Wednesday, 12 August 2015

unit of account

After all the concerted efforts to take the wind out of the sails of the various movements that called for fundamental economic reform and the overhaul of usurious and predatory lending practises by shaming, as it were, the indebted with some kind of defective moral flagrancy and inability to curb one’s own spending habits—invoking the osmosis of trickle-down and sop-it-up finances, it strikes me as odd and ironic that this time out of any is called forth as a uniquely disparaging hardship. Invoking the historic notion of jubilee, debt-forgiveness, only illustrates—to my mind, that this problem has visited humanity many times before and modern times is inviting another great reckoning. The popular and somewhat intuitive account for the situation that we all recognise is that barter and trade led to the gradual invention of representative, fiat money as a unit of account and a store of wealth and then to the idea of credit and debt as a sort of virtual currency. And while such a progression seems plausible, I do not think we would have bounded our self-appraisals—the value of our civility to others or even placed a bounty on our not forcibly occupying the lands of another down to something of finite, quantifiable worth.
Plus the ethnographical evidence over an society ever taking the leap to bargaining one cow for a coin redeemable for fifty hens, an acre of pasturage or some repairs to one’s hearth and home as a matter of course is sorely absent and there was no such model economy, as far as we know. With the advent of monetary vehicles, such exchanges were reserved for settling a peace or arranging a proper dowry and union between families and gift-giving persisted on the intimate level—reciprocation and something owed being implicit although returning something of equal esteem would have been regarded, across all cultures, as an insult and as sign of settling accounts and wanting nothing more to do with the relationship. It seems that the progression is reversed and our self-worth looms just as large—only that just a select few—the one percent, have the luxury of creating wealth out of abstractions.  From little to nothing, infinite graces can be tapped and flooded, like the familiar parable of the tulip craze that caused the first stock market implosion or the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church. Imaginative inflation is surely tethered to obligations rather than the accounting sleight of hand, compulsion and exploitation that buoy up the system. Debt and credit is mutually antagonising and though banksters and their ilk are hardly afforded a kindness, there is only a fast-drying well of sympathy for those on the receiving end of the ledger. Those who would dismiss the suffering of those reduced to poverty and desperation, the Greeks and the migrants that would pull everything asunder like their homelands, as a character defect, are themselves overestimating their obedience and abeyance, as it’s only a vanishing difference of a few tenuous degrees that’s purchased that security—albeit a false and vulnerable one. I would wager that many individuals crushed by debts—even many beaten down by inherited ones and knowing no other condition, would place a far higher price on regaining credibility and thriving than those who’ve merely managed to keep up with payments and appeasing one’s own creditors—which doesn’t seem like a very heroic moral high-ground after all.