Money, like everything interesting, is a Complex System. This means it is an emergent phenomenon that cannot be captured by a definition, but has to be described and understood historically.
More specifically, just as Power, it is not a resource controlled by any specific agent, but an agent itself – aor a highly complex Egregore.
We understand any complex system by building a Model of it. Guiding questions for building a model of money should be:
- What is its function in the current context?
- Who is influencing its behaviour?
- Whose behaviour is it influencing?
According to our best model, money was introduced twice by the
state:Graeber (2011), ch. 1
- First, as credit, to collect and calculate taxes and tax debt.
- Second, as coinage, to make the population support and supply the army.
Once introduced, it served as a mechanism for the generation and distribution of resources that outperforms other mechanisms in supporting. This makes it successful in Cultural Evolution.
Distribution of benefits
Possible guiding questions for further developing the model are:
- What different functions did money serve when backed by
- a specific resource (e.g. gold), as opposed to
- the promise of future resources that a national economy holds?
- What function does flooding markets with money (Quantitative Easing) fulfil?
- In whose interest are the actual outcomes?
People likeargue that the answers to the last two questions point to elite interests and not benefits to the overall economy, a fact which is masked by Ideology.
Spread and power
As a social construct, money is a Meme. As such it has spread and grown into a hugely complex memeplex by “convincing” people they need to focus on it, and by enabling the the spread and growth of Cultures that adopt it, particularly Capitalism.
Our culture’s focus on financial wealth, which is part of that memeplex, its accumulation and its concentration, are therefore a byproduct of the evolutionary Selection of capitalism, not its enabler or cause.
- Graeber (2011), Debt: The first 5,000 years