Many people worry about the effervescent irreality of modern money. Modern fiat currencies are lent into existence, usually by governments lending to large banks. Thus imaginary debt is created and as banks lend it out in turn the imaginary debt multiplies into equally imaginary but spendable money. Most money exists only as data stored electronically. Bits and bytes. Vast sums, trillions of dollars or euros or yuans, existing only as electrons dancing in “the cloud” at some anonymous server farm, or shooting down fiber optic cables at the speed of light, dwarf the sums of money actually printed as banknotes, minted as coins, or stored as bars of gold.
Such money flickers in and out of being like the electrons of which it is composed. It is worrisome. People speak or used to speak, disapprovingly, of government “printing” money, meaning that the notes are not backed by gold or some other “store of value.” But the truth is money has always been human economy’s imaginary friend, an agreed upon social fiction, even when represented by printed notes or even by gold coins. A bill or coin is simply a tangible counter for an agreed upon transactional value. Money is a means of communicating value, an ongoing information flow. A kind of poetry, Wallace Stevens called it. Spengler called it “a category of thought.” It’s all in our heads.
Money must flow to be useful, and it flows much faster when it is almost immaterial. Some nerd guru I could google but won’t said, “Information wants to be free.” But the plain truth is that what information really wants to be…is money. Oh brave new networked world, and we, most of us, creatures in it. A frequent online complaint of we denizens of “free” social media such as Facebook or Twitter is that we are the product, not the customer. But, as online personas, we are not so much product; we are money.
Money in someone else’s ghostly pocket. Ur Elect-Rons R belong 2 Facebook Cat. I’ve said it myself, Facebook is an all too easy point of contact with all those other personas floating in the ether, friends and family, all the other ghosts. Information also wants to be lazy. It takes an effort of will to write a blog post, or even an email. Even in our discontent, we remain content. We remain money, denominated in Facebook Updates, Tweets, or Instagrams. Not easy money. Lazy money. Bitcoin wants to be us when it grows up.
As I said people worry about money, the elemental falsity of fiat currency, this huge pretense we all maintain, even the goldbugs. The high priests of high finance perform esoteric rituals to bless its holy and continued flow. But insofar as you and I have converted ourselves into digital cash and invested our personas as lump sums in the Bank of Erehwon, we should worry what we have DIYed when we make ourselves into phantoms, counterfeits and nullities, into someone else’s money.
To walk in money through the night crowd, protected by money, lulled by money, dulled by money, the crowd itself a money, the breath money, no least single object anywhere that is not money, money, money everywhere and still not enough, and then no money, or a little money or less money or more money, but money, always money, and if you have money or you don’t have money it is the money that counts and money makes money, but what makes money make money?
Henry Miller, Money And How It Gets That Way
File this one under thinking to myself and letting you listen.