Books and documents:
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà, Brauli Tamarit Tamarit.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
Magdalena Grau, Agustí Chalaux.
Chapter 11. Facing up to things.
The features of a personalized and informative currency (cheque-invoice)
provide: the responsibilization of all the free exchange acts (they leave
traces); the development of a multicaptor system of all the features of
every sales-purchase operation; and therefore, the possibility to experimentally
compare most of the economic theories.
The responsibilization of all the free exchanges is a possibility
offered by this non-anonymous currency if its introduction is done with
suitable cautiousness (protection of personal data and their exclusive
use for documenting court decisions). In this way the lawful State can
be reinforced insofar as transgressors are dissuaded and the judicial solution
of conflicts is fostered thanks to the substantial improvement of the documentation
system of trade operations.
The automatic procuring, now possible thanks to telematics, of
all significant data of every sales-purchase operation, without personal
references, supplies a market information which, if available to the whole
population, may help to overcome the opposition between the wantonness
of mercantilism and that of state interventionism.
Political and economic theories will be compared experimentally
therefore showing their ability to solve problems. Economic science, provided
with a powerful system to secure important features of reality, will be
able to improve its strategic function, not always sufficiently capable
Even if all the features are interrelated, the second and third one
are strongly complementary, as we shall now see in detail.
Let us imagine a country (for example, Catalonia) or a confederation
of countries (for example, Europe), where people consider that law must
be equal for everybody, and that robberies, frauds, illegal traffics, must
be effectively pursued by law. We already know that today this is very
difficult to attain -almost impossible. Let us now imagine that in this
country a new framework is set up, wherein bank-notes and coins have been
substituted by a system of personal current accounts and «cheque-invoices».
Every person has a cheque-book of cheque-invoices, with which he can do
his purchases. When he buys a piece of bread, a shirt or a washing machine...
he pays with his cheque-book. In the cheque the seller must indicate the
name of the establishment, the item's features and price, and also the
place and date of the operation.
The shop-keeper takes the «cheque-invoice» to his bank and
this makes the accounting transfer between the current accounts of the
buyer and the shopkeeper. It is all very similar to what we do today, but
with some fundamental differences. Some are just details, derived from
the inconveniences of the present monetary system: the lack of change,
miscalculations, the risk of loss or of robbery which implies buying and
selling with anonymous banknotes and currency. It is evident that a cheque-book
of «cheque-invoices» avoids most of these problems (we shall
later see that for a greater suppleness «storage pay-cards»
might be a good solution if they are correctly introduced).
If the system, therefore, appears practicable in the consumption field,
it is even more so in the inter-company field, as, in fact, most companies
in practice only use cheques and bank transfers.
What is the advantage of such a system? Let us go on with our story.
Let us assume that I want to buy something that, according to social practice,
is considered illegal, therefore it is not sold in approved places but
only in hidden economy (sales of drugs, arms, explosives, white slave trade...).
In this case it is clear that I cannot pay with a «cheque-invoice»,
and those in this trade cannot buy either without either of us leaving
a trace. In the absence of «currency» bartering can help, through
the exchange of goods and services. «I give you my radio in exchange
for one dose of heroin.» But will the trader be able to buy drugs
from the wholesaler paying with radios?
Bartering is a nuisance, because we do not always we want, need or accept
what the other is offering us, and this limits the exchanges. At the opposite
end, anonymous currency admits «all» sorts of exchanges, lawful
and unlawful ones. In the middle we have the «cheque-invoice»
which allows lawful exchanges and hinders the unlawful ones.
Let us assume, however, that bartering is used. Who has a radio wants
to sell it, but since he is no shop, nor can show any invoice saying he
is the owner, he won't be able to do much. Another case of bartering may
be carried out with «services»: I buy this gun from you in
exchange for taking you to lunch, or going to bed with you, or helping
you to find a job... Of course in these case there is no «monetary»
track left, but this sort of deal can take place only in definite and occasional
situations. It is not credible that a whole illegal organization may work
only through the exchange of «services» or «threats».
