Wednesday 11 July 2012

Fiat fuck up

The BOF is puzzled.

He has been listening to and reading journalists on the subject of the financial crisis for years now. Slowly, they are getting down to a proper appraisal of modern capitalism but without focusing on what he believes to be at the centre of the crisis.

Money as we know it is based on a system of symbolism. The numbers and names of the money are a symbolic representation of value not the value itself. Fiat money by definition faces in one direction: it reflects the value of the real world back on itself, giving us a benchmark by which to judge comparative worth. It is a mirror.

What the casino side of the banks has done is to turn that mirror on itself, giving the instant impression that money goes on growing for ever. As with any multiple reflection, there is still, in reality, only one real object. All the rest, stretching into infinity, are an illusion. The fact that the real object at the centre of it all is still only a symbol gives a brittle delicacy to the construct.

The banks have tricked us into thinking that all those reflections are real objects with real value, whereas they are actually an illusion. They do not exist. There was no relationship between the stated value and the actual worth of sub-prime mortgages. It wasn't even smoke and mirrors, just mirrors and salesmen's talk.

The only way to stop this happening again and again is not to separate the high street from the casino. What must be done is to create two different forms of money: there is our money, the stuff we are paid for work and for selling things which we use to buy food and fun; it is a straightforward symbol of our worth; and there is gambling money, the stuff that's used to to turn money into an actual object. The symbol can be used to buy the chips, but the chips should never be allowed to affect the symbolic relationship which defines the value of money.

There is not enough natural morality in people to expect them to maintain this distinction on their own. They must be helped by legislation. A system which allows the value of a nation's currency to be arbitrarily altered at the whim of kids barely out of college who've come up with another wizard wheeze to reposition the mirrors and who have disdain for the actual people who have to live on that currency is not a proper system for safeguarding life savings and daily earnings.

In fact, who ever said it was ok for individuals to gamble with the wealth of nations? It's not, and it should be stopped. We have to retrace our steps a fair distance to do the rebuilding, but it must be done.

Money for us and money for them and never should the two of them meet. Only, ours is the real money. Theirs is the gambling chips that they have to buy at the door of the casino (paying a good tax), and then cash in again on the way out (paying another good tax). No buying Bollinger with those chips - they can't be used as cash, and any attempt to do so will be punished by removal and selling of all chips in the criminal's ownership to benefit the public good.

That should sort it. Well done the BOF.