Thursday, August 29, 2013

Money Wisdom #163

"  '...anybody who buys art not as an investment or to impress their friends or cheer the place up a bit is buying porn.'

'Porn. I'm not getting a hard on, are you?'

'You know what I mean. You are buying into something because you can't do it yourself. You wouldn't buy porn if you could get all the perverted sexual kicks you desired for free with willing collaborators. There'd be no need. By buying this art [Smell of Sulphur in the Wind  by Richard Long] you are buying into an experience at one remove. You are paying Richard Long to do it for you while you toss yourself off at his conceptual flight of fancy. Anthony d'Offay [an art dealer], the pimp, Richard Long, the whore, and you're the John. The trouble is you've sussed it and this Smell of Sulphur in the Wind is just a smutty magazine with the pages stuck together and now you want shot of it.'   "

This is the picture mentioned;

Money Wisdom #162

"There's nothing like watching the six-year-old girl being dragged from the rubble eight days after the 'quake, her body broken but her heart still pumping. It doesn't matter how many thousands die in the initial shock, that one little girl's life being saved makes it all seem worthwhile. Then there's the African famine, the children with their distended bellies and the flies crawling over their faces so we can wallow in our collective guilt as we suppress the thought that life cannot be as precious to them as it is to us."

Bill Drummond For Sale - $20,000 (2010) p. 63-64 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Money Wisdom #161

“Yes. I had agreed to go, and I didn’t want to spoil the party. Dinner was good, and my date was charming enough. I didn’t pay much attention to the show. I couldn’t. I was too anxious about the rest of the evening.” She paused, focused her eyes over my shoulder. “Yes, I slept with him. And yes, he gave me fifty dollars. And yes, I took it. . . Aren’t you going to ask me why I took the money? . . . I wanted the damned money. And I wanted to know how it felt. Being a whore.”

Lawrence Block The Sins of Our Fathers (1976)
quoted in Laura Agustin Good-time girls and other non-professionals taking money for sex (2013) from The Naked Anthropologist blog (link)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Money Wisdom #160

"...riches were for her [Proust's Francoise], so to speak, a necessary condition of virtue, failing which virtue itself would lack both merit and charm. She distinguished so little between them that she had come in time to invest each with the other's attributes, to expect some material comfort from virtue, to discover something edifying in riches."

trans. CK Moncrieff  Le Cote de Guermantes I (1967) p.19
quoted in James Buchan Frozen Desire (1997) p.57

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Money Wisdom #159

".... the [feudal] lord is not free in any modern sense: he, too, is attached to the land, which, as Marx noted in wonder in his notebook in Paris in 1844, inherits him rather than he it."

James Buchan Frozen Desire (1997) p.57

Money WIsdom #158

"In Europe during this period [later Middle Ages], as later in Japan, the Americas and Africa, the use of money is beginning to transform relationships of both space and time: and so radically that it seems as if reality has been given a twist.... "

James Buchan Frozen Desire (1997) p.54

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Rembrandt's Judas

This is Rembrandt's Judas, Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver which he painted in 1629. James Buchan discusses it in Frozen Desire (p. 46-48) amid an excellent discussion of the Betrayal and Money.

I just wanted to share here what Buchan (a fan of the painting) says about it;

" this flash of recognition... [Rembrandt] ...saw into the marrow of history; that the divine in man is dead beyond all resurrection; that there is nothing left to us but a few coins on a dusty floor and our bestial natures, and that in every monetary transaction, wholesale and retail, Christ is re-crucified."

For Buchan, this painting, more than any other is prescient of the coming of modernity.

Money Wisdom #157

"With that statement [Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's], Jesus dug his doctrinal grave. For he seemed to be authorising the creation of two separate and co-ordinate kingdoms, religion and what is now called the economy. To the Muslims, such a separation was (and is) nonsensical; but it was an opportunity that Europe and America seized with both hands. Between one revenue official, Matthew, and another, Adam Smith, the Christian doctrine is turned on its head.

James Buchan Frozen Desire (1997) p.41

Money Wisdom #156

"Lower-class girls in Lydia prostitute themselves without exception to collect money for their dowries, and continue the practice until they marry."

Herodotus The Histories (circa 450 BC) I, 93
quoted in James Buchan Frozen Desire (1997) p.18

Money Wisdom #155

"As for utility, if that truly were the counterpart of money in the world, then, as Davanzati put it, men would pray to bellowing, not golden, calves."

James Buchan Frozen Desire (1997) p.18

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Money Wisdom #154

"I kept them [the Turkish banknotes] because I sensed their value evaporating, their moneyness seeping into the old satinwood, till they were just coloured paper you couldn't even write on. And at some moment, I cannot remember when, looking at that confetti, I had a thought: I realised that moneyness was not a permanent attribute of those pieces of paper, but attended them for a period of their existence, rather as good fortune had attended me as a young man; in reality, attended them only so long as they were in motion. The banknotes shared that character with no other physical object, for a clock remains a clock and an automobile a vehicle even when they do not move. Further I realised that money must be visible, for a buried hoard is not money until it is exhumed; and must have an owner, for a banknote blowing in the street, like an Egyptian half pound I once saw on the Corniche of Alexandria, is not money until it is run after and picked up. Money becomes money only at the instant it incorporates a wish..."

