“Zero Money”: First Principles Thinking About Monetary Value
Change the Money, Change the World (25)
Addendum 1 — Politics: Author & Ontology
An ontological insight of subjective/objective idealism
“Change the money, change the world” is a movement of peaceful political protest. My participation in this movement is rooted in an ontological insight of subjective/objective idealism. So let me begin with a short exposition of the meaning of this ontology:
My individual subjectivity is in objective reality. I know I objectively exist, and know I exist in relationship with the world, just as for all other individuals. Idealism means having an understanding our experience of ourselves and the world is mental, it is all in the field of thought. Obviously thought has a purely materialist aspect inasmuch as it requires a brain. External to our brain is the rest of the material world of nature, of which the brain is a manifestation. I will use the word “operation” because I think it works better for the point I want to make. What the brain does is a material operation of nature, just as is everything in the multiplicity of nature. Because we cannot but think, there is an understanding in what we think about nature: at the same time as the operation of our brain is a material operation of nature, so is the operation of our individual mental world an operation of the mind of nature.
Now there is an important point of clarification about that last paragraph that is key to what may seem the relatively mundane topic of monetary value. There is unitary experience operating in humanity: this is why it is subjective/objective idealism. Consciousness, the subjective mind of nature, contains the reflected consciousness of individual subjectivity knowing thought in the brain about sense perceptions of the material world. Consciousness contains the material world of which the brain is a manifestation operating in consciousness as thought. Consciousness does not emerge at some point in an unconscious material world. The brain emerges as a physical vehicle capable of reflecting the consciousness of nature, the absolute subjectivity of nature, I, in the objective subjectivity of every individual: I am.
How does this ontological understanding pertain to monetary value? There are manifold aspects to our taking social action in the world, of how we operate as a person in relationship with others. We have a bit of time to live, and the question is always “what are we to do?”. No matter how we answer that question and engage in social action, we need a monetary medium of exchange with others. Personally, I have concluded I need to adhere to first principles thinking to answer that question “what are we to do?”. The same goes for answering what in particular to do about a monetary choice. This mode of first principles thinking forever asks what is irreducibly true in nature. It is a mode of thinking that is applicable to anything we might think about. In the particular case of this essay, the topic is my, and by extension our, selection of a monetary medium of mutual exchange.
Why should we even discuss such a topic? Well, having shared 24 parts in this essay already, each a few minutes long, the argument has been essentially that our world reserve currency the U.S. dollar is a form of unsound money as a unit of account, store of value and medium of exchange. I have discussed the reason: fiat currency decoupled from a medium of true value, and furthermore of no fixed supply of monetary units, has been a choice violating the natural first principle of phenomenal scarcity manifesting true monetary value. I support the movement among people that this is a moral mistake we can correct, that we must necessarily correct to rehabilitate an economic catastrophe — a world I found profoundly described by a contemporary philosopher, Alain Badiou:
“The ‘world’ of untrammelled capitalism and the rich democracies is a false world. Recognising the unity only of monetary products and signs, it rejects the majority of humanity, pushed out into another, devalued ‘world’, from which it separates itself through walls and warfare. In this sense, there is today no world. There are but walls, drownings, hatred, wars, pillaged and abandoned areas, areas that are protected from everything else, others left in total poverty, and the criminal ideologies that prosper on the back of all this chaos.”
True Communism is the Foreignness of Tomorrow by Alain Badiou
I have characterized the mistake of establishing and maintaining an unsound monetary medium as a moral failure. Justification for that was discussed in early parts of the essay, particularly in the Introduction (3) regarding ”governance”. In my ontological argument, our individual subjectivity is a reflection of the absolute subjectivity of nature in objective reality. This ontological understanding underpins what I consider morality, particularly as morality is intuitively felt in our relationship to others. As individuals we consider ourselves equal with all others if we, as a first principle, intuit the subjectivity of everyone as a reflection of the absolute subjectivity of nature. Such an ontological understanding has profound implications for all aspects of human action. The focus here, however, is on monetary value and the governance of individuals that comes into play in the selection of a monetary medium, and maintaining its value. When that responsibility is exercised for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many it is simply immoral.
At the beginning of the essay, particularly in the Introduction (2), I provided considerable detail on the ontology employed, including an application of set-theory and metaphorical representation in the image of “Zero Money”. Based on an intuition of first principles of subjectivity and monetary value, several parts of the essay ensued illustrating the moral failure of economic governance of the U.S. political elite. Specifically, this was and is deplorable hubris in its governance of the selection of the world reserve monetary medium and the oppression of disadvantaged populations that follows. That oppression follows as a result of violating the first principle of the phenomenal idea of scarcity as a necessity for the epiphenomenon of monetary value. To be specific again, this violation of natural law is in the form of unconscionable printing of fiat currency.
