Keynes argued that the rate of inflation was the outcome of a class struggle between creditors and debtors, the former wanting to keep the value of their money, the latter to reduce what they owed. Alan Greenspan turned up again today (has the man no shame?) with the claim that inflation is still the big threat and private markets the answer. Well, he would, wouldn't he?
I wanted to share with you a beautiful poem from my friend, Geoff Chesshire:
Inflation is any exaggeration of meaning. Inflation escapes the constraints of reality when we attach more importance to the symbols than to what they symbolize, when the map becomes more valuable than the territory. The economy as we know it relies on many kinds of inflation. Marketing is the inflation of fantasies into needs. Leverage is the inflation of confidence into entitlement. Securitization is the inflation of promises into equity. Fractional reserve is the inflation of claims over capital. Corruption is the inflation of favours into obligations. Undeserved praise is the inflation of reputation, just as flattery is the inflation of the ego. Property is the inflation of scarcity. We react to real scarcity with solidarity and generosity, but to inflated scarcity with fear and greed. Finally, we inflate greed into a principle of human nature.
Keith and Steven, I thank you both for your kind words. It started out as a rant about inflation, but Keith has elevated it to the status of a poem!
As for transparent personal currencies, I am all in favour! I have been working on community currency systems for about four years now. I would like to rehabilitate the word "currency" to mean any way of recognizing flows of value, and I mean "value" in a broad sense, not restricted to market-exchange value. For example, anything from a thank-you note to a ledger, from a rain-dance to a harvest festival, might be considered a type of currency. I mean "community" in the broad sense of any network of mutually-supportive relationships, anything from an organism to an ecosystem, within which the basis of relationships may be material/energetic, social, cultural, biological, spiritual, and so on. I consider that wealth inheres in these relationships, so that wealth may be called health, wellness, wholeness, holiness (all the same word, really), depending on the bases of the relationships. I consider that money and finance are only two of many possible applications/institutions built upon these support networks. I recognize there are those who consider that (some of) these networks are made possible by money and finance. I think it comes down to different perspectives of map and territory.
I think of economics as seeking right-livelihood and right-relationship within all of the communities and ecosystems in which we participate. This makes clear that economy can exist only within ecology. The present economy seeks to maximize production and consumption (wrong-livelihood, clearly) and to maximize the accumulation of power to "owners" (wrong-relationship, I think). I hope I may be forgiven for trying to broaden the terms of discussion beyond economic anthropology, because I think it is important to keep sight of the reality that our species is interdependent with all of nature.