Pavlos (pavlos) wrote,

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A different kind of money

Imagine a different kind of money...

Your money is a record of your identity and your time. You can make your own, by recording your unique identity and a unique interval of time on a medium. You don't have to put the time into pretend work to create the money, you just have to go to a trusted authority and issue a previously unused portion of your life so far as cash. You can issue any unused portion of time from some starting date (like the system's introduction, or your birth date) up to now. You can cut it in convenient units like year bonds, day notes, minute stamps, or whatever. You can have it in a digital account or in physical tokens.

You give this money to other people in exchange for things, as cash. You take other people's money the same way. You can accumulate it, pass it on, and generally do as you wish with it. For a given transaction you can mix money issued on your own identity (money you issued) and other people's (money you received) as you see fit. You can mix recent money and money issued on long-past times again as you see fit. There's no future-date money (since the nominee might die) but money issued on dead people is valid.

When money moves around, the detailed information pertaining to each unit of money is retained. So your wallet is not reduced to a single number but is a long list of identities and time intervals. A bank holds much longer accounts of the same kind, and it follows that any given identity and time interval may exist in only one bank, or piece of cash, at a time. The bank system polices and warrants all this, so your existence gives nominal value to your money but the bank is the issuing authority. For convenience, a bank may aggregate or split units of money issued on the same person on adjacent time intervals (the bearer can ask for this, not the nominee). If everyone agrees to treat identity as irrelevant, a bank may shuffle money between its accounts to reduce the fragmentation of money between identities.

The market determines the value of money, on whatever factors the market likes. So the market may decide that all nominally equal intervals money (money denoting life intervals of equal length) is worth the same, irrespective on who it is issued on, or when. But it can also decide that recent-issue money is more valuable, or less, and the same for very old money. A conservative business can decide that money issued on Anglo-Saxon men is worth more, money issued on Bush or Perle is gold dust, while money issued on Moore or Chomsky is not accepted - and a liberal store owner can decide exactly the opposite. Money issued on popular people can be overvalued across the board, while money issued on reviled people would be de-valued. Depending on how this works out, the state may need to mandate anti-discrimination rules such as "equal time is equal value", or banks may offer to issue money on a unique but anonymous identity.

Money need not have a national basis under this scheme, so long as there is mutual trust between the authorities that track people's identities. So the market could decide in the first place whether money issued on American citizens is worth more or less than money issued on Europeans or Africans. Governments can again impose rules on this, and bureaux de change can make a business of exchanging different classes of money, not necessarily on a national basis.

As for bootstrapping the system, one needs only to establish the machinery and then bring value into it by accepting the money as tender. The trick is to inject value into the scheme at a rate similar to the money supply, which may mean allowing people to issue backdated money and then making a sudden switch, or it may mean allowing issue only from the day the system is introduced and phasing the adoption on the new currency to avoid excessive inflation. In either case, the market would decide the exchange rate between the previous currency and the new one. The old currency would be withdrawn a few years later, when the exchange rate had stabilised.

If you're unemployed or lazy, you can always issue your own money as your life goes on and, hopefully, live on it. If you have an average income, you have two piles of money at your disposal, yours and that which you receive, and they are hopefully commensurate. If you're rich you may never issue your own money and live only on the (larger) latter pile. In general, leaving your money un-issued for a rainy day may become a matter of pride, but doing so would expose you to market risk - great if you become a celebrity in your later years, bad if you become socially stigmatised. Alternatively, you may issue every second and save conventionally in a bank. Credit and interest would work as they do today, but the system may encourage unsustainable credit, or even speculation, on your future-issue money.

So, what can we say about this concept? Firstly it puts human life at the centre of the monetary value system by making individual life the "gold standard" against which other goods are valued. Thus it differs from universal benefits (the liberal economic policy of paying every citizen a fixed salary), which fails to make the benefit the source of the money supply. This is clearly the main motivation. Secondly, it creates a kind of stock-market on people's reputation, allowing their innate wealth to go up and down depending on how positively they are perceived, and where. This opens up both good and bad possibilities. Thirdly, it allows niche economies, in other words pockets of the economy where different valuations prevail, to develop on an ad-hoc basis, again a good and bad thing. For example, members of a trade union or community can treat their money preferentially. Finally, unless banks introduce large obfuscating effects, it allows potentially interesting tracking of where money issues from and where it collects.

The above is provided as a though experiment in the hope that it sparks some useful insights about the value of money, and how it might be more tied to human existence. Please feel free to share your thoughts.

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Tags: economics, politics, thought experiment

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