Understanding what we mean by the most important word in economics.
Economic notions need deeper exploration of the idea of money.
When it was coin, much of the value present in money was embodied in the metal of the coin. That metal had a potential use value independent of any symbolic value.
Now that coin has almost entirely disappeared, most money is now a number stored somewhere, that embodies the myth of value. That myth works because people believe it will work.
The value present and measured is, for the most part, value in exchange – market value.
Market value requires scarcity.
Air does not have market value in most contexts, even though it is arguably the single most valuable substance to any one of us individually, as we rapidly find when we don’t have it.
The myth of money has served (and does serve) many levels of useful functions.
But one can now make a strong case that money is now causing at least as many problems as it is solving. Technology is expanding asymmetries, without meeting the reasonable needs of most.
One glaring example of this is what we call “intellectual property” laws. Their only purpose is to make scarce what could easily be abundant. By making that thing scarce, its economic value is increased.
When most production involved human labor, that was arguably a useful situation.
Now that most production can be fully automated, the utility of the paradigm is highly questionable.
All of our notions are built upon the intellectual and technical efforts of those who came before us.
There is a strong case to be made that some significant fraction of the benefits of full automation should be shared equally – at least enough to give every individual security of life and liberty, and reasonably meaningful options of what to do with that liberty.
In the past there was a strong correlation between free markets and human freedom.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to make such a case now for ordinary people.
It is time to create a new set of myths, a new set of stories, some that are less wrong than the old ones, and more able to sustain life than the old ones.
And that is not a trivial set of problems, it is profoundly complex, and subject to many levels of permanent uncertainties.
A truly universal (every person on the planet) basic income, one sufficient to provide a reasonable guarantee of life and liberty to all, would seem to be the only strategic option that offers a significant probability of life and liberty to any.
And in itself, such a thing is not sufficient – it needs to have suites of other social and technological structures designed to protect individual life, and individual liberty; and those demand that we all develop and demonstrate responsible action in social and ecological contexts. And responsibility will have a phenotypic expression that is very context dependent, very diverse, and will require active tolerance.