Friday, October 21, 2016

Does Money Exist? 3 of 13

         Part 2. Plutic Controversy

            Please note that aplutism is not conventional anti-capitalism. An anti-capitalist denies the money system’s justice; an aplutist denies its presence. An anti-capitalist says that the money system is unfair; an aplutist says that it’s unreal. One denounces; the other refutes.

            It seems absurd to ask if money exists; but the question improves upon acquaintance. It’s true that there are plenty of green pieces of paper claiming to be money, and people treat them as if they were money; but on the other hand, a church can exist, with preacher and flock, without its god existing.

            Such a cult could intimidate everyone in town into worshipping the idol; but nonetheless prayers to the figment will go unanswered, and sacrifices to the image will not be rewarded. Nonexistence has consequences that will not be denied.

            Aplutism claims that money is such an idol; specifically paper money. Is paper money an oxymoron? It’s created out of pure debt, basically by subtracting infinity from infinity. (Ask the Fed for details about the relevant sleight of hand.) Paper money is essentially a giant placebo; it works if people believe in it; but faith can vanish in a moment.

            For instance, recently $1,000,000,000,000 in stock valuation disappeared. That trillion dollars wasn’t stolen, exactly (though some contrived to indirectly profit from this); nor was it money, exactly (though some got taxpayer money for this). The money ceased to exist, and indeed it announced that it never was. And strangest of all, right after being bailed out by a trillion taxpayer dollars, those responsible for the bubble carried on as if nothing unusual had happened!

            Well, if ten hundred thousand million dollars can be fraud and illusion, then how much other money isn’t really there? Please note that this vanishing act has precedents; Wall Street history is full of booms and busts. In fact unstable money is the norm, unless there’s socialism and/or regulation.

            I, myself, am only partly an aplutist. I distinguish between private goods, which I call “zero-sum” goods, and public goods, which I call “zero-difference” goods, or “common wealth”. Common wealth includes clean air, pure water, street lighting, rule of law, national defense, sewers, roads, bridges, mail and the Internet. Zero-difference goods are had by none or by all; and I say that they are naturally aplutic, for money is a system for managing zero-sum scarcity.

            Money is a useful fiction for rationing private goods, less useful for public goods; but I don’t know where to draw the line between plutic private goods and aplutic public goods. I am in a state of doubt; and in this essay I argue that such doubt - a.k.a. soft aplutism, or ‘agnoplutism’ - is the wisest policy.

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