August 26, 2011

Time Dollars vs. Command Money (1 of 2)


I’ve written before about our imperative and ability to Take Back Our Money. There I only touched on the capacity of time dollars (T$) to replace “normal” command currency, realizing what are only alleged to be its good traits while abolishing its bad ones. The voluntary nature of co-production and time banking represents a great human advance over the intrinsically coercive and tyrannical nature of centralized currency imposed as part of a command economy. That’s a usually neglected part of the definition of the term fiat itself. As with everything else, the first psychological step is to recognize money as something artificial, contingent, a choice society has made or had imposed upon it, not a law of nature the way people tend to view it (and the way system propaganda represents it).
Money imprisons our minds, constricting our sense of what’s possible. But as part of our transitional progress from capitalism to economic democracy, we can transcend the rut of implicit faith in money, analyze what it really is, what it does, and how alternatives are better. Most people don’t consciously want to destroy family, friendship, community, civil society, democracy. Yet their surrender to the money imperative, at whatever economic level, turns them into de facto cadres bent on the destruction of all these things, since money as deployed by corporatism is primarily an agent of destruction, just as capitalism itself is by far history’s most destructive force. 
The alleged good qualities of money are all instrumental and have all been outfitted for class war duty. The bad effects are actually the intended effects. Meanwhile even as we allow money to help destroy all the things which make us human, we try to use money to buy their semblances. But by their nature such things can’t be bought. They can’t exist on a mercenary basis. We must resume our responsibilities as citizens, rather than remaining the mere consumers of pseudo-community, pseudo-democracy, pseudo-humanity.
We’re familiar with the most basic traits of money – unit of account, medium of exchange, store of value. In No More Throw Away People, Edgar Cahn further divides these into nine traits, the better to highlight how destructive command money is, and how T$ is a superior alternative. I’ll go through each of these, adding to Cahn’s transitional analysis how relocalization renders destructive money obsolete, how we don’t need the destructive money measure, and how T$, a tool of relocalization, help further it.
The nine traits are: Money’s all-purpose purchasing power, its mobility, how it motivates people, its alleged egalitarianism, the way it imposes price as a yardstick for everything, its alleged efficiency, how money makes money, how it’s enforced as a contract, and money as the measure of value.
For each of these I’ll describe how the alleged benevolence of the effect is in practice malign, how T$ are a much better way to achieve good effects, and how T$ are most effective as part of relocalization, which itself helps break the tyranny of money. In some cases, the bad effect of command money regards something necessary which T$ can turn to good. In others, we can say without further ado that we’d be better off without money’s effect, period.
1. Money’s all-purpose purchasing power, supposedly good for being so versatile, actually means that literally everything’s for sale, including every kind of vice and crime, while all that’s intrinsically useful or good tends to be perverted to bad uses.
By its very nature money empowers the rich and big corporations while disempowering anything else. One good example, relevant especially for reformists who still believe in Better Elections, is the campaign finance issue. Why is it so hard to figure out how to reform campaign finance in practice? Because you want a system which exalts money in principle (as your capitalist representative government does), but in specific ways you want to buck its overwhelming trend toward monetizing everything it possibly can. A reformist, as usual, labors under a schizophrenic disconnect between alleged ends and actual means. Citizens United, so deplored by reformists and true citizen activists alike, is actually inherent in money, and therefore in any philosophy which exalts command money, no matter what that philosophy claims to want in theory.
But we don’t need to prostitute every interaction to the dominion of money. Family, friendship, community, democracy can’t really be bought, only preserved, enhanced, or destroyed. Only the true, human economy can deal with these, and only a true economic measure can tally them. The core economy of all the things we do for one another, all the work done in the home, family care, neighbor mutual help – a real economic measure will measure all real work and nothing but real work.
