Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Decline of the West, chapter 20.

Decline of the West
Oswald Spengler
Chapter Twenty
The Form-World of Economic Life: Money

The standpoint from which to comprehend the economic history of great Cultures is not to be looked for on economic ground. That which we call national economy today is built up on premises that are openly and specifically English. Credit-money, in the special form imparted to it by the relations of world-trade and export-industry in a peasantless England, serves as the foundation whereupon to define words like capital, value, price, property - and the definitions are then transferred without more ado to the other Culture-stages and life-cycles. The creators of this economic picture were David Hume and Adam Smith. Everything that has since been written about them or against them always presupposes the critical structure and methods of their systems.

Economic thought is nothing but a self-analysis of the economic thinking of a single Culture on a particular development level. Rationalistic through and through, it starts from Material and its conditions, needs and motives, instead of from the Soul - of generations, Estates and Peoples - and its creative power. It takes economic life to be something that can be accounted for without remainder by visible causes and effects, something of which the structure is quite mechanical and completely self-contained and even, finally, something that stand in some sort of causal relation to religion and politics - these again being considered as individual self-contained domains. As this outlook is the systematic and not the historical, the timeless and universal validity of its concepts and rules is an article of faith, and its ambition is to establish the one and only correct scientific method of economic management. And accordingly, whenever its truths have come into contact with the facts, it has experienced a complete fiasco.

[You can see a lovely example of this by reading the posts on "Freedomnomics" previously studied on this blog. The fallacies of applying Adam Smith's local/regional economic observations to unaccountable trans-national corporations can be seen clearly.]

Up to now, therefore, there has been no national economy, in the sense of a morphology of the economic side of life and more particularly of that side in the life of the high Cultures, with their individual styles according to stage, tempo and duration. Economics has no system, but a physiognomy.

All economic life is the expression of a soul-life.

[Adam Smith's own observation fails in its attempt to quantify and explain a person's economic behavior for the very reason that it ignores the reality that people don't always make economic decisions based on strictly economic factors. For example, vegetarians won't eat meat no matter how cheap it gets. Religiously observant people will never buy pork or shellfish, even if those are the only proteins available. People who care about their community will buy local products instead of imports even though relocalization costs more money - the self sufficiency of their community is more important to them. People who hate a company or a country for ideological reasons will not buy products made there regardless of how cheap they may be. People who are concerned about environmental or climate change issues, or are supporting energy self-sufficiency for political reasons, will buy and use alternative power sources even though imported petrochemical products are cheaper - and so on and so on. In fact, for most people, some sort of philosophy or ideology or religion guides a great deal of their purchasing decisions - the "best deal" within those realms is sought, of course, but they WILL NOT go outside those realms, period. Smith's theories and those who follow his theories with their own completely exclude any moral or ethical considerations from their theories, and the real world just doesn't work like that.]

Being "in form" has two sides - political and economic. They overlie, they support, they oppose each other, but the political is unconditionally the first. Politics sacrifices men for an idea, they fall for an idea, but the economy merely wastes them away. In war life is elevated by death, often to that point of irresistible fource whose mere existence guarantees victory, but in the economic life hunger awakens the ugly, vulgar, and wholly unmetaphysical sort of fearfulness for one's life under which the higher form-world of a Culture miserably collapses and the naked struggle for existence of the human beasts begins.

It is only with the coming of the "Civilization" when the whole form-world begins to ebb, that mere life-preserving begins to outline itself, nakedly and insistently - this is the time when the banal assertion that "hunger and love" are the driving forces of life ceases to be ashamed of itself - when life comes to mean, not a waxing in strength for the task, but a matter of "happiness of the greatest number" of comfort and ease, of "panem et circenses," and when, in the place of grand politics, we have economic politics as an end in itself.

[We're just about to view this lesson up close and personally, class.]

Religious-ascetic fundamentals such as "selfless," or "sinless" are without meaning in the economic life.

[As we have already seen, business is business to the Robber Barons. While a local businessmen doing business locally may have some fear of his reputation, some respect for the religious or social sentiments of his neighbors, a trans-national corporation has none. Maximizing profit trumps ANY other consideration in these corporations.]

All higher economic life develops itself on and over a peasantry.

[This doesn't just apply to giant corporations. The Ravs, too, build their little fiefdoms on the backs of the "peasants" underneath them.]

