What do we value? It seems obvious at first, but the more you think about it, the more contradictions you will discover. I’ve been wrestling with this post for days, trying to get it to gel and coalesce in my mind. It’s a difficult subject and it covers a lot of ground, but I feel compelled to write about it, because there is something very wrong in the world, today, with what we value and how we value it, in my view. My examination of this question grew into a sizeable post, as a consequence, for which I apologise in advance. I couldn’t shorten it. I hope the tenacious reader will be rewarded by some very thought-provoking material. Anyway, enough of the preamble…
When it comes to what we value, we say one thing and do another. While we remain so inconsistent, we open ourselves to manipulation by those that would seek to take advantage. In fact, our distorted value system is causing serious and material damage to the lives of millions and leading us toward a catastrophe of our own invention. The question is hardly incidental.
What is value? Value is subjective. Economist Carl Menger, of the so-called “Austrian School”, said this about value in 1871: “Value is thus nothing inherent in goods, no property of them, nor an independent thing existing by itself. It is a judgment economizing men make about the importance of the goods at their disposal for the maintenance of their lives and well-being. Hence value does not exist outside the consciousness of men.” This is an important insight about value. Dollar bills are not inherently valuable. The value of anything we care to value is not constant. Value is in the eye of the beholder. We assign a dollar value to something because the monetary system provides us with a standard of measure (which happens to be an elastic standard of measure, but ignore that for the moment). It doesn’t mean that the measuring apparatus is the store of value. It’s merely a note promising to exchange something of comparable value for the thing priced.
Menger mentioned well-being. Now there’s an interesting connection. Positive Psychology and Humanistic Psychology both have much to say on the subject of well-being. Abraham Maslow, the founder of humanistic psychology, formulated his “hierarchy of needs”, which are the fundamental things we seek to satisfy, as human beings, to ensure that we maintain our lives and well being. In Maslow’s hierarchy, we only value a higher level need highly, once we have satisfied a lower level one.
At the base of the hierarchy are the physiological needs. We value air, food, water, sleep, procreative sex, homeostasis (the need to maintain a constant, stable condition e.g. keeping ourselves neither too warm, nor too cold) and excretion first, because without these, we perish. Note that aspects of commerce and money making actually imperil all of these needs, in one way or another. Air and water are polluted by industrial activity. Food is subject to nutritional depletion through intensive farming and food processing. GMOs are another potential threat to our food. We are under pressure to work harder, for longer, under increasing psychological stress, thereby compromising our sleep. As more and more relationships break down, under the pressure of making enough money, the population increasingly lives alone. Sex becomes less frequent and families become smaller. Rising fuel prices and endocrine disrupting pollutants threaten our homeostasis and even excretion relies on having a sewerage system to access, in order to do so hygienically. The money system, through which we express value, works in direct, diametric contradiction to our most fundamental needs and the things we value most.
The second level of the hierarchy is about meeting our needs for safety. We need to feel safe and secure in body, employment, resources, morality, the family, health and property. Compare and contrast this to the typical effects of the average person’s working life on their safety. Urbanized people feel increases in threats to personal safety, due to the proximity to an impoverished underclass. The constant work stress can take its toll on body and health. The degradation of the nutritional soundness of the food we eat also assaults our health, as do the side effects of prescription drugs, toxic metals in fish and vaccines, the biological hazards of intensive factory farming and the various petrochemical by-products that accumulate in our tissues, from our first embryonic moments, until we die. Employment has rarely been less secure. With foreign ownership of natural resources, people can find that they lack food security, energy security or security of supply of critical minerals. It is said that morality is under constant attack, through the media, films and the music industry, but it is also true that people are less willing to live by strict moral codes than their grandparents were. While greed is good, morals are out of fashion. The property market, of course, has rarely been so precarious, with foreclosures at an all-time high and homelessness on the rise. Peace is a precondition for safety, yet we reward the most value to those that fund, sponsor, encourage and equip constant warfare. How did that happen? All of these threats to personal safety, which we value highly as human beings, are solely the result of a faltering economy. What the economy currently values highly are things other than those that contribute to the personal safety of the majority. Once again, we can see there is something very wrong with this picture. Money is not serving us, it is dictating terms.
