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LaFeminista's most recent diary points to the presence of cults in America, of which Scientology is one.  You look at those videos, and wonder why people would believe and say and do such stuff, and then you're reminded of the cultists who run the Texas Board of Education... but, really, there's one big cult, into which all of the other cults feed -- the Cult of Money.  This diary will examine said cult through Chapter 4 of Marx's Capital and then suggest deprogramming measures.

(Crossposted at Docudharma)

No, really, if you haven't done so already, I'd recommend you visit LaFeminista's diary on Scientology -- some of the YouTube videos posted on the diary are bizarre, with reporters being followed and attacked by members hoping to do damage control, episodes of "South Park" being censored, and so on.

Then when you add up the evidence, you realize that it points to one thing.  See, for instance, what Paul Breckenridge of the Los Angeles Superior Court said:

"[The court record is] replete with evidence [that Scientology] is nothing in reality but a vast enterprise to extract the maximum amount of money from its adepts by pseudo scientific theories...

Yep, this is why we object to Scientology.  Oh, sure, big cult, buncha people believing in X, Y, and Z.  No, that's not it.  This is about the other big cult, the one into which we're all being hazed: the Cult of Money.  We object to Scientology because they're muscling in on that other big cult, the Cult of Money, yeah, that's the really scary one.  The Scientologists have got big movie stars: Tom Cruise, Isaac Hayes, John Travolta, and they make big money.  You know, we're concerned about them for some of the same reasons we were so afraid of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson back in the 1980s.  They had this big foundation because they knew how to swindle old people out of their money and give it to folks like Efrain Rios-Montt.  Not pleasant.

Now, in understanding this thing with cults, this is where one's reading of the classics comes in handy.  Some people read the news all the time -- I read the old stuff, because it gives me a foundation for thinking well.  Today's classic author, in this regard, is Karl Marx, who revealed the Cult of Money in its full glory.

Now, Marx has a cult of his own, 'ceptin I don't belong to that cult either.  I'm more in favor of the view of Marx as litterateur, the view you see in Francis Wheen's biography.  There's clearly stuff in the Marx-Engels Collected Works which hasn't been thought out before -- the Communist Manifesto, for instance, has stuff in it which isn't very well thought-out.  But y'know, if you wrote fifty volumes of stuff you'd probably crank out a good deal of crap yourself.  For that matter, George Eliot never really got rolling on her novels until the publication of Romola (1863).  Folks, Marx is literature -- meant to be enjoyed (the good parts, that is), and to inspire deep thinking of one's own.  (Note to readers: there will at some point be a diary on George Eliot, prob. Felix Holt, The Radical.)  You know, the humanities, the basis for democratic free-thinkers.  L. Ron Hubbard, on the other hand, wrote garbage science fiction.

Now, young Karl Marx wrote some fun stuff on the Cult of Money: there's that piece "The Power Of Money," written in 1844, in which money is shown to be the force turning the world upside down.  You know there's some serious resentment of the power of this cult when Marx lays out passages such as this one:

The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money’s properties are my – the possessor’s – properties and essential powers. Thus, what I am and am capable of is by no means determined by my individuality. I am ugly, but I can buy for myself the most beautiful of women. Therefore I am not ugly, for the effect of ugliness – its deterrent power – is nullified by money. I, according to my individual characteristics, am lame, but money furnishes me with twenty-four feet. Therefore I am not lame. I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good. Money, besides, saves me the trouble of being dishonest: I am therefore presumed honest. I am brainless, but money is the real brain of all things and how then should its possessor be brainless? Besides, he can buy clever people for himself, and is he who has [In the manuscript: ‘is’. – Ed.] power over the clever not more clever than the clever? Do not I, who thanks to money am capable of all that the human heart longs for, possess all human capacities? Does not my money, therefore, transform all my incapacities into their contrary?

"I am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured, and hence its possessor."  Thus in the universe of money people are not liked for what they are, but for the money they possess.  This, then, is Marx's first major description of the Cult of Money.

