On money, debt, politiks, etc

TL:DR=People are making decisions based on dollars when they should be considering the real value – concrete and steel and the like – involved.

I’m not really sure how to write this, so I’m just going to do a stream of conciousness writing and hopefully it will capture some of the ideas I have.

First of all, I have concluded that some of what the department of defense does is in essence a entitlement for people who like to hurt people. So, if you are one of those madly anti-entitlement people, you really should be upset about the DoD. There’s no way that we need the level of military technology we have. It’s a gift for the DoD contractors, pure and simple. Nor do we pay the actual people who put their lives on the line very well – so it’s not even a entitlement for the group of people who one could argue deserve it for putting themselves in harm’s way in the interest of implementing the decisions of our government. It’s pork for the people who want to make a bigger bomb, a better rifle, a larger aircraft carrier, even though we already have a vastly larger army than anyone who would conceivably want to pick a fight with us.

Now I must mention in all fairness that the DoD is not all bad. My father worked there for a while, and every project he ever chose to share with me that he had chosen to support was one that generated value for the human race, that made us all richer. But people who make bombs, and guns, are making tools for destroying value.

Beyond that, however, I think that our culture has a very sick idea about money. We think it’s worth something – that it’s more important than people. Money is our tool, but instead of us using it it has come to use us.

Money is not value. Value is what money buys – and what we want. No sane person really wants money – they want value. You can’t eat dollars, and they’d make a lousy house – but dollars buy food and shelter, which you can eat and live in. However, money can’t *accurately* abstract value, for a whole host of reasons:

1) Some types of value are forever and infinite. Once a great book is penned, or a song or movie is laid down on tape, that content is now ours, now and forever. With our current level of technology, distributing and copying it cost fractions of a penny. Using money to try and pay for that content is having a finite resource (dollars) try to chase a infinite one (content). In terms of real value – things like great movies and works of art and automation that works and whatnot – the human race is far, far, far wealthier than it ever has been. In terms of minds and hands to create amazing things, the human race is wealthy indeed. But the amount of money in the world has not kept pace with our wealth, and things in the economic world are coming unglued because of it.

2) Some types of value can be destroyed, but we do not attempt to match that with money. When a war happens, we should really take a bunch of money, and burn it, because we’re destroying the value that it represents. (Although, for some wars – WWII, for example – we also need to mint a bunch more for the scientific discoveries that were made by necessity to cope with the war). In a recent war, we burned one of the oldest libraries on the planet.. that ought to be a huge pile of bills thrown on a bonfire somewhere.

3) Some types of value are multiplicative – that is, they create other value. Automation is a great example. Once discovered, automation is in category #1, but it also enables us to get more resources for less man-hours. This makes us all wealthier, but it can also make that wealth inaccessible to the people who just lost their job to a perl script

We need to make sure we – and especially our children – see money not as value, but as a symbol that represents value – and understand that it can only work properly if it accurately maps to the amount of value our race has. (And probably not even then! ;-)). Deciding not to give health care to people – live minds and hands that create the value money is based on – because of our debt – is in essence increasing our debt. We’re destroying real value by letting those people suffer and die, and we ought to be destroying money to match the loss of value that results.

Whenever a hardworking immigrant walks “illegally” over our borders, our nation becomes wealthier by the value that person can create, be it fixin’ cars or pickin’ strawberries.. and we ought to be printing money to match. Whenever someone leaves, we ought to be burning money to match the loss of their creative power and energy.

What’s most important is that the people making decisions.. the presidents, and kings, and governers, and senators.. understand that money isn’t value, but a symbol that abstracts it. Whenever we make a decision that reduces the amount of value in the world in order to increase the amount of money in it, we are demonstrating stupidity on a colossal scale, and the tool is using us instead of us using the tool.

