The thought provoking Eric Harris-Braum

Submitted by zClark on Sat, 05/Jan/2008 - 20:58


The Spiritual within the Mundane

Back on April 14th Eric Harris-Braun wrote to me in part: “....I thought I'd point you to my latest writeup on open money: I think you might be most interested in the theory page, .... As it turned out, this email came in on a partially forgotten account, so I didn't even see it until June 21st (over 9 weeks later). Embarrassed, I apologized for the delay; and then continued: “Interestingly, I'd been thinking about you recently and just a few days ago I was going through much the material on your WEB sites (I even logged into my account at And yes, I actually did read with much interest your "theory page". In fact it was the most intriguing document I came across that day. So let me recount my most notable impressions: 1. You open with an introduction on the Tradeable - Measurable - Acknowledgeable paradigm. I needed to reread and wrangle with it a bit to get this new perspective into focus. However it was worth the effort and could possibly provide the basis for some valuable elaborations. It's when one gets into rewriting a piece that you really need to devote maximum effort to do the concepts justice and hopefully come up with a real contribution. 2. Regarding concepts such as “Wealth Acknowledgment” and your interest in setting the stage where the creativity of others can extend our horizons beyond anything we have yet considered — these are things I relate to instantly. Many of your objectives are so much in accord with my YeNom idea that it's almost eerie. 3. There is, I propose, a extremely pertinent & significant factor that desperately needs recognition in your theory page. A lot is said regarding the scarcity of money and your/our proposal to eliminate that scarcity through the creation of (local) currencies. However, the crucial thing that is left unsaid (and will likely make readers uncomfortable on at least a subconscious level) regards misgivings about possible inflationary factors. I think it is worth addressing this issue head on. The two main distinctions between the proprietary money supplied by governments and the type we want to create is a) what is being monetized, and b) how it is introduced into circulation. In the first instance, government debt is the preferred poison. I'd even argue that the very foundation of such a system is consequently a form of anti-wealth, with more & more debt not being a positive thing. The basis of our systems lie essentially in promises of individual personal performance insured by the issuers best interest to maintain a respectable reputation. And the more we have of this is a positive thing. Another night & day difference exists with the methods of introduction. In the former, money is injected into the economic area via bank loans (so it is never free and always burdened with interest). Plus it trickles down from the money moguls to the producers. Our alternative is the exact opposite of this! Not to mention that said debts (the fodder for their proprietary money) were created by the government to either fund their welfare programs (which essentially saps recipients' motivation for gainful endeavor) or, they are entering the market place to buy-up/divert labor and materials to satisfy their needs for arms, surveillance and policing (which of course tends to drive prices up). ...” That very same morning, Eric responded saying:

