Regarding money

Thursday, 25 April, Year 5 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

asciilifeform oldie but goodie:
asciilifeform "You are fair game for hustlers who understand your wealth better than you do."
mircea_popescu i prefer to express that idea in the terms of the converse perspective.
mircea_popescu your wealth is, much like your mistress, always ready to ditch you if you suck.

My view on money is perhaps a little eccentrici. To allow me to explain it, let's take a little detour.

I propose that the correct way to think about money is not in so called "absolute" terms, such as saying "I have a hundred dollars" or "I owe a hundred euros". The proper way to discuss the situation would be as a percentage of all money.

Obviously "a hundred dollars" is a meaningless concept. What matters is the percentage of total instruments of payment this hundred dollars represents. If you own one hundred of the total ten thousand dollars in existence you are very rich indeed - richer than all with the exception of perhaps one or two people in human history. If you own one hundred of countless gazillion you don't really own very much at all, certainly not worth the mention.

Nevertheless, in practice the correct concept (fraction of total) is absolutely never used (perhaps with the exception of occasional references made by me when discussing Bitcoin). The meaningless concept ("absolute" values) is always used. This state of affairs arises from the interplay of two factors :

  • It is extremely difficult to calculate fractions. For one, nobody knows exactly how much dollars are there, and not many people know how many dollar-like things there are. Consequently, the sum of all money is exceedingly difficult to calculate. For the other - due to the insane spread of the human race - even a situation of perfect equality would result in everyone's total wealth being a ten billionth sort of fraction, ie 0.00000001%. Then an item costing you a thousandth of your total net worth - such as a kitchen appliance - would be priced at something like 0.00000000001% ? It's simply not practical to have shops listing prices for a can of Coke as 0.0000000000009545%.
  • Truth is nobody's friend. Any government, any slave driver and any mafia don out there would muchly prefer paying out "fixed" sums that secretly shift in their true value (as a % of the monetary mass) rather than have to face the music of what things "are really worth". Any citizen, slave or whore'd much prefer thinking of owning something that's "fixed" rather than mutable, if for no other reason then because people are loss averse more than they're benefit driven.

These practical concerns notwithstandingii, it's obviously the case that the true measure of wealth is the percentile rather than the "absolute" value. The richest man on a tiny island (geographical, cultural or otherwise) is still "the richest man" with all the incumbent risks and benefits. Even if poverty reigns supreme in his space and the whole shebang is scarcely worth a hundred dollars, the social relations borne by the state of wealth strictly reflect those same relations borne by that same state of wealth in Manhattan. The gold diggers will still be gold diggers, the corrupt politicians will still be corrupt politicians, other than a different decor the same film is playing out.

And now that we understand this preamble, let's get to the point. Money, in and of itself, is a whole. What it does with its time is that it reallocates itself (or moreover its relative bits) from the hands of the lame to the hands of the cool. So, you're 1% of the world's cool ? Soon enough you'll be holding 1% of the world's money. You're precisely 0% of the world's cool ? Sucks to be you, watch out below.

Against this, there's no insurance. You can try holding on to your "fixed" "absolute" pile of cash, much like you can try putting the mistress in a chastity belt. Money doesn't need to physically leave your clawy grasp, it will just revalue itself so as to bring whatever volume you hold in line with its correct relative value. In this perspective, inflation in the US is not something that can be avoided, and not something that's done by politicians : it's just money reacting to the problem that a lot of it is held by comparatively very lame people. In general inflation is always the companion of societies that used to be cool but aren't anymore.

Pretty far out stuff, huh.

  1. As detailed in an older series of articles (Cele doua atot esente), there's two metaphysical essences interacting with the perceptible world. One embodies itself in language. The other embodies itself in money. []
  2. Bitcoin, of course, resolves many of the problems discussed. It's trivial to know how many Bitcoins there are, for instance. []
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18 Responses

  1. Replace control of "percentage of all money" "with percentage of all wealth" and you are correct. A figure like, say, Stalin had virtually no money (in the usual sense.)

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Thursday, 25 April 2013

    Well, the converse view would be that yes he did, except they had just replaced the assignatsionny rubles with a different kind of paper, "executive orders" or w/e. And he had plenty of those.

  3. The most interesting point brought up in the linked piece is: what does "control of wealth" actually mean in practice?

