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?
In the United States, the Right to Asylum is Under Attack
by Amir Khouzam
July 23, 2019
Amir Khouzam is a humanitarian specialist who has worked in refugee protection with the UNCHR in Egypt and with Syrian civil society in protection policy throughout Syria. He was the managing editor for print and editorial at Columbia University's Journal of International Affairs from 2018 to 2019. This is his second piece published with frank news.
With the rhetoric around immigration in the United States reaching new heights, it can be easy to overlook subtle changes in policy and official practice that can dramatically affect those most directly involved in immigration enforcement. Such is the case with an email outlining new policy directives for Asylum Officers at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Our Southern border,” opens the email, credited to Kenneth Thomas Cuccinelli II, “is facing a daily crisis of aliens overwhelming our ports of entry, many of whom are attempting to enter and remain in the country in violation of our laws.”
Mr. Cuccinelli is the Acting Director at USCIS, the federal agency housed within the Department of Homeland Security that is tasked with executing American immigration policy. He assumed office on June 10th, following the resignation of former director Lee Cissna at the request of President Donald Trump. Mr. Cuccinelli is a long-standing supporter of the president and shares many of his extreme views. One of Mr. Cuccinelli’s first official acts was to blame a young man for his own death and the death of his daughter after they drowned while attempting to cross the Rio Grande. In his previous job as Attorney General for Virginia, he defended anti-sodomy laws, sued the Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, and pushed for legislation to prevent children of undocumented migrants in the United States from attending university.
But the recent note to his employees tasked with processing and filing legal claims of asylum threatens to do serious harm to some of the most vulnerable subjects of American immigration policy.
Upon reading the email it would be easy to assume that the act in question – claiming asylum in the United States, by those who may have crossed the border under irregular or unclear circumstances – is a crime. In fact, the opposite is true.
It is legal to claim asylum.
The Trump administration clearly does not appreciate this reality. The email makes no mention of it and instead goes to great lengths to obscure it, with urgent language and misleading statistics.
Among its claims are that USCIS agents are being too lenient in granting positive ‘credible fear’ determinations following initial screening sessions with migrants. This is not true.
Credible fear screenings, conducted by federal officials when people first enter the United States seeking asylum, are organized around three major questions: has the applicant ever been harmed in their home country; have they or their child ever been threatened with harm, and; have they been harmed as a result of discrimination based on religion, race, nationality, social affiliation, or political opinion.
These are broad questions by design, and most people have historically received positive determinations. That is because the screenings are not themselves determinant of whether applicants have a legitimate claim of asylum. They are instead an opportunity for immigration officials to decide whether an individual should be deported immediately, or be granted an asylum hearing in front of a judge. Given the circumstances most asylum seekers are fleeing, a high rate of positive determinations has been consistent across both recent Republican and Democratic administrations.
But there are strong indications that, contrary to Mr. Cuccinelli’s claims, fewer people than ever are receiving positive results due to new obstacles put in place by the Trump Administration. Its zero-tolerance policy and practice of separating families, draconian interpretations of whether or not minors at the border are ‘unaccompanied’ even when they arrive with close relatives, and a new directive that precludes people from claiming violence at the hands of gangs as a legitimate fear from which to flee have all contributed to heightened rates of early denial, long before a judge has looked at a claim.
This leads to Mr. Cuccinelli’s second misdirection. In his email, the acting director suggests that of those who are granted positive results and permitted to remain in the United States, most skip town, disappearing into the masses of Undocumented America. This is a false claim and a pernicious one, that is no more true for having been repeated by the Vice President of the United States on live television. This year, the Washington Post fact-checked Vice President Pence’s claim that 90 percent of applicants do not show up to their asylum hearing by referring to the Department of Justice’s very own statistics, which showed that in 2018 about 40 percent of applicants skipped their hearings. Even these numbers are an anomaly: from 2013 to 2017, the no-show rate was between 5 and 11 percent.
But these facts and the lies and misdirection Mr. Cuccinelli deploys instead are academic. At the core of the issue is a simple reality.
Mr. Cuccinelli calls the American immigration system ‘abused.’ Rather it is abusive, as we have seen this week, and last week, and long before that, with children separated by their parents, and adult detainees held in overcrowded and underserviced facilities, forced to drink from toilets and denied access to showers.
Recent images of Vice President Mike Pence standing stone-faced in front of desperate and detained men have rightly dominated the news cycle. But it is important too that we take notice of the less public forms of abuse being exercised by the American government. In Mr. Cuccinelli’s email is contained a naked appeal to American officials to ratchet up the abuse, to formalize it, to deny more people the protections that both international and American law says is their right.
Hope for the sanctity of asylum lies for now in the integrity and good judgment of immigration officers, who Mr. Cuccinelli himself acknowledges have the power to grant or deny temporary reprieve. But what this email reveals is that formal American institutions are now actively at cross purposes with whatever humanitarian, legal, and empathic instincts their staff might exhibit. That the institution might in this case prevail should very much be a credible fear to us all.