At the next level of the hierarchy of needs, we value love and belonging. This includes friendship, family and sexual intimacy. What does our modern, market-driven world deliver instead? Loneliness. People increasingly isolated from one another, ironically by social media and multi-player games. When do these people actually get together, face to face, and just talk? Never. They exist behind the superficiality of banal posts and tweets, forever self-conscious about everything they write and painfully aware that every word is public and on record. There is no intimate confession, no shared frustrations, and no connection with one another on an empathic basis, to truly connect at a deeply human level. Money makes it so. We’re all so busy working to pay the bills that we all have fewer deep, lifetime relationships. The patterns of work and employment mean we are more mobile, leaving family and friends frequently, to further our careers or remain in employment at all. Families are under increasing threat due to marital breakup and dissatisfaction with our most important relationships, as if our partners are to blame for the commute and the dead end job, or the need to meet an increasing cost of living. The long hours we work to keep the wolf from the door means less quality family time, more exhaustion and less contact with children and family members. Children are placed in professional childcare settings at a very early age, so that both parents can work full time jobs, in an effort to keep the family unit economically viable and solvent. If we value love and belonging, then our monetary and economic system does its level best to value other things entirely.
Travelling further up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we reach “esteem”. We value self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others and self-respect. This, too, is constantly undermined by the monetary value system. Commerce constantly assails your self confidence and self-image, in the interests of trying to sell you the solution. Achievement is limited and subverted by wasting your life in jobs that have limited meaning, commuting to and from the office and watching television passively, or else fooling around on social media sites or absorbed by games consoles. Lack of self-respect and self-loathing are promoted as culturally cool, by the media, again to make you buy something. The current obsession with tattoos, piercings, body modification, hair colouring, weight loss, plastic surgery, obesity, eating disorders, tabloid muck-raking, judgementalism in public discourse, reality TV shows (which are, in reality, scripted and contrived), prurience, industrial scale gossip, cyber-bullying and malicious web site trolling all add up to sabotage of esteem, dressed up as defiance. All of these things have money-making (rewarding them with cash value) at their heart, moving monetary value to those that peddle such destruction of esteem and away from its victims. Generosity and gratitude enhance self-esteem and attract the esteem of others, but we are encouraged relentlessly to instead be greedy, egocentric and selfish, never giving thanks, but expecting everything as your right. Our economic value system reinforces this flow of value, away from the accumulation of esteem by the majority and toward those that prey upon them.
At the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy is “self-actualisation” – the highest human need that there is. Included in this category are things like morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, tolerance, lack of prejudice, acceptance of evidence, proof and facts, freedom from superstition, mysticism or propaganda, innovation, aesthetic refinement, action instead of passivity. When was the last time that the monetary value system rewarded morality? Creativity is thought to be worth ten a penny. If anything, commerce and particularly the media values precisely the opposite of most of these things and they make money by so doing. Value flows from those self-actualising to those that promote a more brutish environment. All of these aspects of self actualisation are undervalued, at best and considered to be dirty words, at worst. There are people that profit (i.e. attract the most value exchange tokens) by deliberately, systematically and comprehensively destroying all of these things in other people, while reserving these freedoms for themselves. There are many people with the money and opportunity to become self-actualisers who are instead earning a good living making sure nobody else joins that club.
Underpinning all of these value goals, expressed in the hierarchy of needs, is having the freedom to pursue them. These freedoms, or human rights, are under threat as never before, thanks largely to knee jerk anti-terrorism legislation sponsored and encouraged by commerce, which stand to gain lots more money through enforcement of the legislation. When all is considered, it is patently clear that we are signally failing to value with money that which we value as human beings.
Maslow also described his “Being Values”, which are the values we associate with peak human experiences. Again, we would expect any human value exchange system (i.e. money) to be supportive of these values, not destructive of them. To remind you of these values (I have written about these many times), they are listed below:
- Wholeness (unity; integration; tendency to one-ness; interconnectedness; simplicity; organization; structure; dichotomy-transcendence; order);
- Perfection (necessity; just-right-ness; just-so-ness; inevitability; suitability; justice; completeness; “oughtness”);
- Completion (ending; finality; justice; “it’s finished”; fulfilment; finis and telos; destiny; fate);
- Justice (fairness; orderliness; lawfulness; “oughtness”);
- Aliveness (process; non-deadness; spontaneity; self-regulation; full-functioning);
- Richness (differentiation, complexity; intricacy);
- Simplicity (honesty; nakedness; essentiality; abstract, essential, skeletal structure);
- Beauty (rightness; form; aliveness; simplicity; richness; wholeness; perfection; completion; uniqueness; honesty);
- Goodness (rightness; desirability; oughtness; justice; benevolence; honesty);
- Uniqueness (idiosyncrasy; individuality; non-comparability; novelty);
- Effortlessness (ease; lack of strain, striving or difficulty; grace; perfect, beautiful functioning);
- Playfulness (fun; joy; amusement; gaiety; humor; exuberance; effortlessness);
- Truth (honesty; reality; nakedness; simplicity; richness; oughtness; beauty; pure, clean and unadulterated; completeness; essentiality);
- Self-Sufficiency (autonomy; independence; not-needing-other-than-itself-in-order-to-be-itself; self-determining; environment-transcendence; separateness; living by its own laws).