What scares me is that NO WHERE in the recent government budget discussions did I hear anyone talk about this! And I see many people – mostly conservatives – who seem to be under the delusion that the money *is* the value, and use this argument to justify treating their neighbors and friends horribly for the sake of dollars. This to me is the ultimate in fiscal irresponsibility – letting the tool use you, instead of you using the tool.

Similarly, I see liberals who think that enough money can somehow will a resource that’s scarce into existence, without having to come up with some way to get it. While I talk about giving everyone everything, I do in fact have concrete plans (more on this later) on how we would do that. But I have heard liberals talk about shutting down all oil pipelines – right now – without considering how we would then get food given that our transit network runs on oil.

For some of my evolving thoughts beyond this, read http://www.sheer.us/weblogs/?cat=13

For more about this, read http://www.sheer.us/weblogs/?p=2346

NOTE: If you got here via http://valuenotmoney.sheer.us, please note that is a series of essays – please follow the link at http://www.sheer.us/weblogs/?p=2346 for the next one.

8 Responses to “On money, debt, politiks, etc”

  1. One moon Says:

    You are mad sir, mad as in you are more sane than everyone else. You speak too much sense. I think these comments should be sent on to the Federal Reserve.

  2. ClintJCL@gmail.com` Says:

    You’re dead right about everything but the immigrants. When you are somewhere illegally you often are using more value than you bring. Look at Prince William County’s success after their Rule Of Law resolution. The avg immigrant pays $1200 in taxes a year – which is way less than the value of the services we receive every year. And the job they do isn’t created value, if the job needed to be done, an unemployed american could be doing it instead. Same with the H1-B visa situation.

  3. sheer_panic Says:

    Clint, I don’t think that follows at all. Mentioning what a immigrant pays in taxes is a total red herring, since the whole point of my article is that money doesn’t accurately abstract value. And the idea that a human is only creating value when they are working in a “approved” job is nuts. You create value by being a friend, a lover, by all the creative things you do just because humans tend to be creative, by growing a garden in your backyard, in many different ways. The ‘unemployed american could be doing it instead’ is similarly nuts. Part of why money fails us is we have more hands than things that need done, but our current system punishes the extra hands. As one who believes in slack, I’d think you’d abhor this situation! We have a lot of cases where we’ve got people doing makework, or systems that are far less efficient than they should be, just because we need to keep everyone “employed” because of our not-too-bright resource allocation system.

  4. ClintJCL Says:

    >” And the idea that a human is only creating value when they are working in a “approved” job is nuts”

    I don’t know how you groked that from what I said. I simply said – there aren’t enough jobs for those of us here. Giving them out to whichever criminal randomly breaks the law first isn’t the right way to allocate that resource.

    When the economy is crumbling, and govt services are going to shit, I don’t want them to go to more shit just for some people who broke the law. Come here legally like my grandparents did. Taking money from the shared pool of resource contribution my fellow taxpaying citizens have created is a form of stealing my slack.

  5. sheer_panic Says:

    Clint, you have a valid point under our current system. My point is that our current system is nuts.

  6. Eaglesoars Says:

    So does it follow that the abortion of babies takes away value? There are stories of several who were to have been aborted, but weren’t, or in more rare cases, the abortion failed. These people are now adding great value.

  7. Jonathan Pullen Says:

    I would say that the abortion of babies takes away value generally (although sometimes it adds value, think if Dubya had been aborted how much less destruction would have happened) but that is not a reason to prevent people from aborting babies. I do suspect in a world that sanely looked at value there would be a lot less abortions because having a baby would not be as much of a individual hardship (aside from the inevitable pain of childbirth and lack of mobility for a few months) – because the society would recognize the value of the potential future citizen and provide for them instead of expecting the individual parents to do so regardless of their situation. But I don’t think you even want to think about going down the path of reducing individual freedom every time a reduction of total available value is involved.

  8. Swipes Says:

    Discovering I should maybe be going in order here as this is obviously an earlier chapter in your resource allocation lectures. I don’t think you have me even devil advocating against your core values on this subject.

Leave a Reply