Beyond God and Money

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." - Aldous Huxley
When Christianity was the West's main system of control some of the finest minds in the world were employed to articulate brilliant, complex, philosophical arguments in defence of the various paradoxes which sprout from a belief in the bible. These "experts" were capable of ingenious and amazing[1] responses to the major stumbling blocks presented by the religious belief systems of the day.
For example: 
If God is all powerful can he make a rock which nothing can move?
Answer: Yes of course.

Paradox: Can he then move that rock?

Either way his power appears to have limits. [2]
Wrangling round questions such as these gained articulate and clever people a lot of power and status back in days gone by. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure St Thomas Aquinas and his mates believed what they said. I'm just pointing out that a lot of it, from the perspective of 2013, seems like very clever, interesting, well-written, bo---cks.

It is often claimed similar such nonsense continues today but it is now the financial sector who will pay top dollar for you to fudge the issues[3]. Paradoxes in our monetary system are just as crushing when stated bluntly:
For example: People who need money can borrow it from a bank?

Answer: Yes of course, but they must pay it back with interest so we can reward people who keep their excess cash with us.

Paradox: So, doesn't that mean in the long term we're taking money off people who need it and giving it to those who don't?

There's a huge list of excuses as to why that's not so but no matter how you slice it, people who have a lot of money keep it in a bank and get paid cash for doing so. The more money you have the more you will be given by this process. This "interest" comes directly from those who needed it and therefore had to borrow it.


Like I said, there's a whole load of "experts" who will tell you this is not the case and that people who say it is are 'heretics' or 'communists' or whatever new insult they can cook up. Rarely though can they tackle the issue, it's easier to try and confuse it. Furthermore, as with the religious paradox, it is but one of the many issues connected to our financial system.

Recently I was listening to a BBC radio programme and a financial "expert" was puzzled over inflation. He said it was because of "non market forces", things like tuition fees. Broadly it was seen as a complex mystery and the presenter of the segment even announced "we're not worried about inflation". Then, without missing a beat, they went on to discuss "Quantitative Easing" which, if you're not an expert, effectively means printing money. You know, like they did just before the hyper-inflation that plunged Germany into the mire of the Third Reich.

I'm not for one minute suggesting these two were being dishonest. I'm just implying printing money and lending it out to people who need it, then charging them interest on repayments, has about the same success rate as the prayers of a religious scholar who finds themselves in a Cathedral surrounded by angry heathens.

The important point about this connection between religion and money is that I am not about to advocate an alternative system here. People often describe religion as a crutch and my response to this is that it's a cruel character who knocks away a walking stick from one who appears to be relying on it. Many fear that Nietzsche's prophetic "death of God" is being accompanied by a visible breakdown in law and order as our society, previously controlled by the supernatural threat of final judgement, comes apart. The possible, some would say inevitable, collapse of the Western financial system may leave an even more crippled community behind in its wake. Telling it to 'take up thy bed and walk' might be a little tricky at that point.

In other words, I accept the argument that it is easier to criticise and destroy than it is to create and you can knock over a hundred sand castles in the time it take to build one. That said the first step for an addict on the road to recovery is to recognise they have a problem. Perhaps this article is small part of that process.

Nick Margerrison

[1] I use the word "amazing" here in the sense that they could literally draw you into a maze where you could remain lost and confused for a lifetime. If you are in want of distraction it is worth looking at some of the theological works of the past, genius never loses its shine, even if its conclusions are incorrect. Once you've finished think about how your mind freezes or your eyes glaze over when the financial news comes on the radio. Picture the waterfall graphics of numbers and the jargon you're expected to understand and then ask yourself this, you're an adult now why are you still 'unable to understand' it?

[2] This argument is variously called "the immovable object" or "the irresistible force meets the immovable object". It's a classic which nowadays sits in the library of philosophy as a curious relic.

[3] If you ever listen to a Phd level or above mathematician describe what they do as being a thing of quasi-divine like beauty you can start to understand this. Mathematics is a language and a great mind, the modern equivalent of a medieval theologian, can fashion incredible arguments with it. The very best of these people do not generally get drawn into physics or chemistry but instead are attracted to the financial sector. Why? Well, you do the maths.

[4] I've lost count of the number of people who get sucked into left vs right politics and seem to think that the rising gap between rich and poor can be halted without addressing this structural problem. We reward people, with money, for being rich. That money comes from people with less money. Hence the ever rising gap between you and the world's billionaires.

Comments

Paul the Munkey said…
life might be better with no religions, banks and politicians to screw things up
Anonymous said…
Check out 'The History of Money' on XAT.org
Joey B said…
A lot is hidden by your use of "we're." It leaves out the distinctions between the savers and the bank. Also, you aren't allowing for the risk that a loan might not be paid back, the time value of money, and who creates the money. At the moment, banks tend to pay interest rates to savers which are less than the rat of inflation. So, someone is taking "value" from savers, as well as borrowers. All economic values are subjective and I think you're slipping in the notion that economic values are objective, possibly without realizing you are doing so. Money is just a commodity, like any other. If one buys anything else, one expects the person selling it to make a profit. When a person buys food from a food retailer, essentially money is being taken from a person with less food and given to someone with more food. So what? Finally, rich people who borrow also pay interest.

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