Now, the critics of Marx are remarkable for having taken snippets of Marx's writings (and there are a lot of those: the Marx-Engels Collected Works runs to fifty volumes) and "going to town" with them.  For instance, the notion of the "dictatorship of the proletariat," briefly mentioned in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, has been distorted to redefine Marx as some sort of opponent of democracy.  (Marx's model for the "dictatorship of the proletariat" was an attempt at direct democracy, the Paris Commune of 1871 -- thus Marx's use of the word "dictatorship" is different from the one used by his critics.)

At any rate, the snippet I wish to peruse today is from Chapter 4 of Marx's Capital.  This is the chapter on the "general formula on capital," and in it are the guts of Marx's distinction between the working class and the owning class.  (If you are looking at the Penguin edition of volume 1 of Capital, this passage is on pp. 247-257 of the book.)  The "general formula for capital," in this distinction, is the relationship between the two classes, the cult itself, in which the cult leaders who form the owning class hoard money while the conscripted followers, the working class, provide its basis in value.

Marx begins by defining the process of the circulation of commodities which is the "starting point of capital."  The circulation of commodities is important because it separates out into two different, interwoven processes, defined by who is doing the circulating of the commodities.  We have, Marx tells us, the process C-M-C, the process by which the workers and the small-scale producers make a living.  The shorthand C-M-C stands for "commodities-money-commodities," in which you sell a commodity to make money so you can buy another commodity.  Here we will need to supply examples of our own as Marx is rather sparing.  We might imagine a worker selling her labor in order to buy basic necessities, or (to use Marx's example) a small farmer producing and selling corn in order to buy clothes.  And then we have the process M-C-M, money-commodities-money, in which an investor buys a commodity (i.e. capital) with money in order to make more money.  This, then, is the vortex of the Cult of Money.

The critical passage of the fourth chapter of volume 1 of Capital is this one:

As the conscious representative of this movement, the possessor of money becomes a capitalist. His person, or rather his pocket, is the point from which the money starts and to which it returns. The expansion of value, which is the objective basis or main-spring of the circulation M-C-M, becomes his subjective aim, and it is only in so far as the appropriation of ever more and more wealth in the abstract becomes the sole motive of his operations, that he functions as a capitalist, that is, as capital personified and endowed with consciousness and a will.

"His person, or rather his pocket..."  Note the cleverness with which Marx shows capitalists of tools of money.  Though at any rate there's some serious analysis here, which we shall proceed to engage.  In getting into M-C-M, first of all, Marx makes it clear that the process is really M-C-M', because the last M is the original money invested plus the profit.  So it gets a "prime" symbol.  

In employing M-C-M', then, by risking money in commodity production in order to make a profit, capitalists hope to make more money from money. That's what they do.  They are not really interested in the production of commodities per se -- the capitalist only promotes music technology or shoes or agricultural commodities as a matter of public relations.  They might love these things personally -- but that's really just a hobby.

Marx continues in this same vein as follows:

Use-values must therefore never be looked upon as the real aim of the capitalist; [7] neither must the profit on any single transaction. The restless never-ending process of profit-making alone is what he aims at.

Here we must clarify "what is a use-value."  Use-values are our immediate uses of things -- our typical use-value for hammers, for instance, lies in their ability to pound nails into wood.  Capitalists, on the other hand, have no interest in use-values -- the owner of a McDonalds, for instance, does not need to eat a billion hamburgers; they are sales items.

But here in the passage Marx wishes to insert the figure of the miser.  As follows:

This boundless greed after riches, this passionate chase after exchange-value [9], is common to the capitalist and the miser; but while the miser is merely a capitalist gone mad, the capitalist is a rational miser. The never-ending augmentation of exchange-value, which the miser strives after, by seeking to save [10] his money from circulation, is attained by the more acute capitalist, by constantly throwing it afresh into circulation. [11]

"The miser is merely a capitalist gone mad; the capitalist is a rational miser."  How are capitalists like misers?  Well, the miser wants more and more money, but misers merely hoard money without really making any.  Or at least that's what many of them did in Marx's day -- today many of them put the money into Treasury bills, which is a different thing altogether.  Genuine capitalists, on the other hand, know full well that money must be risked, must be thrown into the process of supplying the funding for the construction of factories and so on, in order to realize profits.

