Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
In order to be developed, the noble ideals of Peace, Liberty and Justice in the world have to find cultural, economic, social and political structures.
The struggle to achieve these ideals, through intelligent and active non-violence, cannot consist only in a simple denunciation of injustice, oppression and war. Non-cooperation and civil disobedience must lead to a constructive programme, a substantial alternative.
A struggle which is merely «anti» anything, without a global alternative frame of reference, often turns out to be fruitless. It does not seem that the simple convergence of a multitude of groups carrying out sporadic struggles (pacifists, ecologists, feminists, antimilitarists, nature-lovers) would be able to beget an alternate movement capable of creating a new global model of society.
Nor, seemingly, does it suffice to herald a new kind of values, thoughts and relations to build a new civilization. A transformation of culture and mentality is capital, but without the necessary structures to help, it remains confined to tiny minorities, often out of touch with the general level of consciousness.
In the debate between ideals and structures, the following comparison could apply: ideals are the energy and structures are the engine. Ideals should put the structures to work, but it is clear that the structures should not restrain these ideals, but rather, foster their development in current, day to day practice.
In searching for these structures, the phenomena behind them must be analysed. Such an analysis may be approached through the «experimental scientific method», assessing and testing these phenomena.
Application of this «method» to phenomena (and not to ideas), has given excellent results in physics, chemistry, biology, electronics... These results are wielded ideologically and afectivologically for or against peace, freedom and justice, according to the prejudiced interests of the groups controlling the scientific process, and above all, the process of technical application. So greatly is the pseudo-scientific process manipulated, that we tend to associate «technical science» with pollution, the arms race, police control, oppression...
Despite these negative and threatening ideological and affectivological factors, it cannot be denied that the application of the «pro-experimental scientific method» to phenomena allows an objective grasp of reality, untangling it from ideologies and solving pseudo-philosophical discussions which twist this reality and are employed also as power tools.
When a phenomenon can be observed, analysed, precisely assessed and tested, there is not a single scientist worthy of that name who would choose to continue viewing this phenomenon with preconceived ideas, idealistic visions or approximate statistical estimates. This attitude, characteristic of the physical and bio-physical sciences, is generally abandoned when the problems to be solved are economic, social and political. The organization of mankind is considered in the same way as that of astronomy before Copernicus: «the Earth is the centre of the Universe», by definition!
It is not enough to simply state our ideals. Often they are «labelled» as utopic, without analysing the reasons why they could be so. That is to say, it is not enough to call for peace, justice, freedom, a classless society, anarchy, solidarity, the suppression of statism and of military, police and administration structures, of dirty money and of black market, male chauvinism, and pollution... Along with these ideals, it is necessary to see how the present chaos evolved in the course of human development, and search out the major causes, which produce other states of chaos. Simple and practical means must be found to undo the complications, one at a time, so that the situation may become clear and, in due time, have a normal development.
It is not enough to yearn for revolution, it is necessary to know how to proceed from the present, how to influence structures, how to get concrete tools to solve each problem. To seize power, without having the mechanisms to destroy it, only perpetuates it. Sooner or later, the crimes and consequences of violent revolutions come home to roost. Simplistic class, ideological and affectivological positions impose an idealistic view of reality which negates much of the wealth and wisdom accumulated by mankind over the centuries.
Today, an active and intelligent non-violent revolution is a possibility, but it must be open and non-sectarian, helping to create the instrumental new rules of the game, without need for blood and fire to hold sway. In setting out to wipe out poverty and the illegitimate power over and against human beings, the people must be offered practical strategies which will give rapid results in terms of solidarity and self-pacification, and generate a reasonable optimism and raised spirits.
In this exposé, we suggest very briefly some of the points we feel to be fundamental in order to advance in a concrete manner toward peace, with freedom and justice.
Currency and telematics: two instruments for whose benefit?
In all human phenomena, those related with the production and distribution of goods essential for life play a decisive role in many social relations. The search for the greatest possible clarity in both the market and society, and for the actual personal responsibility of each market and social agents, is one of the basic aims of any economic, social or political proposition.
In a country where «laws are made to be broken» and «information is power», historical materialism has shown us that concrete tools must be sought to make possible this documentary clarity and personal responsibility both in the market and in society, failing which any change is condemned to failure: illegitimate domination on and against persons and poverty produced by anonymous currency, impersonal and with no responsibility, multicirculating, and therefore non-countable and non-statistical, really unscientific, in short radically dis-informative.