In a monetized society people want mainly money, and whoever accepts or
causes a «service» does so as something extra or as a pastime.
(Later on we will speak about the other large field of crimes related to
corruption, traffic of influences, fiscal and accounting fraud...).
As we can see, the simple introduction of a personalized currency in
the consumption area hinders the sale-purchase of illegal products. In
the case of false «cheque-invoices» (for example, recording
a product other than the one being sold), Law will always have much more
information to find out than at present (when it is almost non-existent).
Organized crime, maffia, great scandals, are usually very difficult to
accuse, to break up and to clear because of the lack of formal evidence.
Everything is done with anonymous money. Only when a cheque is writen to
the bearer, and if it shows a name (which is a mistake strictly avoided)
the judge has evidence to carry on a suit.
In a «cheque-invoice» monetary system, on the contrary,
the judge has a lot of information. Let us imagine a ghost company manufacturing
fabric but, in fact, dealing with arms or drugs. The false invoices must
correspond to a given industrial setup and must purchase the raw materials...
It is not at all easy to keep double accounts in a monetary system where
the accounts must balance. And since we are talking about companies, they
will not be able to hire illegal labour under the basic wage... paying
with a handful of banknotes in an envelope...
This new currency may help to solve the very serious problem of unpaid
invoices. A simple law in any case would grant that, the «cheque-invoice»
would always be cashable even if the company giving it out has no money
in its current account. Sooner or later (since it only has one current
account where its incomes are deposited) when it no longer has red figures,
the given out «cheque-invoices» will be automatically cashed.
The dread of unpaid invoices would find a better solution, mainly if, at
the same time, an interbank fund was paid out immediately to the beneficiary
and took legal steps against the debtor.
When talking about the demercantilization of some areas (chapter
9) we have pointed out the possibility that a new type of currency
might avoid the impunity of the traffic of influences. In most legislations
it is already foreseen that some given social functions (judges, politicians,
public officials... and their respective bodies) are incompatible with
some trade/corporate functions. To carry out some of these duties it is
customary to request a list of properties when taking up a post. This list
is again checked when the term of office is finished. Once again we must
accept that all these methods are matters which, even if they show the
danger of corruption, not only don't avoid it but in fact mask it, through
the illusion of the ritualization of procedures. Since there is a law of
incompatibilities... we feel confident that there is no corruption!
The introduction of the «cheque-invoice» would allow to
establish very simple and clear system to meet this problem. Special current
accounts could be created for those in these situations. That is, judges,
politicians, public officials,... during their term of office would have
a current account where they could receive only those deposits derived
from their communal charge. This simple device would allow a total transparency
for public officials without any need for inspections, declarations or
bureaucracy. In this «communal charter» can be spent what is
deposited for the public office, but since no mercantile operations can
be made during the term of office, there can be no invoicing which would
be an excuse to deposit amounts in the account. So the way is blocked to
the different types of allurement which today are practically impossible
to find out and to use.
As far as the possibility of bartering goods and services goes, we are
in a position similar to the one described within the market, but in this
case it is even more difficult because of the «overprice of honour».
A judge or a politician well paid by the community does not sell his honour
for a mess of pottage.
Even so, in this situation there are two features which can be considered
weak: having the allurement be of advantage to the public official in a
roundabout way through a relative; or at a future date when the term of
office is over. But in both cases sooner or later footprints will be found
of large, little justifiable, deposits. And certainly the judge in charge
of the case will have a far easier life than now in establishing possible
connections with relatives or with the person concerned himself at a future
date. In this last case, some limitations can be established to go directly
to the market by keeping this «communal charter» (with a special
current account for communal financing) for some time (months, years) according
to the importance of the position. It is perhaps better to pay some good
holidays out of the market than to foster the custom of many public officials
who, quietly, just after their term of office is over, become important
shareholders in the boards of directors of the main companies in the country!
A communal charter of this sort could be extended to other professions
and institutions wanting to de-commercialize and to come away from state
control (education, health, communication means, social welfare, non-profit
associations...). They would receive public money but would be non-profit
bodies, managed privately and independently.
