MONEY IN A NEW LIGHT
by Dick Racey

Synopsis

The use of money has psychological ramifications that no textbook on Economics ever mentions. By and large, we don't know what money IS; we learn about it by experiencing what it DOES. Its influence over us is so ingrained, however, that we can't "step back far enough" from ourselves to really detect the nature and origins of the tentacles money wraps around our psyches. We know about as much about money as a fish knows about a muddy river - a fish that spends a lifetime immersed in its murky waters, never daring to imagine any other "reality."
 
     The purpose of this essay is to develop an understanding of money, not by poring over textbook definitions, but by hypothetically performing a cruel experimCX    Xent on fellow primates to see what "human-like" behaviour we might induce in them. As a byproduct of the experiment, we might develop a better understanding of our own behaviour - as an essential first step in CHAN-GING it.

Introduction
 
For all practical intents and purposes, mankind is ruled by money or by the lack of it.
 
In today's world, we can't get very far without money. We need it for food, clothing, shelter - all the basic necessities of life. In today's industrial societies, we may also need it for transportation to and from work, for an occasional theatre ticket, and maybe an occasional beer. We need money, as well, for interest and taxes, recognizing that much of the former is disguised as the latter. To survive, we must have an income. That income may come from investments, or from government programs such as unemployment insurance or welfare. Most of us work for a living, and our income comes in the form of a pay cheque every couple of weeks. Regardless of how we get it, we need it to live.
 
     If we're in business, we need money for somewhat different reasons - to start up, to operate, and, if things go well, to expand, or to lobby for legislation favourable to our business. If we don't have enough, we have to borrow from lenders, or to dilute our own interest in our business by offering shares to others. These all demand compensation - in the form of either interest or dividends.
 
     Governments need money to provide essential services: sanitation, education, health care, welfare, roads and airports and harbour facilities - and, according to some opinion, to provide many services that we could well do without. Governments can, of course, CREATE money by printing it; but as a rule they borrow just like individuals or businesses in order, they say, to eliminate the threat of inflation. Governments then change the name of the interest they pay lenders, calling it instead "taxes," then add it to the unitemized tax bill they send us.
 
     Money is of such compelling interest that, in desperation, we have been known to resort to theft, fraud, extortion, and an occasional murder in order to maintain our supply of "spending money." Some of us "invest" a portion of our pay cheques in lotteries, clinging to the slim but tantalizing hope that we may be in a position to tell the boss, "Take this job and shove it!"
 
     Alas, so much for the obvious. But, after recognizing the absolute necessity of money at all levels of society, the question arises: What IS Money? And, more importantly, what accounts for its powerful grip upon our minds?
 
     Of course, we  can refer to textbooks on Economics to provide answers. These texts inform us that money is (a) a medium of exchange, (b) a measure of value, (c) a means of discharging debt, and (d) a "store-house of value." But, having accepted these definitions, or "functional attributes," are we any wiser?
 
     As a rule, we don't need to be told what money IS. Since we use it every day of our lives, we "know" what it is without necessarily being able to define it. We don't "learn" about money in the same way we "study" history or algebra; we "absorb" our knowledge from the attitudes of others, and from the direct impact it has upon our lives. Thus, much of our "knowledge" of money may be unarticulated; but this really doesn't matter because we know that money is something we need in order to survive and function, and that it doesn't grow on trees. Money is a "reality of life" to which we have grown accustomed; it is something like a familiar old rock that we pass by on our way to work, but don't take much notice of.
 
     But even an "old rock" can have surprises - if it is viewed in a different light. When certain kinds of rock are placed beneath ultraviolet light, their appearance changes. They begin to glow. This reveals the presence of minerals that are invisible to the naked eye viewing it under "ordinary light." It may still be the "same old rock," but we know more about it than we did before.
 
     So, while not forgetting about the conventional definitions of money to be found in the textbooks, let's look at money in a NEW light.
 

Money - in a DIFFERENT Light
 
     With that objective in mind,  let us pretend, for this chapter anyway, that we have abandoned our present employment, if any, and have instead donned the white frock coats and the spectacles of animal behaviourists. With our extremities thus protected from the elements, our motives thoroughly disguised in an air of bland, benign inscrutability as befits our new calling, let us look at money through new spectacles.
 
     Of course, we would need animals to experiment upon. Chimpanzees would be ideal because of their intelligence, their manual dexterity, their structural similarity to human beings, and, above all, because of the uninhibited manner in which they habitually give forthright expression to feelings which we, as human beings, in upholding our traditions of both dignity and hypocrisy, would rather conceal.
 
