Monday, 27 February 2012

Third Part on Biological Money

Finally, the third installment of my much awaited three part series on Money - much awaited if you happen to be Meg the Mystic Moggie or Trevor the Tremendous tree. Anyway, for all two and a half of you humans out there reading this, this is the bit about ‘Biological Money’.

I was trying to work out if there was an equivalent in nature to a system of money. How might that actually work? Would it be like the alternative currencies, barter or LETS systems that are increasingly popular? Or would it be like the Lawful Bank in the UK, which is a brilliant idea it seems - it will use some of the hidden principles that have made the bankers rich but for the benefit of the people instead. With pressure on the US and Euro currencies the prices of gold and silver has been shooting up. The dollar is fast losing its status as the world’s exchange currency which is why many countries are looking to buy oil in other currencies and China is losing dollars as fast as it can without rocking the boat too much (I don‘t really understand all this currency exchange stuff but I am trying). The powers-that-were are probably pinning their hopes on either a major event or a new war in order to prop up the old financial system. War is great for business - hence the West’s bating of Iran of course and their wars of aggression across the Middle East and North Africa.

Back to the main point - I have spent some months contemplating what a ‘biological system’ of money might look like.

My little project is a failure in one sense because I have realised there can never be a biological money system. Money is a virtual representation of value or wealth. There is no equivalent in nature. One could count the stored ability of an animal or tree to create value but that is a little obtuse. Say a piece of wood would have a virtual wealth of warming someone for an hour in a fire. A beaver’s teeth would have a virtual wealth of being able to gnaw through a certain amount of wood. However money is a virtual system that allows possession of real items or real value, potential or actual. The only equivalent in nature would be intrinsic or potential wealth. However, I do not think that potential or intrinsic wealth is the same thing as virtual wealth - an imaginary system that represents ownership of real things.

So in essence there can be no biological money system. Money does not exist in non-socialised nature. So it is unnatural. However, what I am interested in is whether or not money is an efficient system for people’s happiness and prosperity. How does nature do things? How does nature share wealth?

There is no virtual system of exchange in nature - only the actual movement of real wealth. However there is a catch. Although energy moves in nature (as real actual wealth) it is only exchanged freely within ever increasing borders. The wealth then moves selectively beyond each border. We can take a single organism as an example, starting at the subcellular level.

In a cell there are lots of subcellular units each with their own functions. The mitochrondria for example are the powerhouses of the cell. All the subcellular units take whatever ‘wealth’ - energy, nutrients and so on, they require without restriction. So within the cell the units exchange wealth freely. There is more selectivity beyond the cell’s external border – it chooses they what to take in, what to excrete and what to exclude. Cells then form organs and these organs have relatively free exchange within the organ but are a little more selective with the general body circulation. Organs then form bodies. At this level a body will exchange with its immediate environment but with a much greater selectivity than within its own internal borders.

So I believe nature appears to exchange freely but only within ever increasing circles of selectivity.

It would be possible to model human exchange on a more natural system. The individuals could be compared to the subcellular organelle units – the smallest border or membrane within the body (an organism is defined by its outer membrane). So the individual, or immediate family might be the organelle within the cell. The next level, the cell, could represent the first economic unit of society. As a cell is a complex co-operative with hundreds of different autonomous units an economic system modelled on nature might have relatively free exchange of individuals within a good size cooperative. The cooperative would then have monetarily free, but selective exchange, with its group of cooperatives – that would represent the organ. Next it would have more selective exchange, but still free, within a larger group of cooperatives and so on. Perhaps at certain levels there would be membranes that would restrict movement of wealth considerably – that would represent the skin of an organism.

The aim of our current system is Darwinian. I personally believe Darwin’s theory is both wrong and fascist although I guess he may not have foreseen that. Nature, in health, is a cooperative project and is not about survival of the fittest at all. Besides which the actual archaeological evidence, if examined honestly, does not support gradual competitive evolution. But that is another story. Nature is predominately cooperative in health. Survival of the fittest, if it is dominant over cooperation is a symptom of a sick ecosystem. Also I believe it is a con story in order to gain our intellectual submission to a fascist economic and political system. Nature is predominantly cooperative with a more minor aspect of competition. Somehow we have been persuaded to see it upside down.

Back to our nature exchange system - within the first circle there would be complete, free exchange of wealth, in the next level there would be decreasing exchange and increasingly selectivity ad infinitum with strong borders at certain points (representing the membrane of an organism with the outside world).