In short, with the «cheque-invoice» as the only currency,
foul play would be much more difficult. «The opportunity to sin»
would not be so ever-present. As the Italians say, l'occasione fa il
ladro. But, as we shall also see, we cannot sue the offender without
questioning the causes of delinquency. And not only for this reason, but,
because out of consistency with what a civilized country should be in our
days, a vital minimum must be ensured so that it is not necessary to break
the law to make a living.
In a future volume we shall explain how the «cheque-invoice»
system can bring about the introduction of a vital minimum and the money
to pay for it, without increasing taxes and without bureaucracy nor roguery.
We shall also specify with more detail the features and working of the
feature: beyond mercantilism and planning.
Up to now, especially in this last century, there have been two differentiated
and antagonistic positions. The first one of them affirms that the free
initiative of citizens, without any intervention whatsoever from anybody,
is the best system for the production and distribution of economic goods.
That is, the freer the market, the better. The second position holds the
opposite: centralized planning is the best system to allocate resources
and to not spoil them. From each position there takes origin a theoretical
model society with different features: the first being, individual private
property; and second being, state property; in the first case, benefits,
profits, and egotism drive the market; in the second case, solidarity,
rationality and altruism does.
Reality however has taken shape with mixed economies and, in fact, none
of the two models exists in practice as a pure model. Possibly we should
analyze this matter in more depth.
One of the starting problems of the free market is that it has been
put forward as a game. However, is it a game with rules or free play? (Jean
Duvigneaud). The market is, evidently, a game with interior rules. If it
has no rules and becomes a free play it does not work. But the ambiguousness
of the definition «free play» causes the «liberals»
to look at any regulation of the market in disgust. We have here a very
serious misunderstanding. The market has interior rules which can be modified
to obtain a better efficiency in the production and distribution of wealth.
The lack of clearness and definition of these rules (taking the market
as a play) has caused those damaged by the game to step in: they have tried
to deny the games in whole because they were free only for some of the
market sharks, for the powerful.
The dream of centralized planning is for the State (representing the
common people, especially the masses prejudiced in the free market game)
to become only one company, which is something much more rational than
the fighting among companies within the market. There is no joking around.
Economy is very serious and must be handled with the seriousness of the
the «game with no rules» and the «destruction of any
game» there is another path, that is to define the market as a play
with rules, as a game. The rules of this game must use the highest rationality
but at the same time the highest creativity, the maximum freedom, and the
maximum possible responsibility. These rules must set the limits of what
can be traded and what cannot (what is communal, what has no price... what
is free game, play, what Kant called an endless finality: art, literature,
human relationship, communication, culture...).
However, with rules needs a system of information of the development
of the game and good arbitration to solve conflicts. The free market considered
that the information be freely given in the market itself - prices are
fixed in the market place. And considered that conflicts should be solved
by the Courts. Centralized planning trusted a complex informative system
which had to be carried out by the nationalized bank, where some million
party officials had to put together the information concerning offers and
demands, and to rationalize the great single concern.
We have a feeling that none of the two theoretical models, and none
of their practical applications, have solved the problem well, at least
in the growing complexity of present day western societies.
None of the two systems have solved neither the information nor the
solution of the conflicts which have appeared in the application of the
more or less explicit rules which have been introduced.
In an indirect market, where there is no bartering and currency is used,
the information complicates itself: on the one hand there is the sale-purchase
of real and actual goods, and on the other hand there is the movement of
money, which is not always parallel to the sale-purchase of goods. Between
both there is, by definition and verification, a break which cannot be
estimated. The result is trade chaos: surpluses side by side with destitution.
