ALS Topic 34 - Money Exists to Make Friends Out Of Enemies

Focus questions for Adelaide Lunchtime Seminar, 11 May 2019
Venue: · Adelaide
( )

Note: About Focus Questions: a) Please read them before you come to the meetup. Think about them so you have more than "instant opinions" to offer. b) Feel free to add more focus questions. c) THE FOCUS QUESTIONS ARE JUST A MENU TO CHOOSE FROM. From this menu we can discuss whatever seems interesting. d) Focus questions are not intended to push one viewpoint! You can adopt any position you wish. We actually like friendly disagreement - it can lead to deeper understanding.

Focus Questions



[Note: the focus questions for this topic are meant to provoke. In spite of their tone, the topic is not intended to be anti-business, anti-entrepreneur, or anti-profit]


2. THE STRICTLY HUMAN INVENTION, MONEY, SURELY HAS A PURPOSE (OR SEVERAL). WHY IS THIS PURPOSE SO LITTLE DISCUSSED, OR TAKEN FOR GRANTED? We are inclined to suggest a 'purpose' for everything. Does the universe have a 'purpose'? Maybe not, but with our own inventions it is harder to argue not.

3. THE MAIN PURPOSE OF MONEY, AS I SEE IT, IS TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE WHO MAY NOT EVEN LIKE EACH OTHER TO WORK TOGETHER TOWARDS GOALS LARGER THAN ANY INDIVIDUAL. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THIS PROPOSITION? It has always seemed to me that this main purpose of money has been ignored by economists. . While the cooperative effect of money is sometimes acknowledged, it has not been promoted as a purpose.

4. A MONETARY PROFIT REPRESENTS A TYPE OF SURPLUS BEYOND BASIC SURVIVAL. SHOULD THE DAILY CONDITIONS OF SURVIVAL BE SACRIFICED TO INCREASING THAT SURPLUS, PROFIT? WHY OR WHY NOT? Humans were able to move beyond hunting and subsistence agriculture by generating a surplus. This surplus allowed some to specialize in manufacture, trading, teaching etc (and unfortunately also in warcraft..). Then the catalyst for bringing these other activities into a trading system, money, somehow become the main game ...

5. DOES AUSTRALIA HAVE THE BALANCE RIGHT BETWEEN PROFIT SEEKING AND COMMUNITY SERVICE? The institutions and businesses of the Australian mixed economy have overwhelmingly been geared to making a monetary profit (or minimizing immediate monetary loss in social services), sometimes at the expense of other values. On balance, how well has this worked?

6. CAN YOU THINK OF A BETTER POSSIBLE DESIGN FOR THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY, AND A REALISTIC WAY OF GETTING THERE? Is the following a fair description of Australia's present economy? - One third of large companies operating in Australia pay no tax. Mining is 80% foreign owned and contributes only a small resource rent, employs few people, but on paper mining looks like a major contributor to "national wealth". Agriculture is only a minor employer, devastates much of the continent, and a lot of the profit from agriculture is remitted overseas. Much of the real employment revolves around housing construction and service industries in a few cities - scarcely adding up to a major world economy.

7. WHAT PART HAS MONEY AS A MEASURE OF SOCIAL VALUE PLAYED IN AMERICA'S SOCIAL CATASTROPHE? The United States of America has a population which spends more on health care per capita than any other country. The outcome is worsening life expectancy and 3rd World medical care for a large part of the population. 38 million Americans have no health cover.

8. IF THE MAIN PURPOSE OF MONEY IS TO ENCOURAGE HUMAN COOPERATION, HOW CAN DIMINISHING WEALTH FOR THE MAJORITY POSSIBLY BE SOCIALLY EFFICIENT? How can money be redistributed to maximize its circulation to the largest number without causing major negative effects (e.g. a loss of productivity)? The present situation: there is an undeniable worldwide trend for a shrinking minority of individuals to become very rich, and a ballooning majority of people to have less and less of the total money supply.

