12 November 2012

A Copernican Revolution for economics

The issue at hand:
How is it possible that humanity, with the knowledge and resources at our disposal, still allow any person to go to sleep without food or shelter - without the most basic human dignity?

I am deeply saddened to acknowledge that I clearly see that most people (religious and other wise) will be content with the answer presented by Niall Ferguson in his book "The ascent of money - A financial history of the World" where he ends the book with a philosophical claim...
"I remain more than ever convinced that, until we fully understand the origin of financial species, we shall never understand the fundamental truth about money: that, far from being 'a monster that must be put back in its place', as the German president recently complained',* financial markets are like the mirror of mankind, revealing every hour of every working day the way we value ourselves and the resources of the world around us.
It is not the fault of the mirror if it reflects our blemishes as clearly as our beauty." 

There is something very unsatisfying with this answer to the issue at hand and I will attempt to expose it and give a solution.  Maybe the mirror is designed to disorientate, let us try to find out. 

To approach this question I have been creating a mind scape (i.e. Thought experiment) for considering a society that only value the human ability to use its minds.  In this mind scape the concept of money cannot be based on any traditional notion of capital but has to be based on each human's ability to use its mind to manipulate the physical world.  In this experiment it is not allowed to look at ownership of physical arrangements as the locus of value, but at the utilization of mind to contribute to society as the only valuable entity.  This simple change of focus might help us to correct the reflection that our value system presents us.  I will discuss potential aspects or angles from which to describe this mind scape.

Potential aspects of this mind scape:
(Please note that these ideas are not based in Christian dogma or any utopian notions, my intention is to postulate a possible world for free will agents, that include even those that use their will to prefer not to belief in free will.  It does not require humans to be perfect in any sense, least of all - no requirement for moral perfection.  I postulated people as they are right now.) 