Today there are two especially important instruments to attain the above aim: currency and telematics (tele- means at or from a distance, -matics refers to processing, with plenty specialized webs, well related among them, with potential globalistic and cybernetics, which are being well defined and are indefinitely perfectible). In short: telematics.
Currency is an instrument introduced over 10,000 years ago to improve in a crystal clear way the free exchange of utilitarian goods among persons. Only in the last 4,500 years has it been used to maintain indefinitely informative darkness of the market and society; it allows anonymity, ir-responsibility and corruption, and is the basis of the illegitimate occult power of the state on and against people, known as «plutarchy». Currency has not been considered in the last few centuries as a decisive instrument to induce clarity and responsibility in the market and in society. It is now that, with the help of an inert instrument such as telematics, it may acquire its true dimension.
Telematics has become now an instrument of power and oppression on and against people, on the basis of a monopoly of knowledge concentrated in «data banks». The possibilities of this revolution of the «information processing network», either for freedom or oppression, are amazing. A simple «anti-informatics» opposition will neither curb its expansion nor, in fact, prevent a monopoly of information by the powers that be, against the people.
Currency and telematics being inert instruments, their present functions which benefit the hidden powers may be reversed, with the aim of turning them into effective instruments in the service of the peoples:
1. Replacing «the present anonymous currency» by the «telematic cheque-invoice».
Anonymous currency allows groups using corruption, power, pressure and repression to play foul...; it favours illegal acts and is disinformative, with all of the anti-social effects that this implies.
The «telematic cheque-invoice» is a manually or electronically written single document providing an exhaustive account of each commercial act, which personalizes the «buying-selling» agents, thus making them accountable.
As an invoice, the «telematic cheque-invoice» records the basic goods interchanged together with the quantity and quality details, along with their monetary value. As a cheque, it gives the order of payment for transfers from one current account to another.
2. Socializing all of the market's monetary-telematic information, with the exception of personal references.
With the «telematic cheque-invoice», a complete intra-accounting is possible. A socialization of all of the market's telematic information, in the service of and accessible to all, allows an exhaustive statistic-analytical processing permitting a lucid economic strategy and an «experimental sciences-type» treatment of economic phenomena.
3. Protecting individual, family, business and institutional privacy through a Justice, genuinely independent from the State, and solely responsible for the personalized telematics files.
The «ministry» of Justice is a superfluous ministry, through which «pressure» is exerted against Judges and Magistrates who wish to keep loyal to their vocation of independence. As a result, the «State bureaucracy1» uses telematic information for fiscal repression and police control of the people, who are unable to protect themselves.
Justice, were it really and budgetarily independent of the State, would not be corruptible with anonymous money, and being required to mete out justified and well-documented sentences, could become an element of confidence for the entire population, and of pacification of conflicts.
As an indication, some of the key elements of the study carried out are discussed below, along with the propositions derived therefrom.
Currency as an abstract unit of measurement.
The market appears in societies where, owing to their complexity and the type of productive relations, exchanges of necessary goods occur: a place for the exchange of goods.
As the market grows, equivalencies must be found for the exchanges of goods: primitive currency appears as an abstract unit of measurement which, being freely allocated to basic goods between two free contracting parties (buyer and seller), establishes in the market the prices, salaries and money2.
Currency as a concrete commodity, with an intrinsic value.
Roughly 4,500 years ago, currency became a concrete commodity with an intrinsic value (gold, silver, copper...), losing its character as a purely abstract unit of measurement, and its documental personalizing and responsibilizing quality. As a «third concrete commodity», metallic currency has proved inadequate in the face of an ever-growing market, and has had a negative influence on productive possibilities and consumption and investment capacity; its intrinsic anonymity has permitted foul play, corruption, theft, falsehood, and occult power... documented in the history of the last four thousand years.
The financing needs of the war of 1914 forced the separation of currency from gold and silver. Bank notes were declared obligatory and unconvertible legal tender. Currency thus lost its intrinsic value, and over the century became gradually dematerialized. The crisis of confidence brought about by this new inflationist form of money was a factor in the depression of 1929: to solve it, the States embarked upon a spiralling militarism and unbridled arms race... and finally, the Second World War.
In August 1971, Nixon took the one-sided decision to free the dollar from the gold-exchange standard. By 1973 the economic crisis thus provoked was in full swing: similar inflationist factors produce the same effects...
Increasingly, currency is becoming scriptural bank money, (annotations in current accounts, and more recently, simple electronic impulses), but even with its intrinsic value gone, it continues to allow to a great extent anonymity and disinformation, depersonalization and loss of responsibility of all the market agents and of society.
