Why be a lord of time when you are already a Criminal?
A Sequence of essays investigating the crimes we commit, and what we might do about it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Case 2: Money

Case 2: Money of the Future.

What else is money but a punt on the future? Or Better it is our belief about the future- what it will be and what will look like. If we all have confidence in the bright future, then money bubbles up everywhere – but if that confidence dies, the money, like confidence and hope becomes the scarcest or resources. It is in sense one of the most complex things a society with a large population does - move into the future. Get this wrong or dis-co-ordinate the future, and war and anarchy result. We need to keep on believing the same dream, or at least existing within the same axis, so our dreams can be coordinated one angst the other. Or perhaps we need at all times to feel we have the right to evaluate the dreams others have, and even decide whether they the right to get them or no - money is in a sense the expression of this collective future. In money we create an axis of possibility, giving ups all the same access point to a future (we all need money), and then creating within that access point very different rights and options on that future. To have money is then to have an open set of possibilities, while not to have it closed what one can do right down. And of course is the triumph of capitalism that we simply accept this axis as the norm, and even attempt to justify it, and all its inadequacies as better that all the rest (or even the best possible in a fallen world, whatever that might mean). At best we then criticise its excess, and yet do so without any real hope or dream about what we can do to stop it.
However things are seldom this simple. What has been very clear over the last few years, is that there is little or no consensus about exactly what the future money describes actually is. So that we all can agree that money will get us there, and yet none of us can really agree where that destination is. Or better how we understand that destination has distinct fads. We have moved then from the unlimited future of technological innovation, through the one delimited by the eco-system and scarce resource, through the dream of the state future, and back again to the most debased currency of the lost, the personal future of thrift and saving. What enables us to dream is then one and the same, the index of monetary possibility, and yet what supports that dream, and where it is going, jumps around like a flea. Each of these epochs in finance has it own expectation and dreams about the nature of the future, and so creates it own money accordingly. And yet each of these dreams are not actually separate. They all deal with money. Or better the all need to engage with the world that other epochs have created (or more specifically with the monetary world the collapse in the faith of the other epochs created). To paraphrase Marx -. each epoch is then its own dream, and yet never dreams in the circumstance of its own chosen: the consciousness of other dreams weighs like a nightmare of the mind of the monetary visionary. We can the arrange the dreaming epochs in a little drama of their own where each epoch gives way to the next.
The first of these epochs of recent times, was clearly the dream we had four or five years ago about unlimited money. Somehow ‘we’ thought technology had changed one of the deep givens of capitalism. The one that meant that bursts followed booms as night followed day. May be it does not, we reasoned (like Good Marxists might) in a world of unlimited technological innovations. If what we can do, how we can relate is constantly open and flexible, then maybe money really did grow of trees, we wondered. Or better maybe the amount one really could grow to keep faith with the technological world that money was mean to be servicing. The result was then an unlimited growth in the amount of money we felt we had a right to. Or had ready credit, and the right to take out loans to do anything and every, in this crazy world of finance. Added to this fact that capitalism seemed of the verge of doing something it had never managed to do before – namely expand into the third world, and actually enrich (rather than impoverish) lives, and things looked rosy and open ended indeed. A virtual future fairly bubbled up for the financing.
So far so good, and is certainly true that in a world of open ended technological innovation, Money does need to be as flexible as the world it fashions or at last will always feel the strain to be that flexible. And yet there is a problem. Money is of course tied to more than the pen ended virtual world. It is also always tied down in some form or other to the matter of the world. To have more money is then to have something in the world, almost always land (or gold) cost more. To create endless more money is then to hope up something in the real world, and to necessarily start not only to overvalue it, but also assume that its value will keep on rising. That is it is to assume that actual world were money buys real stuff, will somehow keep pace with the financial and virtual old, where all is change. This confidence is normally expressed in a belief in the rise of property prices. The trouble of course is that while this assumption actually can be justified in a world as it emerges from the virtual sphere (this ought to be the effect of technology-made money) when the same assumption is seen in itself, in the actual world, there can be no justification of the belief that prices will continue to rise, and once that fact is accepted then all hell breaks loose.
What is more the problem went deeper that this crisis of confidence in property prices. It was tied also to two deep limits that appear within our current system, limited technology can at present do nothing about (and appears to be able at the moment not to avoid). The first is the old Darwin story of lack. Our population will (and possibly has) hit the limited about the amount of resources it can extract from the world easily. Once that limited is reached (if it ever has), then we will either need to devise very quickly new ways to consume the same amount energy (and so waste it less) or else we will be simply stuck where we are. There exists then at any one time a theoretical limited to the amount of energy that can be easily extracted, and unless innovating push that limit up and does so at the rate of demand), the hard laws of supply an demand kick in. That is resources be they oil or food become expenses, ad the open ended world of [possibility is closed down. It becomes simply too costly to restless innovate or else only the very cheapest can be developed (or those sponsored by the richest people). One moves then almost immediately from a world of bubbling plenty into a world of projected lack (that may or may not be real).