  1. The fundamental presupposition of a mind based economy is that human experience can be fully described by the human ability to change the physical and mental reality - We are simply things that generate meaning and it is awesome!  Human experience is all about the mental actions that create value and not about any specific arrangement of matter that we make claims on.  All human related physical arrangements simply refer to unique states of minds and these arrangements should only be used as the pointers to value and should not become the object of value itself.   This point can be described by considering an astronomer's "relatedness" to a distant astronomical event through postulation, observation and data analysis.  Even though the physical pattern is so far removed in distance and even removed through a process of data reformulation (i.e. digitisation etc.) it still ows all related abstractions to the mind of the astronomer and all minds working with related abstractions like, theories, hypothesis, digitisation algorithms about the event in space.  The same central position of mind relates to all forms of minds chaning the physical world, including the act of hitting a nail in the wall.
  2. This is contrasted against the capitalist system that, (by design) , is focused on claims of value only for physical arrangements.  This misplaced focus, in the modern societies, leads to irrational and by and large unfair relationship between human effort and natural resources. This state of capitalism expose itself in most of the claims on value in today's societies across the globe - best example is seen in the degradation of human existence into mindless capitalist consumers and/or communist drones to produce goods solely for consumption.  My proposal cut out this focus on the physical arrangements and replace it with an economy that only allocate value to the human act of changing matter and not the product. i.e. Allocating value to the goose and not the golden egg...
  3. Another very important presupposition is that current technologies and pressures on resources requires an economy that is based on knowledge and not resources.  It is clear that the product of mind is the only way humans and nature in general can be preserved and progress. A continued focus on physical resources as the object of value will force uncontrolled human consumption to continue.  However if the focus is on the value of human mind, then the only focus can be to preserve life and self actualisation.  The physical arrangements that will flow from this state of affairs will be driven by a mind based "market" - (...in all fairness the word "market" is the wrong word for this mind scape.)  It is far better to replace "market" with the concept of "see a need fill a need".  Filling a need only needs human will, from this will flow any required arrangement of matter to meet that need... Even if it is as simple as hitting a nail in the wall.
  4. My observation is that our society in general maintains a psychosis believing that value is a physical domain where physical things are valuable.  This psychosis is the same kind of folly as the geocentric description of reality that reigned till Copernicus's time.  I challenge this material notion of value and maintain that value is purely a product of mind. Value does not revolve around an object, it revolves around a mind... Even if you believe that mind is in some way a physical state; (It is not yet, if ever,  clearly defined in terms of "matter in motion", and clearly not useful in describing the most basic of what we know about mind.)  Regardless of any particular theory of mind,  every body can make a distinction between material objects and mental constructs and that is enough to understand what a mind based economy can and should be.
  5. If mind is the focus of value judgements then the diversity of new innovations seems to be unlimited, contrasted against a physical value system, where money, by design,  has to be a scares resource, to prevent inflation. This mind base value is exactly what is required for the type of challenges facing the physical and mental future of humans.
  6. The value of mind is exposed through physical arrangements because it contains an abstraction of meaning that was produced in the mind.  That is what we experience when looking at art, but the fact is that any effort of mind has the same effect, including hitting a nail into the wall.  It is very important to acknowledge that even the idiosyncrasies of each individual's mannerisms are the product of mind. This put a mind based economy in the position to freely allocate value to behaviour, from the most basic to the most complex... from basic utility to the highest form of art humans are valuable and not their products.
  7. This mind scape aims to propose a new system for the distribution of wealth (i.e. Distribution of arrangements of matter, because in most part physical stuff remains the object of ownership.)  It should be clear that no human has the right to own someone else's mind.  Physical things can be owned by individuals and ownership needs protection, but protection does not require the physical object to have value. Ownership is simply a type of abstraction associated to a physical arrangement, like the nail in the wall, designating specific social behaviours, like whose nail it is.
  8. In order to unify the value system for material goods and non-material goods it is required to abandon the allocation of value to physical arrangements and only allocate value to the efforts of minds.
  9. The causal beginning and end of all value is always a mind and not a physical object.  A rock or a piece of gold has no value except if a mind designate it to have value - the value entity does not become part of the matter, but remains part of the mind or minds.  This is why it is required to have only one value system, focused on the acts of a mind and not the associated physical arrangements.   
  10. Any form of creativity that is perceived to improve a society's state of being are to replace capital in all its current connotations, including money.  Objective judgements of true value are essential to strive for... even if it might never be completely achieved.  An optimum description of value can be achieved when humans enter into an alliance to research the objective aspects of reality - this has always been the true reason for society and civilisation.
  11. This mind scape has to perceive that money as we know it will go out of existence,  to be replaced by an individual's value rating based on conscious actions (i.e. actions of mind) - as it change the order of matter into something of value.  Society has the natural obligation to define this value, and justly allocate a value rating to each human's interaction with the world.  This rating does happen currently in our world, but it is not used as the only measure through which an individual or group of individuals get access to wealth.  Money has proven itself incapable of being a mind based value system by all the financial crisis we experience, and yet we would like to think it is the preferred mirror into the human condition... This reality can be summarised by realising that a person does not earn money, he/she earn recognition for mental actions of value.  This recognition is the new currency and cannot be issued by banks of any sort, because all human interactions generate recognition. 
  12. Ownership of any physical object can be achieved through the mind based value assigned to an individual or company's intellectual activities - this is not a transaction in any physical sense and can only be seen as an agreement or meeting of minds as they recognise mutual benefit.  The same counts for the exchange of purely physical objects, because it can only be achieved through agreement between minds. This is because no arrangement of matter is preferred above any other arrangement of matter - it is because value is not a property of matter.  We should call this the Copernican principle of economics. Instead of assigning value to the object, individuals can agree on the mind based value.
  13. The value for most encoded products of mind, like applications, songs, designs, plans etc. can only be exposed by its success and therefore any deserving individual or groups can expose the value by using or enjoying the encoded products of mind. The task of society will only be to ensure that claims on ownership of a unique idea is protected and to rate the usefulness to give the author the benefit.  Exposure of new solutions therefore becomes the only way to earn recognition and this in itself is the supply chain of ideas that requires lots of minds to achieve value.  People relying on each other will generate valuable mental activities that will increase their wealth.
