Asymptotically Ideal Money
After writing and speaking on a concept of "Ideal Money" which
was itself arrived at after many years of meditation I now have also thought
of a parallel concept which relates to political realities, psychology
influencing the actions of politicians and voters or citizens, and which
provides a concept of what may actually transpire in the evolution of customs
and culture (as it were) relating to money.
The ultimately launched concept of "Ideal Money" became possible when I
conceived of a practical basis for a standardization of the comparison of the
value of the currency with an appropriate standard or ideal. And the key to
that was the idea of an ICPI or (international) "Industrial Consumption Price
Index". (That is thus like the U.S. CPI which controls Social Security payouts
but is adapted to relate to industrial producers rather than to individuals
and it is envisioned as being essentially dependent, by choice of its
definition, on costs that are very global in nature, like, for example, the
cost of oil from OPEC and other producers or the cost of platinum, tungsten,
or nickel.)
But one cannot logically feel confident of the adoption internationally of
an ideal system of currency or currencies in an achievement analogous to the
achievement of the metric system or of "the euro". Such a result would
necessarily have a political content since it is the states that control and
supply the various currencies that are in use at the present time. And
projects requiring political support may be difficult to achieve or
comparatively easy to achieve depending on elements of "political reality"
which may differ considerably from the actual merits or lack of merits of the
projects (as evaluated from, say, a scientific or economic or
medical viewpoint).
So it occurs to me to think that that which is not achieved by
a grand action of establishment by "fiat" may alternatively tend to
come into existence as a consequence of a process of evolution. And
of course, after a certain degree of progress by "evolution" the
rest of the progress could possibly be realized by a convention or
a process of "fiat".
Currencies of Improving Quality
From the viewpoint of parties domiciled outside of the territory
of where a specific currency (such as, e.g. the currency of Brazil) is
established the "quality" of that currency is evaluated according to the
reasonable appraisals of the probabilities of loss in value of
the unit of that currency, particularly in comparison with other currencies
and also in comparison with alternatives available for
use for "storage of value", like gold or commodities in general.
The more that the probabilities of loss seem to be large the more
that currency will be evaluated as of "low quality".
On the other hand, "Keynesian" central bankers or associated and
advising economists, WITHIN the state responsible for the currency
in question (such as, e.g. Brazil), may be arguing that they should
have and use methods of operation that will tend to act in varying
degrees at various times to increase the supply of the currency and
thus cause, ultimately, declines in its value. They may argue that these
actions, in which they have some discretionary options, are beneficial for the
general welfare within the territory of the state (e.g., Brazil).
Whether or not the options exploited by "Keynesian" central bankers and
advisors are beneficial to the general welfare in the corresponding
territories (e.g., Brazil) it is very clear, game theoretically, that they
give those who can act on these options ADDITIONAL STRATEGIES that they
otherwise would not be likely to have available. So it is also plausible that
psychologically the having of these options would seem to be very desirable in
contrast to their renunciation.
So I want to suggest now the possibility that, within the context
of varieties of currencies which are of the type typically found nowadays and
since the time of the influence of "the Keynesians" (and after the time of the
formerly used "gold standard" or other forms of currency linked to a value
standard), there is some real possibility that the typical "rate of
depreciation" of currencies may tend
to decrease. Thus there may evolve more disillusionment with the "Keynesian"
methods that tend to cause to exist a continual (sometimes intermittent)
deterioration in the internationally observable value
of a specific national currency. (This would apply to "the euro" also, as if
that were effectively the currency of an "United States of Europe".)
The actors on the stage of the drama formed by the actions that
determine the trends in the value of a national currency are themselves
players in a game and they can be rationally viewed as such. The theme
of "rational expectations" naturally enters. Those who ARE NOT in
control but who ARE naturally concerned with the expectations for the
value trend of a national currency cannot be wisely assumed to be
entirely naive and unable to form "rational expectations" regarding
the currency. So the (possibly) "Keynesian" players in this game have
natural opponents (or co-players, beyond zero-sum perspectives) who
are interested in not being themselves "outsmarted" by those who
control the options that determine, say, the quantity supplied of
the national currency.
Signs of Attitudes (Among Central Banking Authorities)
On the web page of the Swedish State Bank there appears a sort
Of speedometer measuring the rate of inflation. The fact that this appears
indicates several things about the psychology of the responsible authorities
there. One of these is that they have the concept that the government can
choose policies to control the rate indicated and that varying consequent
results (as regards the value
of that rate of depreciation (of the value of the currency)) may be achieved
as a result of various conceivable choices of policy. (In the case of a poorer
nation it might seem more likely that the authorities would not usually seem
to have any ability to control the rate of inflation, as measured modulo the
domestic currency of that poorer nation.)
