” Those who cling to the “further fact” view – that is, the view that there must be something outside of morality that provides the objective grounding for morality – are not unlike those naive economists who […]
Money represents the value found within our economic system, which, in turn, is based on our economic relationships. “
Morality represents the value found within our [??] system, which, in turn, is based on our [??] relationships.
The gold standard reassured some that currency was based on something [of] ‘objective’ value
Religion reassures some that the rules of said religion are based on something that doesn’t require thinking.
When I hear the word objective I think in these terms: A judgement not influenced by personal feelings or opinions when considering facts.
But it seems to me that religious people hear something else. They appear to think of objective morality in terms of something unchanging, inflexible. Exercising judgement is thereby made easy; you either broke the rule or not – and thinking about evidence, circumstances and so on is not only made undesirable it’s even suggested that thinking is bad.
… currency doesn’t need anything outside of the economic system itself to provide it with value
Wrong. Money is an abstraction, and it therefore needs our trust. Without that trust we would all be taking eggs to the pub, vegetables to the theatre and our gardening tools to school to pay for whatever we need or want.
Our trust exists outside the economic system – yet it sustains it. Runs on banks have become extremely rare, but they do still happen.
That doesn’t mean that our trust in money (with a face value of close to worthless) is a bad analogy for social structures that supply morality in competition with religions.
The religious, well some of them anyway, are keen to tell us that a Law without an ultimate Law Giver is worthless. Yet constitutions are followed, courts sit and pass judgement using human laws and the rulers and the ruled, generally speaking, where open courts exist, have few complaints.
Moral has never seemed to me to mean anything more than a subjective sense of what is right and what is wrong. The circumstances that are the context for any accusation are as important as the rules. Yet even with these features most of us, most of the time, agree on what is right and what is wrong. We don’t need, indeed most of us see the potential for error, in attempting to make inflexible laws fit all situations. One size does not fit all.
Even more importantly, most of us will never cross the threshold of a court of criminal (i.e. moral) law, even as a witness or spectator. Society functions, by and large, with us all trusting each other to do the right thing (at least, most of the time). In this sense our parallel trust in money is a good analogy for our trust in the moral virtue of others.
The Law Giver, of course, does not require courts.
See you on Judgement Day!
I wouldn’t work for a currency with which I couldn’t buy at least the basic things I need to exist.
As long as I experience that this condition is met, I will be happy with my currency.
So, no precious metal needed.
On the other hand: I really consider that the modern economic systems seem to produce more money than reality produces value, so it might be that the economic system collapses when the bets on the wished value of the real existing things are lost.
Then I would have a real problem with my currency. But as I see no other option than to play the game the way I know it, I will think about a solution to that problem when it occurs.
Honestly, I think that the analogy used by the author is really far-fetched. You need to jump to several hoops to make it work. Anyway, I like Stephen’s thoughts regarding ‘trust’ as something that is fundamental in granting money its power. That makes perfect sense, and also explains some aspects re “minimal knowledge of history” (see Alan). Part of what causes inflation is probably that people lost the trust in that they would receive back the service (i.e., not any “gold or precious metal”) that is supposedly guaranteed by having been given a piece of paper (be it a currency note or a stock certificate).
And, what’s even more beautiful re ‘trust’, it also explains to a degree how development of morality outside of ‘divine rules’ can work – the ‘you do me no harm, and I’ll do you no harm’ approach works best if you can trust the other party to hold up to the promise (see prisoner’s dilemma).
Hi Morpheus [#5],
Thank you for your kind thoughts. I have a slight advantage in that I worked in the finance industry for many years. It’s not something I shout about today of course …
Yes, Alan is correct, in order to build trust currencies were historically launched as asset-backed – the gold standard being one asset option.
This is not the place to study economics, and economists frequently disagree on the exact sources of each episode of inflation. Plus, I’m an amateur economist at best. Very briefly then: My impression is that trust in money appears to have no direct connection to inflation except that it seems to enable it. In barter economies prices and wages tend to move far slower because barter is too inflexible and makes economic data too opaque and difficult to transmit. That doesn’t mean that barter economies do not experience inflation …
… what’s even more beautiful re ‘trust’, it also explains to a degree how development of morality outside of ‘divine rules’ can work – the ‘you do me no harm, and I’ll do you no harm’ approach works …
It seems to me that there are three things going on here:
First, religions expropriate normal human behaviour and call it religious in order to add to the religions’ supposed moral leadership.
Second, religions are corrupting our thinking by wrapping up our normal, evolved, rules of thumb on reciprocity and personal reputation (which leads to charity) by abusing their (unsupported) claim to know right from wrong in order to claim superior knowledge of right and wrong – in particular, by claiming (unsupported) to know the source of knowledge on what is right and what is wrong.
Third, religions use their supposed (though unsupported and fictional) ‘moral leadership’ to claim they have the power to decide what is right and what is wrong because they have access to the ‘gold standard’ – an asset-backed morality (if you will allow) that is ‘clearly superior’ to any other form of morality.
It would be too simplistic to say that we should add every shaman, priest, imam, rabbi (etc.) to the lists of the incarcerated and wanted by the police. As the Clergy Project shows, many are themselves deceived by the religions they serve.
Humans lived for millennia without organized religions. Historians, anthropologists and archaeologists often say that organized religion (with priesthoods and hierarchies and social obligations) arose at about the same time as cereal farming, the herding/domestication of animals and the increased use of permenant settlement.
Subsequent, or parallel, developments appear to include a rise in permanent land claims and their indivisible consequences: Civics, legal structures to decide disputes and war.
Who, or what, would see value in undermining some of the most fundamental things about just being human?
My answer, based on the above, is that organized religion had to prove itself to the leaders of the emerging nations.
The thread that runs through all of that religious manipulation (and, frankly, I believe I’m being too nice about it), and as you seem to understand Morpheus, is the abuse of our intrinsic, evolved, humanity – specifically our trust in each other.
… the ‘you do me no harm, and I’ll do you no harm’ approach works best if you can trust the other party to hold up to the promise (see prisoner’s dilemma)
The prisoners’ dilemma appears to run counter to Adam Smith’s idea of benign, even advantageous, self-interest. When each citizen pursues their private interest they appear to not promote the interests of wider society.
But often a group’s co-operation is not in the interests of society as a whole – for example; is the collective support of Donald Trump by a cohort of voters good for America? If you happen to be a Trump supporter, substitute Hilary Clinton …
Market manipulation to keep prices high is another example of how wider society’s interests are not served because the cost to consumers is known to be more than the increased profit of the firms. Companies that pursue their own self-interest help the rest of society.
Co-operation among prisoners under interrogation, honor among thieves, makes convicting them more difficult.
In terms of trust and morality; the religious expropriation and manipulation of our intrinsic social trust is easily abused to promote ideas that actively undermine Smith’s model. Set aside your personal goals for the collective goal – for the greater good. Thus has many a good citizen gone to an early death to support the ambitions of a national leader under the guise of the collective – and by doing so has strengthened the hand of priests who stood, in support, behind the lines …
Organized religions are about power, and their ‘asset-backed’ morality is one of the tools they employ to make free citizens into sheep – fit shearing and milking and waiting for slaughter.
Religions that are not in power weedle and bow and scrape. But we have no right to turn up our noses at those who point to religions which are in power and describe their wickedness. Because when religions really are in charge, there are no boundaries.
Sometimes I truly wish that the afterlife is real … But, of course, the priests in power know that there isn’t and they rub their hands with glee. Which means it’s up to us.