Some may think that these affirmations are exaggerated, but the study
made by José Manuel Naredo (19891)
is distressing. It shows the social importance of the fact that national
bookkeeping does not record the incomes brought about by real-estate or
stock exchange speculation. This slip of national accounting rewards a
few social sectors and hurts all the others: with respect to the growth
of the national income «it must be pointed out that this monetary
amount does not correspond [...] to the incomes actually obtained by the
Spaniards». Among other «fictions», «it does not
take into consideration [...] the profits from the sale-purchase of movables
nor real-estate, or from those derived from the management of financial
assets in the banking business». He then defines the consequences
of this accounting fiction and goes on to say: «during the period
of 1985-1988 the general consumption price index grew at an average rate
of 6 percent per year, stock exchange quotations grew at an anual rate
of 48 per cent, and the average prices of real property reached about 30
per cent». The fact that the income derived from the sale-purchase
of property and shares «does not appear in the official estimates
of national income has increased the gap between real and conventional
economy. So, while the government and the trade-unions focused their discussions
on the growth (modest in any case) of the «macroeconomic framework»,
newspapers mirrored the new faces which appeared in the ranking of the
great fortunes of the country thanks to the incomes which were the result
of that «framework».
The record of all the monetary incomes (including the speculative ones)
allows to better understand the confluence (difficult to explain with the
conventional accounting version) of the «signs of an economic boom
and a consumptive display unparalleled in the last ten or fifteen years,
and a rate of unemployment and social rejection also unequalled before».
By Naredo's reckoning, speculation (with 2.6 points) has helped the growth
of national income more than all the industry taken together (with 1.4
points of actual growth). «It is clear -he goes on- that the present
economic boom is not known for an expansion of industry and of jobs in
this sector, but for its overlapping with the existence of declining industrial
areas and pockets of unemployment and poverty».
«In other words, as far as inflation is concerned, we may say
that what has «warmed up» is not economy, but a very peculiar
sector of it: real estate. It is a sector where the spectacular inflationary
trend has remained on the fringe of the indicators usually stirred up by
the macro-economists, in spite of the fact that they have been the main
reason for of recent growth (and of the «underlying inflation»)».
These accounting «fictions», which produce such serious
outcomes, «must be maintained, even if it is because they follow
methodologies in force», which means that national bookkeepings all
over the world are equally fictitious.
Naredo has tried to calculate approximately the weight of the Stock
Exchange and of the real estate speculations. Wouldn't it be interesting,
too, to know «the profits [...] accruing from the handling of financial
assets in the banking business»?
Let us now go through the theoretical planning alternative for the market
disorder. In a planned system, with millions of bureaucrats and a few planners,
information is falsified, mutilated, either through the technical inability
to put it all together, or because of corruption, political pressure, or
for fear of not meeting the five-year plan. When the appeal of the game
is lost, production goes down, the black market appears, is tolerated,
and everything starts rotting, for lack of initiative, creativity and for
being choked by the forced ineffectiveness of bureaucracy. In an excellent
book on the Soviet Union we find a perfect description of these situations:
«Most of the problems which clutch the structure of central planning,
stem from the control (which is excessive and at the same time ineffective)
of the production factors, and from the slight reliability of the available
information with respect to the effectiveness of these factors2».
«To give an idea of the extent of the activities whitin this area,
the Gosplan and offices in charge of the planning employ 15 million people,
and every day, handle around 850 thousand million documents3».
«The two factors explaining the growth of «complementary economy»
are the requirement to fulfill (even artificially) the plans, and the general
condition of scarcity which typifies Societ economy4».
rationalist and bureaucratic idea is the nucleus of the application of
the planning system from its origins. According to Lenin, only one nationalized
bank was to be the mission of framework of the socialist society with the
«accounting control of the whole State, evaluation and verification
of production, the distribution of goods and articles all over the State5».
To do so, Lenin relied on the ability of the ten million officials the
party could contribute.
A monetary system of the «cheque-invoice» type may allow
the monetary units to move among current accounts exactly parallel to the
movement of goods of every sale-purchase operation, and therefore allows
the «cheque-invoice» to offer an exact and thorough information
of what is going on in the market. It is only possible, paradoxically,
to descentralize the market whit a good informative centralization, as
long as the centralized information is put within reach of all the market
agents, as long as it is socialized.
