I do not pretend to be an economist nor do I pretend to be a financial guru. In fact, I am quick to admit that I’m not really the most business or financial savvy guy. What I do appreciate however, is common sense and critical thinking. Last week’s news about Mt. Gox going belly up reminded me of a debate I had with a Kool-Aid drinking uber-liberal dolt a few months ago. She is one of those capitalism/money bashers who believe in and promote alternative exchange systems because of her loathing of money and the money system. In essence, she believes in the tired cliché that says “Money is the root of all evil”. She abhors the idea of having to work at least 40 hours a week just to make money in order to pay the bills. In fact, very much like those sheep-like minded “Occupiers” who have nothing better to do but defecate at public parks and demand that the government take from the 1% to be distributed to the 99%, she enthusiastically agrees with (and promotes) the meme that says:
“Imagine if EVERYONE stops paying their mortgage payments, car payments, credit card payments, taxes, etc. WTF are the powers that be going to do about it?”
Well, strictly speaking for myself, I think that to believe that money (or the money system) is evil reflects a catatonic intellect; to promote intentional delinquency on financial responsibility just to advance a bankrupt ideology is harebrained. Not only is this mindset irresponsible, it is also unjust. A big irony, really, for even the dime a dozen bleeding heart liberal who is supposed to be all for social justice and equality.
First of all, money is merely a tool. It is a tool that allows us to exchange goods and services with one another. Sure there are other tools or means for people to trade with one another without money such as barter. However, as Fox News columnist Peter Morici stated, money “eliminates the inconvenience of barter”. For instance without money, how can I do business with someone who has nothing to offer that I find value in nor I’m interested in? Let’s suppose I am a landlord offering housing to interested tenants. An applicant comes along with nothing to offer but to cook me a pot of “pinapaitan” every end of the month. What if I hate “pinapaitan” (which I really do hate)? How about if the applicant can only offer sexual favors? What if I’m not interested and what if I find the applicant repulsive? The philosopher Immanuel Kant once argued that the worst thing a person can do to another person is to treat him/her as a mere means to an end. If we use toilet papers (as means) to clean ourselves up after taking a dump (as the end), then what difference in value would a human being have over a piece of toilet paper if the human being is also being used as mere means for an end? So you see when money ceases to be the tool where human beings can exchange goods and services with one another then human beings may very well become the tools of human beings. Humans are then reduced as mere means to an end.
Now what about other tools for exchanges? Since we touched on Bitcoin, let’s take that as an example. According to Wikipedia:
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment system and digital currency introduced as open source software in 2009 by developer Satoshi Nakamoto. It is a cryptocurrency, so-called because it uses cryptography to control the creation and transfer of money. Conventionally, the capitalized word “Bitcoin” refers to the technology and network, whereas lowercase “bitcoins” refers to the currency itself.
Bitcoins are created by a process called mining, in which participants verify and record payments into a public ledger in exchange for transaction fees and newly minted bitcoins. Users send and receive bitcoins using wallet software on a personal computer, mobile device, or a web application. Bitcoins can be obtained by mining or in exchange for products, services, or other currencies.
As Peter Morici avers, the problem with this alternative tool for exchange is that these are not guaranteed for safety by financial regulatory agencies (e.g. FDIC, Federal Reserve). No country in the world has declared Bitcoin to be legal tender to buy goods, services and even to pay taxes.
Some people advocate other forms of tools other than Bitcoin such as time-based currency, for instance. According to Wikipedia:
In economics, a time-based currency is an alternative currency where the unit of exchange is the person-hour.
Some time-based currencies value everyone’s contributions equally: one hour equals one service credit. In these systems, one person volunteers to work for an hour for another person; thus, they are credited with one hour, which they can redeem for an hour of service from another volunteer.
