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EDITORIALS

A Crisis Within a Crisis SOME people have a very simple answer to the currency problems that have plagued some of the leading industrial countries of the world over the past few months: they would abolish money. This quaint notion arises from two misconceptions; one is that money is simply an instrument of human greed and oppression and nothing more, and the other is that if all things were shared equally in an open and free society there would be plenty for everybody and money would thus become superfluous.

in fossil fuel consumption, the growing consternation at the manner in which industrial processes are polluting the planet, or the way in which 'scientific' agriculture is destroying the biotic potential of the soil and the overall balance of nature, can view such a supposition as other than a pipe dream. Hobbes described life as being 'nasty, brutish and short', yet the period in which he wrote is likely to seem a golden age in comparison with what may well be the normal lot of human kind a mere generation hence, if men do not now act swiftly to change their ways in these primary matters.

That the power implicit in the general acceptance of money for ordinary economic transactions is capable of considerable abuse is all too evident, but to regard it as having no other functions is to proceed in blinkers and to ignore that it is one of the most remarkable inventions in the human story. There is scarcely a society of which we have any record which has not used something as, to quote the textbooks, 'a medium of exchange, a measure of value and a store of wealth,' and there are no traces at all of civilisations which have added anything of lustre to the record having done so without a carefully and expertly managed currency. The converse of this point is equally sharp: when civilisations have lost their inner cohesion and collapsed, a mismanaged, debased or inflated currency, inflated often to a point of being rendered worthless or, where precious metals are concerned, to its disappearing from circulation, has been one of the commonest factors of their decline.

As societies have become bigger, more complex and more interdependent, the consequences of currency mismanagement have also become more dreadful for the masses of the people. We are not today living in agrarian based communities where a currency collapse can be countered by an urban artisan turning to a more intensive cultivation of his vegetable patch, this is an issue which could easily spe11 utter destitution for millions of people now herded into crowded and grotesquely swollen urban complexes where for the most part they are divorced from rural realities.

The second misconception which assumes that there could really be plenty for everyone, is not confined to the flat earth mentality which would abolish money, and is indeed widely prevalent even among people who regard themselves as literate and 'progressive'; it is, on all the evidence, equally ludicrous. Nobody who has any inkling of the real nature of the population crisis,* a crisis which is not something that may happen to our grandchildren, but one that is already upon us, or who has related this crisis to the equally alarming trends - ·In case there are some who still do not know the relevant figures by heart, they are as follows:

It took an estimated 4t billion years (1 billion - 1 thousand million) for the human population of the earth to reach its first billion around 1830 A.O. By 1930, a hundred years later, it reached its second billion, by 1960, only thirty years later, its third; by 1975, after only fifteen years there will be, on current trends four billion, and by the year 2000 A.O., the fifth sixth and 'ICVenth billion will have been reached and passed.

ff OWE VER this may be, the question of currency management needs to be viewed with concern not simply to avert the bleak consequences of its mismanagement, but also because of the indications it offers as to where we should be going in matters of social organisation.

The rising tide of currency instability that is afflicting nearly every country in the world, from the poorest to the richest, shows many signs of becoming a general wave of currency collapse before very long. There are a number of what may be called 'orthodox' reasons for this. such as that workers are reputed to be insisting on higher wages without higher productivity, or that a country does not export enough, or that it exports too much, or that government spending is too high, or that people are not saving enough. These phrases are already wearisomely familiar and most currency experts are so trapped in them that they seem unable to step back a pace and see the real picture and thus move on to some real solutions. These involve a consideration of some rather less orthodox reasons for the crisis.

Firstly, and this at any rate is familiar territory, we are putting an insupportable burden on the value of the currency from the amount we spend on armaments. Defence budgets and interest payments on the national debt (incurred mainly in paying for past wars) now represent about a quarter of all central government spending and have become the twentieth century Pyramids of Cheops; it will be recalled that the building of these architecturally meaningless structures brought about the economic ruin of the Egypt of the Pharoahs.

Secondly, the urban-rural disbalance in modern societies is creating its own stresses on currency arrangements. Because most people live remote from the basic business of food growing and garment making, and because complex machines requiring considerable capital outlay have rome to dominate these matters, being in turn produced by huge industrial undertakings, the function of money is coming to assume an unwarrantable importance in the business of living. It is as though the man who holds the oil can at the garage begins to decide the route and the destinarion of the cars he services.

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