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critical writing

What is your occupation?

About work

This essay was published by Exterminating Angel, in the Feb/March edition: http://www.exterminatingangel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=826&Itemid=662 The editor, Tod Davies, preferred the working title, over my final title: What is Your Occupation? Meditations on and Mediating the Corporeal Self and Corporate Society While there is significant attention being paid to creating a public banking system, that doesn't really get to the heart of the problem. Money is not a commodity. It is a contract. If you give someone a piece of paper that says redeemable for one ounce of gold, IOU, guaranteed by the taxpayers, the federal reserve, or whatever, it is a contract. The point here is that it is not notational value, but notational trust and it is the fact that civilization has managed to commodify trust that has first created a global economy and society and is now driving it over the edge.

nature, society, economy


Editors comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

Johny Merryman's essay is full of lucid observations and provides a solid argument on the specificity of American history of Reaganomic, a short history of debt and the role of Federal Reserve in this process. The text navigates between economic analysis and more philosophical conceptions, it offers a critical and affirmative approach simultaneously. In this regard it is an exciting reading, which in future could relate to experiences elsewhere.

View other works commented by Gal Kirn  ››

A very progressive document holistic perspective on analyzing problems and a boundless critique of what could happen. Uses the logic of physics to provoke thought in the finite limitations of the modern world. The concept that information is static and energy is dynamic is consistent throughout the piece. Presents suggestions towards the need to consolidate to align our interests to a social cause denouncing the fragmentation self interest. The author makes use of physical examples of dynamic realities as a foundation for arguing the unsustainability of debt. They express a clear understanding of the monetary system, revealing the hypocrisy of capitalism and economic theory. Rightfully describes money as an intangible contract, withdrawing the reader from the theoretical stigmas, such as ‘a store of value’, ‘a medium of exchange’, ‘a unit of account’ and ‘a standard of deferred payment’. Explores some proposed alternative monetary systems and considers the strengths and weaknesses.

View other works commented by Steve Keen  ››

Usually essays that take such a broad view of the world – moving from the physical building blocks of atoms and energy to questions of human nature and social structure – stretch their parallels too far and fail to deal with enough specifics to be very useful. Yet this essay moves well from the microcosmic to macroeconomics. Just as we now understand mass and energy to be fundamentally the same, the author argues that money should be seen as circulation as much (or more) than a physical entity. Money must be entailed in relationships to have any real meaning, thus pointing to the need to understand power hierarchies and social dynamics in order to understand financial facts. This points to Marx’s argument that class is a series of relationships among people, rather than a structure based on hard assets and physical products. Money must move to be effective, and its flows should be seen as a public good.

As to the author’s specific proposals, I’ll let economists consider their efficacy. But I think the author’s well-intentioned proposal to change Congressional budgeting procedures is a bit naïve, as if simply installing new rules in Congress could be reform the budget process in an open and pure way. Politics involves trades, manipulation, and power plays, and these cannot be erased that simply. Also, the author states that governments always want to overpromise on what they can deliver, to please everyone. While this is often the case, and US politicians often seem to promise easy solutions (government services without needing taxes to pay for them, creating huge deficits), at the present moment there is also a strong movement to squelch belief in government efficacy, and to tamp down public demands for action. Much of the conservative movement is built around the denial of public goods and benefits, to assert that there is no alternative to domination by market forces and those who control the market. This enforced austerity needs to be resisted – we should demand more from our government, even as we recognize it cannot be the source of all answers to our social and economic problems.

View other works commented by Daniel Marcus  ››

Other comments

10 years, 1 month ago

Now that the contest is over, I would like to thank the judges who commented on my work. It is certainly a privilege to have Steve Keen read and offer positive remarks on the work of an amateur. You are right about my focus on the relationship between information and energy. I think there are basic physical processes which underlay economic realities, but are not given enough consideration because their conclusions are not always what people paying economists want to hear. As I describe it, the truth is. Answers are what people want to hear. While philosophers seek truths, priests and politicians provide answers. That is why there are so many people able to make a living as priests and politicians, but so few as philosophers.
To Daniel Marcus, I would like to say the idea I offered for how government could budget is entirely designed to make all sorts of trades, manipulation and power plays possible, as the legislature organizes the list of priorities, but it includes a real budgeting function, by giving the executive the power of decision about where to draw the line. The fact is, only as many promises can be kept, as there is the ability to fulfill. This doesn't necessarily lead to the forms of austerity currently being proposed, because the overhang of surplus spending will always be kept in mind, not allowed to expand uncontrollably and then be collapsed, usually in favor of these in positions of power. The reason democracy works is because power is decentralized, with local, state and federal systems all working in areas best suited to particular needs. The real problem we currently have is an overly centralized banking system. If we had local, state and federal forms of public banking, that put profits back into the communities generating the wealth and not having it channeled through private hands in New York, to be then lent back to the Federal and local governments, there would be stronger local communities and less need for the Federal government to solve as many problems.
In politics there is this dichotomy of the individual, versus the community, but keep in mind that it is at the local level, where most people know each other, for better or worse, that we are all most deeply recognized as individuals and yet still most strongly connected to our societies. That doesn't translate to a larger society, but there are advantages to large that don't apply to small and advantages to small that don't apply to large. Knowing what works best is what is important.
On a personal note, it is interesting that while Brisbane is virtually on the other side of the planet, Goucher is the college closest to my home, up here in Sparks. My eldest sister graduated from there.

Curators comments

This work has been commented by 3 editor(s):
Gal Kirn Steve Keen Daniel Marcus go to comments ›

Entry details


What is your occupation?

Concept author(s)

John B. Merryman Jr.

Concept author year(s) of birth



United States of America

Competition category

critical writing

Competition field


Competition subfield


Subfield description

Professionally I ride horses. This gives me an intimate view of the relationship between society and nature.