The essence of finance then shifted What mattered was not the dream of the future, so much as the presence or absence of resources. Money followed oil or grain and those who made money from its sale. They became the great superpowers, and the rest of us were poor second class citizens in the face of this oligarchy. States stated to looks to their resources and close their borders to migrants, fearful that their energy would run dry or their money would run out. Money became very like the world we dreamed of, the world of limited resources, located unevenly across the globe.
The second main delimiter of resources is of course the deep concern we have about our effect upon the planet’s ecosystem. That humans are creating global warming is not really controversial. We are. The trouble is though what this then means is rather complex. For it is clear that is an ethical push to bury this simple scientific fact within visions about what this means for humanity that is how we are a specifies should respond to this fact, and possibility learn o live with eh scientific world we have created. The debates about global arming, becomes then enmeshed within the old old debate about how a global society looks. A society that needs to face not only the mass articulation of very different people all of whom have an affect upon one another, but also includes increasing, technological effects, and the effects of those effects. What does it mean then to live in a world where one can no longer predict where ones action will lead. The innovation of yesterday is the pollution of today, and the pollution of today might by elsewhere and in another time resources.
We are then caught in a world where in a sense open ended development is something we so not control any more. It will happen with or without us. That is it is merely an effect of being part of something else, being part of the globe. As such it steps being the endless froth of confidence that it had been, and becomes something with a darker side. Endless change might echo across a globe and destroy us all yet. The trouble of course is that capitalism has actually been rather bad at describing this world. It is caught between to poles. The finical can only either describes the world of lack and so set up a network or target (and potential fines); Or else it pitches in to try to create best practise and immunise pollution, but making it expensive (carbon option trading scheme),
Neither of these moves are particularly successful. The result is that we have overhanging a future we simply have quiet worked out how it ‘finance’ that is how to describe with the currency we see for portraying the future, money. At which point of course numerous finical folks start to suspect that global warming is merely trick being pulled on them. Some one, somewhere has invented deliberately a future they cannot comprehend; It must then be a mere invention, and can be dismissed as if it cannot be rationalised. The problem here of course is that this accusation is in part true. It is certainly the case that us of the western left have jumped on global warming, and revel in the fact that capitalism appears not to be able to comprehend at all well.
However it also goes without saying that this Western-Leftwing glee is misplaced For Capitalism can cope with almost anything throw at it. Money is tricky like that. It simply falls back on its ultimate ruse– namely the laws of supply and demand. It then clothes this future in a sequence of shifting values, values that combine within them both, on terms dreams and thoughts about the future (investors in technologies for the long game) and very short terms bets. Money then pulls the future it cannot otherwise describe into the market place. It does so because that is all it cannot do. It does irrespective of whether this is the best place to comprised such a future to mitigate against its negative effects, It simply does it.
In short the old confidence in the boundless effect of the virtual world to create money has collapsed. The problem then of course is how to cope with this fact. Here there are two main models one the one hand there is the old Keynesian approach. Maybe when faith in technology, collapsed states should take over. States need then a faith in their own future. They need to invest, n themselves (and can borrow to do so). The result the logic runs will be a short term increase in debt but a long-term future that is brighter, and new possibly are made and jobs not lost. Well maybe. The problem of course rich this model, is that we have to trust the state to be able to do this. Or perhaps better we have to trust that fact that the investments made are effective ones, and really do in the sort term increase our chances of being wealthy (and so pay of the debts we make in getting that weath.) We have then to trust in education or health or roads to make us richer (and have faith that there are built and built as cheaply as possible). The trouble is that our belief in the state to do things has collapsed. We simply do not trust the state to build effectively and cheaply. A lack of trust, which in part is based on experience (government ware not great at commissioning things) and part mere mistrust of rulers. The result is that while are prepared to take out loans on our own future (the student loan) a gamble that our future will be brighter for the debt we saddle ourselves with, we are not prepared to trust the state with the same move.
What is more our own trust is secondary here. For if the sate is really going to borrow money then the power relation between it and the bank if reversed. Where, when the banks collapsed the states did the saving, it is now the banks that will feel at least that they are the money financing the state. They are then the true master of the money. And start to flex their own muscles. That is they immediately assume the future is all about them, and that money is their concern, The future then slips from something the state can make a bid for to something the banks and the international monetary system already necessarily owns. It becomes then all about the kind of economic models that such organization have a tendency (and it is a tendency only) to assume – namely monetary theory. In short we hand power back to the very organizations that ruined the system in the first place, and ruin the one organization that saved us, namely the state.