James Buchan Frozen Desire (1997) p.12-13

Money Wisdom #153

"I was not interested in the operation of money in society or the creation of social wealth. The science we now call economics seemed to me, from my reading and a study of the Saudi economy - admittedly primitive - modest in its aims. In reality, economics seemed to have fallen prey to the very social mechanisms it attempted to describe and authorise; and the various theories merely confirmed or denied the privileges or fantasies of social classes. Even so, I busied myself with economics, rather as one might learn the rules of baseball: as a social adornment, and to put people at their ease. Yet I could never penetrate beyond the first pages of Ricardo or Marshall without a sort of exasperation: that long before money had ever been defined to my satisfaction, we had moved on to the profits of stock, as if all study of money were a mere distraction from its pursuit. I learned book-keeping, and for a moment the world came into focus, as if I had mastered philosophical German. In reality, to describe the world purely in terms of the replacement value in money of its institutions and inhabitants was itself at best ideology, at worst insanity.

I wanted to pierce the veil of money not to find some piece of metaphysics - value, utility, or labour - which resides in the economist's money like yet another Russian doll, but the emotions and sensations that nestled there."

James Buchan Frozen Desire (1997) p.10

Money Wisdom #152

"My wages came to me not to satisfy any need... ...but to make my needs universal: to incorporate me into the mainstream of of men and things in which my work was not for me but for everybody; and to take what was special in me, my most secure and precious sense of myself, and make it general and banal. In short, I was to be civilised."

James Buchan Frozen Desire (1997) p.7-8

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A review of The Heretic's Guide to Global Finance by Brett Scott

Here's my review of The Heretic's Guide to Global Finance Hacking the Future of Money by Brett Scott. You can read it on amazon here. Please don't forget to click those 'like' buttons if you think my review is helpful.

"Brett is interested in building a community of 'financial heretics'. In this book he adopts a 'hacktivist' approach to the subject of finance. This consists of Exploring (with an emphasis on 'empathetic' exploration), Jamming (seeking out vulnerabilities and exposing them) and Building (reforming the elements of the system into something new). The book is structured around these three categories of action. I think this is a unique approach to finance and, combined with a broadly anthropological influence and Brett's easy-going journalistic style, it makes The Heretic's Guide a valuable and up-to-the-minute contribution to our understanding of Money.

Nevertheless, it can be tough going at times. Chapter Two for example called 'Getting Technical' requires some resolve from the reader. Not that Brett doesn't do a good job of explanation, but the subject matter itself - derivatives, swaps, risk, futures, etc - can be bewildering. I expect though, that the audience for this book will indeed have the resolve needed.

It's going to be on bookshelves alongside David Graeber's 'Debt' as a book not only to make sense of Money, but as something to respond to and be inspired by. And whilst at times, the writing can seem a little like a late night conversation of Occupy veterans trying to imagine Money's role in a brighter future, there can be no better advertisement for Brett's Do-It-Yourself ethos than the book itself. Although traditionally published, it was launched and came to my attention via Brett's Indieagogo funding campaign for a 'School of Financial Activism'.

I hope Brett is as successful at inspiring people to re-envisage and reform their relationship to finance as he was at producing this work.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Money Wisdom #151

"We often think about how people use money (e.g. wastefully, extravagantly, frugally), but we seldom think about how using it affects us. It's like obsessing about how a pen can write positive and negative things, but neglecting to consider how the act of writing affects the way we think."

Brett Scott The Heretics Guide to Global Finance (2013) p.224

Money Wisdom #150

"The use of market systems to distribute private ownership rights to areas previously perceived as commons raises the spectre of communal disconnection from a sense of environmental responsibility."

Brett Scott The Heretics Guide to Global Finance (2013) p.196

Friday, August 9, 2013

Money Wisdom #149

"The cleaner at Morgan Stanley has probably been exposed to far greater personal risk in her life than the average derivatives dealer whose desk she vacuums under."

Brett Scott The Heretics Guide to Global Finance (2013) p.123

Money Wisdom #148

"Investment involves taking liquid money, exchanging it to solidify it into real assets, extracting returns from those assets, and then later liquidating them into money again and redeploying it."

Brett Scott The Heretics Guide to Global Finance (2013) p.130

Money Wisdom #147

".... we all try to create narratives about the past and future to some extent - but some traders come to obsessively believe that they can crack the secret of overall markets, searching for an abstract 'truth' amid the fluctuations of price information. This has been encouraged by the influx of mathematics and physics students into the trading environment, which has led to biases towards viewing price movements in the same way one views movements of atoms. Statistics, and other forms of quantitative abstractions about past events, start to be seen as the ultimate source of insight in to the future."

Brett Scott  The Heretics Guide to Global Finance (2013) p.123