     For our purposes, chimpanzees born and raised in captivity wouldn't do. The chimpanzee born in captivity is but a pale shadow of the chimpanzee born, raised, and matured in its natural environment. In the wild, the chimpanzee retains its individuality, and is a member of a  primitive society, a loosely-knit and  shifting hierarchy built upon the authority of the dominant males, the "ruling class" of chimpdom.
 
     An experiment in the "fiscal management of the chimpanzee" would certainly involve a preparatory period of study among the chimpanzees in their natural habitat, to provide a baseline for future comparison. Their feeding, sleeping, and mating habits would be studied in great detail, as would be their social structure. The dominant males, from whom the lines of authority flow, would be identified, as would every member of the band in a descending order of authority and influence. Very close personal relationships are common in chimpanzee society - among friends, within the family, and especially between a mother and her offspring. All of these  relationships would be  jotted down in our field notebooks, and, as a starting point for our experiment, we would have a "Who's Who" social registry of our band of unsuspecting chimps.
 
     Individual chimps in their native habitat enjoy a direct, unconditional relationship with the environment. Each is economically independent, gathering its own food requirements from the available nuts, berries, insects, and for meat, an occasional small monkey. They have even devised "tools," which they frequently use to feed upon underground insects, poling a blade of grass down the underground passages of termites. Often, they climb into trees as a complete social unit in order to feed. After a day's work, each chimp fashions a bed of leaves in the fork of a tree-branch, and goes peacefully to sleep. A dull, prosaic life, perhaps - but without ulcers.
 
     For our experiment, we would need an appropriate setting. For this purpose, a concrete pad would be constructed in the jungle - atop which we would erect tall concrete walls of twenty or so feet in height, inward-leaning to render impossible any attempt at escape. In one wall we would install a screen of one-way glass, to facilitate observation from outside the compound. Where convenient, we would install sleeping  platforms, where the chimps could rest from their daily exertions. Once inside the compound, the only remaining evidence of a "prior existence" would be the occasional rustling of leaves in nearby trees.
 
     Our initial period of observation completed, we would then entice the chimps inside the compound with generous feedings of bananas, one of their  favourite foods. Conceivably, it might take a few weeks to thoroughly acclimatize the chimpanzees to their new surroundings. But, one day, when we were sure that all the chimps were gathered inside the walls, we would snap the gates shut, trapping them inside.
 
A New Life Inside the Walls
 
     At first we would feed the chimps in the normal manner with vitamin-protein-enriched bananas, nutritionally sound in every respect. We would simply throw bananas over the wall of the compound several times a day, making sure that each chimp had plenty to eat.
 
     We would then unveil the coin-operated banana-dispensing machines installed in one of the compound walls. For our purposes, they might be identical with those frequently found in company lunchrooms, tier upon tier of small glass windows, their contents plainly visible through the glass. When the correct coin was inserted in an adjacent slot, a glass window would unlock and a chimpanzee could reach inside for his banana. To vary the diet later on in the experiment, we could supplement the bananas with fruit and nuts gathered from the surrounding area, thereby conferring upon the chimpanzees a minimal "freedom of choice" in their luncheon fare.
 
     Next, we would demonstrate the use of plastic poker chips which would thereafter serve as "currency" for the chimps. Because of their intelligence, the chimps might be expected to master the intricacies of the banana-dispensing machines very quickly, and it might even be a lot of fun for them pushing the plastic coins into the slots and extracting the bananas.
 
     After the chimps had mastered the use of the plastic chips, we would cease feeding them in the normal manner. Instead of throwing bananas  over the wall at feeding time, would instead throw plastic chips into the compound, and the chimps would thereafter "purchase" their nutrition through the vending machines.
 
     After a few weeks, the chimps should have become thoroughly familiar with the use of the plastic currency, and it would then be time to introduce the concept of "work." For this purpose, we would install bicycle exercisers, just like those found in health club gymnasiums - one for each adult chimp and one for each adolescent chimp of "working age." Learning to pedal the machines would probably not take the chimps very long; after all, the chimp has been trained successfully to ride bicycles and motorcycles, and even to negotiate city traffic. A simple exerciser should be child's play even to the dimmest of chimps.
 
     Inevitably, however, the exercisers might be expected to lose their initial attraction for the chimps, in all probability a little bored with the experiment thus far. Once the novelty has worn off, the next step would be to install the plastic chip dispensers on the handlebars of each machine. The exercisers would be controlled remotely from behind the one-way glass to deliver one plastic chip after a given distance pedalled, say, two miles. From behind the screen we would also control, quite arbitrarily, the distance required on each of the machines to deliver a plastic chip. We would also be able to control the resistance offered by each machine to the act of pedalling, and thereby the energy required of the chimp in pedalling a predetermined distance.
 
