Thursday, December 31, 2015

A cashless economy, by choice

Imagine only using e-currency; that is, all of your money is strictly electronic and you have no access to cash money. This would require that all of your monetary transactions would be conducted using some sort of credit or debit card, money apps, or electronic fund transfers. 

http://www.aitonline.tv/pix/NewsImages/2346.pngThis is increasingly becoming the norm in Europe, so much so that both Sweden and Denmark are contemplating the move toward making cash obsolete. This is not because of some malevolent government policy, but reflects the cultural custom. People in these countries, and increasingly elsewhere, simply do not use cash anymore.

What are the advantages of going cashless? I really don't need to list them, because you -- the reader -- already understands them. After all, you are probably already almost completely cashless. But for the sake of discussion, the advantages are:
  • Convenience. You never are out of money if you have your credit or debit card handy, or for that matter your smart phone. 
  • Security. Going cashless would reduce personal theft, property crimes (can't readily sell stolen property), illegal drug use (and the associated crime to support one's addiction), and bank and store robberies. 
  • Personal accountability. People will not be able to weasel out of debt obligations or from making their alimony or child-support payments.
  • Increased government efficiency. The government will no longer have to support the cost of printing or minting money, along with the distribution of physical money. And people will not be able to evade paying their fair share of taxes, etc. And a cashless economy would allow for the more effective redistribution of wealth through cash transfer payments. 

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Of course there must be a disadvantage too. There is, but the list if much shorter:
  • Loss of personal sovereignty. 
Undoubtedly you're insightful enough to understand this without me elaborating. Nonetheless here's a good examination.

Imagine these scenarios:
  • "No, you can't buy those candy bars, because your last doctor's visit showed that you are overweight."
  • "What, buying more wine? You already drink too much. No, you can't purchase any more."
  • "No more gasoline! Your purchase is denied, you already drive...and pollute... too much."
  • "No, you cannot buy a gun. You don't need a gun."
These are silly little examples, but they demonstrate how oppressive and tyrannical governments could become if they controlled access to their citizens money. And if you strayed from the government diktats, you risk being denied access to your own money. This reminds me of biblical prophecy (Revelation 13: 16-17).

Of course, that's all silliness, don't you think?

Your thoughts?

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Brave New World, part 2


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In part 1 of this couplet of posts I explored how the constructions of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft help to illuminate the systemic neuroses (psychoses ?) that our society collectively suffers from. You can read part 1 here. You may want to read that post before continuing with this one.

All societies change and evolve. That is in and of itself history. And, as you'd imagine, the social evolution from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft should leave a clear record. And it does. One way to understand this is to examine the original intent of that famous clause from the American Declaration of Independence: "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?" Let's contrast the Gemeinschaft understanding of this clause with the modern Gesellschaft understanding. Perhaps this will serve as an example of the paradigm shift that modernism (industrialism/post-industrialism) has wrought.

One thing that we must keep in mind in this analysis (really, any analysis of the past) is to not fall into the common error of presentism. This is the assumption that societal beliefs and paradigms are the same today as in the past. In other words, people understand reality today with the same eyes as reality was viewed in the past. This is an error and allows, in our particular case, of misconstruing words written in the past to mean something that was otherwise intended. 

Thomas Jefferson is famously the "father" of the Declaration of Independence, but in reality his work was submitted to a committee that was charged with the final editing. Remember, this work was formally ratified in July, 1776. So, in the context of the late 18th century, what did the founders mean by "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?"

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The word "life" is pretty straight forward, albeit in its many nuanced meanings, which have held up well these past two centuries. The same could also be said for "liberty" --  liberty was a meme in 1776 much as it is today. The wildcard here is "happiness;" its meaning has greatly changed in the past 200 years.

Happiness back in that day (c.1770s) was a collective, community concept. Happiness meant doing the most good for the most people, as in a civic responsibility. Here is a reference from Dictionary.com:

Francis Hutcheson, an Irish reverend and philosopher...brought a new, more political interpretation of happiness to English speakers with his 1725 treatise An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue. His political philosophy: "That Action is best which accomplishes the greatest Happiness for the greatest Numbers; and that worst, in like manner occasions Misery." The popularity of Hutcheson's philosophies helped the concepts of civic responsibilities and happiness to one another in the minds of the great political thinkers of the 18th century, including the writers of the Declaration of Independence.

There was a utilitarian value to happiness, from a community perspective. The authors of the Declaration of Independence used this meaning in that work. From their perspective, men have a God-given right to happiness, that is, an opportunity to effectively participate in the community. That was the point of the Declaration of Independence! It was time to shift gears, away from the Crown to self-governance, as this would generate the greatest good; that is, happiness. Definitively this is a Gemeinschaft perspective.

This is also recorded by the writer and social activist John M. Bridgeland in his book Heart of the Nation: Volunteerism and America's Civic Spirit where he observes:

Again, happiness was the concord and well-being of the community. In the same book the author quotes US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voiced his opinion of the topic. He said: 

Subsequently, happiness was derived from one's relationship with the community. Again, a Gemeinschaft perspective. (You can find the above source documents here and here.)

Interestingly, I think that the founders would have agreed -- using today's verbiage -- that happiness was a human right, even though they did not necessarily articulate it that way. Still, and at the risk of being redundant, happiness was a group-centric social ideal.

Today, not so much. Happiness is understood as an individual's human right. Even the United Nations entertains this idea by declaring March 20, 2015, to be the International Day of Happiness. The UN Ambassador of International Happiness Day, Pharrell Williams, has even himself declared that happiness is a basic human right. So what makes you happy should be your right, your human right! I suppose within the context of the Declaration of Independence, your God-given right.

Thus in the post-modern world, happiness is not about the greater good, but rather about individual needs or desires -- what makes a person happy. Therefore these things become human rights:
What is next? Mark my words, I am convinced that pedophilia will be a human right before the end of the decade. When the desires of the individual trump the group (the community) the ultimate Gesellschaft society emerges. Ergo the happiness of 1776 has morphed to the happiness of 2015.

I will state it again, Gesellschaft society is one that normalizes mental illness, if not deviance.

Your thoughts?