Peasantry, per se, does not presuppose any basis but itself. It is, so to say, race-in-itself, plant-like and historyless, producing and using wholly for itself, with an outlook on the world that sweepingly regards every other economic existence as incidental. To this producing kind of economy there is presently opposed an acquisitive kind, which makes use of the former as an object - as a source of nourishment, tribute, or plunder.

Politics and trade are in their beginnings quite inseparable, both being masterful, personal, warlike, both with a hunger for power and booty. Primitive war is always also booty-war, and primitive trade intimately related to plunder and piracy.

Politics and trade have developed form - the art of achieving material successes over an opponent by means of intellectual superiority - are both a replacement of war by other means.

[Exactly. The Robber Barons marched into third world nations and instead of outright slavery imposed economic slavery. These people all had perfectly functional societies before materialism and consumerism were imposed on them. But they were deemed "inferior" because they didn't participate in the Robber Barons economy - the economy of colonialism, exploitation, and oppression. They set out to commit cultural genocide and make these peoples resources their own - and they have largely succeeded. Pretending it's "progress" (instead of the war that it in fact really is) was only to quell the qualms of the whiny first world liberal "moralists," if that's the right word. When you destroy a people's culture and economy and make them dependent upon you, substituting your crass consumerism for their time-honored traditions, you have conquered them, plain and simple. It's just war by a more politically correct means.]

He who is out for purely economic advantages is correspondingly incapable of purely political thinking. In the decisions of high politics he is ever deceived and made a tool of. This is why the great economic groupings of the present day (for example, employers and employees unions) pile one political failure on another, unless indeed they find a real political politician as a leader and he - makes use of them. Economic and political thinking, in spite of a high degree of consonance of form, are in direction (and therefore in all tactical details) basically different.

All this, however, is the very manifestation of the hidden course of a high Culture.

[And let's not think this doesn't apply to the Ravs - it's exactly what they're doing, in fact. The Chereidi send out missionaries every day and are involved with kiruv for one and only one reason: replacing the multifaceted, lenient halacha of communities all over the world with the false, unhistorical stringent halacha they want Judaism to be. And those roped into this Cultural genocide then must BUY and BUY and BUY all the stuff they need to be "in compliance" with their new overlords.]

With the coming of its Spring there begins in every Culture an economic life in settled form. The life of the population is entirely that of the peasant in the countryside.

[The laws of the Written Torah were written in the Bronze Age for a self-sufficient and productive people - not the idle cognizetti of today's Chereidi communities.]

That which separates out from a life in which everyone is alike producer and consumer of goods and traffic in goods is the mark of all early intercourse. Exchange in these periods is a process whereby good pass from one circle of life into another. They are valued with reference to life, according to a sliding-scale of felt relation to the moment. There is neither a conception of value nor a kind or amount of goods that constitutes a general measure.

Into the rhythm and course of this barter the dealer comes only as an intervener. In the market the acquisitive and the creative economics encounter one another, but even at places where fleets and caravans upload, trade appears only as the organ of countryside traffic.

[And is hence generally out of sight - leading this past generation of Businessmen and Economists to falsely believe that they could create a functional economy in a nation that HAD NO producers in it - only acquirers of goods and services. And you see how well that's working.]

With the soul of the town a quite other kind of life awakens - the true urban man is not a producer in the prime terrene sense. With this, goods become wares, exchange turnover, and in place of thinking in goods we have thinking in money.

Abstract money corresponds exactly to abstract number. Both are entirely inorganic. The economic picture is reduced exclusively to quantities, whereas the important point about "goods" had been their quality.

It is an error of all modern money-thinkers that they start from the value-token or even the material of the payment-medium instead of from the form of economic thought. Marks and dollars are no more "money" than metres and grammes are "forces." Pieces of money are real values. In reality, money, like number and law, is a category of thought.

Whereas the earlier mankind compares goods, and does so not by means of the reason only, the later reckons the values of wares, and does so by rigid unqualitative measures. Whether and how this measure of value finds symbolic expression in a value-sign - as the written, spoken or represented number-sign is, in a sense, number - depends on the economic style of the particular Culture, each of which produces a different sort of money.

The outcome of this way of thinking is that the old property, bound up with life and the soil, gives way to the fortune, which is essentially mobile and qualitatively undefined. It does not consist in goods, but it is laid out in them. Considered by itself, it is a purely numerical quantum of money-value.

