Andrew Klavan observed that money is more embarrassing to discuss than sex. But somebody’s got to do it, so the three short videos after the read more tackles that most mysterious of questions: where does material wealth come from? Is it created by some mysterious process of incentive? Is it legislated into existence? Can there be any real progress in the world that is not predicated on a cycle of domination and theft?
It’s possible to summarize the titanic struggles of the 20th century as being about one thing: where does money come from? And even after having settled that question, its companion ‘is it good for us?’ still vexes man. As the world struggles through a long recession, perhaps teetering on the brink of a great depression it is useful to take stock of the processes which got us to this point.
A 19th century poet once mused on the crassness of the world and its paradoxical beauty; he knew the contrast — and the link — between the “jingling of the guinea” and the unutterably beautiful visions which those who had them wished to buy.
What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr’d with gold, and opens but to golden keys.
Every gate is throng’d with suitors, all the markets overflow.
I have but an angry fancy; what is that which I should do?
I had been content to perish, falling on the foeman’s ground,
When the ranks are roll’d in vapour, and the winds are laid with sound.
But the jingling of the guinea helps the hurt that Honour feels,
And the nations do but murmur, snarling at each other’s heels.
Yes, where does money come from and whither does it bring us?
The existence of wealth only serves to emphasize the duality of man, symbolizing as it does the possibilities and limits of his endeavor. It is true that there are doors barred with gold. But men made the doors and the gold in the first place. It was fortunate that the poet — Lord Tennyson — understood that gates are not forever locked, simply because people are constantly building roads around them and also because modern ones have to be self-opening to let throngs of shoppers into the mall. At any rate that is the way the world seems to be; and to which we can return yet, once the political system solves the budget crisis.
The poet went on to dream as only those who’ve never taken an 20 hour long economy class flight can dream. Sans deep vein thrombosis, sans cramps and yet ultimately, sans the experience.
Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do:
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales.
He forgot to add that the “pilots of the purple twilight” first had to enrol in the TSA’s Pilot Air Security Program. Funny how the poet’s vision is ultimately realized in the bureaucrat’s procedure.