Money as a Public Utility

After listening to the economic inequality statistics mentioned in your August 12 program, I would love to hear you address an issue that goes virtually unacknowledged, much less challenged: Our culture suffers from a mass delusion about the nature of money (inequality being one end result). Money is almost universally considered to be a possession to be *owned* whereas in actuality, it should be viewed as a government-supplied utility (like roads, sewers, and water systems), supplied to facilitate the business of the nation - something to be *used* not owned. (Yet how often do we hear sentiments like "It's *my* money" or "taxation equals government theft of my money"?) One might refer to the street one lives on as "my street" but few would think of putting up barriers on "my street" and charging passing vehicles "interest" for using it. Yet because money can be hidden away in one's pocket (or bank account) and kept from others, the illusion of ownership is easier to maintain. The former sentiment probably derives from a time when money consisted of precious materials that could be self-mined and pocketed, whereas virtually all of today's money comes to us as merely a symbol, an agreement -- originating at the behest of the national government. (And the latter points to another unquestioned absurdity: that the government's hands are tied only to the amount of money it can collect in taxes.) Because of the above, money currently serves two opposing functions: store-of-value and medium-of-exchange. The more it does of one, the less is available for the other. Our current inequality crisis is due to a relative few who are hoarding up all the value, leaving insufficient money circulating to serve its commercial transaction function. If a group of individuals or corporations somehow managed to commandeer our national highways and turn them into toll roads for private gain, thus interfering with free transport, there would certainly be an uprising and a forceful response. How have we become comfortable with the same action for the public utility known as money?

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  • Paul Lebow
    commented 2016-09-15 20:22:46 -0400
    I too am baffled by the lack of attention to money creation by Prof. Wolff (busy guy!). See
  • Bill Miller
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2016-08-14 01:05:47 -0400