Part 5. Social Construction and Metamathematics
Does money exist? Certainly it’s a social construct, dependent on human society. It’s a social game, so to be valid it has to be believeable. It needs consistency. When a sum flips unexpectedly between zero and a trillion, that tends to call doubt upon that sum’s utility or reality.
What does it mean to say that money exists? It means that money makes sense; that there’s a plausible referent for all the recorded transactions; the additions, the subtractions, the multiplications and divisions. Do the books balance? Could the books balance? That is the question. Money exists if its arithmetic lacks contradictions. The aplutic question reduces to: given the recorded transactions and contracts as axioms, is the resulting arithmetical account self-consistent?
But that is an undecidable proposition, as Goedel’s Second Incompleteness Theorem proves. In fact it is inwardly paradoxical; for any arithmetical proof system is consistent to the exact extent that it cannot prove that it is consistent!
I submit that money, like the consistency of arithmetic, bears a “metamathematical jinx”; that is, money exists to the exact extent that you do not believe that it exists. Money is skepticism-based; it’s as real as your doubt that it’s real.
Money scarcely exists, as befits a measure of scarcity. It exists as much as it’s scarce; that is, as much as it does not exist. Money is a paradox!