The capitalists would prefer, then, to shorten the chain: M-C-M' should in their eyes become M-M', so that the messy trade in commodities need not even be broached, and thus they could all become misers and live effortlessly ever after.  Marx broaches this subject briefly at the end:

Lastly, in the case of interest-bearing capital, the circulation M-C-M' appears abridged. We have its result without the intermediate stage, in the form M-M', "en style lapidaire" so to say, money that is worth more money, value that is greater than itself.

So with the earning of interest, or also with the payment of dividends upon stock, we achieve the miser's dream, M-M'.  Got money?  Get more money!  That's the miser's dream.

I would put risk-free investment in the category of M-M' as well.  If you practically know you're going to score a big profit, you might as well be living the miser's dream.  The defense industries have got to be like that.  Health insurance will be like that after the Senate bill passes and the insurers are placed under permanent subsidy with your tax moneys.  When your investment is guaranteed, life is M-M'.

This period of history, say, from Reagan onward, and especially since the repeal of Glass-Steagall in 1999, will be regarded by future historians as the Heyday of Miserdom, in which the miser's dream is closer to realization than it ever was in any previous period of history.  Inequality is at an all-time high, as the average global growth rate sinks further with the passing of each decade.  The early 21st century will be remembered as a period dedicated to the rich, and their Ponzi schemes, which they milked on both the up and the downsides of the curve.  This is the heyday of people like George Soros and Warren Buffett, whose wealth was gotten through currency manipulation.

The high priests of the temple of money have got to be, well, ultimately the Federal government, though proximately the Federal Reserve system and the banks, although actual physical banks are really just places of worship.  And its ultimate police force?  The Secret Service of course.  So don't counterfeit -- you'll be cutting in on the cult monopoly.  The First Amendment may guarantee you freedom of worship, but there really is a state religion, and its god is the jealous sort.

Now, one way in which volume 1 of Marx's Capital excels is in showing how the Cult of Money produces its victims.  The problem with C-M-C, the selling of commodities to buy more commodities, is that it is typically a raw deal -- if you have to sell your labor to live you are susceptible to being "cheap labor," because you're thrown into competition with zillions of other laborers who are trying to do the same thing.  But this is the story of the exploitation of labor.  It is another story, for another day.

Listen: they trade $2 trillion of the stuff on the currency markets every day.  National GDP is maybe about $13 trillion.  You've read the bad news over on bobswern's and gjohnsit's diaries.  What would happen to you if dollar panic were either to 1) suck all of the dollars out of your economy or 2) devalue them to any great extent?

Remember, money is the status item of the cult.  The leadership's public face is the "economy" -- but actually running an economy means they have to share some of their status items with other people.  What happens when the cult insanity gets so intense that they are no longer willing to do that -- when the controlling powers at the top no longer want to share?

It's good to remember, when considering such cases, that cults are unstable.  Jonestown is a good example of this: the cult leaders become unstable and destroy the whole thing.  Our cult leaders appear to have promised $12.8 trillion last year to their other cult leader friends -- and we still spend our lives chasing after this stuff.

*****

Now, when it comes to cults, the first thought that comes to my mind, at least, is that of deprogramming.  The main issue here has got to be the dependence upon money.  One should be able to make an adequate living without having to use the stuff.  You might want to start with the concept of the Really Really Free Market.  Co-operatives and communes are a good thing, but in the end they settle down to a matter of insider-outsider relations, that for the folks on the inside, well, you get to share, but for the folks on the outside, you're screwed.  The Really Really Free Market could loosen up the inside-outside ties.

We should also apply the ethic of Food Not Bombs to all of the other necessities.  If you're not familiar with it, Food Not Bombs is a situation in which people get together and cook free food to serve to everyone.  Now, of course, certain political entities have attempted to keep Food Not Bombs from operating.  Their usual modus operandi is "serving food without a license" -- of course, by this same standard the government could outlaw picnics.

