Friday, April 17, 2009

Oh Thesis Question!!

I am in that time - that time of trying to survive and navigate the thesis proposal. I have a good idea of the arena I want to explore - value and money. Specifically the role that alternative currencies can play in promoting a broader spectrum of values - most notably issues of scarcity and competition.

These are two of the elements that I consider to be critical to the belief mechanisms that help to drive modern capitalism and the connected negative consequences of that system. The question then is how do you create a system that recognizes concepts of abundance and cooperation? My answer has come to rest on notions of money - and on ideas of creating alternative currencies that place or rather respond to values of abundance and cooperation in a positive way.

I believe that a currency that operates under the rules of 1) Zero Interest 2) A separation of medium-of-exchange and store-of-value 3) that has a demurrage, will bring us closer to meeting the goals of reducing environmental destruction, reducing growing inequalities (which is driven by hoarding of money) and of reducing the need for competition (and therefore commodification) while helping to promote the ability of communities that currently lack a medium-of-exchange to generate their local economies (and here I am referring to communities in Africa).

I place my energy behind the creation of alternative currencies because I believe this has two impacts on society 1) It allows us, as a society, to recognize our power over the economy and that money is our creation, not some God given right of the state or even a natural byproduct 2) It allows us to explore value systems and forces us to talk and debate about what are the most critical things that our money needs to value.

In this way I turn to the rise of mobile technology in Africa and the pioneering ideas of Michael Linton who talks about the value of technology in the spread and creation of alternative currencies. Much of his thinking is detailed by Keith Hart who talks about the changing subject/object relationship that is produced through the virtualization of money.

As I am sure, and hope you can see, I have built my thinking into a pretty cohesive flow. The big question is where do I ask my question and at what point do I place that question? I am not interested in the quantitative element of this discussion, I think Friedrich von Hayek said it best in his book "Denationalisation of Money",
"Though the popular tendency in economics is to accept only statistaically testable theories...they have acquired a quite undeserved reputation." (p. 48)
He then goes on to say,
"To introduce sharp distinctions which do not exist in the real world in order to make a subject susceptible to mathematical treatment is not to make it more scientific but "rather less so." (p 48)
It is with this in mind that I look to explore these questions through a much more philosophical and theoretical lens. I believe that these questions are not mathematical but are far more social and political.

I am trying to find a professor at University of Cape Town that is wiling to work with me in exploring these ideas and helping me to formulate my theoretical framework. I have, as of today, still not found that individual. I will continue to push forward.

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