    One could argue that "true wealth" equals "nominal wealth" times "grip." Stalin had grip. Emperor Pu Yi, not so much. Mental competence is part of grip. Though not the only part.

    A Pashtun with a tiny patch of land and a rifle, ready to take anyone who asks after it to meet Allah with him, is arguably far wealthier than an American burgher with three mortgaged McMansions.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Thursday, 25 April 2013


  5. Interestingly, it appears that the tinted window folks might be revving up the BTC gasenwagen at last:

  6. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 26 April 2013

    Some obscure aide to some obscure US politician is absolutely no source. To put it in other words, you're wrong, the Jensen fellow is irrelevant and Moldbug is still an idiot. A brilliant one, sure, but nevertheless.

  7. You are a prick.

  8. read the often unorganized thoughts of a person with strange views on all kinds of subjects. Undoubtedly, facilitating such reading is one function of the internet. In reality, however, the internet is just a way for people to watch porn.

    He who wrote this apparently has not yet reached Trilema.

  9. Thinking like this is no solution to the everyday, that's why nobody does it.

    A real solution for economic problems is more complex than what human beings in the modern world want to be bothered with. Globalized capitalism doesn't work if it's ruined the planet beyond repair already.

    This is all leaving aside the reality that most people have no idea what inflation is.

    It's like Tony Blair said;- "Education, education, education."

    The problems of spiralling debt on a well-plundered finite planet. Let's bring out the Doom Paul meme again because we know no-one is learning.

  10. Too late to discover the new world, too early to discover the stars, but right on time to see who's really cool huh?

  11. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Monday, 31 July 2017

    @sorlaize Leaving aside that you're not in a position to set agenda, the "real world" discussion is over at

    @Reuel You know, I rather despise this ridoinculous, middle class child-stuck-in-a-railcart-driving-him-to-be-the-graduate approach.

  12. To the indolent commenter's dismay, but honestly not to his surprise, the modern aristocrat was not in the very least pleased with his witty remark. "Darn... I kind of botched it. At least he got some SEO out of it..." the old youngin thought to himself. And then: "Bah. These middle class virtues, past a certain age they are just so ingrained, it's hard to switch to more elevated mannerisms. This eagerness to please, like my tendency to pity, this forgiveness, aversion of conflict, I've been taught erroneous virtues all my life. I even forgave him for posting pr0n without NSFW tags, a feat which cost me my cushy job at the code cube. Modern society has even robbed me of the capability to be a proper enemy!"
    And so, he gave himself an excuse for lingering, loitering. Letting all manners of ideas entice him, while letting go unnoticed truths way more terrifying for quite a while. But one night, it struck him that the virtues, formerly thought to be learned behavior, might be pretty much hardcoded in his lineage. The prefered mannerisms might be, for the same reason, strictly unnattainable, or statistically very unlikely to be attained. They might even not be prefered for him at all. It even might very well be a case of just not the right physicality to uphold them. Sadness came over him, but uncharacteristically, it also spurred him into action. Suddenly, he found himself typing, the words seemed to force themselves out of him.
    "Could you think of a worse fate, than to be able to at least recognize things like genius and true nobility, or understand why these are amongst the highest of things, and to understand that almost no one understands, but not be able to partake! To understand how every other soul must react to and sings praise to the exceptional, even though singing praise for the great part constitutes outright hatred and scorn, or just bad jokes and downplaying, in the more subtly wretched types. That it is infinitely better to be the action, than the reaction!
    And if one then knows this to be one's fate, it means to know of one's own wretchedness! How could one endure this knowledge? People don't keep their personal wretchednesses visible for long, at least not in their own sight! They who do get sick. So why don't I feel sick? Why do I feel great, in light of the fact that slavery and running from it, outsideness, too-lateness, must be my lot? Why is my head buzzing! Ah, but yes! It is because..."
    A soft hand on his shoulder snapped him out of it, for the most part. Some of the buzz remained.
    "Time to get off the pc darling, you've been on fourchannel all evening."
    "Only a female could brush away so much profoundness with one stroke", he thought, and he realized that that was a great reason to love her. "I probably should just have said I liked the article."

  13. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 22 September 2017

    > Could you think of a worse fate

    All classical literature is entirely about this, which is why it's classical in the first place.

    Everything else is piss.

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