mardi 5 juillet 2016

Brexit, Grexit, how can we fix it?

About twelve years ago, when I was debating the vote for the euro, a friend asked the following question:

Where is the sovereign that is to print the euro?

At the time, so enthused at the idea that with the euro we were beginning to transcend national boundaries (which was the foundational argument for the creation of the euro), I brushed the objection aside as if it were a side issue. With the experience of twelves years under the euro, it turns out that that question was the central issue. We may have transcended boundaries, but have failed to establish the necessary safe guards, which can be reduced to one question:

Who controls the euro?

When a sovereign prints money, that very sovereignty stands as a neutral arbiter in the transaction. The presence of the sovereign guarantees the value, and more importantly, the credit of the transaction, precisely because it is not involved in that transaction. The sovereign establishes the boundaries where that currency can be used. Where can it be used, how can it be used, what is it worth, etc... The currency is not there to increase the sovereign's wealth; it is there to enforce the sovereign's authority. Currency is a matter of policy, not economics. While there is always an obvious link between wealth and power, the use of currency is to translate power into a tool for transactions. Wealth, including the wealth of sovereigns is measured by currency, but it cannot function if it based on currency. A person who buys a large sum of one currency at a given rate of another currency does not increase wealth by reselling the currency for a larger sum in the other currency. The fiduciary value of both currencies has simply been reduced.

The battles over the euro are therefore not economic, but political battles. The history of capitalism is the history of the transfer of power from land to money. Land was shared, to point where people felt they belonged to the land rather than the other way around. Indeed the first duty of any person was to the land, and a nobleman was as much tied to the land as a serf was.

The first order of business in capitalism was to reverse that, by tying up land value to bank loans. This 'freed' the serf and transformed them into a disposable source of wealth - a workforce. Workers today are far more bound to the owners of their jobs than serfs were to the noblemen. Workers today are slaves, or whores.

The second order of business was to transform the land into a commodity - raw materials, that have nos soul, value or meaning - only worth. Something to be transformed into money. This transformation is buy mercantilism, buy centering all political and economic transaction on mercantile transactions, and thus centering everything on money.

The reason why this cannot function of course is because the center of power cannot be the vector of power. Money cannot be used as a basis for power while also serving as a basis for transaction. Land was a stable basis because it was taken out of the equation. Money is the equation. Money does not create the wealth of nations, it mearly measures it. You can gather all the measuring sticks, and say you are rich, but of course you're not. Everyone will walk away, because they have to. In order to survive, people will have to forge other means of transaction. And the entire edifice of monetery power will collapse upon itself, as it has done several times before.

The various crises we are living through, the Brexit, the avoided Grexit and the labor law rewrites that are being contestedly implemented in France, Italy and the rest of Europe are mearly the stress marks of the failure of the euro. The pains we are suffering are the denial of the Establishment in the face of this basic truth: the economic and political structures they have built are a house of cards that is crashing.

What we choose to do about it is the essential question driving today's march. In Paris, it starts at Place d'Italie at about 2 PM.
I'll see you there.

Paris, July 5, 2016