     We might leave it to the chimps themselves to discover that the machines would eject a plastic chip into a receiving tray, immediately after a little red light above the receiving tray began to flash. We might expect the chimps to discover all by themselves that a two-mile pedal would earn them a plastic chip, with which they could buy a banana. A few of the duller chimps might require a little extra time to master this idea; but in a short while we might expect the chimps to discover that chips didn't grow on trees. When we were satisfied that each and every chimp had internalized a rudimentary form of the  Protestant Ethic, we could proceed to the next stage of the experiment.
 
     We would gradually reduce the number of chips thrown over the wall at feeding time, so that the chimps would  have to earn more and more their own livelihood. After a few weeks, we could make them completely dependent upon their "earnings."
 
     By this time, the chimps would have completed their "historical development." Whereas human society has progressed from Hunting and Gathering through agricultural stages of development, we would have forced the chimps to jump from the initial stage directly to the final stage. We would have made the chimps completely dependent upon money for their access to the environment, and, as experimenters, we would be in a position to control the chimps' access - through the instrumentality of the plastic chip. Our role would then take on some of the characteristics of the Governor of a Central Bank. For that reason, we would project an image of benign inscrutability to the chimps, never allowing the facade to fail even while swatting flies.
 
     An additional period of observation would be required to establish equitable "work norms" for each of the chimpanzees. Each of the chimps would be rated as to its capacity, so that an eight-hour day at the machine would result in  sufficient chips to keep it fit and healthy, in none too fat. When a chimp changed exercisers, its "rating" would travel with it, and the machine's resistance and the"distance required" would be adjusted accordingly.
 
     The experiment thus far might well have induced some changes in the original social hierarchy. The dominant males, for example, might not necessarily be the hardest workers. The utility and effectiveness of their charging displays might have less effect within the compound than they had formerly had outside - particularly if the chimps at the lower end of the social scale happened to notice that the charging displays were having no effect whatsoever upon the operation of the exercisers or upon the banana dispensers. The prestige of the dominant males might suffer as a result. Would, for example, the females raise their rosy pink rumps to them as preferentially as before?
 
     After several weeks, the chimps, complete realists, would probably have adjusted to their new environment and working conditions, or at least would have accepted the situation with as much stoic philosophy as a chimp can muster. When the adjustment process was complete we would be in a position to simulate the highs and lows of the "business cycle" of which economists are so fond. Alienated from their natural environment, the chimps' sole link with what was once "theirs for the taking" would be US. The chimps would be completely at our tender mercies.
 
     Now the experiment could be pressed in earnest, and we might then commence the task of evoking "human-like" emotion among the chimps by the application of fiscal and monetary policies of various kinds. We would not, of course, consult the "poor  dumb animals" concerning their  economic destinies. After all, the animals would have the advantage of working in a "free economy." The chimps would, in effect, be ready for their first economic depression.
 
The Depression
 
     We would introduce the Depression in stages. The first week, we would "de-activate" one exerciser from behind the one-way screen, locking its pedals to simulate a shutdown at a factory or a mine. How would the affected chimp react? Its livelihood gone, what would its next step be? To "beg" for chips from the others - perhaps by deferential grooming? To intimidate others, displacing them from their exercisers? To work part-time on idle machines? Would there be any noticeable change in the attitude of other chimps toward it? We would record the results.
 
     The second  week, we would increase the "mileage required" on all the remaining exercisers by ten percent - to simulate the extra work that factory managers have been known to expect when market conditions are tight, and when jobs are scarce.
 
     The third week, we could disable another exerciser, and again observe the behaviour of the affected chimp. Now there would be *two* unemployed chimps. Would there be any discernible change in the relationship between the displaced chimps and those who still had "jobs"? Would the still-employed chimps display any signs of anxiety? Would the they display threatening facial expressions or "barks" upon the approach of either of the unemployed chimps? We would jot down the results.
 
     The fourth week, we could increase the "mileage required" by a further ten percent. The fifth, we might disable yet another exerciser, on this occasion one belonging to a dominant male. It would be interesting to note his reactions. Would we witness a charging display? If we did, toward what would the display be directed? Against the inoperative exerciser? Against other chimps? Or would he lapse into a silence? Again, we would note the results.
 
