Why I Care About Monetary Theory

Over the last 5 years, I have worked for thousands of cumulative hours, on certain projects, without any monetary compensation.

I have over 20 projects on github. I have rotated through 3 different policy or economics blogs, as my perspective, beliefs, and goals have changed: 1, 2, 3.

Besides that, I have spent a lot of time on personal development. Playing sports like soccer, bjj, or swimming. I have practiced video games, which I consider a valuable way to develop decision making skills and teamwork. I have also mastered skateboarding for personal transit(no tricks, unfortunately), and improved my knowledge of bikes and bike repairs.

Perhaps not the least of my accomplishments, has been learning to live on very little money, using skills like cooking and hand washing clothes.

In all these activities, not a cent has changed hands, unless you count my ‘all-star’ level frugality, which has merely caused less money to change hands.

If you review my evolving econ “blogs”, you’ll see, I began with a great personal distaste for minimum wage. This was in fact my entire reason for getting into this mess in the first place. This obsession was just a part of my general disillusionment with our society.

At this point, I’m going to ask: “How is it, over this period of 5 years, I could find a thousand positive ways to use my time, but I have only had one job, for which society has rewarded me for my time? (and that only over the past two years)”

As a student of mathematics, I am obsessed with scale. This includes both very big things, and very small things. I didn’t like minimum wage, because in my ideal world, we would pursue activities with infinite freedom, but infinitesimal costs and value margins. In this imaginary universe, there would be no perpetual struggle for resources and survival, only very long, slow, and drawn out contemplations of the best way to spend the next thousand years. Where are the homesteading Ents from LOTR when you need them?

Alas, that is not the reality we live in. Politics forces us into urgency and consumption. And too many who work in this system are relegated to marginalized and unappreciated jobs. They don’t always do so gladly, they literally face the threat of starvation, eviction, and imprisonment, and weigh their options. Even with our current wage standards, many people still face these possibilities.

As for my personal challenges with employment, I am more to blame than anyone else. My vision of an ideal job interview — a drawn out philosophical exploration of why we should participate in society — is not how employers generally structure those ordeals.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Give me 10 years I’ll get back to you.

I recognize the huge gap between my ideal and reality. I try to find something in between, but it feels like a vast, grand canyon. How am I supposed to build a bridge across that?

Monetary theory has been the best source I have found for answers to these questions. Specifically, there is a particular quirky group of academics, investors, businessmen, and hobbyists(sometimes trolls), that all identify with a set of specific monetary ideas. This is what we call MMT.

Generally, there should be opportunities for compensation for any activity that will benefit society, but political issues tend to get in the way. Whenever there isn’t compensation available for beneficial activities, we’ll call that an accounting gap. While many accounting gaps make sense, based on our boundaries between public and private spheres, it often feels like we are trying to navigate the rock spines of Bryce Canyon.

You just need to go for it! What do you have to lose?

Money is a way of keeping score. Unfortunately, we are much more likely to change our activities to try to get high scores, than to update our scoring system to encourage better behaviors. Maybe we should do things different this time around? It doesn’t always look good!

Why are we so obsessed with private ownership of the means of production, that we limit the ways we can measure and reward value for public contributions? Are we terrified that the values and goals of the people around us are alien or unrelatable?

Don’t get me wrong, this IS politically challenging, but it’s worth it ;)

Thanks for reading!