we are in the wake
of a great shifting
you better free your mind
before they illegalize thought
there’s a war going on
the first casualty was truth
and it’s inside you
the universe is counting on our belief
that faith is more powerful than fear
and in that the shifting moment
we’ll all remember why we’re here
Reality is not just facts. Facts are interpreted through a lens of understanding.
That lens of understanding depends on the individual. It depends on how they learned to see the world. It depends on what they value. It depends on expectations. It depends on what collection of facts, opinions, incorrect assumptions, and lies they’ve internalized.
Our GDP is rising once again. Is that a good thing? That’s going to depend on the unique perspective of individuals. It can be useful to do a survey across the group to gain a view across perspectives, but the data is often misleading.
At the end of the day the opinions of the people have very little to do with the reality experienced in the country. The opinions of three hundred million people can be divided up many different ways, but it’s the result of the behaviors that actually shape what we experience.
A massive price increase on a life saving drug could theoretically give a private corporation an amazing enough year to impact the GDP in a meaningful way. Investors would love this. Any politician who was primarily focused on high level numbers would view the GDP increase as a good thing as well.
Clearly the perspective of people who see their costs increase in order to continue living will have a different opinion on the matter.
This is literally the fight happening now in Congress over insulin. It’s not the first case like this, and it won’t be the last.
In the mid-70’s, we traded in our post-World War II social contract for a new one, where “greed is good.” In the new moral narrative I can succeed at your expense. I will take a bigger piece of a smaller pie. Our new heroes are billionaires, hedge fund managers, and CEO’s.
— Stan Sorscher, Economic Opportunity Institute
Statistics are misleading, and express the bias of the people who are deciding which metrics matter. The lived experience of the individuals is the true test of a policy, and we’ve had 40 years of stagnant wages and ballooning costs.
I can’t help but think that the problem might be that massive industry that removes jobs through automation on behalf of Wall Street. Rather than charging directly for services, they often get revenue by building massive propaganda tools that target based upon our most personal information, and sell access to them to whoever can figure out the sign-up form.
These platforms are so lucrative, it is fairly easy to sell them to investors for massive amounts of money before they’re even working.
Given the time and willingness to focus on personal enrichment, it is possible to get fantastically wealthy without accomplishing anything useful for anyone else at all. For a small number of people who decided to play around with Bitcoin back when it not valuable, fantastic wealth can be something that just grows on its own while you’re playing a video game. Our society rewards people for creating new passive ways of getting rich.
There are other useful ways to look at money though.
I’ve written before about Alan Watt’s perspective of money as a unit of measurement.
Let me illustrate this point and, at the same time, explain the major obstacle to sane technological progress, by dwelling on the fundamental confusion between money and wealth, Remember the Great Depression of the Thirties? One day there was a flourishing consumer economy, with everyone on the up-and-up; and the next, unemployment, poverty, and bread lines, What happened? The physical resources of the country the brain, brawn, and raw materials were in no way depleted, but there was a sudden absence of money, a so-called financial slump.
— Alan Watts
You can have all the manpower, materials and time needed to take an action that will benefit the group financially, but the people involved may not be willing to take the mutually beneficial next steps if there is not enough cash on hand to finance it.
In this example, you could also view money as a form of economic lubricant. It smooths out the transactions between individuals, and ensures that everyone involved has the resources they need to continue moving.
From this perspectives, individuals who are looking to accumulate as much lubricant or inches for themselves without benefitting the larger group is going to have a negative impact. Useful work needed by the group will go unfunded if the resources are directed towards these black holes of greed.
We could argue about which perspective is most relevant, but I’ve found that most people tend to view their own perspective as defining reality. It’s not a useful argument to try to have.
The question I find to be more useful is “How should I behave?”, since that is what is actually within my control. And given my understanding of what is wrong, I think my best behavior would be to go out of my way to not participate in the systems which create massive wealth for passive investors. In fact, I think my best course of action would be to take away their power.
That means that I do not invest in cryptocurrencies. It also means that I go out of my way to avoid working for, investing in, or doing business with, publicly traded companies. If we all made this type of choice, we could change how we allocate resources in a fundamental way.
Given how much of our industry we’ve already sold out to passive investors, hedge funds, private equity firms and mega-corporations, that’s a tough walk to walk these days. So, while I usually fail, I also invest heavily in replacements.
Tools implement the intentions of the wielder. The same open source tools which now comprise about 75% of the software stack of a large publicly traded company can be used in a different manner.
Where we currently use national or global platforms for solving particular problems, we could instead choose to build locally run platforms operated within communities, and then share those tools with other communities.
There would be a number of benefits to this approach.
First, it would keep money within the community. Money paid to a local business funds local jobs so people can pay their bills. The more that those bills are paid to locally run companies, the more the money flows locally instead of leaving the local economy.
Massive amounts of money flow from around the world into New York, Silicon Valley, and other massively rich communities today. These are resources that would be useful in other areas. The consolidation of that money in a small area also drives up the cost in the area, harming anyone in the area who doesn’t get a big enough cut.
Second, it gives us more control. Amazon has the ability to unilaterally adjust the rules of it’s marketplace anytime, and that can negatively impact a business. A locally run platform means that the platform and people who run their businesses on it can have more of a connection.
Third, it can lower costs. The CEOs of publicly traded companies have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value. The owner of a local business has expenses to cover. That’s not to say the local business owner couldn’t also also be greedy, but it would be harder for them to argue their decisions are required by law.
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
— Frédéric Bastiat
Given this new view of money expressing different values and different strategies, let’s look at a fundamental assumption of our economy.
Is maximizing the amount of cash flowing in our economy a good strategy?
Is it more useful to look at what the money is accomplishing?
Real wealth is things like land, equipment, access to food and water. The finite physical resources.
As our society increases the amount of cash, what is happening with those fixed and sometimes non-renewable resources? What is happening to the people? What is happening to the animals? What is happening to the planet?
What is the experience of someone who makes a living doing the work needed for our society to continue, rather than the passive wealth builders?
Do you see what we are collectively doing?
Video included as supporting evidence, not any sort of endorsement or affiliation.