The question I pose to the reader is whether or not money embodies these things as being valuable. Does classical market and economic theory even recognise these aspects, let alone rewarding them as valuable? What monetary value flows to things that are characterised by these values? The answer is that these values have no special place whatsoever in the monetary and market value system. No balance sheet or profit and loss statement has a line item for beauty. No credit rating takes goodness into consideration. Bond markets do not price differently on the basis of how much justice will be embodied in the bond. Yet again, that which we value as humans is not reflected in the value exchange technology we have universally adopted. When it isn’t counted, it doesn’t matter whether or not it even exists. I might never happen. Money has no way of recognising or encouraging this value directly. Money values cheapness, efficiency, profit, usury, parsimony, division, blood-from-stone productivity, deception, counterfeit, compromises in quality, idleness, undifferentiated commoditisation, uniformity, advantage, inequality, placing the risks on others, externalities and control. That’s what we reward with money.
OK, so Maslow is just one person. What does Positive Psychology have to say about well-being and its relationship to what we value? One of the leading lights of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman, also posits a framework for understanding the well-being part of what we value. In his book “Flourish”, Seligman outlines his PERMA framework – Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment / Achievement. Once again, even a cursory glance at these values shows us that money doesn’t support them. Money supports other values entirely. Money does not especially value positive emotions or anything that can enhance those. It isn’t concerned with the engagement one feels when working on something interesting or with interesting people. We don’t exchange money at all when we help a neighbor, listen to an old person talk about their life, when we share a problem with a friend or when we do good work to enhance our community. It’s not recognized by monetary value. When it comes to salaries, jobs with meaning do not pay better than those without. The economy is indifferent to our accomplishments and achievements and barely rewards them at all, save for their applicability and utility to other people.
So psychology asserts that what humans really value can be elaborated in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, his B- values and Seligman’s PERMA framework. There is some evidence base growing in support of the assertion. Yet our value exchange mechanism, currency, is blind to these valuable things.
Going back to the field of economics and monetary theory, there is an idea called “Economic Value Added”. Unfortunately, EVA does not mention the things that humans really value. It’s a commerce-based view of what is valued and how that value is added. In fact, the very term EVA is trademarked. Quite simply, EVA is the profit earned by the firm less the cost of financing the firm’s capital. The trademark owners don’t care how the profit is earned. They don’t recognise that capital equates to labour, in the final analysis (it is disguised because it is expressed in value exchange tokens). Relationships, for example, are almost never economic transactions involving money. We count environmental destruction as an externality, outside of economic value exchanges using money, yet we value our environment highly, in reality, as human beings dependent upon it for our very survival. Where are the concepts of quality, aesthetic preferences or support of morally acceptable and ethical products over others? All of these are not considered in any analysis of economic value, as if those things have no value at all. Accountants, bankers, economists and industrialists have so little idea of what value actually is, yet they are content to make wild assertions about what they think it should be, impose their assertions and act accordingly. There’s no science or evidence base whatsoever.
It is unarguable that we don’t value what we really value, in money terms, at all. What money, economics and business values is not the same as what ordinary human beings value. We live with a massive disconnect between the two and it has toxic, deleterious effects upon all of us. Why do we tolerate this toxic monetary system? Couldn’t there be another non-toxic one devised? Is this really the best we can do?
Going back to basics, it’s important to remember that money doesn’t store value; it merely lets us exchange value. You can print or burn the paper money and no actual value gets created or destroyed – just the promise to exchange value. Money isn’t valuable, it’s simply a written promise that somebody, somewhere, someday will give you something of value (to the numerical face value of the promissory note) if you give them the note. They accept the note, because they believe (rightly or wrongly) that they can pass the promise on to somebody else another day and receive something of value, in exchange for this promissory note.
