© Eric R. Pianka
"Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves." -- Albert Einstein
Humans invented money long ago. Basically it replaced barter and trade as something generally accepted in payment for goods or services. It has been defined as a 'universal medium of exchange'. In its earliest form, in some primitive societies, seashells were used as currency and were carried far inland. Greeks made some of the first coins from a natural alloy of gold and silver. Modern money has a known source, being minted by an authority, one that typically imposes taxation on its subjects. Money represents debt and the promise of work in the future. Money is power.
For many years, the currency of Great Britain was the monetary standard of the world and currencies of other nations were defined in terms of their value in English pounds. After the U.S.A. showed its industrial might in the second world war, the American dollar ascended to become a world standard. At first, dollars were redeemable in gold, then silver. But now, American dollars are merely green paper supported by the global fantasy that they are actually worth something. Currencies of many other countries have been pegged to the U.S. dollar, but that may soon change.
If you could print money, you'd doubtlessly print a lot of it! That just what the Fed has done because they can print 'legal' dollars. But these dollars are essentially counterfeit because they are not backed up with anything of real value. Paper money is merely an illusion and only works because people believe it has some innate value beyond tinder for starting a fire. Governments never seem to learn that printing too much money causes inflation and leads to recessions or even depressions.
We need to recall all those trillions of "legal" dollars that should never have been printed! Instead, our government is printing vast amounts more in a vain effort to buy our way out of this recession/depression! Devaluation of the dollar is a means by which repayment of old debts can be avoided. Clugston refers to "pseudo purchasing power" which "enables us to increase our current procurement level of natural resources and manmade goods and services derived from those resources, through fiscal imprudence -- that is, by liquidating our previously accumulated economic asset reserves, by incurring ever-increasing levels of intergenerational debt, and by underfunding investments critical to our future wellbeing."
Our current economic system is fatally flawed because it is based on the principle of a chain letter, i. e. a Ponzi scheme. Growth simply cannot continue indefinitely in a world of finite resources. So-called "neo-economics" or"macroeconomics" is based upon extracting resources from nature as fast as posssible to support perpetual "growth". Daly (1991,1997) is a widely ignored sane voice crying in the insane dark begging classical economists to wake up and embrace an equilibrium sustainable system. Coupling such insane economics with runaway greed results in recessions and inevitably leads to economic depression. We need to overhaul our economic system if we ever hope to reach a stable sustainable state.
Competition is ubiquitous wherever resources are in short supply. Plants compete for light and water. Fungi and microbes compete for nutrients. Animals compete for food and space. Competition leads to greedy behaviors. Greed is a natural human instinct -- all of us are selfish and greedy at heart, and for sound evolutionary reasons. In times of scarcity, a greedy cave man was more likely to survive and reproduce than a generous one who shared his limited resources with the less fortunate. We have been programmed by natural selection to be selfish.
Money has allowed the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor. A wise woman from a third world country once said at the UN "If the rich countries refuse to share their wealth with us, we will certainly share our poverty with them." We need a more egalitarian society with assured health care, shelter, food, and water for all. What's the point of having more than you can actually use? No one should own more than he/she could earn with his/her own effort and skill. How much money does one human being need? Runaway greed is obscene.
Humans, especially Americans, have institutionalized greed-- we allow, even encourage, runaway greed. Our political and economic systems are designed to facilitate greed. Greed is the underlying driving force for both capitalism and entrepreneurship. Our banking and insurance companies, coupled with the formation of limited liability corporations were designed to allow greed to explode. Greedy speculators have driven up food and fuel prices. Corporations control politicians, who pass legislation that allows tax evasion and assures obscene corporate profits. Runaway human greed threatens our future.
Bottom Line: Unfortunately, any attempt to control greed will be strenuously opposed, especially by the wealthy. It may be impossible to overcome such destructive human instinctive behaviors. Runaway greed could consume us all.
Nadeau: The Economist has no clothes
Putting a price on Professors
Pianka: Can Human Instincts Be Controlled?
Douthwaite: The Ecology of Money
Download Douthwaite essay on money
Thomas Greco's website on reinventing money
The Energy Shadow of a Dollar
See also Economic Collapse