The irrationality of present monetary systems makes it impossible to identify all the features and parameters of each basic exchange of basic concrete goods against radically abstract monetary units. Therefore id does not allow an exact (ex-actis) understanding of what is occurring in real macro-economy. The failure to exactly identify each elementary phenomenon inhibits the application of economic theories with the rigour found in experimental science. Statistical estimates, based on partial data, yield a sum total of accumulated errors. Approximate methods are abandoned in any science when an exact and exhaustive identification of each elementary concrete phenomenon is technically possible.
Possibilities of the telematic cheque-invoice.
A rationalization of currency and money implies the legal disappearance of all bank notes, coins, cheques, bills of exchange and so forth, all of them to the bearer, anonymous, multicirculating, and therefore disinformative, depersonalised and with loss of responsibility; they allow legal exclusive replacement with what we previously referred to as «telematic cheque-invoice» which, on the contrary is exclusively unicirculating, personalized, responsibilizing and informative.
The «telematic cheque-invoice» admits a simple legislation guaranteeing payment in all cases of insolvency, as well as the automatic collection of a single social solidarity tax, more advantageous than the present complicated and costly fiscal systems.
We insist: the personalization inherent in the «telematic cheque-invoice» as the only legal currency creates a documented personal liability for free acts in the market and in society. The legal mechanisms can be established so that the market3 money is not transformed into anti-political power, liberal knowledgeis not transformed into antisocial power, and command structures are not transformed into power over and against individuals or social and national entities.
With exhaustive information on the economy, and the resulting fiscal simplification, poverty caused by lack of consumption money could soon be eliminated, with minimal free social solidarity wages. This would be the first step toward the elimination of money-based classes, and the cultural misery which they produce.
The «telematic cheque-invoice», as the sole legal currency allows the exact global intra-accounting of society, since the information from each elementary exchange is introduced into a telematic network. Thus, both «present capitalistic chaos» and the stupid centralized «planning» can be avoided, owing to the fact that money information is socialized, that is, within the free and easy reach of every citizen. (Consequently, «Socialization» is the opposite of a «State takeover», or the disinformative monopoly by the state which unfortunately is still the rule).
It appears that with the information provided by the «telematic cheque-invoice», the «Leontief Tables», a highly accurate instrument for orienting the society and market strategy, could easily be completed with exact data4. Furthermore, Plato's hypotheses of the «common commercial good», the «surplus value» (private of each company and communal of the global market) studied by Karl Marx, and the «residual factor» of contemporary economists could be precisely formulated and put to the test. In case of continuous experimental confirmation, the «common good» could be equitably distributed for the people's benefit, in the form of free social solidarity wages and community credits for re-productive investment.
Today, this instrumental change in currency and money is technically possible. From the people's standpoint, it would be no more complex than the change involved in the institution of the «decimal metric system». The fact that this change was not introduced earlier is due not only to the fact that today -and only today- is it technologically possible, but to the illicit profits accrued to those who, over the last 4,500 years of a market with anonymous money, have understood and exercised «the creation and private il-legitimate appropriation of communal money».
With telematics, the technological dynamics is turning bank currency into an abstract accounting document. But as long as the anonymity of money is not eliminated, foul play is certain to persist. Furthermore, at present the information provided by telematics is being used for fiscal and police control of population, and is limited to the «bureaucratic5» nuclei of the state power and the plutarchic nuclei of the occult power of anonymous money.
Information is power. New «rules of the game» must be established so that the entire population may have free access to all the precise macroeconomic information of the whole society (market and liberated). The use of telematics must be reversed to avoid what could be one of history's worst tyrannies: the «telematic State».
It is practically impossible to arrest the telematic revolution, global and cybernetic, but it is possible to propose an alternate model in which the information relating to all the basic monetary-currency phenomena is in the service of all the members of the geopolitical community. It is necessary that the telematics network and its information concerning individuals do not depend on an anonymous state control, «bureaucratic6», depersonalized and irresponsible, but rather on an Empire or Community really geopolitical. The new revolutionary Imperial State, personalized manager responsible for each geopolitical community, will only know, like any other citizen, the economic information with respect to the «government or cybernetics of things, which will have no control over personal information of the market and liberated social agents, which would be in the hands of a Justice really independent from the State, like a «professional secret».
The connection between anonymous money and militarist imperialism.
Without the «feet of clay» of anonymous currency, all interior conflicts could be examined and effectively solved one by one: unemployment, inflation, unsafe cities, centralism, pollution, lack of culture, disinformation, public services...