What we need, then, is Shelter Not Bombs, Transportation Not Bombs, and other "organizations" dedicated to finding everyone the basic necessities, for free.

We will, in this sense, have to "fold up" the global economy that was made possible through the Cult of Money.  Production will have to re-localize -- we are better off anyway in terms of abrupt climate change if we produce what we need for ourselves locally anyway.

We can expect a lot of people, moreover, to be "part in part out" of the money economy, depending upon money for some things but not for others.  We can also expect people to want other monies (e.g. "time dollar" arrangements) which are not part of the Cult of Money.  This would be the gradual approach, as opposed to going cold turkey.

Originally posted to Cassiodorus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 02:10 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  No money tips please (23+ / 0-)

    ""It is hardly a moral act to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Cassiodorus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 02:05:25 PM PDT

    •  only several strands of red kula shells.. (5+ / 0-)

      excellent discussion..thanks

      tipped and recced but much Marx is far more than literature..

      M C M is right to the heart of the matter

      "....while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Eugene V. Debs

      by soothsayer99 on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 02:18:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  A nice companion to reading Capital (6+ / 0-)

      are David Harvey's reading group lectures at CUNY.  He's taught Capital every year since the early 70's and is the author of The Limits to Capital.  His lectures are available for free here.

      To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

      by sneakers563 on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 02:38:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Interestingly, time dollars (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Winnie, Cassiodorus

      are ridiculed by Marx as "shallow utopianism" in the first footnote to Chapter 3.  He says they are "no more 'money' than a theatre ticket".

      That said, I enjoyed your diary.  Unfortunately, as I'm sure we agree, the problem is much larger than money, which pre-exists capitalism.

      To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

      by sneakers563 on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 02:43:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sure -- (3+ / 0-)

        Time dollars are a mere pretext for sharing, a human social proclivity which we will want to promote for the post capitalist era to come... there is a really cogent analysis of money in Hutchinson, Mellor, and Olsen's The Politics of Money, in which the money system is shown to be out of control.  In this era shallow utopianism is better than what "progressives" believe, which is a cop-out.

        ""It is hardly a moral act to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Cassiodorus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 02:54:37 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  What is your ideology? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          sneakers563

          I'm curious.  I know what you think about progressive ideology (and I kind of feel the same way about myself - I know the problems, I believe in a few solutions, but most have no end goal other than improving the solution until it falls apart again and someone else like me comes around).  But what are the alternatives out there?

    •  Excellent as usual, Cassio. (3+ / 0-)

      But why the insistance that Marx 'is literature?"  Why defang him at the outset of your piece?

      The supremacy of finance capital over all other forms of capital means the rule of the rentier and of the financial oligarchy -- Lenin (1917)

      by GiveNoQuarter on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 03:11:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  From Percy Bysshe Shelley, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shaharazade

        "A Defense of Poetry":

        Poetry is indeed something divine. It is at once the centre and circumference of knowledge; it is that which comprehends all science, and that to which all science must be referred. It is at the same time the root and blossom of all other systems of thought; it is that from which all spring, and that which adorns all; and that which, if blighted, denies the fruit and the seed, and withholds from the barren world the nourishment and the succession of the scions of the tree of life.

        At any rate "social science" as it currently stands is dead.  See Ben Agger's Public Sociology for the autopsy.

        ""It is hardly a moral act to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Cassiodorus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 03:28:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Marx (4+ / 0-)

    Probably the greatest economist of his day.  The only bone of contention was his though that all added value comes from labor.  I disagreed when I was younger--not so sure now.  Capital is really a quantification of labor--it buys labor and stuff.  Lately, capital has subtracted value.

    •  The labor theory of value (4+ / 0-)

      is not an original contribution of Marx, it was a commonly held theory at the time.  Ricardo, for instance, subscribed to it.  It still has quite a bit to recommend it.

