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The Meaning of Money

on Monday, 01 August 1955. Posted in Social Credit

This penetrating article by Beatrice C. Best appeared first in the November 21, 1953, issue of THE SOCIAL CREDITER (England). The emphasis and sub-headings are added. — Editor.

Nothing is more fruitful of misunderstanding and in consequence more useful for purposes of deceit than the separation of a word from its meaning. For then the true purpose of the thing the word was intended to denote is lost sight of, and can be replaced by one both false and illegitimate.

It may be said that no word has suffered more from this act of separation, of dissociation, of disincarnation than the word 'money'. The very nick-names it has acquired might be cited as witness to its loss of any real identity. At any rate since money affects the lives of us all misunderstanding of it must be regarded as of universal and primary importance. (*)

Misconception of Money

An example of the effect of this act of dissociation and the consequent confusion of thought that results may be found in the following quotation: "The bourgeois' most fantastic creation, the most unreal, the most fantastic and horrible in its unreality — is the kingdom of money. And this Kingdom of money in which all substance disappears, possesses a terrible power, holds a terrible sway over human life, sets up governments and overthrows them, makes wars, enslaves the labouring masses, gives rise to unemployment and destitution, renders the life of people who are successful in this kingdom more and more fantastic. Leon Bloy was right. Money is a mystery, there is something mystic in the power of money."

The Real Nature of Money

This farrago of nonsense occurs in Berdyaev's: "Slavery and Freedom". Leon Bloy's dictum, approved of by Berdyaev, may be regarded as its inevitable conclusion; for the misuse and misappropriation of a word must lead, when unperceived, to some kind of obscurity and mystification.

The frightful results outlined by Berdyaev may be said to prove his understanding and sense of reality. On the contrary, however, his conception of money, or the "kingdom of money', as the "fantastic creation" of the bourgeois invalidates altogether such a conclusion.

For money is, strietly, a device invented by man as the simplest means to facilitate the exchange and distribution of goods. It may be regarded as part of the transport system, enabling goods to be transported from the manufacturer to the wholesaler, from him to the retailer, and from him across the counter to the final consumer. A breakdown in it would cause a block, and therefore a stoppage of transactions as serious or inconvenient as would one in the rail or road system.

All Property Is “Authentic"

Failure to perceive this led Berdyaev to a conclusion that invalidated and nullified all his ideals of freedom and independence and took him straight into the totalitarian camp with its gospel of 'equality' and a 'classless' society, actually of a levelling and a one-class society. This conclusion is implicit in his statement, following closely his diatribe against money, which declared that "... personal property is property that belongs to labour and is authentic property."

Berdyaev's unequivocal statement implies that money, earned by labour, is the only kind that can authenticate property; so property acquired by unearned money must be regarded as unauthentic and may, in a sense, be said to be stolen. The purpose and meaning of money is thus changed from a simple means of distributing property, into a means of distributing property solely by the earnings of labour, and thus acquires a kind of moral content and character.

Such a misunderstanding constitutes nothing less than an apotheosis of the wage system, the exaltation of the 'worker' — the person with the paid job — the employee, and gives firm and solid support to the policy of "full employment" pursued by all governments today by fair means or foul. Thus Berdyaev's misconception of the meaning and purpose of money invalidates not only his belief in freedom and independence, but also the value he placed on personality, and on the status of man regarded primarily as that of a person.

This, it may be contended, assumes that Berdyaev confined the idea of labour to the paid worker in the industrial field, and that without doubt Berdyaev would consider a person who spent his time learning to play a musical instrument, or to paint, or in writing a book, as being a labourer in the cultural field. But if so we are confronted by a dilemma from which there seems to be no escape. For either the cultural worker must be in possession of unauthentic property — otherwise an unearned income — while he learns to play, paint or write; or he must seek work in the industrial field to enable him to live while, with what leisure remains, he can pursue his cultural activities; or he must look to the patronage of the State. This last, however, spells the end of all true culture as André Gide discovered when, attracted by the idea of communism, he visited the U.S.S.R. and returned, disillusioned.

It should be plain, therefore, that in Berdyaev's estimate the value of man, cultural or industrial, depends upon his ability or opportunity to lay claim to 'authentic property', otherwise to earn a living. This is to regard man primarily and essentially as a functionary and not as a person; personality appearing then more in the nature of an adjunct or ornament.

In an age when scientific discoveries and inventions have reduced and are reducing the need to rely upon the individual worker in industry and industrial development, the policy of Full Employment is not merely stupid; it is evil, and diabolical in its results. For the Government alone can create the jobs necessary to implement such a policy, since only it can have recourse to methods beyond the scope and power of individuals to employ. These, to name a few, are extravagant and unnecessary industrial development, the creation of a swollen bureaucracy, rearmament and, in the last resort, war. But this whole disastrous economy can be traced to man's misconception of the meaning of money, his obstinate conviction that its proper purpose and function is to distribute payment for work and thus render the goods claimed by that work 'authentic'. Hence the presumed need for Full Employment, and hence the devil to pay.

More And More A Heritage

Actually, all property is 'authentic', Berdyaev's distinguishing adjective is meaningless. The fact that it is increasingly due to past efforts and achievements does not destroy its authenticity; but it does reveal it as being more and more in the nature of an inheritance, which cannot in justice and in fact be distributed by payments due to current labour, but must, to an increasing extent, be distributed by means of a dividend.

