Now that I have overspent half this post talking about "idolatry" when the original subject was MONEY, let me settle down into topic.
I think I mentioned in my comments a while back that I spent a day in the London reconstruction of the Globe Theater, looking at all the STUFF, the beautiful WORK that a dedicated COMMUNITY of people are doing to resurrect Shakespeare's contribution to humanity for OUR time, to give life to the bard and his words, to EMBODY THEM in such a way as that they will still speak to OUR minds and imagination, and those of our children too. All the while maintaining and creating CONTINUITY between our past and the present, continuity without which ANY society is ultimately doomed. (I'm harping, I'm harping...)
This venture stems from the project of an American actor, a man who spent the greater part of his life BRINGING ABOUT the creation of this structure, initially in the face of British indifference to it, and CONSTANT WORRIES ABOUT WHERE TO FIND THE MONEY TO GET THE PROJECT OFF THE GROUND.
But that is not the subject of my post....
During the visit, there was a handwritten list of THE PROPERTY of Shakespeare's company (the companies were TRUE DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATIONS ; everybody had his say in what was produced, etc etc) around 1600 or so.
On that list was... a cloak purchased for £20.
Ho hum, right ?
What comes into your head when you read that ?
In 2010, £20 EXCHANGES FOR (just barely...) a night in a cheap youth hostel in the U.K. A bite to eat in a middle class restaurant for two people (nothing fancy, careful).
But in 1600... £20 PAID FOR a hand worked, embroidered, velvet cloak that TODAY would exchange for... £10,000. And in the 1600's, £20 was a LOT OF MONEY.. It was EXPENSIVE.
Yeah, that's right.
I SHOULD ADD that £10,000 OF TODAY'S MONEY COULD NOT BUY a cloak like the one made in Shakespeare's time. Because CLOAKS LIKE THAT ARE NOT MADE ANY MORE. The INITIAL FABRIC that goes into the clothing (for the aristocracy, essentially, but not just...) IS OF MUCH BETTER QUALITY. The weaving is much tighter ; there are more strands to the centimeter, it is woven DENSER than NOW. The CRAFTMANSHIP is better. The work is individualized. And, of course... it was all made from hand. NO MACHINES.
Let's try to draw together some lessons from this, now, according to my brow beaten hypothesis that IT ALL HANGS TOGETHER.
LESS MONEY bought (MORE) STUFF of BETTER QUALITY in the 1600's. (This is a sweeping generalization ; it may be wrong, but I think not.. IF YOU LOOK at what money is worth over a very long period of time, and not just the past 50-100 years or so.) Please remember that we have been talking about repetition of cycles, (classic economic theory, I think) and that THIS cycle is a bigger, and longer cycle than the ones we usually see. In my opinion.
Let's think about scarcity (one of Toby's big subjects...).
Let's think about it as a psychological phenomenon, for a change. (Classical economics MADE A BIG MISTAKE DENYING the psychological aspects of money, but then, I seem to remember that classical economics has been in heavy duty denial of the nature of money ITSELF for up until very recently, dixit Bernard Maris, my favorite (marginal) economist.)
When you go into the mass produced box store, a carbon copy of other box stores or department stores all over the country or world, and see MULTIPLE identical copies of the SAME poorly OR well made (relatively) item of clothing, what goes off in your head ??
Don't you tend to get THAT HUNG OVER FEELING that comes from being force fed ?
Force feeding creates a JADED appetite IN THE LONG RUN.
And the MULTIPLICATION (like loaves and fishes..) of IDENTICAL items, of clothing, of food, of computer components (think uniformization again), whatever, generally MACHINE MADE , goes hand in hand with...
the exponential multiplication of the NUMBERS attached to MONEY.
We are churning out anonymous, indifferentiated SHIT on a very large scale.
Now I fall back on my Freud.
We KNOW we are churning out anonymous, indifferentiated shit on a very large scale, and we KNOW it is worthless too, BECAUSE WORTH is intimately associated in our own eyes with the quality of IRREPLACEABILITY.
The shit we are churning out is light years away from being.. UNIQUE and IRREPLACEABLE.
And so... our money reflects our own knowledge of how WORTHLESS our stuff is.
OUR MONEY TOO, is worth LESS AND LESS.
The MORE we churn out worthless, undifferentiated SHIT, THE LESS our money is WORTH, in our own eyes...
I welcome your comments.
Back to the Globe.
The good news is... there are people who are interested in resurrecting the OLD, HAND MADE techniques of WORKING. Resurrecting these techniques gives new luster to the word "work", by the way. Working, NOT SOLELY to make money or to earn a living (yuccky), but to make beautiful, ENDURING things. With our hands.
The people who are WORKING in THIS adventure are HAPPY TO BE WORKING.
AND... they are putting meat and potatoes on the table.
Good... JOB, huh ?