To simplify, money could be thought of as a piece of paper on which is written this interesting piece of information: “If you hand this note to somebody, they will give you sweets.” You could exchange this note for some chewing gum, if the recipient of the note believes the promise written on the paper. They, in turn, could exchange the note for some jolly pretty marbles, again only if the person parting with the marbles values sweets and believes the promise written on the note. Someday, somebody may present the note in exchange for sweets, but that might never happen. Without sweets being dispensed, the note has permitted several exchanges of valuable items to take place, all based on trust, belief and faith. There may be no sweets at all. Nobody knows. The information written on the note is only worth anything of value while the information remains credible.
Here is the rub. You are only supposed to get money by creating value. If you write a note saying “If you hand this note to somebody, they will give you sweets”, you should only do so if you know for certain that sweets have been produced and that the promise will definitely be honoured. Ideally, you should actually be the sweet maker. You should not produce such notes if you don’t know whether or not sweets will be produced in exchange for the note. You should only produce a note when you create something of value (in this case, sweets). In our current monetary system, however, the producer of the notes is not the producer of valuable things. They don’t have them. They don’t even make them. They just make the assumption that somebody, somewhere, someday will produce the value spoken about in the note. To add insult to injury, not only do they write such baseless promises on pieces of paper, they expect somebody to give them sweets simply for using their note for some period of time. The longer you use their promissory note, the more actual sweets they expect to receive. Laws have been written to enforce this. So without making or having any sweets, simply by writing the note, they get real, actual sweets, or somebody scary takes you out of the value exchange game entirely, if you default. It’s a confidence trick. Nothing less.
Karl Marx equated value creation with labour. That neglects the role of intellect, creativity and ingenuity. Ideas create value. Art creates value. Value comes from effort, intellect, innovation, invention and application. Classical economic theory used to be about how labour and capital were applied, but capital is people. Money is information. It’s a note that promises that somebody will, in future, produce something of the note’s face value for you. Accumulation of capital is merely the collection of notes saying “you will get sweets”. Why, then, does capital play such a pre-eminent role in economic theory, as if it was something special? We even call the system “capitalism”. There is nothing special about capital. It’s just a bunch of promises. It is nothing more than promises made on behalf of the people that will have to fulfil those promises, often by people who do not.
Economic theory, during the twentieth century, added the role of knowledge to labour and capital, but knowledge is just people too. So far, nobody has come up with a way of discovering new knowledge that does not involve human beings. If everything comes down to people, why are so many crushed beneath the wheels of commerce?
Some economists say ideas are plentiful, discounting their value in economic analyses, but really good, unique ideas are not plentiful and are extraordinarily valuable. Can we even count how much value has been created by Tesla’s theories on alternating current electrical power transmission? Has anybody ever even tried to count it? How much of our semiconductor and communications industry would even exist today, were it not for the remarkable ideas of Albert Einstein?
Those that control the most money (i.e. have the largest collections of notes promising sweets) deliberately ignore the role of humanity in the creation and realisation of the value promised by their notes. In extremis, they behave as if they are in some way superior to the people that can and do realise the value mentioned in the promises. They seek to assert control and privilege over the rest of humanity, simply because they have amassed a large collection of promissory notes. They can’t single handedly produce the accumulated value promised in their collection of notes. They can’t defend their pile of notes from determined attackers on their own. They can barely coerce the value creators to fulfil on all the promises in their collection, except by bluster and intimidation. Genuine value creators, oddly, somehow always fall for this. Classical and modified economic value theory does not value the uniqueness of a person, their ideas or their works. We know that’s wrong intuitively. We all value those things, as humans. A collection of promissory notes doesn’t compare to the real value creation capability that certain individuals possess.
At the very top end of the art market, art is not valued for its quality, novelty or scarcity, but so that the value of all similar paintings, which the wealthy have bought as “investments“(i.e. stores of value, or another form of money) remain valuable too. Even artworks have become de-facto promissory notes. Their value lies in the promise implied, that means something equivalent to “if you give somebody this picture, they will give you sweets.” No sweets. No guarantee. It’s all assertion, trust, faith and belief. The promise isn’t even written down.
The sad truth is that people get money lots of other ways, instead of creating value. Anybody can write a promise on a note, right? Although there are laws that prevent you or I from writing such notes, some privileged people (backed only by a stack of promissory notes) counterfeit this fiat currency under official sanction. People steal money. They get it through corruption and crime. They get more of it for lending it. They divert flows of this money by creating artificial scarcities, deception, and intimidation. All of these money-gathering activities have nothing to do whatsoever with value creation. In many cases, they are anathema to value creation. Value flows to those that actually destroy real value and value creation. Yet again, there is another massive disconnect between what we value and how our monetary value system works.
