Català | Castellano | English | Français | Deutsch | Italiano | Galego | Esperanto
En aquest lloc «web» trobareu propostes per fer front a problemes econòmics que esdevenen en tots els estats del món: manca d'informació sobre el mercat, suborns, corrupció, misèria, carències pressupostàries, abús de poder, etc.
Home | Who are we? | Links | Contact and email | Blog

Books and documents:

A short history of money.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà, Brauli Tamarit Tamarit.

Communal Capitalism.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.

An instrument to build peace.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.

Semitic legends concerning the bank.
Agustí Chalaux de Subirà.

Telematic currency and market strategy.
Magdalena Grau, Agustí Chalaux.

The power of money.
Martí Olivella.

Index. The power of money. Index. The power of money. Foreword. The power of money.


Johan Galtung.By Johan Galtung1.

Martí Olivella has written an important book. He has entered a territory economists normally do not dare enter, and not because they are angels, as the saying goes. Money, money as such. He has given his analysis, his forecasts and proposals for remedies. They are radical social innovations, and will not easily be accepted, as he points out himself. But the very least that should happen is a social debate on one of the most important phenomena of our time, the massive transition from paper and coin money to plastic money.

Every day the media brings us news about the power of money in the world economy. On the one hand we have the creation of value, of goods and services, even if there are always some aspects of bads and disservices hidden in their production, distribution or consumption, in addition to hidden positive side-effects. The externalities, in other words. Let us call the real economy, R. And then there is another economy, F, the finance economy, consisting of all kinds of finance instruments, among them money. There are stocks and flows in R and in F, with F flowing in the opposite direction or R, supposedly paying for R goods and services. Watch the counter in any shop and you watch the R flow from the shelves to the customer and the F flow from customer to the cashier. Of course, the customer can also pay in R, no absolute need to go via money. Barter, after all, is still very important, perhaps more in services than goods. «I do something for you, you do something for me».

And then there is the third possibility: intra-F exchanges; a finance economy, buying and selling finance instruments, detached from the real economy. It is easily seen that if R is in bad shape because little is produced in terms of goods and services or what is produced is of bad quality, then a dynamic finance economy may help: some credit here and there, money on consumer hands to facilitate buying and selling that in turn may yield profits that may be invested in more and better production.

But a highly dynamic finance economy carries a great temptation in its wake: making money by buying and selling finance instruments, driving up their prices, including the price of money over time (interest rates) and across space (exchange rates), and the price of stocks and bonds (rates, in general). Speculation, in other words. If R follows suite and is equally dynamic there may be no problem. If R lags hopelessly behind then F no longer mirrors R. And the result may be a crash in the stock exchange or at least a very uneasy economy, with inflation and other phenomena difficult to control.

This is problematic enough. But Olivella brings up another aspect: anonymous versus identifiable finance instruments. Look at coins or bank notes: what a story they can tell, particularly in societies with rapid money circulation. But there they are, leaving no footprints behind, nor are there footprints on them. Well, sometimes fingerprints are useful for detectives, and the numbers, particularly when consecutive, carry some information. Hence the need to «launder» money to wash away the few traces. But in principle money carries no history having no memory, starting each deal fresh as if used for the first time.

Not so with plastic money. Not only the who and to whom and for what can be registered with the clarity of the monthly accounting sheet from Diner's Club, Eurocard, American Express and Visa, but also the when and the where. The only item missing is the why, in other words the motivation behind the deal. But this can usually be inferred relatively well from all the other data, making it possible to develop consumer profiles (I left some of these companies when it was discovered that they sold consumer profiles to others for their marketing efforts!).

And this is where the terrifying ambiguity of plastic money enters. The deal becomes historic. The evidence of the transaction is there; after all, what is needed is to make the buyer pay, whether the plastic is a bank card or a credit card. In principle this should heighten the sense of responsibility when a deal is made, if for no other reason for fear of being found out (like paying for illicit sexual services with credit cards). On the other hand the historicity of the deal also increases the control over the holder of the card. Not only will Capital have its ways of getting paid, the State has ways of supervising all transactions. For good (detecting frauds), and for bad (steering and manipulating the general R and F flow in society without any dialogue). In other words, the transition to plastic money should stimulate more Self-control, but also more Other-control.

This is the problem Olivella is analyzing. His remedies are interesting, and certainly worth discussing as one way out of Max Webers' iron cage. Barter is another: direct, personal relations and responsibilities. Like the «deal» between Olivella and the reader, hereby very much recommended. Go ahead, learn, discuss!.

For this book is also a fascinating piece of macro-history. The reader will learn to see history through the transformations in the money system: clay-based, metal-based, paper-based, electronic-based (the plastic is only there to get access to the electronic circuits). Each phase ushers in new opportunities and new problems. But money is somehow taken for granted, and there is far from enough debate going on.

In this there is a message to social movements. Most of them, almost all, are focused on R, the real economy. What should be the priorities? (like production for the satisfaction of the basic needs of those most in need). And externalities, including an equitable, socially just, perhaps more egalitarian distribution and consumption? Money is then used as something to be taxed and redistributed; as a means rather than an end, for accumulation. This is good, but the social functions of different types of money systems are not incorporated in the debates, nor in the agendas of the social movements.

Olivella's highly constructive efforts, coming out of his empirical guides to the reader and his criticism should also inspire others to look at money. Sooner or later we are going to get a (Western) European unitary currency. There are advantages, such as reduced (or partly eliminated) exchange costs. There are disadvantages: liquid, non earmarked money will flow to the center, increasing the power of the center to send earmarked money with decisions clipped onto them back to the periphery. People may react by printing local credit-vouchers, etc. In short, a very dynamic period where money is concerned. And we can be grateful to Olivella for being one of our guides.

Versonnex, July 27th 1993.


1Johan Galtung, Professor of Peace Studies, University of Witten-Herdecke, University of Hawai'i.

Index. The power of money. Index. The power of money. Foreword. The power of money.

Home | Who we are? | Links | Contact and email