10 November 2011

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: What can we do without money?

Dear friends,
This Sunday we are discussing: What can we do without money?

Of course, we cannot do much.
If we lived in some jungle we probably wouldn't need any money at all, but then our scope in life
would be quite limited. And even in jungles they do have some form of money, anyway.
The thing about money is that it is an adaptation of strength and stamina in the jungle and a means
to store wealth today for future use. I think that this is clear and obvious. The problems start
accumulating when we forget this basic feature of money.
But it is also obvious that if we live in a city or a modern society, there is practically nothing
we can do without money. But I also need to qualify this statement: it is one thing for us to have
money to do something and another that money is needed to build the infrastructure for what we want
to do.
Thus a visit to the park around the corner, might not cost us, personally, any money, but it
certainly costs money to the community to build and maintain the park.
And from our personal experience, we also learn that money tends to cluster, maybe in the way that
solar systems tend to cluster towards the centre of the galaxy. This is another way of saying that
left to our own devices, money tends to move towards those who already have money, or at the very
least, towards a select few who are in the centre of the action.
But the power of money depends on the value we put on it. And maybe it is here that we can engage
into some philosophical discussion. What gives money its value?
At face value this looks more like a question in economics rather than philosophy, but I will argue
that it is a philosophical question none the less. Values change, and they change because we change
them, or they are changed as a consequence of our actions.
The biggest drawback money has is that when we use money or transfer money for goods and services we
are transferring a material commodity (gold, bites on the bank's computer, currency notes, etc) for
a metaphysical entity (value), the good or service itself is practically of no consequence. What I
value is a very subjective and personal decision, but my money is something objective and can be
verified by others.
And here is the paradox, if you like, about money. If our values are not in line with the objective
value of money we will be depleting our stock of money unnecessarily. But this irrational (not in
the economic sense of irrational, but philosophical sense) depletion of our stock of money, also
implies an irrational increase of someone else's stock of money. And the paradox is that once we
start with this slippery slope of thinking, we must reach a point where even if we had money we
still won't be able to do anything with it because we have destroyed any value anything might have
had. This is beyond the ravages of inflation, I must add.
A house that we paid half a million Euros for a year ago, and now is not worth more than a hundred
an twenty thousands Euros, is not only a house not worth anything, but a house of cards.
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
PS don't forget that Ignacio and friends are now meeting at Triskel Tavern (San Vicente Ferrer 3) on
Thursday at 7:30pm.
from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: What can we do without money?

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