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Showing posts from February 7, 2010

Selling my promise to y to z: money, the universalizer of universal history

A good part of our intellectual apprenticeship is spent learning truths about the world that completely deny our experience. Sometimes, this is a good thing. The earth moves around the sun, who would have thought it! Sometimes, this is an ideological thing. Every philosophy freshman is duly impressed by the proof that altruism is actually an impossible ideal, since behind the act of a man of a man jumping in the river to save a stranger, one can find the flicker of the ego’s satisfaction with itself. What is rarely done is to turn the play of the cards and inquire if there is, in fact, any egotistic action at all – since, as we all know, our days are most organized by and for others. In this sense, egotism is a mere epiphenomena, and altruism, crushing altruism, is the very base and bread of our days. So why do we dwell, with such delight, on the ironic discoveries of the moralistes, without of course the saving irony? Because interest, self interest, has to be posited in order to make

Freedom and Money

As every amateur of economics knows (fellow cranks gather round!), money is a mystery that no classical or neo-classical theory has ever solved. Or rather, given the usual fictions of perfect markets with zero transaction costs, there would be no need for money. Thus, the hired, petty visionaries of the capitalist system have devised a model of that system that does not distinguish money from barter – a most embarrassing situation. Whether Marx did any better is a much disputed question. Keynes, on the other hand, does seem to have grasped the nature of money more fully than others. In the General Theory, he wrote that “the second differentia of money is that it has an elasticity of substitution equal, or nearly equal, to zero; which means that as the exchange value of money rises, there is no tendency to substitute some other factor for it; - except, perhaps, to some trifling extent, where the money-commodity is also used in manufacture or the arts. This follows from the peculiarity o