One (of the many) issues which caused me to quit social media (Facebook and Twitter specifically) was the monetization of ‘interactions’ – likes and shares and retweets. People with many ‘followers’, generating lots of ‘views’ or ‘engagements’ were able to use that to profit from add revenue via product placement or other benefits of their status as an ‘influencer’. That is, essentially, nonsense. All of it. But when this happened, competition became fierce; careers were built and destroyed; mistakes were made and covered up. People began looking for ways to buy or sell ‘followers’ – companies were registered to help manage ‘online profiles’ to create the most sympathetic avatar which would generate more engagement. How often to tweet, how to mix one type of tweet with another, how to curate outrage for the huddled masses.
Sitting atop all this, the computer programmers working in these mega companies who could – if they so wished and with a few keystrokes – simply assign this or that user a million or a billion new followers (or withdraw from another one against whom they objected the same amount). Suspend accounts. Force the retweet of this or that image. Like the ‘proles’ in 1984 competing against each other for the lottery while their betters laughed, the world worked itself into a froth to obtain through the commoditization of ‘engagement’ something that was not only completely artificial but more importantly something that could be assigned willy-nilly by dark forces that the market does not control. So, never wanting to be a pawn in someone else’s game, I quit.
Cue money – yesterday I wrote a piece about the importance of money. I mean it’s something we all think about, all the time, but like the nobility in Downton Abbey living on their annuities – money is something that we are told we should not talk about. To be “money grubbing” is the meanest of insults. Fair, nobody likes a miser. Besides, what is money after all? I’m reminded here of Francisco d’Anconia’s ‘money speech’ in Atlas Shrugged:
“So you think that money is the root of all evil?” said Francisco d’Anconia. “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil? “When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor– your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money, Is this what you consider evil?”
Money is the means of exchange that we use, to trade the best of our efforts for the best of the efforts of those with whom we wish to trade. It makes that interaction easier – a pile of potatoes for an electric vehicle might be a hard thing to accomplish, but when you monetize both then the process becomes more fluid. Money, the kind that I’m saving for my son, must be held to this principle: a store of value, and a unit of measure. Otherwise it’s worthless (just ask the Venezuelans or the Zimbabweans).
Things brings me back to my point above. Monetary policy in most countries mirror more social media than Galt’s Gulch; while we scramble amongst each other for dollars, above it all the dark powers the market also does not control release or sop up ‘liquidity’ through mechanisms they call ‘Quantitative Easing’ (and more recently ‘Quantitative Tightening’), words meant to befuddle the masses. Print away; ok now stop printing – that is what they are!! But wait, if somebody in a fine room drinking from a crystal decanter can assign or reassign these units of exchange, without consideration for productivity or value (as Francisco said), then how is the integrity of those units maintained? How are we not – again – returned to the proles of 1984 jockeying with each other as to who gets to stand closest to the printers as the dollars fly out (fun fact, it’s the big banks who are first).
Francisco d’Anconia advocated for gold – as did Ayn Rand. Gold, at least, cannot be faked (the alchemists tried for a thousand years). It is the closest humanity has to something that stores universal value. However since Nixon pulled the U.S. currency off the gold standard, the genie is out of the bottle and it is difficult to put the toothpaste back in the tube (to mix metaphors a little). Judy Shelton wrote an interesting, simple little book a while back called “Roads to Sound Money”. In it she advocated a return to partial bi-metalism; that is to say convert to metals (gold and silver) a certain percent of the FED’s balance sheet (say 10%) and float it on the market beside the fiat paper dollars, making it a unit of exchange alongside the fiat money. This will allow fluctuations of both types of ‘currency’, which will highlight through the principles of supply and demand at what point the imbalance is a result of too extensive a balance sheet, allowing for appropriate corrective action. That is certainly an option that might work – at least it’s an idea.
In these days of inflation and rampant debt forgiveness, when the dark forces are delinking means of exchange from productive effort, we certainly need some new thoughts.