  14. This system of value distribution seems to be logically sound and compatible with our current technologically driven behaviours, that even if it seems impossible to successfully create such a system, in our current economic system, it has to be researched until a successful implementation is found.  (Please note that logic is not opposed to the ability of mind to believe irrational notions, logic stands on its own an it expose irrational behaviour.  Making an argument that there is nothing wrong with our current system, because humans can be irrational or evil, therefore our value system will also have irrational consequences at times, does not make sense, accept if you want to enslave trusting minds.  The sophisticated version is the "just a mirror..."  view from Ferguson.
  15. Modern information technologies , can be transformed and used by the "new accountants" of a mind based economic system.  The objective of our knowledge about human behaviour and the product of mind is to verify value perceptions of human activities as well as the relationship between human activities and physical arrangements.
  16. The Mind based economy does not make any moral judgements,  it simply generate the environment where a society can freely dictate its own moral code.
  17. "The State" as we know it will become moral alliances of like minded people (Language, culture, faith, government, laws, etc.),  with the potential of these groups to coexist without the need for physical boundaries. This can be so because access to goods is no longer the function of access to resources but an agreement of what kind of contribution to society (local or global) warrant a specific type of access to specific goods.
  18. This mind based economy aims to ensure that communities that do not want to fit into a progressive industrialised way of life will not be forced into a monetary system that requires them to sell their unwarranted claims to physical arrangements to achieve globally forced goals that is not really their community's goals.  These communities will be able to dictate the nature of their access to wealth purely based on their mental attitudes.  Sharing the basic technologies that a community request on their own terms should not be in conflict with a mind based economy - at this stage it is in conflict with most capitalist principles.
  19. A purely mind based economy will encourage all communities that want to partake in a progressive knowledge based society, to choose so freely and achieve it on their own terms and not strapped to some physical resource.  If their mental effort has the form that will assist them they will achieve.
  20. Any individual can choose his or her own mind based community and become free to govern their own lives. For each individual there is communities that act as moral islands where value are exposed.
  21. This is where it is important to realise that the notion of scarce resources make little sense in the current state of advanced technologies (...nuclear power in particular, because it is possible to derive all resources from electricity/energy.) that can supply all physical resources required for survival, progress and self actualisation of all people on earth, regardless of race or moral creed - if it is only up to the human will and not the current state of people enslaved to capitalism.  I also contend that mind is not a property of matter and hence all races and cultures can deliver unique and valuable contributions to local and global societies.  I belief with enough empirical support in the equal potential of all humans  (...as presented in a statistical normal distribution).
  22. The equal potential and solidarity of being human is a foundation on which everyone is uniquely able to achieve the most wonderful mental outputs.  Being human is also the fundamental value or recognition that rewards all humans with subsistence, (...the definition of subsistence has to be clearly defined to ensure sustainable human behaviour, instead of sustainable capitalist market conditions).  Modern technology can supply by default the most basic human dignity to all people purely on the notion that being human is valuable.  If the current systems that is trying to care for marginalised people are not strapped down by traditional capital needs, the mental and physical innovations required to achieve the subsistence of all people will be there simply because the value of the mental activities associated with these solutions will be the impetus.  Clearly the solution of poverty is invaluable and minds working on this deserves the highest recognition.
  23. It is important to see that this proposed system is growing out of the undeniable successes of the age of enlightenment.  Without the current state of technological development, this proposed system will not have the impetus to succeed in its goals.  The reason is simply that humans achieve and strive to something better based only when they think it is possible.  If all humans lose our belief that the reality can be understood, then this will fail.  Those societies that does not subscribe to a rational world still act in a rational world and their value transends their irrational beliefs, the problem only applies if all humans abandon reason.
  24. Creativity can not be hoarded by the individual's will as is the case with capital, but can only be valued for its utility and beauty.
  25. Society decide the durability of a specific type of contribution - this will solve the issue of the disparity of people's ability to contribute and various stages of their life or their ability to interact with the physical world, in the case of disabled people.
  26. The utility of creativity is any possible perception of value experienced by individuals in a society, like beauty, safety, happiness, progress, sustenance, caring, exploration, adventure, health... I contend that this list is very very long and can more accurately include all current and post-capitalist notions of value.
  27. Mind based economy is not socialism in disguise, because it values only the individual's contributions, there are no shared ownership or anything associated with socialism.  Companies of individuals distribute the value of their effort according to the contribution of the constituent individual minds. The law protect human dignity by judging conflicting claims on value.
  28. Perceived contribution completely replace the value system of capitalism.  This is just as subjective as the current capitalist value system and require no specific moral system.
  29. A mind based economy is the consequence of a progression from a consumer economy to knowledge economy with the required abandonment of most of the useless and unfair aspects of the current system.
  30. Because any human has the property of mind there can be no real disenfranchised individual or group.  Access to capital can no longer disenfranchise any one. Access to wealth is purely a function of the value of mental activities.
  31. Disabled people can be considered physically and mentally disenfranchised, but the mind based economy will be able to take better care because the able people will benefit from contributing to their care, just because the mental resources to achieve this do exist.  It is just another place where capitalism shows its weakness when it comes to the actual care of old and disabled people.
  32. Each individual and group act to achieve their own value level and this give them access to goods in relation to their ongoing achievements. 
  33. Value can have any form, from writing a song to designing a spaceship to policing anti-social behaviour, to writing code, to teaching people, to caring for old and disabled people, to doing research. It all has value, just like it is the case in the current economic system, with the difference that it will not rewarded by hand outs from capital owners, but by real value.
  34. Greed will have a hard time because it will no longer be institutionally protected.

To conclude then,

I belief that the "Monster of money" is the product of the human mind and can be put to death by the free will of human beings.  This has only been made possible by Christ's authority.  Christ's second coming will establish God's kingdom for ever, but what will we be doing when he returns - feeding the monster?  The only thing that I can keep myself busy with is to find ways to let his kingdom come.

Reference in quote at the top:
* Bertrand Benoit and James Wilson, 'German President Complains of Financial Markets "Monster"', Financial Times, 15 May 2008

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