We don’t need the money measure, because we can have an economy where all transactions can be constructive and mutually beneficial. We can have an economic measure which tallies all these construcitve transactions. T$ can provide this measure, and in doing so help build this true economy and overcome the false one. Unlike with the false versatility of money, which is really an elitist promiscuity, T$ serve a limited purpose, practically and morally. They’re necessarily limited to what’s practically useful/beneficial and broadly acceptable on the level of civil morality. They can encompass all real services, and perhaps goods as well. (There’s been many experiments with how to adapt T$ to procurement of goods. One idea which is theoretically intriguing is to measure a good according to the time that went into producing it, and pricing it at that number of T$. This is time banking’s version of the labor theory of value.)
2. Money’s superior mobility, supposedly a social boon, really means that real wealth is stolen from most communities and regions and concentrated in a small handful of parasitic ones. Globalization’s ravages are inherent in it. (Yet even many nominal anti-globalizers want to continue with centralized money.) It uproots al stability, all community. It’s capitalism and money which most of all give the lie to “conservatism”, since nothing’s more radically destructive of all existing institutions and values, and for such a nihilistic non-purpose.
Money empowers corporatism and leads logically to kleptocracy.
We don’t need such mobile money. Globalization, including its historical forerunners, was always about luxuries, never about anything we need. Markets, especially those for food and other core necessities, are naturally and sufficiently local/regional.
T$ are locally anchored and therefore are truly conservative of community and society, and the infrastructure of trust necessary to maintain them. Money’s mobility encourages mercenary and aloof attitudes among transaction participants. It encourages an extreme atomization, as each transaction is a discrete granule. T$ are necessarily part of locally anchored socioeconomic networks and ongoing relationships requiring trust and building acquaintance, neighborliness, and often friendship.
T$ necessarily stay in the community. By definition, they stay in the time bank. Therefore they’re better suited to natural and rational economic and political arrangements, which must be relocalized. They work toward self-sufficiency at the individual, family, community levels. They’re closer to venerable and time-tested arrangements for social credit and barter. (T$ can become interchangeable between regions, but only through the democratic deliberation of the time banks involved. This would constitute the rational form of trade where trade supply meets actual demand, instead of the way “trade” under capitalism debouches in the aggressive forms of dumping and other assaults on competition and community.)
3. Money instills and enforces pathological forms of motivation. It rewards at best instrumentality and more often greed, lying, fraud, aggression, sadism, hatred. Everyone expects to be bribed. Gresham’s Law runs, “bad money drives out good”. But really it just describes the way money logically functions. Money also rewards specialization, with all its distortions, perverse effects, and vulnerabilities.
This is purely destructive. We can do far better. T$ prizes internal motivations over bribes. It rewards decency, caring, learning, civic participation, and everything else associated with volunteering, and does so as the basis of the economy. Co-production and time-banking, by equating all hours, comprise a generalizing trend. Rather than a loose aggregation of specialized atoms, this economy is a resilient network which sums up to a robust generalism. In this way T$ help build relocalization. (In his discussion, Cahn depicts this as a sort of conflict between maximizing material return vs. inner reward. But in fact, as I’ve often stressed with for example food sovereignty, emphasizing and enhancing the latter will also maximize the former. But not vice versa under capitalism.)
(Just to dispose of the dregs of Galtism, if there really do exist people who are such indelible psychopaths that even amid a fair, prosperous democracy they’d still demand greed-based incentives, then we could happily kick them out. A human community would be far better off without the likes of them.)
In part two I’ll complete the discussion of the remaining six traits.
(BTW, the administrative page informs me this is my 500th post.) 


  1. […] This continues my description (part one here) of the ills of command money, how relocalization and time dollars (T$) can solve these problems […]

    Pingback by Time Dollars vs. Command Money (2 of 2) « Volatility — August 27, 2011 @ 4:16 am

  2. […] banks must be envisioned as seeds of a thriving forest, not as potted flowers to be put out in the harsh cold of the command money economy.   So organic time banking and organic co-production, since it can’t sit still amid this […]

    Pingback by What Is Organic? (2 of 2) « Volatility — March 30, 2012 @ 2:41 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

%d bloggers like this: