Theology of Money – 8. A Modest Proposal: Evaluative Credit
from An und für sich by Alex
Chapter 8 of Theology of Money is a tentative attempt by Goodchild to construct his alternative to the current hegemony of money.
Goodchild begins with a note of caution. The construction and planning of institutions is not something that comes easily to philosophers. While Marx spent much time critiquing the system of capitalism, he spent scant time writing about how his communism society would look like, other than a few fragmentary notes. Philosophers tend towards high levels of abstraction necessary to their craft, that often makes it impossible for them to imagine concrete change.
Yet at the same time, certain philosophers have certainly had a major influence upon our economic life, and often a negative one. But this should not prevent us There are, of course, myriad extant proposals about how to change the current capitalist system, but none begin with the critique embodied in the theology of money. Goodchild proposes to sketch a system that begins with his own critique of the credit-money system. Doubtless, this is again a quite complex chapter, so please forgive the length of this description. [...]
There are many institutions – religious organisations, political lobby groups, charities – that produce evaluations of what matters. Yet these institutions and their evaluations cannot direct credit because they have no authority, no “social effectivity”. The common solution is one of democracy, grounding authority in reason. Yet this fails. First, since the objectivity of objective thought is never fully present, and there is not a universal assent to a value of values (think of the diversity of value of values in the contemporary world) people need to rely on argument and persuasion, rooting social authority in rough consensus. However, consensus is more easily formulated by a singular perspective (like that of money) so it tends to be disrupted by certain forces external to it: starting an inquiry by asking the wrong questions as a result of those set by the dominant system of thought (money, capital), the distraction of the individual enquirer from his or her attention to what matters by the desire for prestige in their field (the respect of peers, the gaining of virtues intrinsic within a practice for there own sake etc.), the fact that research is often directed by money-power and hence evaluation is subordinated to profit rather than investment being subordinate to evaluation. Therefore, for the most part “true philosophers” only identify what they take to be consensus as what is reflected in these three areas.
The solution is to not expect a universal, global evaluation but rather smaller, local evaluations that are sensitive to local needs, consensus only at a local level is what is only required. As well as the partition of the division of labour, that splits workers into doing specific tasks since having a single worker do every task is inefficient , there should also be a division of evaluation. No worker has the correct training to work everywhere and no democratic subject conceivably has all the skills necessary to make evaluations on all topics. Given both the failure of democracy in these respects, and the problems of the theology of money “it is vital to detach social authority that renders evaluations effective from both consensus and debt money” (246).
A partial solution is then for there to be sphere of the economy dedicated to producing and distributing evaluations, both the supply and demand for evaluations. Evaluations are, like goods and services, produced, vital to human life and require specialist skills in their production. This “second tier” of the economy already exists in the religious, political and ethical institutions of civil society that Goodchild initially mentions. What they lack is any real power to make their evaluations occur, since most evaluations are stifled by the power of money flows – hence this tier needs a “new mode of intermediation apart from discourse and apart from money” (246).
This requires an new institution, that like banks and financial institutions currently, who mediate flows of money, mediates “flows of credit to evaluative institutions so as to grant them social effectivity”. You cannot start a business with no capital, equally you cannot make an evaluation effective with no authority. Hence, something like money is needed to enable evaluations to become effective – evaluative credits should circulate with money proper, goods and services. [...]
It is actually surprising how Platonic elements of Goodchild’s analysis are, in the sense that it tends to repeat certain tropes of Plato’s Republic. Though there is a plurality of institutions for doing so, those who create evaluations are removed from the world in a certain way (perhaps a necessary way) in the same way that the guardians are removed from common society. This removal is the most problematic aspect, since it would be very difficult to create pure evaluators while the normal economy was on going. How would one create such divisions?
What worries me the most here is that the money of the bank of evaluative credit is derived from the monetary economy. Though Goodchild does acknowledge this may be problematic, how those within the monetary economy be prevented from “playing” the evaluative bank for investments which continue the destructive cycles of capital. Moreover, some evaluative banks would likely have more funds than others, the evaluative credits would “mean” more in real monetary terms in certain banks than in others. This would lead to these banks of evaluative credit being favoured by evaluative institutions, since evaluative institutions would always seek the evaluative bank that makes their evaluations the most effective; the bank with the most money to invest. This would lead eventually to some degree of the reproduction of the old system, a competition between banks of evaluative credit, where those with most money would still win the day. Considering most money is made by the most destructive short term investments, the most successful bank of evaluative credit may be in part funded by the most destructive elements of the current system. Hence, the system will (at least initially) tend towards the precise same situation, where money-richness trumps.
Finally, how would you go about convincing people to adopt this system? Certainly, there is a persuasive argument in this book that in ecological, economic and even spiritual terms, the current money system needs to go, but this argument is unlikely to convince those who are at the top of the system, even through decent persuasion and certain ethical remonstrations, considering in part they will not accept the authority of this evaluation of global capitalism.