Try to imagine a scenario where person A gets a bucket of fried chicken from person B in exchange for one hour of person A’s time to clean person B’s house. What if person A is a slob and doesn’t really know how to clean a house well? The problem with a time-based currency, according to Dr. Gill Seyfang’s study of the Gorbals Time Bank, is that: “there is no guarantee that every person’s needs will be provided for by a Time Bank…. the supply of certain skills may be lacking in a community.” Besides, what do you think the BIR or the IRS or the CRA or any other government tax body would tell you should you offer to pay your taxes by cleaning their toilets for an hour?
So to follow Morici’s line of thought, money allows a carwash attendant to buy a hamburger from a McDonald’s employee who gets his shoes from the Shoe Mart department store. All of them accept money because the government they fall under declares their money to be legal tender for public and private debts. Sure the carwash guy can try to barter with a McDonald’s employee and the McDonald’s employee can try to get a pair of shoes from SM in exchange for a Big Mac combo. However, can we imagine trying to pay the BIR a free carwash or a Big Mac or a pair of shoes come tax season? In reality, employees and suppliers would expect to be paid with money and the tax agencies would require payment with money even for income earned through barter.
Now that we see that money itself should not be looked at as evil per se, but merely a preferred (and sensible) tool for exchange of goods and services, we can now look at the call for not paying our financial obligations in order to advance an agenda (agenda such as sticking it to the evil 1 percenters and those “Corporate fat cats”). Of course this call was borne out of the uber-liberal’s favorite type of warfare – Class Warfare. You have the “good” (the poor and the so-called 99 percenters) versus “evil” (the rich and the so-called “1 percenters”). The concept makes for good theater and drama but for some reason I personally find this idiotic call to be quite unnerving as it seems to promote that a disgraceful behavior is okay if you dress it up as a big “F-You” to the powers that be. I’m sorry but I still look up more favorably towards a balut vendor walking the streets of Manila selling his product than towards a looter who simply prefers to take what others have earned.
Wait a minute. Did I just equate those “Occupiers”, demanding for the wealth of the “evil” 1 percenters to be redistributed to the “victimized” 99 percenters, to looters? Well, if one is to think about it there is really not much difference between the two. In essence, taking from those who produce makes one simply a looter or a thief. Just because Henry has money doesn’t make him any better or worse, as a person, than the average Juan. What matters is how Henry got his money. If he obtained his money by creating value then money merely serves as a token of honor. If the average Juan simply took money from Henry without having to create value then there’s no honor there. Looting (or theft) can never be honorable despite the “good intentions”. Unfortunately, most people who demand that the “rich” get taxed more in the spirit of “equality” seem selective when it comes to the overall scheme of things. Did the average Juan create the same value and did he take the same risks as a, say, Henry Sy? Taking from the “rich” to give to the “poor” maybe a good political rhetoric to win the “masa vote” but where is “equality” and “fairness” in that?
Anyway, so what if people don’t pay their mortgage, car payments, credit card bills, and taxes? How are the home builders supposed to be compensated? How can a car factory worker be paid for his labor? How about the many men and women who work to produce the goods and services used by a person who refuses to pay the credit card bill reflecting the consumed goods and services? Where is the justice in getting stiffed by those who have a big beef against people who make more than they do? The way I see it, the whole call to stiff the powers that be just to promote (financial/economic) equality and social justice is a big puerile contradiction.
At the end of it all, the argument of the sheep-like minded uber-liberal dolt, very much like the many dime-a-dozen Occupy Movement peddler, hinges on the evils of inequality. For her and her ilk, they cannot accept that capitalism results in unequal outcomes. That’s really their main argument – that it isn’t fair that they have to work their butts off on a Sunday morning or for at least 40 hours per week just to make chump change compared to the fat lazy cats of Wall Street. They consider themselves as the “have-nots” calling for equality with the “haves”. Of course, the “haves” are any folks with more than what they have. Never mind the fact that most of us (and I daresay even most of the Occupy proponents) are also “haves” compared to others. So remove the romanticism of dissent and sticking it to “the man” and what they have is merely petty selfishness and envy. As author Mark Goldblatt fittingly described it: “It’s more of a self-righteous grunt, a narcissistic demand to be heard despite an inability to form meaningful sentences”.
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