     The sixth week, we could increase the "mileage required" by a further ten percent, and restrict the working hours to between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. After 4 p.m., we would de-activate all the exercisers until the following morning, effectively bringing to an end any moonlighting that might have been going on. Would this induce social tensions among the chimps? How would the female chimps fare - particularly those with young offspring to nurse and feed? Would there be any signs of acute psychological stress - individuals withdrawing from the group, to sulk silently in the more remote corners of the compound? Would there be any "unconstructive" behaviour - perhaps chimps found pacing back and forth along the inner limits of the compound, or perhaps banging their heads against the compound walls? We would keep our pens poised to record any interesting psychological phenomena.
 
     The seventh week, we might disable yet another machine. Perhaps we might be fortunate enough to witness the first signs of malnutrition among some of the weaker chimps. How do chimps react when they are hungry? What would be the attitude of the employed chimps toward the hungry ones? Would they, on occasion, share their chips? Would there be any noticeable change in the mating habits of the chimps - or would this type of activity cease altogether? Would the birth rate show signs of impending decline? We might also be on the lookout for indications of "chimp nostalgia" - evidenced, perhaps, by chimps with far-away looks in their eyes, triggered by the sound of rustling leaves in the trees outside the compound.
 
                               II
 
     The next few weeks might be devoted entirely to observations as the full effects of the depression were allowed to settle in. As thoroughly humane experimenters, we might periodically stroll through the compound, doling out chips and an occasional banana to destitute chimps - provided, of course, that they begged for them.
 
     Would there be any hostility mis-directed toward the experimenters during the periodic strolls? Would there be any tendency to destructive aggression directed against the paraphernalia of the experiment - against either exercisers or the dispensers? If there were, how would we set about punishing the "wrong-doers"?
 
                               III
 
     After a further several weeks of observation, it might be worthwhile to determine if we could evoke "criminal tendencies" among the chimps. For this purpose we would obtain a large, transparent, but completely indestructible ball of plastic.Regardless of what violence were directed against the ball - being bounced, jumped on, or bitten - the ball would withstand all.
 
     Since the decline in economic activity within the compound would by now have resulted  in a substantial number of chips being left over, we might seal the uncirculated "capital" within the ball. Inside the ball, the plastic chips would rattle and tumble, perfectly visible, but as secure as government bonds in a safety deposit box.
 
     The completed ball would then be thrown over the wall into the compound, and the behaviour of the chimps would be closely scrutinized for any signs of criminal intent. What attempts, if any, would be made to get at the ball's contents? Would such attempts involve violence, actual or attempted? And if this did occur, what form of punishment could we devise to correct it? Beating the affected chimps with sticks? Putting them inside a cage within the compound walls?
 
     Once the ball was retrieved, we might also check for the development of "capitalist proclivities" in the chimps' psychology. We could do this, I suppose, by throwing the same ball back over the walls. What attempts, if any, would be made to get at its contents? Would such attempts involve violence, actual or attempted? And if "capitalist proclivities" did become evident, what form of reward could we devise to reinforce them?
 
                               IV
 
     After satisfying ourselves on these points and any others that might occur to us during the course of the experiment, it would be permissible to allow "good times" to return. We might, one by one, re-activate the exercisers, repairing any damage wrought by earlier stages of the experiment. We might reduce the "mileage required" to normal levels. We would retrieve the plastic ball and restore its chips to active circulation in the "economy."
 
     But, in restoring "prosperity," we might still be interested in seeing whether the depression had left any lasting psychological scars on the chimps. Towards this end, we would provide each chimp with a carpenter's apron, containing several pockets. We would then show the chimps how to hang the aprons about their hips, and how they might store surplus chips in their pockets.
 
     After making sure that the chimps knew how to store the chips in the aprons, we might further decrease the "mileage required" - so that even normal effort would produce a surplus of chips. Would the chimps now be inclined to "save for a rainy day"? Would they tend to hoard and protect the chips, and to take defensive measures against any chimps threatening to make off with their hoard? Would their "sense of security" now be based upon the number of plastic chips in their aprons?
 
                                V
 
     After the chimps had regained any weight loss occasioned by the experiment thus far, we might turn our attention to the simulation of increased efficiency in the productive process. We might do this by again disabling a number of machines (thereby creating a "rainy day" for the displaced chimps) but, instead of increasing the "mileage required" for each chip, we would DECREASE it - so that fewer chimps were earning a greater number of chips.
 
     Meanwhile, we might alter the arrangements at the dispensers. Instead of just vitamin-enriched bananas, we might display nuts, fruits, dried monkey-meat - to provide a more varied, interesting diet - at least for those chimps with the money to spend. We might, however, increase the price of these "luxury items" to TWO chips.
 
