March 31, 2015

Money, Seashells and the Currency of Time (Part 2)

Part 2 of 2
Again from Aristotle's book Politics --- "Those who become avaricious do so because they forget that money merely symbolizes wealth without being wealth itself." 

It's perhaps the most powerful quote from the book and leads to two questions --- What is wealth? What is currency? 

I used to run a company in the NYC suburbs that for years put me in close contact with some of the world's richest people (monetarily), some of them specifically important to the world financial system. Due to the nature of this company I was able to witness their personal lives to an extent that very few could.

I can attest from this perspective to "money merely symbolizes wealth without being wealth itself."

These so-called rich are some of the most fucked up miserable people I've ever encountered. Possessed by their own possessions and greed. Socially, morally, intellectually, and physically bankrupt. If only what I witnessed could be transformed into reality TV so that anyone could easily imagine themselves as a rich fat slob with a soulless existence and no free time, trapped in a broken marriage, with a degenerate family, and a psychiatrist who writes prescriptions as fast as his wife can write checks. 

Traveling and living in over 50 countries has given me some reasonable perspective. Although basic logic contrasts against the modern concept of wealth itself. The same basic logic would tell us that the greatest wealth is from within. 

Easily we let our relative poison our rational. 

The best example I can think of comes from when I was trekking around the Tibetan Himalaya region of Nepal. My guide was a well-known Sherpa. The Sherpa people are the world's most famous mountaineers who several hundred years ago migrated to this area from Tibet. At the time the region we were trekking through was occupied by Maoist rebels. Sherpa and I had a mutual hatred of these communists; it easily helped us become good friends. 

Sherpa had worked these mountain trails as a guide more than just about anyone during his life. In winter when the trails were snowed over he would drive a bus in the lowland. Through a life of hard work he owned 3 houses and over a dozen yaks. In his village the amount of yaks you had was still a good measure of ones wealth and having over a dozen was a big thing. 

Some other villagers with fewer yaks resented him even though he earned what he had through hard work and savings. They had comfortable and easier lives, but it made them envious and resentful that Sherpa had more. 

When Maoist rebels came to occupy the village one of Sherpa's resentful neighbors informed the Maoists of Sherpa's anti-communist views. So the Maoists then came for Sherpa's property and forced his family to flea the village. 

After working and saving his entire life to get what he had, suddenly he had none of it. Sherpa, known and respected by so many in the region for his peace and wisdom was now ready to make himself into a bomb and have an explosive ending with the communists.

If Sherpa had little there to lose would he have felt the way he did? If his resentful neighbor also had over a dozen yaks instead of just three, would be he still be resentful? If he owned two yaks instead of three, but then Sherpa and the others only had one yak each, would he then be pleased?

If our money has such unreal value, and material wealth has such indefinite value, then how should we value wealth and currency? 

That's for us all to define, and the definitions won't be constant. 

What will remain constant is that freedom and health are wealth, and the greatest currency of all is time.

Addendum: The Four F's Of Male Wealth

March 30, 2015

Money, Seashells and the Currency of Time

Part 1 of 2

Back in c.350 BC Aristotle wrote on the nature of money in his political philosophy works called Politics. In book 1:9 he considered that every object had two uses, the first being the original purpose for what the object was designed, and the second possibility to conceive of the object as an item to sell or barter.

By Aristotle's time gold and silver coins were already in circulation. Minting coins began about 200 years earlier in Lydia (modern day Turkey) and by his time the practice had spread through Persia and Ancient Greece. Gold and silver coins are the most famous example of the transition from agricultural currencies like wheat and cows, to the currencies that we are familiar with today.

The other day I picked up a seashell while walking on the shore of Karosta, Liepaja. Some compare the place to post-apocalyptic abandoned cities like near Chernobyl. Karosta was created by the Russian Tsar as a closed and autonomous community and base for the Russian navy. It was later expanded by the Soviets as a self-contained city and in 1990 still had a population of about 25 thousand residents, not including the notorious Karosta Soviet Prison. Today the population is less than 6 thousand and most of the buildings are abandoned and in ruins. The only 3 businesses open were a grocery store, a small bank, and a gas station. 

Karosta is a great example of failed empires and with failed empires come failed currencies. If you were living here through the collapse any money you had in local currency suddenly became just about as valuable as my seashell.

I'm not accusing seashells of having no value. The world's oldest and longest used currency was actually the seashell. The cowrie seashell was used as currency for over 3 thousand, possibly over 4 thousand years and on at least 4 continents. Cowrie seashells were so widely traded and used for so long that their image even forms the Chinese pictograph for money itself. As recently as the early 1900s you could still pay your taxes in places around Central and West Africa with cowrie seashells.

Today sadly the seashell is no longer currency. And as retarded as trading seashells may seem, who can say that our current monetary system is far better. 

It was said that the cowrie seashell, due to it's unique properties was impossible to counterfeit convincingly. Ironically that didn't stop the Chinese from trying. Around 1000 BC when the seashell supply ran low the Chinese tried to replicate cowrie shells out of copper and bronze, in effect creating the first metal money. This underlies the modern concept that the representation of money plus faith, equals real money. 

Again about 2 thousand years later it was the Chinese who were the first to print paper money, preceding Europe by 500 or so years. While today's American bills say "In God We Trust", written on the Chinese paper money was "All counterfeiters will be decapitated." The result for China was hyperinflation. 

In the end it wasn't counterfeiting that destroyed the system, it was government abuse itself. Medieval Chinese historian Ma Twan-lin was later quoted saying, "paper should never be money but only employed as a representative sign of value existing in metals or produce."

Well said but well forgotten. 

Today we live in an age of indebted nations that are bankrupt even by their own admissions. Within these nations all across the world we have central banks who are given the power to create money at their own will, from nothing. Money that is backed by nothing but faith. With faith comes hope, which can be the weakest and most dangerous emotion of all.

March 27, 2015

And so it begins..

I'm feeling peacefully post-apocalyptic looking out at an empty street and grey sky from my balcony. I'm in Liepaja, Latvia. It's a good time to start.

I'm Citizen Liberty.

I'm a Paleo-American male.

Some consider me as a perpetual traveler or digital nomad.

Originally I'm from the New York City area, but don't live in the United States and haven't for years. I've traveled about 60 countries; currently existing in Latvia/Estonia.

This is the beginning of some variation of retirement, after plenty of work, and self-employment since age 19.

Now 32, I'm learning to enjoy our post-capitalistic times, and the economic and social decline.

I don't need to make a dollar from this.

I haven't any shit to sell you.

Perhaps this website and my writing therapy will be your benefit.

Here will also be contributions from my pet rabbit Sir Nomsalot. He has a decorated history in the financial industry, specifically in macro-economic forecasting, with a proven track record of success!

In the future, you can check the ABOUT CITIZEN LIBERTY section for personal info.