Let us further discuss the proposal. With a «cheque-invoice»
monetary system only the information is socialized and, with this fact,
the market can constantly be ready to balance and improve production according
to demand. But to socialize information it is necessary to centralize it,
as sectorial and territorial dimensions of economy must be seen together.
Now, what must be centralized and socialized is not personalized information,
but exclusively the information on the object and circumstances of the
operation (such as goods, place, day, price). Depending on the complexity
and extent of the market, processing this information would be very cumbersome
and expensive. But today we have means which Lening dis not, and which
are being introduced much below their possibilities as far as the improvement
of the economic balance and of the market are concerned. These means are
electronic money or telematic money. We shall speak later of the possibilities
and dangers of its use (chapters 17 and 18).
The «cheque-invoice», therefore, allows, in this macro-economic
sense, to give shape to several possibilities, which today are considered
utopiae: to better control inflation-deflation by the simple fact that
there is only so much currency «circulating» that is needed
by the market; to improve the checking and self-control, on equal terms,
of the rules of the game adopted by the market; to bring about a free market
within these rules, to be equally carried out by everybody; to release
reliable information to all the market agents to improve their action as
investors, productors or consumers; to responsibilize society thanks to
the ability to observe the results of its own actions without having recourse
to state interventions, which are usually considered as arbitrary impositions,
even if they are well grounded (the unawareness of this supposedly good
basis of interventionist steps brings unreliable people who, used to deceiving
and ignoring the extent of the problems, may even demand more than that
to which they are entitled).
feature. Neo-economic science.
The third great possibility of the application of a new, informative,
monetary system is complementary to the last one we have discussed, and
consists of supplying first-hand information not only to the market as
a whole, but also to the «economists». The economic science
suffers a great disrepute, to the extent that the name «science»
is considered a euphemism that many economists dare not even utter. Disrepute
comes from the fact that, as a data processing engineer of an important
savings bank said, «the economists' task consists of half of the
time forecasting some given results, and the other half trying to explain
that they did not come to pass». Oddly enough, most of the innovators
in economics have not been «economists» but engineers. They,
being used to a very high degree of theoretical rigorousness which always
faces facts, cannot accept economic esoterism. Perhaps economy will not
progress as long as the systematic rigorousness of engineers does not penetrate
it or substitute it. (At the end of chapter 8
we have already gone through the uncomfortable situation of «economy
as a science» according to economists themselves.) Here is a short
review taken from a suggestive article by Alfons Barceló (19886).
«Economy has not yet gone beyond the stage of 'proto-science'.
[...] There are only very few «economic laws» accepted as true
and relevant by all the economists. There is no general agreement among
experts on the 'object' of economy [...]. It is easy to realize that basic
ideas are, often, vague and unfathomable... [...] If to all this we add
some talked-about blunders as far as bad predictions and unsuccessful action
programmes are concerned, we must not be surprised that they be considered
scarcely reliable, both the recipes derived from theoretical jobs, and
the systematic, inherited, body of knowledge. [...] It is an immature science.
We might establish some sort of comparison between the present situatuation
and the state in which biology or chemistry were used at the beginning
of the 19th century... I do not think it is farfetched to say that the
prevailing economic theory constitutes a blend of science, technology or
ideology which is transmitted as a doctrine with many features of a theological
sort. We must add that many of the central propositions of the economic
theory are simple tautologies which do not contain any factual truth, or
which refer to «possible worlds» with little connection with
the historic, sublunar realities [...]».
The quotations adduced by Barceló in this article cannot be missed
either: «To evaluate this complaint we may call on stage one of the
present-day most famous economists, who accepted that «it cannot
be denied that there is something outrageous in the spectacle of so many
people working at polishing the analysis of economic situations, which
we have no reason to suspect that have existed or may exist some time7»».
«The Nobel prize winner Herbert Simon has said lately: «I think
that handbooks -on microeconomy- are a scandal. I think that submitting
impressionable youths to this formal exercise, as if it belonged to the
real world, is a scandal... I do not know any other science proposing to
deal with real world phenomena starting from affirmation which are in flagrant
contradiction with reality8»».
