e. a complex but poor subsistence society.  E=mc2 is like saying that physical assets are worth something in and of themselves, and can be converted into money, but that's only useful if you have physical assets in the first place, and you still need to input energy from outside in order to make the conversion.

          Poverty is like a state of high entropy; there's little free energy (i.e. cash) available to drive economic activity, and in the worst cases, the assets themselves (including people) have little value, if only because it takes greater inputs of energy in order to make them valuable.

          Perhaps we're stumbling over the difference between money in the abstract versus its many physical forms.  I think that no matter what form your money takes - cash, gold, stocks and bonds, antiques, etc. by analogy to chemical, kinetic, electromagnetic, etc. energy - if you don't have very much of it, you're pretty much stuck.

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