[And since this was written, we have evolved an economy where fortune isn't even bound up in goods anymore - it's a piece of paper, an electronic memory, a ghost in the machine with no more temporal reality, as people are sadly starting to remember.]

As the seat of this thinking, the city becomes the money-market, the centre of values, and a stream of money-values begins to infuse, intellectualize and command the stream of goods. And with this the trader, from being an organ of economic life, becomes its master. Thinking in money is always, in one way or another, trade or business thinking. It presupposes the productive economy of the land, and therefore is always primarily acquisitive, for there is no third course. The very words "acquisition," "gain," "speculation" point to a profit tricked off from the goods en route to the consumer - an intellectual plunder. With money traffic there appears between producer and consumer as though between two separate worlds, the third party - the middleman - whose thought is dominated a priori by the business side of life. He elevates mediation to a monopoly and thereafter to economic primacy. He who commands this mode of thinking is the master of money. In all the Cultures evolution takes this road.

[And how better to do that than to make sure the consumers CAN'T go around you by locating the manufacturing and growing of the things they need ACROSS OCEANS. And let's not forget the Ravs - by claiming that they are the sole source of clarification for God's laws, by claiming that they need to be consulted with and need to inspect anything and everything, they have chained both the producers and the consumer to them in no uncertain terms - and how better to do that than by making everyone mistrust their own judgment and think they're not trained enough to get it right without accidentally going to hell.]

All highly developed economy is urban economy. World-economy itself, the characteristic economy of all Civilizations, ought properly to be called world-city-economy. The destinies of even this world-economy are now decided in a few places, the "money-markets" of the world. Finally, money is the form of intellectual energy in which the ruler-will, the political and social, technical and material, creative power, the craving for a full-sized life, are concentrated.

[George Bernard] Shaw is entirely right when he says, "Money is the counter that enables life to be distributed socially. It IS life." What is here described as Civilization, then, is the stage of a Culture at which tradition and personality have lost their immediate effectiveness, and every idea, to be actualized, has to be put in terms of money.

Every culture has its own way of thinking in money and its own money-symbol according to its principle of valuation. The Apollinian idea of money as magnitude and the Faustian conception of money as function are in direct opposition to one another. The discovery of "double entry bookkeeping" in 1496 referred to a co-ordinate system. A field of money tensions lies in space and assigns to every object a positive or negative effect-value which is represented by a book entry.

[Hence we have the call by Nancy Pelosi to increase funding for birth control and abortions, since, in her words, "Well, the family planning services reduce cost," Pelosi answered. "They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government." Now, Nancy has 5 kids and 7 grandkids, but they are white, western christian kids, apparently, and therefore desirable to the economy. In a stinging rebuttal, Mychal Massie points out the very uneconomic obvious fact that "the reasonable interpretation of Pelosi's comments is that she was in actuality referring to blacks, illegals and the poor in general. What other groups of children could reasonably be viewed as a "financial burden" on the economy? what other groups could she possibly be referring? ...the only children valueless enough to be worthy of same [abortion] on a pandemic level are those of blacks. Black children and other valueless beings are viewed as financial black holes to liberal society." Needless to say, Orthodox Jews with large families are also disproportionately a "burden on society" which the government will eventually have to take steps to reduce, too.]

It is entirely consonant with the illusion that money and pieces of money are the same, to measure the value of a thing against the magnitude of a quantity of work. But [real] achievements [spring from] creative thinking, not a quantum, and it value is not to be weighed against a certain number of coins. Rather it is itself money - Faustian money, namely, which is not minted, but mentally devised an an instrument of Faustian life - and it is the quality of that life which elevates the thought to the significance of a fact. Thinking in money generates money - that is the secret of the world economy. This, and nothing else, is the meaning of the word "credit" for us.

[Unfortunately for us, when money is the be-all and do-all of a Culture, nothing else matters, not the people, not the environment, not the future - just money.]

Money of the Faustian brand is the force distilled from economy-dynamics of the Faustian brand, and it appertains to the destiny of the individual (on the economic side of his life-destiny), whether he is inwardly constituted to represent a part of this force, or whether, on the contrary, he is nothing in relation to it but mass.

[Which is, in the end, what most of us are - just mass, to be either used or discarded if not "useful" to their economic paradigm.]

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