Workers Paradise promised an end to Money
(C) Copyright 2000 by Michael E. Marotta
century international labor organizers turned it into Labor Day. In the
old USSR, May Day parades were big events, as they had been with
socialists all over the world. Since the publication of Das Kapital in
1867, radical communists, leftwing anarchists, and pale pink liberals
all expected capitalism to be gone by May Day 2000.
While communism seems to have withered away, Marxist ideas still drive
a lot of common assumptions about money, even in America.
Numismatic writers have hyped the 1804 dollar and other famous rarities
to the point where millions of people believe that anyone can find a
rare coin worth thousands if not millions of dollars just by checking
their pocket change. Numismatic writers have nutured a myth that anyone
can buy a coin today and hold on to it for 20 years and sell it at a
huge profit. These errors in the philosophy of wealth stem from
communist ideas about money.
In the popular science fiction series Star Trek, only the Ferengi seem
to enjoy money. Star Fleet and the Federation live without it. In fact,
in one episode, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard tells a man from our time that in
the future, people are more concerned with improving themselves than
they are with the accumulation of things. This attitude, from a man in
a uniform who commands some people and obeys the orders of others, begs
a few questions. In the absence of money, how does the Federation know
whether to open a mining colony or build ships? How does anyone know
what to do?
Money is a repository of human action. Action requires work, which is
energy spent over time. Robinson Crusoe alone on his island needed
money. He needed to know what actions would maximize his life. Whether
and what to plant, whether and what to hunt are economic questions.
Enter another person into the equation and money becomes more
complicated. You now need money which is an accounting tool for someone
else's bookkeeping. Robinson Crusoe did not need complicated money
even when Friday showed up because Friday had made himself Crusoe's
slave. That is the essence of communism.
It is a dichotomy that in our world slave nations have beautiful paper
money while Americans put up with boring bank notes. Another way to
look at it is that American money really is worth something, so it does
not need three-dimensional see-through holograms. Even more, Americans
design their own money. We are all numismatists, applying theory to
practice, when we choose the designs of our checks, or pick a charge
card with a nice logo.
The core of American numismatic collectibles are the 19th and early
20th century coins that remind us of an earlier time. Karl Marx's
Communist Manifesto called for the establishment of public schools, an
income tax, and centralized banking. U.S. gold, silver, and bronze
coins with images of Liberties, eagles, and Indians on them remind us
of an earlier time when education, the funding of national defense, and
the operations of demand deposit savings accounts were all done
Collectors labor under the burden of a secret guilt: we are greedy.
Numismatists such as the curators at the British Museum or the
Hermitage are supposed to be above these feelings. They enjoy a purity
that comes from studying material they do not own. And that may be fine
for them. For most collectors ownership rests on pride.
Those who work hard for their money have every right to enjoy the
products and services their money can buy.
Yet, even in America, we harbor a suspicion that capitalists do not
earn their money. Asset management seems more like *** than it
does like driving a truck. That is a communist attitude. Investment
banking seems like *** mostly to people who do not know how to
drive a truck. The attitude that wealth comes from lucky *** is
the root of the fallacy that you can buy the right coin today and sell
it tomorrow for more without doing any work. The essence of such sloppy
thinking is the quick slide over the word "right." What is the "right"
Knowing the right coin from all the other tens of trillions of coins in
the world today requires a mental effort. It is an effort that the
communists have not successfully made. Perhaps in the future they will.