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?
A Gerrymandering Refresher
by Ben Sheehan
December 10, 2018
Ben Sheehan is the founder and Executive Director of OMGWTF.
It’s the process of drawing U.S. House (Congressional) district lines or state legislative (state house or state senate) district lines to favor one political party over another.
Cool. I don’t understand what you wrote.
Remember how your U.S. Representative (Congressperson) represents your interests in the U.S. House, and your state representative represents your interests in your state house (sometimes called a state assembly), and your state senator represents your interests in your state senate?
Each has their own ‘district’, or section of your state, for a specific area of residents. Some states have only one U.S. Representative because they’re so small (called ‘at large’).
It’s the process of drawing district lines so that one party has an advantage (a.k.a. cheating). Every 10 years, your state representatives and state senators (your state legislators) assemble, review the U.S. Census data for your state, and redraw district lines for Congressional and state legislative districts. They do this because people move within the state, or to another state, or die, so by updating these lines every 10 years, the people in your state are fairly represented. Some states use independent, non-partisan redistricting commissions to draw their lines – but in most states, your state legislators draw them. People agree that districts should be drawn so that they’re competitive (where Democrats or Republicans could win).
How is that possible?
Two ways. Let’s say that a state has 36 Congressional districts, and one part of the state has a lot of Democrats. If you want Republicans to win, you can draw the lines so Democrats are confined to a few districts, called ‘packing’, so the other districts have mostly Republicans. And if a state has 13 Congressional districts, and one area of the state is concentrated with Democrats, you can draw the lines to divide, or ‘crack’, Democrats into different districts so they’re always a numerical minority.
That’s fucked up.
Well, it gets worse. Sometimes when drawing districts, state legislators have been accused of using race to gerrymander. The idea is that because minorities – say Hispanics and African-Americans – usually vote for Democrats, if you draw the lines based on race, it will have a similar effect with minimizing Democratic votes.
Also the examples I used? They’re real. Texas has 36 Congressional districts and a Federal Court said that it’s 35th Congressional district was unfairly drawn to ‘pack’ Hispanic voters. And North Carolina has 13 Congressional districts, and it’s 6th Congressional district – which touches Greensboro (which has a large African-American population) – was redrawn to ‘crack’ the area into multiple districts. These lines even run through North Carolina A&T’s campus, which is the largest historically black public university in the country. So, if you’re a student who moves from one side of the campus to the other, you have to re-register to vote.
Are you kidding? How is this legal?!
Some Federal Courts have said it isn’t, but the Supreme Court – on multiple occasions – has sent cases back to the states, refusing to make a federal law banning partisan gerrymandering. Even when lines seem to be drawn with race in mind, the argument is that the lines are disenfranchising Democrats, not minorities…but it’s kinda obvious what’s going on.
That’s insane. It’s Republicans who are doing this?
Republicans control the majority of state legislatures right now, so it’s happening more often in Republican-controlled states. It happens in Democratic states too (e.g. Maryland, Illinois); but currently Republicans are doing it way more. And it’s the Republican-controlled states that have districts accused of being racially gerrymandered. Needless to say, the racial component taps into an ugly history of voter disenfranchisement in this country.
How do we stop this?
Until there’s a federal law outlawing partisan gerrymandering, it’s up to each state to decide how it draws its lines. Some states have independent redistricting commissions drawing the lines (instead of state legislatures). This year in Michigan, voters passed a ballot measure giving line-drawing responsibilities to citizens rather than legislators. Also, in most states the governor can veto the lines, so some checks and balances exist.
What can I do?
In the next two elections (2019 and 2020), you can support state legislative and gubernatorial candidates who believe in fair lines. If there’s a ballot measure that would create an independent redistricting committee in your state, support that measure. Vote for these candidates and measures. Donate money to support them. Make calls, knock on doors, and convince others to do the same.
Thanks, that was helpful (if long).
I feel the same about democracy.