     During the evenings, we might entertain the chimps by showing old Charlie Chaplin movies, in which the hero carries an umbrella and wears a bowler hat, which he doffs at every turn. Then, in addition to the "luxury food items," we would make bowler hats and umbrellas available to the chimps - perhaps at a price of THREE chips.
 
     The "affluent" chimps, those who retained their employment, would thereby have more chips than required to sustain life and good health. But there would be more to spend the surplus chips on. Would the affluent chips "save" - or would they spend? Would they willingly share their earnings with the "redundant" chimps - the ones with no chips at all to spend? Would the affluent chimps take to wearing bowler hats and sporting umbrellas? Would the destitute chimps behave deferentially toward those wearing bowler hats and umbrellas - or would there be renewed signs of social tension among the chimps?
 
                               VI
 
     Perhaps it might now be time to conclude the experiment. How long would it take the chimps to discover that the gates were not only unlocked, but slightly ajar? Would they return to their natural environment willingly, or would they betray a "fear of the unknown"? Would they emerge from the compound with aprons full of chips - or would they scatter them about in playful glee? Once outside, would they return from time to time to "buy" a banana? Would they occasionally return, jump astride an exerciser, and attempt to "earn" a chip or two? Would they roam the forest paths on all fours like they once did, or would an occasional chimp be seen adopting a three-legged gait, its remaining arm  clutching its apron to avoid spilling the precious chips? Would the dominant males recapture their authority, or would there be a permanent change in the nature of the social hierarchy? Would there be an occasional chimp still to be seen, swinging from branch to branch, wearing a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella?
 
Fencing Out - and its Effects
 
     Would there be any point in conducting such an experiment in real life with chimpanzees or other animals?
 
     Not really. We have accomplished enough if we agree that such an experiment *could* be performed. There would be little purpose in inflicting upon the hapless chimpanzees the trials and tribulations that we, as human beings, experience in our own lives. Also, there is no guarantee that the chimps would *actually* behave the way we've intimated that they might under these conditions of confinement and indirect manipulation. The underlying thrust of the experiment really boils down to the question, "Would they behave the way WE do?" And to another: "What forces have prompted US to behave the way we do?"
 
     At first glance, it might appear that what we have done is to fence the chimps IN. But there are really two ways of looking at it. Have we fenced the chimps IN, or have we fenced them OUT? If we are to extend any worthwhile parallel to the human condition, we are much farther ahead to think in terms of having fenced them OUT. In this sense, we might say that they have been "fenced out" of their environment, their "life support system," and the economic basis of their individual independence.
 
     In our own case, we have no conscious recollection of the "fencing-out" process because it has taken place over many generations. In some parts of the world, it is still an on-going process. A salient example of the fencing-out process was the Enclosure Movement, beginning about the 15th century and continuing throughout the Industrial Revolution. While it lasted, hundreds of thousands of British peasants were thrown off the land and out of the security of village life. Why? Initially, to make room for sheep pastures. Wool commanded a very high price, far more than tenant farmers could ever pay in rent. By whatever means were possible, they were forced off the land by the landowning classes of the day. Karl Polanyi in his classic work, THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION, describes the process:
 
Enclosures have appropriately been called a revolution of the rich against the poor. The lords and nobles were upsetting the social order, breaking down ancient law and custom, sometimes by means of violence, often by pressure and intimidation. They were literally robbing the poor of their share in the common, tearing down the houses which by the hitherto unbreakable force of custom, the poor had long regarded as theirs and their heirs'. The fabric of society was being disrupted; desolate villages and the ruins of human dwellings testified to the fierceness with which the revolution raged, endangering the defenses of the country, wasting its towns, decimating its population, turning its over-burdened soil into dust, harassing its people and turning them from decent husbandmen into a mob of beggars and thieves...
 
Money - in a NEW Light

     What inward-leaning concrete walls did for the chimp, history has done for US. The fencing-out process wreaked havoc upon our individual and collective psychology, making most of us thoroughly dependent upon money in order to live, and through its instrumentality, completely subservient to forces beyond our control. It is as if we were now confined within an Invisible Trap.
 
     The fencing-out process fundamentally changed the nature of money. Now, in addition to the conventionally-defined uses of money - as a medium of exchange, a measure of value, a means of discharging debt, and a store-house of value - it has become a Means of Manipulation. This has become its most important characteristic.
 
     Grasping - and changing - that reality is the key to wresting control of our lives from the faceless forces that control us, and is the essential first step in restoring a semblance of humanity to the economy.