      To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

      by sneakers563 on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 02:35:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The problem of ancient economic theories (0+ / 0-)

      is we have new forms of labor, and new forms of capital and new commodities which completely upset the earlier concepts.

      Far more laborers today do not toil in the fields or factories, but use their information and education as a means to generate skill-based commodities.  These skill-based products are much more valuable than the labor of one individual, it is an accumulation of the labor of thousands dead and gone.

      When you buy a cellphone, you aren't just buying $94 dollars worth of parts, you are buying the intelligence and knowledge of those who went into designing and building such a device, and you also buy the capability of using it in ways they would never have imagined.  Are you really buying a part, a service, or are you buying a means of communicating with others?

      We have blurred the lines of labor and capital and commodities so completely in the modern world, that there are ways in which they no longer have much meaning.  Sure that cellphone is a melange of commodities and labor, but it is also the promise of labor (customer service, repairs, replacements) and intangibles of a new form which we call "information."  That cellphone might be used to purchase other items, or gather information in which you might be able to utilize capital more efficiently.

      The blurring of these terms which once had solid meaning, has for many practical purposes, made classical economics an obsolete science.  It is like biology before Darwin, astronomy before the radio telescope.

      •  Is Capital an example of an ancient economic (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cassiodorus

        theory?  I ask because what you've described is in there.  Marx talks about "dead labor" in exactly those terms, and commodities as the social product of thousands of individuals.  In many ways, it's his central point.

        To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

        by sneakers563 on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 05:27:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I used a very specific item (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Samulayo, sneakers563

          The cell phone, because it is in so many ways, impossible to easily classify.

          It used to be that a "commodity" was essentially a tangible item that you and only you could have.  But this isn't the case when you get a phone and buy a contract to use a service provider, because you are buying a license, a subscription, and a commodity except that commodity (cell phone minutes) aren't exclusive.  Your minutes aren't taking away from anyone else's.  

          Is information a commodity, or is it capital?

          I take great exception to the concept of your sig because value is nothing more than what the purchaser ascribes to it.  If I am willing to pay a buck for a widget, and you are willing to only pay $0.90, that widget is worth a buck.  The market ascribes the value, because without a market it has no value!  If someone doesn't want it, its value is nothing.  Luckily in this world there is always something that someone wants, no matter how odd and therefore there is a value for all commodities.  Even if that value is nothing more than the salvage price, novelty value, or misplaced hope for a tangible future transaction.

          As long as we have markets which determine the value of items, capital and labor can be almost interchangeable.  Indeed it used to be that the greatest value was in capital but oddly today the greatest value is in labor.  A guy comes up with ideas for software, he becomes worth billions.  A guy can hit a golf ball, and the value of his abilities makes him a billionaire as well, before his wife catches him cheating.  Classical economics is light-years behind this, and in all honesty it is too disjointed and antiquated a field to be able to accurately predict anything.  I'm sure you're familiar with the old joke, about economists successfully predicting 9 out of the last 5 recessions:  In a real scientific discipline, this would be considered a failure of monumental achievement.

          For all practical purposes, economics is dead.  You might as well use a dartboard.

          •  First time someone's mentioned the sig (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cassiodorus

            Thanks!

            What Bromley is talking about is that there's a whole series of things that have to exist before "free markets" can exist, and they go a long way towards determining the outcome.  Specifically, Bromley was talking about laws and institutions that define property rights and set the conditions under which exchange occurs.  

            For instance, carbon credits are created through institutions, they are not physical commodities.  Change the way that they are defined, who has ownership, how they are traded, etc. and you change their realized value and all other values in the market.  Another, somewhat more esoteric example can be found in transaction costs.  Make a change in transaction costs through new rules, regs, etc. and the values realized in the market change, and externalities appear and disappear.  The system of prices determined by the market are only efficient in reference to a pre-existing set of rights and costs.

            Bromley's isn't denying that value appears in markets any more than he's denying that milk appears in plastic bottles.  His point is that markets express values that are the products of prior and external social relationships.