The later parts, of the essay proper, introduced the potential for technological advances in monetary mediums: software and hardware networks decentralizing monetary governance and employing algorithmic applications for secure “trustlessness” in peer to peer transactions, avoiding third party points of moral failure. Addressing the coming transition from the legacy economic paradigm to the novel one emerging, the final part of the essay recognized the need for bridging technologies and the inevitable political struggle ahead for those acting in allegiance to an egalitarian economic system. The body of the essay has presented much of what is known about the economic dilemma and the very promising possibilities of fixing the money in the digital revolution. What we desperately need to explore is guidance for the political struggle, during which some stability in the world economy needs to be maintained, while at the same time actualizing the world economy for which we hold allegiance. So a series of addendums to the essay are following which I think offer some guidance in this exploration.
About the Author — Stephen David Mauldin
“Change the money, change the world” is a movement of peaceful political protest. Many years ago I was attracted to anarchism, then later to the communist hypothesis in continental philosophy. I lived 6 years in post-Soviet Kazakhstan, and seven years in China. I went to Nepal twice to cover the Maoist revolution there. After that I retired from any formal employment. Since 2015 to date in 2020 I have pursued projects in Cuba. More an adventurist than a revolutionary, I have mainly focused on a steady undercurrent of people to people diplomacy. both in my work career and since. I see the 20s decade about the Bitcoin renaissance, but for me less about the money and more about the change. I decided to retire at 62 in 2008, just in time for the financial collapse, and I was not comfortably wealthy. Since then, I worked a lot for myself in the trenches of the retail investor. With a sufficient supplement from that I was able to enjoy life and pursue a number of life-long interests. The last seven years of my contractual work for others, I was in China. I came to accept a lot of what I learned there indicated a near certainty for its continued accelerating economic rise. I invested on that hunch. It worked out quite well eventually, then not so much. Most of my life I had been an ex-pat, naturally I continued to travel a lot. I settled in Havana in 2015. New emerging and exciting places had always been my M.O., and a personal project of social diplomacy centered on music was just the ticket. Obama had come to town and things were booming in tourism, with 5-star hotels going up in several locations in the old city, near the landing docks of the cruise ships of the world. Exchanges were happening between New York and Havana musicians in the fabulous theater venues of the Vedado district, near the big old hotels, once the headquarters of the American mafia.
In late 2018 I started down the Bitcoin rabbit hole. The Trade War after 2016 and other macro-economic events, along with a good deal of intense research, led me to the conclusion the party was going to be over for the USD. I feel that is true now more than ever, though the Fed has created an amazing zombie. I was an observer of Bitcoin for a long time. There was a boom going on in Chinese stocks I was happy with, but it was nothing compared to what I saw in Bitcoin in the last half of 2017. The first half of 2018 saw a major collapse in Bitcoin. Then I saw Bitcoin make a 75% recovery of the 2017 high in the first half of 2019, after which it drifted back down some. I started investing then in Bitcoin, gradually transitioning out of the stock market. Then after a significant retreat I had waited for, in March 2020 I finally went all in. Essentially, I fully understood the stock to flow model of Bitcoin: despite its radical volatility, its trajectory was significantly outperforming the stock market and gold. I hold Bitcoin and I have never sold it for realizing any financial gain. Meanwhile, I have continued an active interest in macro-economics and I see difficult times ahead for the world economy. Now as the Covid epidemic continues, and the response is a necessary unprecedented fiat printing, many people need a sound store of value, many of whom are depending on pension funds that are headed into very rough waters. I have been stranded out of Cuba, staying locked down in upstate New York unable to return. Cuba, like so many places has deteriorated in all ways because of the economic and political demagoguery of the recent years, combined with the onset of the culmination of a series of debt-cycles, and now the epidemic. I am fortunate to have found a personal solution as well as some important purpose.
Writing this essay was one way I decided to use my time in Covid lock-down. The cryptocurrency story in 2020 was beginning to explode and events of, and information resources about, adoption and adaption have been amazing and challenging to follow and absorb. Most important though, is not the money now changing by necessity in so many ways, it is the social and economic transformation and the required activism needed by us all. This is very inspiring. Progressive political, social, artistic, spiritual, philosophical, technological and all other vehicles of novel awakening are happening around the Bitcoin revolution. This is obvious to all but those destined to play the role of modern Luddites. There is no other monetary alternative, and another economic world is possible.