This system would not be wasteful hopefully. All exchange, including excretion of waste is actually exchange of value. In a natural system, in health, there is no waste. One unit’s waste is another unit’s commodity. Also the fundamental aim of the system is different to the money system. The aim is not to accumulate virtual units of wealth or power to tide one over, or keep one above the next person when the real wealth dries up. Rather, the aim is to create actual maximum real value for the community and for the self now. There is no virtual storage of wealth or the need for that virtual storage because the aim is to create a sustainable wealthy and valuable state of being for everyone now. There is no need to compete or store value of one part of the system over another because the whole system would be incredibly wealthy in multiple ways.

Perhaps an individual would belong to an economic cooperative of a few hundred to a few thousand people. Within this group any individual could access any of the wealth and would give any of his wealth completely freely (though of course according to the unwritten norms of the group). Beyond the ‘economic cell’ there would be increasingly stricter sharing and gaining at each level. So within an economic ‘cell’ of a few thousand people most of the day to day needs of an individual would probably be met. Perhaps within a cooperative there would be people doing specialist jobs at times, making computers or cars for example. They could give these items for free but only within their base cooperative (the economic unit) or immediate group of cooperatives (the organ) or more selectively within the next outer group of cooperatives (the body) or again at the next outer, outer group (the tribe).

There would be no incentive to produce for productivity’s sake but rather to produce because one enjoys it. A computer could be made to last a lifetime and be infinitely upgradable. The same would go for cars.

One could argue that competition, rather than cooperation is a fundamental principle in nature - but is that really so? The supposedly most basic living form - the cell, is undisputedly a cooperative (there is a more basic form of biological life than the cell - Wilhelm Reich’s bion but the principle still applies). Multi-celled creatures are cooperatives of cells. Families and tribes are cooperatives of creatures. Societal evolution is a cooperative process.

This is not to say competition does not exist but it has been overhyped for political reasons. TV nature programmes, like our educational institutions, focus on competition. We see the rutting season, the predatory killer, the exam, not the vast majority of the time spent cooperatively. Even the predator-prey relationship maintains a cooperative balance in an ecosystem (unless the system itself is diseased or out of balance). Growing trees may compete for light, or animals may compete for food in a forest but the forest as a whole and the majority of the activities within it form an ecological cooperative. 

Just as money is a virtual wealth system not seen in nature so the state is a virtual system without parallel in nature. Highly complex ecosystems can exist without centralised control. Centralised control is not natural. Even the perception that the brain is in control of the body is just that - a perception, and a largely empty one too.

Families, tribes, herds and hives exist in nature - all freely exchanging cooperatives within cooperatives. There can be hierarchies of sorts, conflict, competition and even societies based on group minds (bees for example) or societies of loners (say some cats) but control and power is always diffused. Our so-called society has been centralised on purpose because it suits those who have had power. Our technology could just as easily support decentralized energy sources, production and control of resources.

It could be argued that big industrialised processes need big centralised societies and global virtual exchange systems. But is this really so? Or is centralisation just the agenda of the powerful? The ruthless suppression of science, technologies and information that would decentralise power over the last centuries would attest to the existence of such an agenda in the past. Discoveries in energy generation, transport, farming, manufacturing and medicine have been viciously suppressed, often violently, if they do not support centralised control of society – just see the fate of visionaries such as Tesla and Reich. Our science does not deserve the name – it is a religion, and not a very good one either.

A cooperative system could evolve naturally from within our current system as sudden catastrophic change often centralises power even further. A cooperative nature system would not be socialist as it would not imply the existence of a powerful centralised state. It would not be communist either as the community would not be above the individual - nature consists of autonomous individual cooperatives, free of central control. Neither would it be capitalist as no virtual capital system could be used to own real resources. There would likely be stewardship, individual or collective instead. One cannot ‘own’ anything anyway so why even bother? You just look after what is important to you until it’s time to move on. Ownership is only relevant if others are trying to take something away from you. In a decentralised, high technology society that simply would not be necessary as wealth would be abundant and decentralised. Though, all these things would be gradual, if one abolished ownership or other principles of our armoured society overnight, without people developing themselves first there might be further suffering.

A cooperative nature system would not simply be a return to tribal dynamics. Although a tribe in the rainforest or indigenous peoples may often have a successful cooperative system based on nature, other tribes during the patriarchal epoch of the last six thousand years have been hierarchical and competitive.