            To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

            by sneakers563 on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 06:17:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Sorry for second reply (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Cassiodorus

            I'm still not clear on where you place Marx.  Your software and golf examples are easily handled by the first two chapters of Capital.  For Marx, all value comes from the average labor required to reproduce the commodity.  It would take a hell of a lot of labor (intellectual as well as physical) to reproduce Bill Gates (or Steve Jobs), hence their commodities have tremendous value.  Same for cheating golfers.

            And, of course, while Marx didn't predict the recession / depression of 2007, he did predict that contradictions fundamental to capitalism would lead to an ever increasing frequency of crises.

            To believe that markets determine value is to believe that milk comes from plastic bottles. Bromley (1985)

            by sneakers563 on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 06:28:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  So nobody's exploited anymore? (0+ / 0-)

        I'll be sure and tell that half of the human race which lives off of less than $2.50/day.

        ""It is hardly a moral act to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Cassiodorus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 08:00:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Old joke (0+ / 0-)

          In capitalism, one man is exploited by another.  Communism is the exact opposite.

          Using exploitation as an example of economic theory is total bullshit, because people were exploited before we had currency, before we had governments, before we had economic theories.  Nature is a system of exploitation, red in tooth and claw.

          •  So nature accumulates the surplus from labor (0+ / 0-)

            and plows it back into new businesses?

            Good to know.

            ""It is hardly a moral act to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

            by Cassiodorus on Mon Mar 15, 2010 at 07:00:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Man is the only cooperative species (0+ / 0-)

              on this planet that does not distinguish from kin or clan members.  Forgot who said it, but put 10 chimps in a locked room together, you're lucky to come out with one alive.  Put 10 humans in a locked room, nothing bad will happen.

              Unless they start singing, then all bets are off.

  •  okay, gotta disagree with your (0+ / 0-)

    take on the HCR package.  It'll cap overhead at 20%, where the norm now is more like 35%, in addition to other regulation.  That'll go a long way towards taming the beast.

    "Intolerance is something which belongs to the religions we have rejected." - J.J. Rousseau

    by James Allen on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 03:12:19 PM PDT

  •  Effective taxation policy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    saves the capitalist from his/her own worst instincts, i.e. the miser effect.

    •  They just invent "investments" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      goinsouth, kurt, shaharazade

      Which is how the Ponzi scheme economy took over.  CDOs and CDSs anyone?

      Or they buy some politics so that they can get the politicos to reduce the top tax rates.

      ""It is hardly a moral act to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 03:34:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nowadays, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    the miser will lose the value of his money through inflation.

  •  more analogies (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, obnoxiotheclown

    originally there was simple production, which evolved into this tool, the "market", that producers met at to distribute   the stuff, whatever it happened to be, but usually a "basic" commodity, like food. The market was a tool used by producers to effect distribution of stuff.

    In the course of this dynamic, "profit" arose, excess capital extracted from the process of distribution. As you so eloquently describe, the original purpose of the tool evolved from the distribution of stuff to the creation of "wealth" (that excess capital), which became a commodity unto itself.

    At this point, it would be fair to say that the tool, once used by producers, now actually uses the users, who engage in activity not to do something useful, like distribute stuff, but to extract wealth, and the actual stuff is incidental to the process. "Gaming" the market has become the whole purpose of its existence. The rituals of the cult you describe.

    Imagine the evolved consumer economy as a three-legged stool. One leg serves to create desire for stuff, a process known as advertising. The second legs exists to satisfy this desire and even enhance it by making it possible to have the stuff right now, by the simple expediency of renting consumers money with which to get it now. This is called "credit". The third legs is, of course, the stuff itself and its production, which have become entirely incidental to the process of supply and demand. Doesn't actually matter what the stuff itself is, as long as consumers can be induced into desiring it.

    This dynamic has created incredible wealth, but only for those who have the money to rent out. The producers and consumers are merely agents to effect the transfer of wealth. Thus the entire apparatus of production and distribution has become subordinate to the process of creating wealth.

    This has been the past 50 years.