Why? - because put simply the finical organization talk a language that easy to understand in its essentials (irrespective of whether it is true or not). They talk the language of individual responsibility, thrift and greed, a language that not only is so easy, but also flatters us all ( as we all dream that we might be the ones to make it big, and want the system there to support us). The economic system is then reduced to being all about thrift. We are right back in the rightwing future where ones individual thrift and greed define ones rights or not to have money (and we really worry about who does not have the right as much as who does). A world where all those who allow on any future beyond individual thrift and greed for their money (that is those who work for the state) will be penalized and those who rely only on themselves and their won action (or at least appear to according tot the rules the system invents) will be lauded and rewarded. The system then becomes located in the tradition rightwing twin sources for money- namely individual responsibility (and right), and global finance. These two between then define who has the right to money and who has not. A word the where individual action can be over rewarded, while collective responsibly are not necessarily rewarded at all (what else is the big society, but a finical assertion that virtue is it own reward) . The immediate appeal of this world is that it is easy to understand both in terms of it rationalization (we understand thrift) but also its greeds (we can all dream it might be us). This ease then blinds us, for a while for the sheer injustices and poverty it also creates, and the double thinks we need to justify the unjustifiable (if you are poor it is your own fault, it must be, because otherwise we all might be guilty and that would be bad) In short we are back to a world we had escaped from, and partially clearly forgotten – so let us hope remembering it (with all its inadequately and pain) will not be too traumatic.
In conclusion then many is very much a painter of the future. We give then in its, we express through it, our belief abut that the future is, and what powers it will have, more than that money coordinates these different dreams, but being the sole pigment allowed for their expression. Dreams that might be different from one another are then forced up one against the other to jostle and comp(l)ete. The world we create, the future we actually live is then the reflection of this comp(l)etion, for good or ill.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Crime - Rhythms: Cases of Finance and Politics

Sequence; The Rhythm War – Term 1; Finance and Politics.

Right at the heart of such much of modern debates lies different rhythms in times. Individuals are required or requested to manifest themselves, occupy a time and place, identify with a series of thoughts are very different rhythms in time, some mythic, such momentary, but all rather complex. Each such rhythms defines not merely more an individual manages not their memories and passions (when exactly is it reasonable to be disgruntled or not?); which passion is this, greed or anger or righteous indignation?); but also their relations with other individuals, and with the entire communities. All of which might sound rather abstract, but actually the very point of these patterns is that they are tied various external reference point, point that enable and inspire a certain rhythms to manifest. In the current debate there are clearly a number of these rather incompatible conjurations of rhythms.
In the first essays of this series I look at these rhythms, and how they operate, and just as importantly I will attempt show exactly how incompatible they are. The point being that some many of our ‘problems; are founded upon the articulation one against the other of such incompatible rhythms in time. It is the no great wonder than we are so very good at creating problems within a worlds of plenty, and finding solutions so tricky, painful and slow. In this essay I will examine two the most important and distinctive manifest rhythms, money, and politics.
First and foremost are the complex patterns and flows tied to the notion of money. Money is a very real sense is our ultimate currency. It is the little lie we all are asked to identify with more than that it is lie we all must share. We all know what others think about their money. We all through it then become rather predicable to one another. We all are art of one another’s life’s and rhythms. And yet, of course, the very notion of money, and our money, gives us our place in this rhythms We know what we own, and can always look to what is ours (and seek to expand it). money then serves as the base level within which we all agree about what we are talking about. It originates what we are.
Two further points immediately follow. Firstly, money is not then simply one rhythms. On the contrary it only works because it straddle many otherwise rather different relations. Or perhaps better, this power lies in the fact that it allows one to orientated oneself in fundamentally the same way in differing circumstance. The economics of monetarism, with its concern on paying ones own way and debt, and the thrifty house wives then merge one within the other. Money becomes the right to understand or to apply homely feeling to global situations. It creates rhythms that paradoxically united what are surely distinct and different deals, that is global finance with its abstracts debates, and strangely obscene numbers and day to day life. It provides then a single rubric an impure pure crystal, or rather better a set of prejudices and appropriate passions, or feelings said to be on both rhythms, and so gives a word which to call our own. This move is rather vital in a democracy, where one needs to feel one owns and understands everything. If given its complexity, Global finance necessarily required an utterly alien language to articulate it then it would be hard to have a democracy at all, for we would loose all faith in the powers of the state to do anything about the rhythms of that which lies beyond us. To have that faith we have to have a handle on what such rhythms are, and what can be done about them. We need then to believe is a relatively simply money model that is universal.
