Money as a Tool for Political Action
“You should not assume because, you know, you do not have a background in economics or in law, that these issues are somehow too complex for you. They’re not complex at all, it’s very simple. It’s about power, and it’s about democracy.”
— Prof. Simon Johnson in Four Horsemen (2012)
We live in times where mass-based interest groups seem to have little or no independent influence, and a large part of the population, notably located at the end of the income/wealth scale, are effectively excluded from the political system, while, at the same time, a tiny sector at the top appears to be in overwhelming control (1). Today as ever it feels as though we, as individuals, have been reduced to our mere functions in society — Go to work, go to church, let your dreams die(2) — all the while being effectively more free than ever before. We appear to be caught up in a certain type of apathy: One where we may vote yes and no, but nothing really changes.(3)
Considering whomever owns your money may herein seem a rather trivial pursuit. After all, our own money is our own money as it is found in our very own wallets and bank accounts; It is issued in our own names, so we believe we may do whatever we like with it. This line of thinking is correct to the extent that the word ‘own’ is applied as an adjective, following a possessive case: i.e. ‘I cooked my own dinner’, ‘I make my own money’. It begins to lack, however, when we try to apply the word ‘own’ as a verb in the traditional sense — Meaning to possess or hold as property, or to have mastery over: i.e. ‘I own so-and-so much money’.(4) The reason that the expression of ‘owning money’ sounds so uncommon is that, simply put, we do not ‘own’ our money, just as we do not ‘own’ a house which we rent. We may be allowed to use it as our own — after all, we call it “our very own house” — but we are still only admitted if certain terms and conditions are met: i.e. if the rent is paid.
Today, we have no property rights over our money, other than being allowed to use it; And that only if we comply to the rules and constraints which apply, which are namely covering our debts and paying our income tax. The problem is that, when we are not awarded property rights over something, we can also not have control over it; And there is no government in the world we could elect to change that fact, for the simple reason that it’s not the government that is in control of issuing money. Money in the modern economy is initially a debt-check, that is also known as an IOU — abbreviated from the term ‘I Owe You’. The difference being, when compared to other indebting agreements as renting a house, money does not come with a terms and conditions sheet; So much so that the fact that we may learn how to calculate the square footage of an octagon in school but not how our tax returns work has turned to become the outcry of a whole generation.
When we now consider that there is no alternative to this monetary system, as famously proposed by Margret Thatcher in 1983, and just recently reinforced in statement by Christine Lagarde, president of the European Central Bank, we soon realize that the right to economic freedom, which we brace ourselves with in the so-called free world, is not so much a freedom but a totalitarian rule in disguise; Thoughts that may be shared by anyone happy to get free Uber rides to work while wondering how they should ever afford a family home. The apathy we feel is not imaginary, but a systemic feature in a monetary system that has been thought up for the many by the few.
Today, however, with bitcoin, for the first time in history, there exists a money that works the other way around; A money born of direct action, from the grass roots of the Internet — Thought up by the people, for the people. A money that isn’t owned by anyone but you; That develops best under the input of each and every individual, as it is us writing its rules — No matter our nationality, race, religion, or political beliefs. When wanting to escape the democratic Ohnmacht we appear to have placed ourselves in over the past 400 years, there seems no better alternative today.
It is therefore time to rethink our relationship with money, and to see it for what it really is: The most potent tool for political action we have seen in history; Because when we change our money, we can change the world.
Footnotes: (1) Noam Chomsky, Who Rules the World? (2) Jay Electronica, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (3) Theodor Adorno, The Administered World (4) Miriam Webster Dictionary