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?
Immigration Crises: View From The Borderlands
by Kathleen Staudt
July 22, 2018
Kathleen (Kathy) Staudt is a retired political science professor living in El Paso. Her most recent book is titled Border Politics in a Global Era: Comparative Perspectives (2017).
We are all living in a time of renewed attention to the US-Mexico border, but especially to “border security.” The border security narrative operates during politicians’ campaigns for elective office, around budget times, and/or after the latest Hollywood films about organized crime in Mexico. After all, who can disagree with “security”? Until recently, too many people in the US always seemed willing to believe the worst about people of Mexican heritage or of people from the Global South, but images of children made a difference in the summer of 2018.
Writing here from the US-Mexico borderlands and sitting in what was formerly northern Mexico until 1848, my lived experience consists of everyday insights about migration, refugees, and children in detention camps and tent cities. The borderlands, at the frontlines of so much recent political rhetoric, consists of cities and towns, which like San Diego, rest at the top among safest cities in the US, unlike many cities in the heartlands of the country. Borderlanders live in interdependent communities with people in counterpart cities and towns of Mexico.
Here in the borderlands, our vantage points offer frontline vision for how Washington DC policy hits practice, particularly the demagogic policies and cruel practices. We have had our share of marches, protests, and emergency outreach to vulnerable people exposed to the illegality of border guards refusing to accept asylum-seekers. Family separation and a "zero tolerance policy" in 2018 have roused the conscience of people nationwide. I am elated, even relieved when I see pictures of both borderland and heartland people and their evocative signs: “no family separation,” “this is not America,” and so on.
Yet I wonder about the absence of attention all the years leading up to the current crisis. Migrant children have been living in detention centers for years. Asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America and Mexico have been denied temporary shelter in the US for years as well, though irregularly depending on the judge and the places where judgments are made (see the Syracuse University tracking system of judges and in different parts of the U.S.). Here in the borderlands, genuinely non-profit organizations and churches—not non-profit contractors with government agencies—have opened their doors to temporarily shelter those with documents awaiting hearings in other parts of the country and those without. Many people who assist do so out of commitment or of faith in action. Their service is temporary, direct, and responsive to emergency needs. Their motivations vary: they heed Biblical passages; they remember the Holocaust and the resistance refugees faced seeking entry to nations that refused them; they exercise their convictions based on decency, social justice, and empathy. They understand the artificiality of man-made constructed borders that change over time.
However, the country needs long-term justice in the form of comprehensive immigration reform—one based on the historical knowledge of the talent so many of our immigrant and refugee ancestors once brought so easily to US border crossing, unlike the way they are currently criminalized. The recent marches against family separation, massive in numbers, helped push back an outrageous policy with long-term damage to the children and their families. Thank goodness for people's support in mounting court challenges—the "rule of law" that may be hanging on by a thread with the politicized court-packing in process—that put a timetable in place but has now, not surprisingly, been delayed. Why? Some parents have already been deported, others may be needed for DNA matches, and the sheer bungling and clerical mistakes made by too many bureaucratic agencies are some reasons. For many refugees, legal counsel is neither mandated nor available. We need to remind ourselves of the vulnerability of a three-year-old migrant or even the baby, bottle in hand, sitting before a judge in an imposing US courtroom.
Heartlanders, please keep up the support and exercise your voting rights! We here in the borderlands, the frontline where US policy hits practice, will continue to act on conscience over the long term, as we did in the past. Please also maintain an interest in the borderlands beyond the rhetoric of border security, nationalist style. After all, shouldn't security be about humans, whatever side of a border they were born? The faces of children roused so many; let their faces, plus the faces and stories of adults, do the same as we forge ahead with more just and humane policies.