Nice to hear from you. Thanks for your good comments. Re your number 3, I specifically left the mechanics of modern money out of that particular paper because I wanted it to be as forward looking and as fully positive/generative a statement as possible, rather than one that explains the current problems. There are tons of other places where you can go to learn about the problems of debt money. There are very very few places that are trying to envision the world that comes after debt money at any large scale, both systemically and philosophically, which is what I'm trying to do. And I don't think it's possible to do it, if you hold on too closely to what you know about how modern money works. Hence “wealth acknowledgment” and redefining of wealth away from the forms of wealth acknowledgment as is defined today, to the wealth itself which is well-being at all its levels. However, I recognize the fact that you mention of reader discomfort at fears of inflationary factors, which is basically the fundamental incomprehension that money is a record of wealth rather that wealth itself. The problem is that in my experience getting people to see that simple fact, NEVER happens by addressing it head on. It seems that that paradigm is only transcendable from the sides or by accident. It's really an enlightenment moment for people that happens at a level deeper than thinking. You need to be thinking, but the shift is one of perspective and change of where you are looking from, which is almost a spiritual shift more than an intellectual one. Does your experience differ?” (emphasis added and addressed shortly). And a long week later I finally fired back the following: “Eric, I'm in the midst of a mini-emergency, but I will definitely be responding to you (in the form of a blog post). Hopefully no more than a few days.” Yea, right, so here I am over 180 days later in a tin roof shack high in some remote Honduran mountains, sitting in a make shift bed with my legs under a plastic chair that happens to be supporting my computer monitor. And while it's now Sunday the 30th of December, it will still be after new year's day before I again have Internet access (so we'll see if I can get this posted some time during 2008). Anyway, my leading observation that begs comment entails Eric's unique brand of candor and something I'll term “reflective regard”. This in turn accounts for some refreshingly interesting questions. And like his previous queries, this one requires an expanded response to contest adequately. Because the underlying gist involved here extends well beyond any given instance of edifying appreciation (in this instance regarding monetary issues); and extends to considering issues such as ‘spirituality’ in general. So that's what I'm now compelled to address. OK, for any given experience or sensation, how does one distinguish the spiritual happenings from the mundane? Maybe that's obvious, and if so then it should be easy to explain; and if not, then a whole realm of uncomfortable difficulties surface. In Random House Webster's first definitions for our key words, we read the following. spiritual: “pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature.” mundane: “of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven;” Hmmm, this then brings to mind those many issues outside of one's internal personal experiences, such as other galaxies, archangels, pi, people themselves, and schizophrenia. I mean how do these fit into this most basic of classifications? Obviously other galaxies are part of the heavens and can hardly be considered of this world but still I guess one needs to count them as mundane/unspiritual, whereas archangels are obviously spiritual (and hence probably have nothing to do with galaxies), while pi is a horrible candidate for either category, people are purported to be both at the same time, and lets just leave schizophrenia in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps the concept that is most secure as a spiritual entity is the devil. Because even when opposing world religions consider each others' gods as devils at least their celebrated spirituality remains intact. I guess the quality of spirituality might then deserve some consideration. This, however, can be a damn delicate matter; if you profess full fidelity to your respective ancient script (bible, Koran, etc.) then you're likely to be construed as dogmatic, whereas Jonesville type cults are subject to yet greater disdain. First tier approval rests with ones standing among immediate peers, with the quality of such peer groups in turn subject to unfolding levels of extended community assessment. In any event, the last thing you can afford is being “radical” (or is that an ‘in thing’ now?). One of the more whimsical perplexities I've enjoyed involved Alisa Rosenbaum (Ayn Rand). She was particularly critical of “mysticism”; which she likely construed as a more demeaning term than “spiritualism” (while some circles would, I guess, find it more redeeming). Anyway, she'd go on this rant against mysticism and then close out her chapter so eloquently beautiful that I was conclusively entranced by her unparalleled mystic powers! Which simply goes to underscore that a thorough rejection of say “magic” in no way inhibits a master talent from creating ‘magic’. With the difference between the two lying solely in the recognition that the later is an art form or creation of the human mind, while the former suggest powers inherent in articles of faith, entities of fear or fantasies of superstition. One works to set you free while the other works to set you captive. Admittedly, the foregoing covers too much territory in too little space, resulting in a scattered focus with gaping unfilled holes. Nevertheless, I feel that it befits the core problem under inspection; namely, ill-defined concepts and notions that are too readily accepted (if not automatically so) simply because they're popularly embraced. In this instance, it's the very idea of ‘spirituality’, but equally problematic and perhaps more dangerous are notions like, “rights”, “duties”, “patriotism”, and (of course) “money” (which is why any of this is presented in our blog in the first place). So, when Eric asks, “Does your experience differ?”, I could respond that my experience is essentially the same, while still finding questionable utility in identifying the experience in spiritual terms. Moments of enlightenment can be vitalizing and even beautiful without ever calling upon the spirit world. I've heard it called the “ah Haa!” experience in scientific quest and undoubtedly can be profoundly moving. In response to my version of Eric's paper, “The Process Revolution”, Mr. Eric wrote, “I wouldn't have expressed things the way you do, in fact I was explicitly trying not to have an "edge" as you call it, in the paper, ....” Another way of perceiving the difference between us is to recognize Eric's approach as more respectful of human sensitivities. Whereas I strive to push a point as hard and uncompromising as the cold logic merits. I think it's fair to say his propensity is characteristic of a warmer, more conciliating and patient bearing than mine. Moreover, his methods are the result of real world experiences with live flesh n' blood subjects. While I may be hunting for an audience that just doesn't exist. In any event, I'm impelled to mention at this juncture that while I could be perceived as excessive in my approach to issues like freedom, coercion, etc. It is my intention that in principle (and hopefully in practice) such efforts are restricted to the logical aspects of an issue, while largely leaving any resulting emotional responses comment free. More pertinently, I'm loathed to sell any points worth advancing via emotionally geared appeals such as those characteristic of gifted artisans like JFK, MLK, Dick Gephardt, A. Hitler, adnauseam. (I actually trust that society will eventually evolve to a point where it is immune to such tactics. So if even the best of these bozos were to pop-off their most polished prose of persuasion it'd merely produce a confused embarrassment within their audience where everyone's wondering if the dear chap could possibly have been serious.) The reason for my aversion (to sentimental appeals), is NOT due to disregard for clean emotions, but just the opposite. For instance, virtually any independently thinking individual will have to enjoy some level of an emotional reaction once they truly begin to perceive the real significance of the life enhancing ramifications derived from the division/specialization of labor. Such feelings & insights are true, fully first hand and personal. And most notably, they follow a logical cognitive apprehension of the matter. An alternate way of being imbued with sentiments is by second hand infection (with most persons gaining over 90% of their dispositions in this manner). Consequently any persuasion promoted via passion is best left to the pastors, politicians, and the pompous (as they sadly have no real alternative). While I feel good about writing on something that's very real to me, I'm now dispirited by any possibility that it was done at Eric's expense. I certainly do not mean any personal disregard and I trust that he understands this. Another thing that bothers me is that all the above has been derived from a relatively minor aspect of a personal email with various quality insights that I full agree with. Failing to address these parts of his worthy response with concurring comment is not an option. So stand-by for a future post that examines those pertinent points.