Secondly money of course operates by doubling up this world of ours, even as it mumbles the part and claims always to be so practical and alone perhaps real. Money is then always also a fantasy, and can readily bread itself, and create new flows. Money can then breed from money. It can do with because we put monetary value on is not the real world, so much as the passionate. Indeed the very point of the power of money is that it exists also in that passionate world. It renders are passions a part of everyone sees world (and not merely are own concern). Its power lies then in the orchestration of our power to fantasize. It is then always also the world our greed creates, or our desire, the fantasy about what we are doing and what we could . Or better it is the point empty craving, and open fantasy, combines with possibility, and becomes if not real, then at least become monetized. Fancies have then a market value along with everything else. The trouble is thought of course that they remain empty fantasy all the same, a fantasy that as well all know can so easily collapse.
Money inhabits then the space of collective dreams it is the single currency the ultimate language for those dreams and defines how and when they can be realizes upon this world of ours, and as such it is a vital reference in a complex society. As long as we all need money we all dream the same dream, and arrange our lives in the same series of fantasies. We all then divide it into working time (to earn the stuff) and spending time We all dream of the possibility that money gives, all think about the many worlds it might open up; we all send the same penny so very many times, in so many dreams and worlds . What we value here is then not so much possibility (which by itself might be rather assinating) so much as the possibility of possibility. We all then dream of choice and of having options, and yet then we are faced with them, can not chose, the rich are not therefore more happy, so much as often as not more confused (they have so many things then could be doing, so many more opportunities to be bored). Money creates as a single rhythm, am empty fantasy about fantasy, with day to day grind, and does so though the demand that everything ought to, in some sense of rather, cost something . Our society can, from fantasy to slavery, articulate the same flow, in the same set of passion. Our power to dream is thereby is rendered then safe and inhabitable. But it only remains so as long as the greed element in this mixed the fancy pure and greedy does not pull up the roots of reality. When it does, t(hat is when money becomes caught up too much in fantasy), then the entire system is in peril, and must look to other rhythms to safe money clutches the same nexus of passion, wild desire and day today life: it is then the golden brick word of fantasy, leading in the best traditions of the thing to a humbug.
Money becomes then only reconciled with itself through other rhythms, in particular in recent times, politics, but politics rhythm is again rather distinct. Politics operates in a strange word as absolute abstraction, and individual identification. to be a politician is then to think necessarily is stereotypes are the meet and drink of all political discussion. One worries about the feckless poor, and the single mother, the elderly pensioner or middle Britain. Likewise policy is defined essentially in the abstract. We say on some abstract and quasi-mythical level that we want to get the deficit down or pay more tax or whatever, but do not like the consequence. That is what initially gets votes in never practical policy so much as abstract fantasy. We vote based on a world we imagine.
A fact that then makes the country rather ungovernable or perhaps better it is never really clear what or who one is governing. Is one governing the abstraction, which are necessarily at best statistics and figure, and not people (and at worst blind mob led fantasy.? Or is one governing actually folk? and if so how? Individuals care about the patio being built, and the price of a washing machine, and no politician can influence such concerns. The tried and tested method is then to encourage folk to identify with these abstraction one needs then a very sought of abstraction. That is, one needs abstractions that are real enough in two sense. First they must or at least ought to have a numerical reality, that can be influenced one way or other. They need then o be defined by crime figures, immigration rate, or child poverty or exam results or whatever. There needs to be a figure to influence. And yet the figure by itself is never enough. There needs to be an emotional hook, that allows individuals to share and feel a part on the figures. We need then to care about them- to worry about them, to feel we are caught up with them, a d in them. they need to be a portrait of ourselves.
The result is that politics necessarily resolves around realties that fulfil both these criteria. It concerns only those statistics the majority of people easily and readily care about (or can be made to care about). There are statistics do not matter (and a politician will be thought shady, and academic too clever by have or a reformer a guilt merchant, if they mention them). Politics becomes the metre of received truths about figures and feeling. At best (and all politicians will try this) a politicians might by loose use of language be able to invent a new axis or domain in which these unholy little unions manifest. The big society is one such idea. If course means nothing in itself; indeed it almost means less that owing, for it is a phrase looking for meaning. It will then be judged a success when individuals inhabit it, give it figures, and facts and feelings A treble FFFs that its progenitors then hope to came as their terrain, their peculiarly concern, their guarantee of electoral success. Politicians cannot even then politics being concerned with impossible unions, monster of figure and feeling, all they can do is ensure or attempt to ensure that is it they that conjure these monster. That is it is they that give them the opportunity for expression. The trouble of course that none of us mightier what such a conjuration produces, but we will be (potentially at any rate) be such with it.