9. AUSTRALIAN CULTURE (LIKE MANY OTHERS) INCREASINGLY REGARDS MONETARY WEALTH AS A MAIN QUALIFICATION FOR PERSONAL RESPECT AND CAREER SUCCESS. IS THERE ANY REALISTIC ALTERNATIVE TO THIS? For example in some cultures, doing a job (any job) really well is grounds for high respect. How embedded is that value in Australia?





Comments & Extra Reading

a ) Related articles and meetup topics by Thor:

1. "Do you work for love or money?" 

2. "Money has made us human(e). Disagree if you dare" 

3. "A Universal Basic Income. $400 per week indexed to the CPI" [Article] at

4. "Half the jobs in Australia will disappear. What then? " at

5. "Start your own business – a mental experiment" at

6. "Are we too wealthy?" at

7. "Ethical Behaviour is Harder for the Rich" at


b) Other links:

Tom Holland (29 April 2019) "The weaponisation of the US dollar is the end of its economic ascendancy in Asia – with China’s yuan ready to fill the void - Hawkish US sanctions on Iran have had an unanticipated side effect – they’re helping to promote the formation of a new informal Asian monetary bloc centred on the yuan, at the expense of the US dollar". South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) @ 
[Thor, comment: Most people think of money in personal terms. National governments don't have real friends or enemies with other governments, only shared interests ("friendships"). At a national level, the value of a currency changes with feelings about its safety as a store of value. The $US is the world's default currency because US government bonds (IOUs) are seen as the safest store of value. However the present US administration is both a mafia gang and financially illiterate. They have been telling foreign governments who they can or cannot do business with on penalty of exclusion from the US world banking system. There is no international law to support this. It is very stupid. Of course foreign governments have been looking for another safe store of value beside the US$. China is happy to oblige by offering the yuan as an international currency. Over time because of this, the US will lose 'friends' and influence big-time. The Trump administration's coercive tactics are losing it international friends in more than banking. In the upcoming 5G telecommunications roll-out, China's Huawei company is technically ahead of any American competition. Hmm, the land of competitive capitalism has banned Huawei as a 'security threat' and tried to force other countries to do the same on pain of losing access to intelligence security networks. Australia rolled over. NZ said go to hell. Now Britain, taking its time, has looked at the Huawei equipment inside-out and backwards, then also just told US to go to hell].

Jack Gow (2 May 2019) "The coffee nap is a hare-brained scheme brought to you by capitalism". ABC News @  [quote: "Why not try a coffee nap? A popular #lifehack that first entered the public consciousness in the mid-90s, the coffee nap is, as the name suggests, drinking a coffee then having a nap. .. But not too long of a nap, mind you, somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes, or just long enough to rest your eyes and forget about the crushing reality of your economic servitude. .. Australians are working an average of 312 hours (or the equivalent of eight working weeks) of unpaid overtime annually. This pervasive, socially-sanctioned "time theft" totals $106 billion of work given to employers every year. ... We're working an average six hours of unpaid labour each week, up from 5.1 hours in 2017 and 4.2 in 2016. ... While living costs and corporate profits have surged, we've only banked, on average, an extra $2.50 per week over the past seven years. And analysts say that's unlikely to change for at least a decade. As we work longer and longer hours just to keep up, is it any wonder we can't sleep at night? "Sleep debt" affects 40 per cent of Australians, with one in five adults experiencing reduced workplace productivity".

Thor May => What does this topic actually mean? Obviously it can be taken in various ways. I actually had in mind the catalytic power of money to bring people together in enterprises large and small; (of course money can also divide them, but that is unlikely to be its purpose). If you are cynical, you can also think in purely mercenary, personal terms where relationships that are normally 'free' become traded - various grades of relationship ranging from prostitution to marriage for financial gain would fit that, or even stuff like "Rent a Friend" ( ). Cultures vary in their attitudes to such wrinkles.