In response to Harris-Braun's page, I would like to say I agree. Specifically, this is an EXCELLENT perspective on money and wealth, with an honesty and clarity and depth that is rare.

Your first impression says, “You open with an introduction on the Tradeable - Measurable - Acknowledgeable paradigm. I needed to reread and wrangle with it a bit to get this new perspective into focus.” I sure hope you provide elaboration on this. I found the paradigm very easy to understand. You have an amazing ability to see through the simple things commonly accepted that are fundamentally wrong, and I assume that I am making such an assumption in so easily accepting Eric's definitions here.

In your third impression, referring to introduction of government money, you say, “..., money is injected into the economic area via bank loans (so it is never free and always burdened with interest). Plus it trickles down from the money moguls to the producers.” I believe you are looking at this with blinders on! Bank loans are in the middle of the cycle, not at the beginning. Banks can only lend money they possess. They do not create it. The government does that, lending initially created money to the banks to re-lend. Banks also re-lend money from deposits. These deposits come from both the moguls and the peons, meaning it both trickles down and up (i.e., it is again with blinders that you ignore an important part of the overall equation).

However, the government that originates the money is doing it for “free” to the extent that they are expanding the money supply (as opposed to taxing, which is a far worse burden than is loan interest!). The banks both pay and receive interest, but rather than the interest just being a burden, it is a regulator to prevent rapid inflation while simultaneously rewarding the banks for their productive role (the interest burden resulting in the bank's profits). I am not suggesting that an independent monetary system, say, YeNoms, could not be made to work better free of interest sucking banks, but I am suggesting that the banks play a positive role in the government system currently in use by most the world (even in Islamic countries where “interest” is earned in ways that avoid the direct imposition of interest).

My last point is that the bank burden is a burden only to the extent that you ignore the concurrent benefits. (Note that this point is with reference to government fiat money, which is in context with your point.) One of the primary benefits is the minimization of the need for the “free” money injection by the government. The loan cycle expands the money supply, reducing the overall control by the government (except they still hold most of the reins by controlling the wholesale interest rates). Take away the banks (i.e., loans), and you are left totally dependent on the government for money supply control. Take away the interest burden of loans, and you will have out of control inflation.

-- Alan

PS Still waiting for the promised reply to my previous comment!