What Money Rewards, We Get More Of

In a tribe, status is determined by individual deeds and attributes.  Let’s imagine a tribe where the best hunter gets the best cuts of meat, the best women, the best of everything.  He enjoys the rewards of being the most effective at helping his society survive. The social order is kept strong.
In a nation of anonymous millions we require money as an abstract standin for tribal status and reputation.  It’s how we organize in economic groups far larger than our monkey instincts can handle.  If I walk into walmart and grab a bunch of bananas, there’s no way the cashier can know if letting me walk out of the store is a net benefit to society or if I have social value and credibility greater than the value of the bananas.  So we all default to money.
Money is a good behavior points system.  In 1st grade there were gold stars, as adults, there’s dollars.   Money measures how valuable we are to society.  How many dollars you have is how much every other holder of dollars wants you around.  If you can’t be valued enough in money points to survive, you’re effectively “voted off the island.”  Ideally, it’s equivalent to being exiled from a small tribe because you hurt the group or just didn’t contribute enough.  Because money is an abstract construct in place of the real thing, it is in practice naturally vulnerable to abuse.

If I can steal a dollar from someone and get away with it, society values me a dollar more for my ability to do it.  If I could get away with selling illegal drugs or human organs, I would be making big money enjoying society’s best luxuries while actually hurting the abstract mass tribe.  It would be the equivalent of a small tribe richly rewarding a traitor.
Or imagine someone who gets the best rewards merely by gaming the money system within the letter of the law.  Maybe he just shuffles around securities producing no value for others. Maybe he buys up drug patents and charges hundreds of dollars per pill to desperate dying patients. Or spends 4 decades grinding in a cubicle. It doesn’t matter how he gets money so long as gets it.  In a small tribe he’d be like a guy who just pretends to work all day yet gets the best rewards!  Worse, each dollar gives the traitor or  the scammer more gravitational pull, more votes over what shape society is to take.  Once the defector-parasites are powerful enough to reprogram society’s immune system in their own interests everything good is finally drained and used up.

Worst of all, seeing defectors rewarded destroys group morale.  Why work hard to do things the right way, when parasites get ahead?  When people see the unproductive are most successful they eventually will want to join them.  A society that rewards unproductive or harmful people doesn’t deserve anyone’s dedication or loyalty anyway.  Once athletes, entertainers, and financiers are in the top levels of the hierarchy, that society has lost its mandate of heaven.   In a small tribe where a traitor was rewarded best everyone would eventually become traitors.


By Giovanni Dannato

In 1547 I was burnt at the stake in Rome for my pernicious pamphlet proclaiming that the heavens were not filled with a profusion of aether, but rather an extensive vacuum.
Now, the phlogiston that composed my being has re-manifested centuries in the future so that I may continue the task that was inconveniently disrupted so long ago.
Now, I live in Rome on the very street where I (and others) were publicly burnt. To this day, the street is known as what I would translate as 'Heretic's Way'. My charming residence is number 6 on this old road. Please, do come inside and pay me a visit; I should be delighted to spew out endless pedagoguery to one and all...

4 replies on “What Money Rewards, We Get More Of”

It’s instructive to know the runaway effect of conspecific parasitism. You can’t convert to a malaria parasite, but you can convert to a welfare queen. As each marginal case realizes they’re better off as a parasite, the host shrinks and the parasite load grows, generating more marginal cases, and meaning each additional conversion bites off a larger proportion of the host.

Past societies tried to limit entry into the aristocracy for exactly this tragedy-of-the-parasite-commons reason. Turned out to be unstable, though. Turns out, every justification for parasitism of a class ends up justifying parasitism for everybody.

Like past societies, parasitism relies on the explicit endorsement of the locus of legitimized coercion, the state. E.g. patent trolls cannot exist without a patent office you can’t opt out of. Security shufflers are generally managers of 401k plans, which are legally required to invest in stocks. (The massive artificial demand constitutes a price control, causing rolling bubbles.)

“every justification for parasitism of a class ends up justifying parasitism for everybody.”
That one sentence encapsulates much of history.

I would think of patents as a legitimate concept because they’re a way of rewarding and recognizing people who make new contributions. As a system of abstraction like money, it also has to be defended against trolls. In either case the first step in accomplishing this is to always remember the purpose for the system’s existence.

Joint stocks began as a way for organizations like the Dutch East India Company to spread the burden of high risk, high reward trading ventures, so that if anything happened to a ship or its cargo no one would be driven out of business by that one disaster. It makes sense.
But I often wonder if getting rich by swapping shares of different ventures while producing nothing of value is just trolling and hacking the system since the purpose of money is to represent the exchange of value.
Perhaps speculation is by its nature an act of defection and parasitism? After all it’s rather difficult to imagine someone in a small tribe getting rewarded for making a living just trading one thing for another at the right time while contributing nothing. Suppose someone shorted yams in his village and then found himself rich after a bad harvest. I have a feeling he wouldn’t last too long.

What we have now aren’t truly shares. I have hardly a clue what they are.

Speculation produces value. Ideally, foolish traders lose their money, so it represents knowledgeable traders informing the market about future changes in supply and demand. Speculators were blamed for the housing crisis and 1929, but the actual culprit in both cases was government fiscal policy. Presumably speculation has caused a serious problem at some point, but just as surely it can be traced back to the government defecting.

Wait, I worked out what shares are.
So, when trader A profits, it is at the expense of trader B, who agrees to buy the shares. In other words, B agrees that A may consume the wealth society owes B. That by itself is value-neutral.
However, the government has forced regular citizens to be traders. Essentially, then, the stock market, via 401k plans, is a tax on retirement-savers getting paid to day traders and Goldman Sachs. Regular folk can’t be savvy traders, and so they get jacked. Among many obvious reasons, they don’t have the time.

“…Speculation produces value…”

It may produce profits but it doesn’t produce “value”.

“…it represents knowledgeable traders informing the market about future changes in supply and demand…”

No it represents knowledgeable insiders ripping everyone else off. Mostly.

“…the actual culprit in both cases was government fiscal policy…”

No it was the Federal Reserve, a private company, breathlessly expanding the money supply then ruthlessly contracting it. Some say this was planned. As the value of real property deflated the insiders bought it up for far below it’s true value.

There’s a good example of this I read about and it stuck in my mind. There was a guy in Chile whose Grandmother died while the economy was contracting drastically and inflation at the same time was rampant. She left him a few thousand dollars. He figured it would be destroyed rather quickly in value and happened to look at some of Chile’s companies stocks and found they were depressed to almost nothing. Figuring he didn’t have much to lose he put all the money into what was Blue Chip companies for Chile. Later he made a fortune. Usually though it’s outsiders that suck up all the assets of the depressed country.

A prime example is the bank bail out in the US. We get all the debt, the people who lose their houses get nothing and the banks get the debt paid off, the property and all the profit. My bet is they own most everything and when they tank the economy again they’ll buy up the rest.

The official figures were the banks got $16 trillion dollars. That’s enough to buy a $150K house or so for every family of four in the US. Goodbye housing problem. Some have used unofficial figures to estimate the actual amount is almost twice this number at $29 Trillion. What a huge rip off.

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