Only a free intra-confederation of all the ethnic groups of a historic or rising Empire7 can attain a pacification of the federated geo-political community. Only with the elimination of poverty, in a climate of freedom, can social conflicts be extinguished. Only on the basis of a balanced foreign trade among federal communities, free of imperialisms and colonial dependency, can world peace be fostered.
The discussion between «freedom» and «justice», or between «poor countries» and «rich countries» will not be solved by ideological stands or speeches. According to our hypothesis, any effort to create social structures promoting solidarity in freedom, which does not take account of currency's critical importance as an informative and responsibility-generating instrument will rapidly degenerate into occult powers beyond the people's control and into anti-political gambits and speculation in the international market effectively thwarting any attempted change.
This hypothesis appears to be demonstrated by a curious fact: recent research has shown that war is not inherent to the human species, but rather a late invention which is no more than 13,000 years old. The «imperial cities» of southwest Asia, owing to the impenetrability of their walls, lived in relative peace for almost 6,000 years. It was precisely during this period that abstract account currency developed, as we have seen, as an informative and responsibility-generating factor.
The singularity of this fact lies in the concurrence of dates between the appearance of the concrete copper, silver and gold currency on the one hand, by definition multicirculating and anonymous, and the appearance of the first Imperialism on the other: the Akkadian-Babylonian, which, without offensive weaponry with which to demolish those walls, rapidly won by treason paid with anonymous money, and annexed one by one all the free «imperial cities» of Sumer. Akkad-Babylonia became then the symbol of anonymous treachery, of corruption and prostitution, paid with occult anonymous money, and of the il-legitimate and anti-social power above and against the people, based on the same occult and anonymous money: these are the historical features of all later imperialisms up to the present time.
This connection between anonymous currency and militarist imperialism is a historical hypothesis which can only be tested and substantiated if we return to the primitive but telematically updated «cheque-invoice»: the potential medium and long-term social results -whether or not imperialisms are eliminated, the peoples gradually pacified, and theft, corruption, poverty and war eradicated- would be the confirmation or confutation of this hypothesis.
At times when the seriousness of certain dangers often drives us to activism, knowing where to direct one's energies depends on a more accurate view of social phenomena, and an appropriate imperial and anti-imperial strategy: «the best practice is a good theory».
These propositions are not utopic from the standpoint of present techniques. They are, however, as a political possibility. Each society and community must make a critique, and examine the concrete application thereof to its cultural, technical, economic and political reality. It is the people's own energy which can bring about the necessary changes, but it is necessary to know the instruments through which the people's energy can fulfil their ideals and desires. Here we have proposed a few.
This is our humble contribution to the search for the structures and means enabling us, at this historical time, to draw a little closer to peace, with freedom and justice.
1, 5, 6Translator’s note: The author uses the word «burrocracia», playing on the word «burro» which in Catalan means donkey, and would mean something like «government of donkeys», which cannot be translated.
2The latest research on the origins of writing in southwest Asia points to the existence, as early as 8,500 b.C., of monetary instruments without any intrinsic value, used to measure the value of exchanges and to specify goods, gradually personalizing the market's agents. See «Scientific American», June 1977, Vol. 238, No. 6, p. 50-58: «The Earliest Precursor of Writing», Denise Schmandt-Besserat and «Numbers and Measures in the Earliest Written Records» by Jöran Friberg. Scientific American, February 1984, Volume 250, Number 2, Pages 110-118.
3In this case, the expression «market» means «mercantile-monetary».
The expression «market» means «exchange-utilitarian».
4Society is composed of «market» and «liberated».
A «liberated» includes «the whole of individuals liable to be liberated» and «the whole of vocational liberal, professional and associative individuals, in the altruistic and unselfish inconditional service of any member of the community, in need of social help».
7«Rising Empire» for example, Europe 1997-...
An instrument to build peace.
Roser Albó, Àngels Baldó, Agustí Chalaux, Miquel Chicano, Laura Fusté, Magdalena Grau, Joan Parés, Enric Suárez, Jordi Via, Lluís Maria Xirinacs.
Joan N. Casals, Emil Herbolzheimer, Joan Martínez Alier, Bernat Muniesa, Ernest Núñez, Martí Olivella.
First edition: Barcelona, 1st July 1984.
© Centre d'Estudis Joan Bardina.
Second edition: Barcelona 24th April 1997.
© Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.
© Property of this edition: Centre d'Estudis Joan Bardina.
Translation from Catalan original: Loto Perrella.
Design from printed original: Marta Ricart.
Legal Deposit: B-15340-1995.
Publisher: Centre d'Estudis Joan Bardina.
A short history of money.