None of those less savoury ways of obtaining money creates value. In fact, central banks create money, in the first instance, without creating any real value at all, and place a value creation burden, enforceable by law, beyond the face value of the money, on the first recipient of the value exchange tokens thus issued. It’s called a loan. In many cases, the value of promissory notes that the bankers say they are the trustworthy custodians of (i.e. bank deposits) and which they use as a basis and justification for issuing new promises isn’t even in their possession. There are no notes in the vault.
The essential problem with the money supply and the reason we get inflation and eroded savings is that the people writing the promises are not the people creating the value. The more of that non-value-creation stuff people do, while covering it with currency (i.e. money), the less valuable each unit of money becomes. Passive incomes or money earned from speculation, both of which produce no new real value, are simply a form of erosion. It means more promises of sweets are made, but there are no more sweets produced to go around. Eventually, each promise means that whereas you thought you would get some amount of sweets on presentation of the promissory notes, you actually will get fewer sweets.
Ultimately, if more and more people make claims to the promissory notes while creating no new value, the claims on future real value creation exceed humanity’s capacity to actually fulfil on the promises and create that value. This is further exacerbated if, through wage slavery and the distorted valuation system, people are chronically underemployed (in the sense that they are not spending their working hours doing the things that would create maximum real value, because the economy doesn’t justly value those things with cash). The more people simply cruise through life, living off money accumulated through means other than the creation of actual real value, the more parasitic this sector of the populace is on the remainder of the population creating all the value to meet the promises indicated by the money supply. Inflation and debt are simply worsened. The “free riders” actually destroy real value, where value is defined as the stuff we all think of as valuable (described earlier), as human beings. What we have here is another massive disconnect. The destruction of real value is rewarded with the accumulation of money, which as we have seen is nothing more than a bunch of promises to permit the holders of this money to obtain genuinely valuable things from the rest of the populace engaged in actually creating real value. It’s a strange way to exchange promises of imaginary things tomorrow for real things today.
If the money supply greatly exceeds the value creation capacity of a nation or of the globe, we get the debt crises we are currently seeing in Greece, the other European PIGS and the United States. Holders of that money call the shots, but their holdings are not of real value. Real value comes from people. There comes a point at which the wheelbarrow loads of promissory notes simply cannot be exchanged for the dwindling supply of actual, real, valuable goods and services. Humanity is exhausted. Hyperinflation is the result. This is why we can have rising prices, with decreasing production. Inflation morphs into stagflation and eventually into runaway hyperinflation.
Most rational human beings value health, education, care of the elderly, a civil society and protection from harm highly. We pay taxes to governments to maintain these things from our common wealth, yet under the age of austerity we now find ourselves living in, many of these things are being sacrificed to balance budgets. The tail is wagging the dog. We are so in thrall to the allure and power of these promissory notes and value exchange trading tokens that we dismantle the things we really value, while continuing to wage war and pay bonuses to bankers, via public subsidy. This is a patently absurd situation. Once again, it is abundantly clear that the value system established by money runs counter to our human value systems. Money is broken.
Does foreign exchange serve any useful purpose in equalising the surplus of promises in one country for the surplus or value creation in another? Perhaps, but the dominant effect, I assert, is that all we are really doing is paying somebody to use a translation of the promissory note in another language. “Si vous la main cette note à quelqu’un, ils vous donneront des bonbons”. Very little real value is created in providing this translated note, yet a disproportionate amount of value is claimed by the money changer, in this transaction. Global inflation is further exacerbated.
In any case, no nation on Earth seems to have a surplus of real value created over the promises made against its value creation capacity. That’s why all governments are effectively in deficit. Certainly the small number of nations claiming to run budget surpluses do not equate to enough lending capacity to keep the rest of the world solvent. The reason is simple. People (i.e. global lending institutions) are writing promises of value exchange, to create currency to lend, irrespective of the net productive value creation capacity of the world.
It’s a funny quirk of the economy that investors and lenders always claim to be cautious and wise with money, shunning financial risk and willing to place bets only on what they think is a sure thing. In fact, if investors are always characterised as risk averse, why are they in the market at all? It’s a place that can only deliver instability and uncertainty. The value creators always wind up bailing out the speculators and gamblers that these so called risk-averse investors actually become.