The game of the treble FFF’s is a game of accord. One needs to do something about the figures both on the meta level, that statistics need to change and on a personal level need to feel better, in some way they can (in some sense) identify with ones policies. It doe not matter a jot if the figures are Mickey mouse ones (or never made much sense ) nor is the reasons individuals feel better has very little to do with policy; all that matters is that one can convincing claim that it has. Policies is then haunted by the double nightmare that things get better and one is not given the credit; but also that things get worse and one is given automatically the blame (whether or not the cause is anything to do with ones own policies or not). This of course was the cleft stick that Gordon Brown found himself within. People stopped believing that anything he did was doing any good he might claim to be anything or do anything, but no one was listening. Or better no one felt like identifying with what he was saying, and cross relating it back to themselves an their own improved situation. All they would identify him with was failure, and with any worries of fear then had. He had then got caught up in a world where only the negative was his, the positive belonged to others.
Politics and money form very distinctive crystals of desire, passion, future casting and practical reality. Both at once abstract in their appeal to the future, and yet real, in that they demand they ought to be about the here and now. The recent years has then seen these two distinct conjurations in fairly violent conflict, a conflict that is very strangely lopsided. Money then collapsed ,and yet as ever politicians got the blame. There is perhaps a substantive reason for this, it was politicians after all who had in recent history unfitted the fantasy element of money from the actual, and allowed the fantasy in the form of global finance an unlimited possibility to unwind itself, This created in turn a finance of the possibility of possibility, an endless loop on money creation, a fools gold that politician then used as an endless money pot. Money allowed us as it so easily does to create in the name of a future hope the finance of a world where we wanted good services and lower taxes. It spliced together then our greed for property and our wanting to get for nothing, using the former to finance the latter. A marvellous trick while it lasted, but ultimate a confidence trick – for the union nly lasted as long as we believed in the future of endless rises in property upon (or possibility) upon which was based.
There is then in a sense a reason to blame Gordon Brown and his ilk for our finical woes. He was the man who did not stop save ourselves from ourselves, a mortal sin for a politician. And yet there was something else happening here. The point of money is fantasy, and if we loose it, we loose the right the dream. The point of politicians is then to take the blame, and they can be voted in and out of office. We would then rather destroy our economy, and create a major recession, turning a finical problem into social problem in the process) , than actually face down the failure of finance to actually be able to manufacture real dreams (or to be anything other than open ended powerful fantasy). This is not a failure of courage so as language - we simply cannot even begin to question money (we have no language to question the rich any more, or rather only the language of envy). We have no rhythms and no alternatives that come close to doing what it does. We therefore simply have to defend it, and have to take the pain ourselves. Above that is in a sense justified, as it was ultimately our greed and desire to have houses that were always worth more than we paid for them, that drove the entire process forward, as economic gurus banked on the rise, and politicians used then there profits by it, one might argue then we all ought to suffer, Accept of course it will not. Unless we raise taxation the main burden is going to fall on poor, who were more or less greedy than the rest, ut will pay a heavier price. The point is of coruse this has nothing to do with (cod) justice. We do it actually not because it is just so much as because we cannot think of any other alternative. That is, at a juncture of rhythms, were one must chose to blame money or politics, policies always looses out, and must do – that is part of its role. Politics is then defined not as the ultimate currency of dreams, so much as the ultimate place for blame. It is where we will, when all else fails, find our fall guys, and blame them repeatedly (blaming the bankers slipped then effortless into a protracted expenses scandal- as our blame moved from money to politics). Without such a fall guy, we might have to face the ultimate facts that something are created by the consequences of our own greed, while other disasters have no clear cause, to problems that are rather uncomfortable in a society that likes to have explained everything, and always has an answer. That is own can a society however liberal claim to be the end of history contain such irreconcilable and destablesizing conflicts? It cannot, and so must find an answer, so one to blame that is it needs its politicians.
The Rhythms of money and politics have then operate in strange world where real concerns become mythic, and fact and fantasy merge. They fashion then domain where individuals or at lest their concerns become caught up in the same axis, and so definable without such an axis democracy which attempt to actually address individuals ad the desire would be unthinkable. To be free one also needs to be predictable, so that society can act upon ones desire. And yet this uniformity is not something that sits that easily in the modern mind We are also told that we ought to be true individuals and so rebellious (within reason) an unpredictable, a potentially destabilizing rhythms, which the next series of crimes will examine.