    The tool, the market, worked amazingly well, and its original purpose, distribution of basic commodities, subjected to intense competition, became too pedestrian to seekers of wealth, who sought bigger game. Once people's bellies were full and they were sheltered and clothed and somewhat entertained, they had no need of more basic commodities, and very little opportunity to make wealth out of the process led to development of that 3-legged-stool I mention above.

    So this entire engine of distribution (the market) has been harnessed to extract either raw resources or intellectual creation and turn them into this abstract "wealth", as generation after generation of clever people have learned to turn the crank of wealth creation for its own sake, far beyond any actual need for the products.

    This has been called "the economy" during our lifetimes, and its success is measured in how much wealth has been created, rather than by some boring and non-profitable metric of how many non-hungry, adequately-sheltered and content people exist.

    There actually is more than enough of the basic stuff around to adequately take care of everybody, but Paris Hilton might have to wear cotton rather than silk, and for Sir Count/Baron/Duke Conrad Hilton's grand-daughter, that just won't do.

    I could go on and on. You are not the only person thinking about all this.

    Ol' Karl must be spinning in his grave, trying to grasp the concept of the exploited classes so thoroughly enslaved to this dynamic of wealth creation and concentration that they take up arms to defend it it in the name of "freedom", which has become degraded to where we think we exercise it by choosing between the next Chevy or the next Ford.

    don't always believe what you think...

    by claude on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 04:21:56 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the diary and the links. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, rossl

    You are a fountain of useful information.  The Really Really Free Market is an exciting practice.  And reading about the troubles of the Food Not Bombs people was very enlightening as well.

    "Capitalism is irresponsibility organized into a system." -- Emil Brunner

    by goinsouth on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 04:27:29 PM PDT

  •  How much do you localize? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    I find it hard to imagine a world in which foreign trade and consumption of foreign products is not a huge part of every nation's economy.  The world has been 'global' in that sense since the end of the 15th century.  Every household contains vast numbers of things produced abroad; every complex product (like the computer you're working on) is filled with materials and components produced at various spots around the globe.

    How do you "localize" all of that, and still retain accessibility to global resources and expertise?  And is this localization to be done country-by-country? State-by-state?  City-by-city?

    I fear that "deglobalizing", though it might have some immediate benefits, could result in the either the impoverishment of newly "localized" countries that would no longer have access to services and products and expertise that they don't have in their own country -- or it would yield a different kind of exploitation, in which rich exporting (but non-importing) countries would be supporting (and thus controlling) poorer importing (but not exporting) countries.

    •  There must be limits, of course (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cassiodorus

      The point is not localization for the sake of localization, but localization in order to improve peoples' lives.  Even if you're self-sustainable, that doesn't mean that you'll want to live entirely isolated and without a few goods from around the world if you don't have to.  That's my two cents on that.

    •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

      I find it hard to imagine a world in which foreign trade and consumption of foreign products is not a huge part of every nation's economy.

      Well, it was the norm for almost all of human history...

      I fear that "deglobalizing", though it might have some immediate benefits, could result in the either the impoverishment of newly "localized" countries

      You mean the ones whose resources are being plundered by multinationals now?

      I thought not.

      ""It is hardly a moral act to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 07:57:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think you need this song in here, too (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus, blueoregon

    The artist is Barrett Strong, and Barry Gordy co-wrote the song.  First big hit from what morphed into Motown.

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 04:37:01 PM PDT

  •  Can't an arguement be made that all cults (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassiodorus

    are cults of money, since all cults are pre-occupied with parting their followers with their money. Religious cults may masquerade as religions but their main upspoken purpose is to aquire all of their followers money. Has there ever been a cult that didn't demand all their followers money at the risk of living in poverty or neglating their health?

    "Looks like we got ourselves a Reader" - Bill Hicks

    by blueoregon on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 05:09:59 PM PDT

    •  It would be nice, (0+ / 0-)

      but, unfortunately, no.

      ""It is hardly a moral act to encourage others patiently to accept injustice which he himself does not endure." -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

      by Cassiodorus on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 07:58:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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