This fact Douglas discovered at the end of the First World War, and showed why, if we were to avoid disaster, the distribution of a dividend must accompany and progressively displace the wage. He also showed how the correction of an error in our supposedly sound accountancy rules would make the distribution simple and easy to administer. Subsequent events — depressions, destruction of real wealth and property and restrictive measures against its production, and in the end a Second World War proved Douglas to be right. But when he made his discovery he came up against an idea so fixed and so formidable and a power so malignant and so relentless, that the truth he revealed was ridiculed and implacably opposed, and the sneer against 'money for nothing' and the question where is the money to come from? still operate!

Misunderstanding Encouraged

How was it Berdyaev came to see this "Kingdom of Money" as "the bourgeois' most fantastic creation"; of all Berdyaev's statements perhaps the most absurd? For the bourgeois, though ready to rally round if told to fight for freedom, desire nothing better than to be left to follow their occupations, chosen or not, in peace. They do not enjoy the depressions that ruin their businesses, not the inflations nor the penalizing taxation that reduce their incomes. The sight of unemployment and destitution, if and when they consider it, merely worries them and gives them no pleasure. Hence, though they submit to the rulers of this kingdom with the brains of a donkey and the patience of an ox, they cannot be said to have created it.

This Kingdom of Money, this "terrible power of the purse" as someone has called it, belongs to those who have gained control of the purse and alone hold the purse strings, drawing them tight, or opening them, according to their own will and purpose, with a sinister disregard of the consequences to humanity at large. But even they have not created this Kingdom, they have filched it, with an ease that amazes, but would have been impossible apart from the blindness and credulity of those from whom they stole it. Therefore, deceit being essential to the maintenance of their Kingdom, it is of the utmost importance that this blindness and credulity should be maintained and misunderstanding of the meaning and purpose of money fostered; any attempt at enlightenment is fatal and arouses instant opposition. As the holders of the purse strings can control every avenue of publicity this is easy.

"Full Employment" an Evil Policy

Berdyaev's definition of money as a 'mystery', having mystic power, must have been a gift, as behind this façade of 'mystery' the powers bent on world dictatorship can make and mature their plans, the most effective of these and the simplest being the plan or policy of 'Full Employment'. For in this they are supported not alone by the several governments — their paid agents — but alike by the man in the street, the scientist, the economist, and the philosopher in his study. There is none to say them nay. Almost, with directions here and there, they can sit back and let things take their course. For as science discloses more ways of dispensing with man's labour — and talk of the use of atomic energy in industry points in that direction — more jobs must be found for the displaced labourers and hence increasing power and control put into the hands of the government.

Plans for defensive warfare are, of course, a great help to the policy of 'Full Employment', but do not mean, necessarily, that a Third World War is intended, since today it might have the most unpleasant consequences for the promoters themselves. But the threat is useful as inducing a spirit of fear and submission. There remain other fish to fry however, other fields for the employment of paid labour; the development of 'backward countries', for instance, of which one hears more and more. Nevertheless that cannot last for ever, and one may be excused for entertaining the fantastic notion that plans for rocketing to the moon may be designed eventually to take its place! For the policy of Full Employment is a long term policy of which one cannot see the end.

The light thrown by Douglas upon this situation, in which he showed that the complete reversal of this policy and the recognition of the fact that the dividend must increasingly replace the wage was necessary and urgent if civilization were to be saved, came as a revelation, fatal to the plans of those bent on the complete subjection of man. For it disclosed the way to man's freedom and illuminated the direction he would have to take. By so doing it also disclosed the real nature and meaning of money.

Must Demand Their Inheritance

Berdyaev declared money to be "a symbol of impersonality"; but, if things are to be understood as symbols then, in the light of Douglas, money may be regarded as a symbol of man's personal sovereignty, bestowing upon him the freedom to choose or refuse, and thus, giving him sovereign power over his own life. In real terms, however, money remains, as already stated, the simplest and most ingenious method devised by man to facilitate the distribution of goods. The forms of its instruments are various — coins, paper, figures — but its meaning and purposes are one. It is essentially neutral and cannot be said to have a moral bias in favour of the 'worker' or the 'paid job'. It can be used for the purpose of production and consumption and can therefore be claimed as a wage or dividend or both. It is enabling and beneficial in its effects, and is subject to no decrees beyond the law of facts and the rulings of sound accountancy.*

It has been said that governments fear only one thing more than their financial masters and that is the voice of the people. But the voice of the people, where it has not been skilfully directed to reflect and endorse the intention of these masters, is dumb; or else it is heard as a confusion of tongues with no real focus or intention, and in which truth is obscured or drowned.

It would be useless to request governments or parties to save us, for they know too well which side their bread is buttered, and besides you do not call upon Beelzebub to cast out Satan.

Therefore the people must demand their inheritance, not by clamour or rebellion which merely play into the hands of the powers that be; but by opposing the cold war of a lie which, so long as it is not exposed gives every appearance of winning by the spoken word of Truth which is invincible.

* With regard to this, law, THE SOCIAL CREDITER of October 31 points out that Douglas appealed to "the fact that the name 'money' is the name of a mathematical concept (ratio) and is not the name of a physical concept (substance).

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