Reflections on Money
by Kianga Daverington
September 1, 2020
This essay, written by Kianga Daverington of Daverington PLLC , was originally published in January 2020. The piece as been condensed for clarity.
Money is not a physical object like a coin, a bar of gold or a dollar bill. Money is at its core, a technology. It is a human invention designed to solve a specific set of human problems. Consider money, perhaps, in a new way. Think of money as a system for capturing time.
Time is the one thing we each have that is absolutely finite. We are born, we die, and the dash in between is all the time we have.
Think of production. We can usually produce more of some good by adding people to a task (also known as “WORK”). But we are still constrained by time. Whatever we produce is still limited by the amount of humans that can be organized to go into that production. Each of us possesses a limited amount of time available to us individually, so we need to convince or coerce others to add their time to ours if we want to achieve more than we can alone.
Out of this imperative, nations are born.
The most important quality of any particular form of money is how well it preserves the value of time over time. Can you buy the same amount of stuff or more in the future than you can buy today? If yes, congratulations - your money is accumulating time for you and future generations while you relax on the beach. If it takes more and more of a unit of money to buy the same amount of time in the future, well then I’m sorry, but that unit of money is getting weaker and weaker. It’s losing value or said another way – it’s losing purchasing power. The longer you hold it, the less it buys.
In a way, by purchasing goods and services, you are purchasing time. Every product and every service requires time to make and time to deliver - your time and/or someone else’s. The price therefore reflects the collective value of all the time put in. Money is a way we exchange time and move it around from where it is valued less to where it is valued more.
This is where prosperity comes from. It comes out of how well a society, collectively and each person, spends its time. How much time is spent creating and making? How much time is spent consuming? If we make more than we consume, we have something left over called wealth. If we consume more than we make, we are left with debt. You can’t consume what you don’t have, unless someone extends credit. Where does this “credit” come from? Basically –it’s made up.
Too much credit or debt eventually collapses and everyone is mixed up in the collapse.
If we understand that a unit of money represents a unit of time, and we understand time is limited, then a unit in a system of money with unlimited supply cannot have any value. This is the problem we are facing today with the world’s money supply. The supply of money in the world is increasing exponentially as central banks create money by giving loans to national governments, which is where our money comes from.
Our entire world financial system is a powder keg of debt.
National currencies today are known as fiat money, a currency without intrinsic value that has been given its power to be used as money by a government that says it is money by regulation. Wikipedia says, “Fiat money does not have use value, and has value only because a government maintains its value, or because parties engaging in exchange agree on its value.” Well said, Wiki.
A government’s job of maintaining the value of its national money boils down to a confidence game. On what basis do the people who use that government’s money believe it has value?
What happens to the money and those who hold it when the foundation of that belief begins to crumble?
Families Bear the Burden of Prisoner Reintegration
by David Harding
June 21, 2018
David J. Harding is Associate Professor of Sociology and Faculty Director of the Social Sciences D-Lab at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of 'On the Outside: Prisoner Reentry and Reintegration', which will be published by University of Chicago Press in early 2019. More information about his research can be found at https://prisonerreentryresearch.org. Follow him on Twitter here.
When “DeAngelo” walked out of the gates at the Cooper Street Prison in Jackson, Michigan after serving 11 months for drunken driving, he had little more than the clothes on his back. His girlfriend “Laura” was there to greet him, however, and she drove DeAngelo to the small house in Ypsilanti that she shared with her mother, about an hour’s drive east on Interstate 94.
Recalling that day, DeAngelo explained the rush of anxiety he felt as Laura merged into traffic on the highway. “The most intensive challenge for me when I first got out was the anxiety… It’s not just a jittery nervousness. It’s like... you’re just scared shitless…overwhelmed with just life. As soon as you get in that car and you drive off, it’s like everything hits you like, all the responsibilities you’ve got to take care of and just getting everything back on track.”
For the first three months after his release, Laura and her mother supported DeAngelo in every way possible. They provided him with his basic material needs for food and shelter and supported him emotionally as he coped with the stress of reentry and the uncertainty of “getting everything back on track.” Laura drove him to meetings with his parole officer, to job interviews, to Detroit to visit his 4-year old son, and to treatment for his alcoholism, anxiety, and bi-polar disorder. She helped him to access Washtenaw County’s health insurance for the poor so he could afford those treatments and to enroll in the local community college. After a few months working as a restaurant server, DeAngelo was able to save enough money to afford the deposit on his own apartment.
The story of DeAngelo’s reintegration is but one example of a larger pattern we saw in our study of the experiences of formerly incarcerated individuals: families are bearing most of the burden of reintegration. They provide food and housing, transportation, emotional support, and job leads. They support their loved ones while they attend school or job training, help them to comply with parole requirements, and even pay fines and fees on their behalf.
The moment of reunification with family is a joyous one, but it also creates new challenges for those who welcome formerly imprisoned loved ones into their homes. Such families are typically barely scraping by as it is, juggling complex arrangements of sporadic low-wage work combined with food stamps, welfare benefits, or disability benefits just to make ends meet. A new mouth to feed makes it even harder to make the groceries last until the end of the month, and a new body in a crowded apartment means less privacy and space for everyone else.
Yet such familial support, challenging as it is to provide, is critical to successful reintegration. When “Randall” left the Cooper Street prison after serving 10 months for a parole violation, he returned to Detroit without the kind of family support that DeAngelo enjoyed. Shuffling between treatment programs, homeless shelters, short stays in spare bedrooms or on living room couches, and living rough on the streets, Randall struggled to rebuild his life without a firm foundation. Instead of treatment programs and community college, Randall spent his days walking or riding the bus around Detroit to meet his parole obligations, apply for work, and attend a job readiness program, at times resorting to selling plasma and odd jobs to keep food in his belly. In moments of desperation, he sold marijuana to get by. It was not until Randall moved into a spare bedroom in a house with his step-sister and her father, a retired auto worker, that Randall experienced any stability in his life. Three years after his release, after moving in with his fiancé in the suburbs, he eventually found a full-time job as short order cook.
DeAngelo’s and Randall’s experiences of reentry and reintegration also reveal the weaknesses of our institutional infrastructure for reintegrating formerly incarcerated individuals in the era of mass incarceration. Almost everyone who enters prison leaves at some point, but programs that serve the formerly incarcerated have not kept up with increasing incarceration and subsequent reentry.