Now the possible area for evolution is that if, say, an inflation
rate of between 1% and 3% is now considered desirable and appropriate
in Sweden, then, if it is really controllable, why shouldn't a rate
between 1/2 % and 3/2 % be even more desirable? (The rate measured by
the swedish speedometer is determined in relation to a domestic CPI
calculated for Sweden.)
Signs of the Times (Among National Currency Authorities)
Comparatively very recently a few countries in South America and
Central America have adopted schemes that put them in positions
analogous to those of Luxembourg and Liechtenstein with regard to the
provisions for their domestic currency. Here Argentina and El Salvador
can be mentioned. They are adopting (at least temporarily) expedients
that put the value of their domestic money on a fixed relation to the
U. S. dollar. And of course Panama has had such a situation for a long
time previously.
This is not "ideal money" because the U. S. dollar is not an ideal
standard for money value. But the countries adopting such expedients
thus offer their citizens, at least for as long as they manage to or
choose to continue it, a deliverance from a typical past tradition
of national currencies of even less stable value than that of the
(historically observed) U. S. dollar.
But if, for example, all of the countries of the world would base
the value for their national currencies on the value of the british
currency then this situation would appear singular and unstable, while
it was not so singular for a lot of countries to base their currency
value on gold.
So the United Nations building can be in New York and the IMF and
the IBRD institutions in Washington, DC, USA, but these historical
facts do not make the U. S. dollar a good standard of value which the
managers of currency systems in other countries could justifiably
exploit to permanently fix the relative values of their national
The metric system does not work because french chefs de cuisine
are constantly cooking up new and delicious culinary creations which
the rest of the world then follows imitatively. Rather, it works
because it is something invented on a scientific basis and in fact,
after Waterloo, it was not first accepted in France but rather in
The Netherlands.
Price Indexes in General
Various states calculate some sort of a CPI or measure of the
"cost of living" for inhabitants of their territory. It is possible
that "globalization" and in general trends leading to more non-local
sources for basic needs like food and clothing will have the effect
of making CPI indices calculated in different states tend to become
concordant. Of course the effects of taxes can be very complicating
in relation to comparisons of distinct national CPI indices.
It seems possible and not unlikely, however, that if two states
evolve towards having currencies or more stable value as measured
locally by national CPI indices that then also these distinct
currencies would tend to evolve towards more stable comparative
relations of value.
Then the limiting or "asymptotic" result of such an evolutionary
trend would be in effect "ideal money" but this as a result achieved
without the adoption of anything like an ICPI index as a basis for
the standard of value.
Tax Revenues Complications
It is very well known among economists who study "macroeconomics"
(or the large scale picture of a national economy) that inflation, of
itself, produces the effect of varieties of taxation.
On the one hand owners of state obligation securities (bonds,
notes, etc.) find that the value of their holdings are reduced as the
"true" value of a unit of the domestic money is reduced by inflation.
So they are as if taxed on their holdings. And on the other hand,
if the state has established a form of "capital gains tax" then
the effect of inflation is to add an amount to whatever would be calculated as
the "capital gain" on property held for a time and
then sold. A nominal gain can even be created by inflation where
a "true value" measure would have fairly determined a loss.
Then these considerations make clear, for example, that if, say,
the state finances of Xland operated stably with a capital gains tax
and with stable "targeted inflation" of 2.5 % annually than that there
would be a loss of state revenues if the inflation rate were reduced
to zero. That is, there would be a loss that could be expected in the
area of the capital gains tax revenues.
So we can see that for the government of a state, acting on its own
independently of other states, to rationally contemplate the evolution of the
inflation rate for its currency towards zero there are clearly some very
relevant considerations relating to tax revenue expectations.
Psychological Considerations
A truly "Machiavellian" regime can rationally scheme to make the
citizenry of the state FEEL well served (at least for a relatively
short time period) independently of whatever might be most truly best
for them (as seen from an "Olympian" viewpoint). Here it can be noted
that if there is gradual inflation then there should tend to be more
and more "millionaires" as a fraction of the population. If instead
there were fewer and fewer of these then that might conceivably impact
negatively on the psychology of the citizenry.
It is also notable that there has been an overall sense of always
increasing human per capita wealth, globally, as technological advances
continue to modify the nature of the global economy. But consider the effect
of measuring wealth purely in terms of square miles owned per capita of the
earth's land surface. If each Hopi tribesman owns x by this measure and each
Navaho tribesman owns y by the measure then, with global population steadily
increasing, should they feel happy or sad?
Perhaps humanity will REALLY arrive at increased wealth if we can
successfully colonize lands beyond Terra, like the surfaces of Mars,
the Moon, and some asteroids. (But of course we could not illogically
claim ALREADY to own the whole Solar System at least, so it is clear
that psychological alternatives enter here also with regard to the
issue of the "true" evaluation of per capita wealth.)
Possibly the full psychological effect of human "ownership" of the
surface of Mars would not be realized until that area had been divided
into plots regarded as the private property of specific corporate or
personal owners!