Wikipedia (2019) "Money" @  [Thor, comment: It is a good idea to look this over before the meetup to revise the conventional ideas of what money is about. The discussion topic really turns these ideas upside down by suggesting that as humans, the true critical role of money for us is as a psychological enabler, setting rewards for cooperation where other factors (e.g. laziness, enmity, indifference .. and so on) might discourage effort and cooperation]

Roy F Baumeister (June 18, 2008) "Why Does Money Matter? The Psychological Meaning of Money" Psychology Today @

Bradley T Klontz (n.d.) "Financial Psychology Research by Dr. Klontz" [summaries and links to a series of articles on how money affects the psychology of different individual types] Your Mental Wealth website @

Jeremy Dean (n.d.) "The Psychology of Money - Money seems to have an almost magical effect on us. Until recently social scientists didn’t know much about the psychology of money. That has changed with an explosion of fascinating findings on how it affects our emotions, our personalities, our sexual behaviour, our risk-taking and society at large". [Links to a series of articles on the psychology of money]. Psyblog @

Ross Gittins (6 October 2018) "Why so many businesses are behaving badly" Brisbane Times @  [Quote: "...meeting customer needs may not be the main way companies succeed... Staying ahead of rivals through continual improvement is a difficult task for most companies .. Commercial strategy therefore is largely about building defences against the forces of competition... [Also] executives are under considerable sharemarket pressure to increase short-term profits, so as to increase share prices. Executives’ bonuses are often geared to achieving this. ... Third, in some markets poor firm behaviour goes unpunished by customers. ... Fourth, competition can become a race to the bottom rather than the top if firms gain a competitive edge through poor behaviour that goes undetected ..."] [ed. 7 reasons altogether]

Robert Kuttner (April 29, 2014) "What Piketty Leaves Out
Despite some losses to financial capital during the Great Depression, the more powerful era of equality in the U.S. began during World War II". Prospect website @ 

[Thor, comment: Long but very interesting article. The choices it raises turn on "the purpose of money"] [Quote: "The key difference in the two trajectories of non-recovery after World War I and robust recovery after World War II [in USA] was in the [government] policies pursued... The aftermath of the first war led to depression and fascism, while World War II was followed by a boom of widely shared prosperity. In the reconstruction period of 1944-1948, policymakers, cognizant of the mistakes of the Treaty of Versailles and the deflationary 1920s, deliberately created the conditions for domestic full-employment welfare states... there is great nostalgia in the U.S. for the postwar boom, and appropriately so, precisely because it was a period of steadily rising wages and job security—a period of both rapid growth and more equal distribution... In the U.S., the postwar era (1947-1973) of increasing equality—“The Great Compression,” as economist Claudia Goldin famously termed it—is partly a consequence of the top quintile losing its usual capital income. But for most of the population, the main event was the greater equality of labor income of that period. .. In a classic paper in 1939, when unemployment was still more than 15 percent, the American Keynesian Alvin Hansen estimated the investment shortfall at a then-impressive $2 billion. Three years later, after Pearl Harbor, in the first six months of 1942, the War Department entered orders of $100 billion—50 times Hansen’s radical-sounding number. The economy roared back to life. Much of the investment capital was public. .. It turned out that you did not need to give private capital exorbitant rewards for the economy to prosper. Indeed, the era of the postwar boom was one in which the rentier class suffered. The real return on capital was negative: Inflation reduced the value of bonds, and the stock market languished. Yet thanks to low capital costs, the economy thrived. Might there be a lesson here? ... so many of the core innovations of the postwar era were the fruit of patient public capital and public risk-taking. Is it only during depressions and wars that public investment can make up for private market failures, or can public capital increase productivity growth, employment, and expand the technology frontier on an ongoing basis? ... A new repression of finance, meaning far tighter regulation of what banks and hedge funds can do, would weaken both the share of the total economic product claimed by rentiers and “super-managers”—and along the way weaken their political power".]

Thor's own websites:

1. articles at ;

2. legacy site: .


Money Exists To Make Friends Out Of Enemies (c) Thor May 2019 return to Ddiscussion