I dont have Ailz's gift for handling money, but I do manage it well at any rate. Like both of you, I am on very low income, but manage to squeeze out enough each month to bolster clothing needs and also to get in a little entertainment.
I dont have any fear of it, except insofar as it is used to bribe people in power to go against the well-being of those less wealthy. It's a shame to think that bits of metal and paper could hold that kind of power.
I've never wanted more than will keep me in modest style. I'm afraid of what riches do to people. I sometimes think it would be nice to win the lottery- and then immediately think, "O, no it wouldn't!"
Money is just the method we use to describe value. One chicken = 4 cabbages, one terraced house in Oldham = one small garage in Kensington. It's a useful concept and provides liquidity (if you have one chicken but you want to buy 2 cabbages and some apples, you can do it via money).
At a big picture level it is gobsmackingly complex with shares and options and derivatives and swaps and whatever. At a household level, it's Mr Micawber's famous quote...
I understand things at the chicken and cabbages level. Anything more sophisticated than that has me scratching my head and starting to panic.
Funnily enough, I have just given a lecture about exactly this. I wanted to explain to our second-year students what happened when the Romans made the shift in the third century BC to paying for everything with chunks of bronze of the same value as the goods they were buying, to paying for things with struck silver coins that weren't inherently worth the same value as what they were being used to buy. I used the example of a modern £10 note, which very obviously isn't actually worth £10 in itself - but is a lot more convenient than carrying around the £10 worth of gold (or labour, or whatever) that it represents. They seemed to get it - I saw nods and some smiles.
I was reading something in one of my archaeology magazines that suggested that the adoption of Roman-style coinage by British tribal kingdoms represented a great step forward in civilisation etc. I guess that's true. The more sophisticated the culture the more fictitious its money becomes.
And the more fictitious the money becomes, the more sophisticated (in the old sense) the culture and its economic system are capable of becoming.
And the more difficult it is to fix the system when it goes wrong....
Well, I think Gordon Brown did a fair bit of fixing this time last year and it has saved most of us from the worst ravages. For most of us, money may be virtual but it isn't fictional. But for certain investment bankers and stockbrokers, I think it takes on the mantle of a computer game and it might be safer if they were given monopoly money to play with.
I see that, in spite of having nearly brought the civilised world to its knees- and in spite of the universal contempt in which they are held, the bankers are back to their old game of awarding themselves gigantic bonuses.
Like professional footballers, it's all about rare skills, or that's the argument they make. If the UK restricts high salaries for excellent bankers, then they will move abroad and leave our institutions without the talent it needs.
This is not a bad argument as it stands but I would apply two caveats:
1. A bonus should be a bonus. It's not just part of your normal salary that is deferred until the end of the year. It should be given for extrmeley good performance on behalf of your investors (you and me) and not excpected as "standard". It should be deferred until the long-term effects of your decisions can be judged. Just like footballers, you are as only as good as your last performance.
2. When you perform badly and your investors and your company suffer from your mad decisions, you should get fuck all other than the sack.
I wonder how rare these skills really are- seeing how they can be performed by callow young men.
Try telling that to the Inland Revenue, Capitol One, and the landlord of the George and Dragon!
And why not? It would be a kindness to rescue them from the sphere of illusion.
Because by law freeing them from illusion would not wipe any debt I owe them. And later on I cannot see any of them coming round to rescue me from the 'illusion' of being homeless!
Sadly, although it's only a game, one gets penalised for not playing by the rules.
May I include that first paragraph you wrote in my current research file for the money & economies (art) project?
Please do. I'd be flattered. :)