I’m not the only one who has noticed that the profit motive can run counter to ethics; a thing we value highly as humans, but which money does not. Marketing guru Seth Godin writes, in his blog, that business ethics are actually not possible, in light of the legal requirement for businesses to produce a profit by hook or by crook (often by crook). His proposed solution is that individuals within a business should act ethically, independently of the business, to ensure that ethics are upheld, despite the legal obligation to produce a profit by whatever means necessary. Here is a link to Seth’s blog post:
To his point, there is obviously a catastrophic a problem with the law. Instead of requiring businesses to produce a profit, it should actually require the company to engage in real value creation. Using the current legal imperatives, firms can (and do) create profit by destroying real value (asset strippers do it all the time – planned obsolescence in product design is another way to create profit by destroying real value). There is, in my opinion, no credibility in saying ethics need not apply at a business level, because the profit imperative, enshrined in law, makes it an impossibility, yet insisting it’s a personal responsibility problem (as Godin suggests) to remain ethical. At some point, the legal requirement to produce profit becomes a personal responsibility and ethics will once again be jettisoned, for fear of personal legal consequences. The law is nothing more than a body of code, sort of like a software programme. It’s easy to imagine a software programme having a piece of flawed logic in it, which must be corrected. Law, too, can have faulty logic. There is a bug in the legal instructions. The law has to be changed.
Of course, a small minority of people don’t value things the same way that Maslow and Seligman say we should. They don’t even value the accumulation of wealth to fund increasingly opulent lifestyles. Some individuals, regrettably, value control and domination over their fellow men above even the accumulation of money. They don’t care about humanity or even what their money can buy for themselves, save for its utility in subverting institutions and giving them personal power over millions of others, like self-made emperors, with megalomaniacal global ambitions. The recent revelations about the intimidation and collusion of politicians and the police, by Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in the UK, are a case in point. No value is created in this usage of money either. In fact, value is destroyed on a vast and unconscionable scale, through the enslavement, oppression and sometimes destruction of people, many of whom are the genuine value creators.
It’s a sad fact that we could create a means of exchanging value with each other that enshrines our ethics and aligns itself with the things most human beings really value. We have technologies that can create money at the point of genuine value creation (as a digital credits to an online account, for example) and we can discourage hoarding (which freezes up value exchanges in an economy) by the simple expedient of demurrage (the opposite of interest, where the longer you hold the money, the more worthless it becomes). This kind of money doesn’t need to be issued as notes and coins, just as bits in a computer account – numbers. Volunteering to create value for the common wealth should be a way to create new money and would do so, with this alternative monetary technology. Creating value for somebody else simply credits your account and debits theirs, placing an obligation on them to create value too, to make up for their value creation deficit. Exchange tokens such as these remain in circulation at a high velocity, so keep being used for value exchanges, over and over again. This high velocity of money, before the promissory notes become automatically worthless, means we get much more value created and exchanged, but this time it’s value in the sense of Maslow’s needs hierarchy, his being values and according to Seligman’s PERMA.
The answer to the melt down of the world economy and the solution to every man’s frustration with the wrong things being richly and unjustly rewarded is to curtail the creation and accumulation of money when it is unrelated to real value creation. Non-value creation rewarded by the accumulation of money (value exchange tokens) is the key problem to be solved.
The other key problem to be solved is the profligate waste of the talents and time of people who can create genuine value. Some of these value creators voluntarily withdraw from real value creation, through engagement in trivial technology, or by sheer idleness and indolence (living on a trust fund, for example). Other genuine value creators are weighed down by wage slavery, spending their time merely paying the bills instead of producing their most valuable contributions possible. At present, all of Silicon Valley is in the thrall of a game, whereby trivial technologies compete with each other to create IPOs and profits for venture capitalists and company founders (see references below). Some people argue that using the brightest and most capable people to produce yet another photo sharing web site is not a problem. Yes it is. It’s cynical. The real and high cost of trivial technology is the opportunity cost – the value that doesn’t get created from the human effort, human capital and human ingenuity available. With so many promissory notes in circulation, we can ill afford to waste the abilities of genuine value creators by occupying them in silly busy-work schemes to enrich a few investors.
So that’s my analysis. Money doesn’t value the things we value as essential components of well-being. Instead, it values things that destroy our well-being and rewards those that produce nothing of value at all. Money is broken, but it can be fixed. We even know how to fix it and could do so. If we did, we could solve the global debt crisis, inequality of opportunity and outcomes, starvation and mass migration, replacing it with a system that encourages the finest and most noble human behaviours, enhancing all of our chances of flourishing, rather than just surviving. It would do so without destroying the planet through rapacious plunder of our natural resources to fuel sheer waste.
What’s not to love about this?