He finishes with a clear appeal to improve the present situation. «In
short, 'social engineering' has been always practiced on common sense bases,
on more or less reliable traditions and by means of accumulating recipes
for test and error trials. Now, the routine knowledge may be enough to
maintain a given state of affairs, but it is unsuitable for projects of
deep social changes. As a consequence, any endeavour to disturb the existing
order, in an intellectually responsible way, needs an effort to develop
and to fit together the different components of the economic, political
and social technologies besides a solid scientific support to base the
exchange programmes on».
In this respect, the intention to submit a «cheque-invoice»
monetary system is to help to supply the economic technology with a powerful
operative instrument, both for research and for verification. It will always
be difficult to ensure that the «monetary» economy reflects
exactly the «real» economy in all its facets. But it becomes
more and more apparent that the present monetary systems not only cannot
fulfill this function but that essentially they hamper it.
To better understand what we mean, we may imagine that the introduction
of a «cheque-invoice» monetary system one day becomes real.
If this hypothetical introduction had helped to improve the economic science,
we might imagine a document similar to the following description:
«In the last two centuries of the second millennium there
appeared a branch of knowledge which was called «economic science»
by imitation of the so-called «natural sciences». But unlike
these, it did not apply any serious method to compare with reality the
theories and hypotheses which were being formulated. They said that this
method of comparison was not possible because the economic reality had
a great number of unpredictable human components which could not be understood
with the available information systems. As we know, there are some of these
human components which for the time being, and possibly never, will not
be able to be 'objectified, measured nor quantified'. This is one of the
limitations of the science which has been accepted in the last centuries.
But surprisingly they had not even been able to measure what could actually
be measured, nor to record what could be grasped relatively easily and
objectively (every elementary sale-purchase operation, with a record of
the most significant information). While the monetary system wandered on
one side, and the opinion polls, surveys and statistics straggled on the
other, nothing appeared to be reliable, much less so exact and thorough.
In a century of great mathematic and data processing advancement, they
kept basing the monetary practice on absolutely anachronistic or unverifiable
theories. The introduction of an informative monetary system greatly improved
the research of the market analysts. The input-output tables could be obtained
at first every year, then every month, until they could be processed almost
daily. Hundreds of theories which had accumulated during two-hundred years
could be verified. Looking at all this process from the perspective of
time we see that the «economic science», dazzled with the great
mathematic and 'scientific' outlay had forgotten something absolutely essential
which had become the basis of the natural sciences: to define a measuring
and processing system of information to allow the comparison of hypotheses
with reality. This had helped physics and chemistry to progress... and
so has neo-economy been able to move forward, up to the limits of its field
of action, defined by the complexity of human motivations and social relations».
This text, intentionally provocative, unfortunately for those annoyed by
it, can receive only the approbation of future history. Those annoyed,
or those considering it too pretentious, have no other choice than to demonstrate
its falsehood by offering better methods and results, for and from their
He who has a clear conscience faces up to things. But nowadays very
few people are willing to do so, because all of us have, hidden in some
recess, some unconfessed 'sin' which we have made, not always willingly,
but sometimes out of need, in order to survive. In a world of dissipation,
of institutional corruption, of established lies..., everybody feels compelled
to do the same, each one according to his possibilities. But foul play
is possibly not a misfortune inherent in the human condition. At least,
it is a reality which is favoured or not by some given social structures,
that will be difficult to transform as long as there is a powerful and
blocking weapon within reach of everybody and, most importantly, of the
Manuel Naredo, «Sector inmobiliario y crecimiento económico
(1985-1988)». Paper presented in the Universidad Internacional Menéndez
Pelayo. Later published by the Banco Hipotecario de España.
Taibo, «La Unión Soviética de Gorbachov», Fundamentos,
1989, p. 25.
Hill (1947), «La Revolución Rusa», Ariel, 1969, p. 107.
Barceló, «Rápido chequeo a la teoría económica»,
Cuadernos de Economía, vol. 16, 1988, pp. 343-366.