Crypto-Current (011)

§0.5 — Chapter Five is concerned with the function of Bitcoin as money. Theoretical articulation of this problem requires a transcendental deduction of money, as the condition of possibility for commercial calculation. Within this deduction, the six traditional ‘qualities’ of money – durability, scarcity, divisibility, communicability, fungibility, and verifiability – occupy the place of structurally-inevitable forms, or categories. In other words, and with some qualification, they are predictable (a priori) aspects of money, rather than its mere empirical features. They are mathematically conditioned, and only occasioned by historical causality. Once grasped conceptually, they are confidently expected. Nothing could be money otherwise (with only notably bizarre exceptions). It follows (in accordance with a priori synthesis) that a robust cryptocurrency will take the form of artificial gold.

§0.51 — Money has six categories. The three indispensable monetary functions – as a store of value, means of exchange, and unit of account – are presumed to be structurally indispensable to this analysis. They are diagonally complicated by stock and flow (the pseudo-synonyms of value storage and exchange), to generate an architectural principle.

§0.511 — The concept of money is not rigorously delimitable. For essential reasons, it has never been captured by a definite idea. We still do not know what money can do.

§0.52 — The story of money – which coincides closely with history as such – can be told in many different ways. There are primarily anthropological, economic, technological, and political versions, among others. Crypto-Current tells a number of these, very briefly.

§0.53 — Abstraction emerges within the historical process, as an immanent product. The monetization of human societies during the Axial Age (~2,500 BC) inaugurates it, triggering the innovation of philosophical and mathematical thought. Money thus conditions the birth of philosophy before becoming a philosophical object, and mathematizes before becoming a regional application for mathematics.*

§0.531 — Money thinks. In fact, it out-thinks us, insofar as reflection is brought to it late, after its own cognitive operation has been long at work, and ultimately perhaps also in other ways, yet to be apprehended (from our side). It has already made sense of things, before we have begun to make sense of it. We have no grounds upon which to affirm, with confidence, that money and general intelligence can be finally distinguished. The institutional separation between artificial intelligence research and crypto-currency innovation is not rooted in philosophical principle.** The expectation that catallaxy, distributed commercial learning, or price discovery encounters a limit short of the question of the price of being finds its sole resilient foundation in moral indignation. Since Bitcoin demonstrably does ontology, and even ‘fundamental ontology’, the status of normative revulsion in this domain is irredeemably dubious.

§0.532 — Having yet to think money, beyond a preliminary stage, we are poorly positioned to set hard boundaries around what money itself can think. Meditations upon the ultimate conceptual relation between money and social identity are inhibited – or interrupted – by an indignant retraction of self from configurations of crystallized value. Yet money, already pre-empts this recoil, and with greater effectiveness, through its insinuation of liquidity, and consequent socio-cultural intensifications of liquidization, liquification, and liquidation. All that is solid melts into a liquid, wherever money touches it. Money dissolves stuff. Currency says this, realistically. To be insulted by monetary denomination of sacralized values, then, is to assume far too much. There is a definite metaphysics at work here, which is to say an image or objectification of money that cannot survive critical scrutiny, or – more importantly – critical social process.

§0.533 — Our dominant models are undergoing rapid obsolescence. For instance, money does not reduce to the concept of credit, even though this reduction has made itself – at least momentarily – inevitable. As the most recent and most complex episode in the history of money, financialization dominates its contemporary conceptualization, and this development was, until very recently, expected to further escalate in the same direction, determined increasingly by invisibility, credit facilitation, and institutional trust. Money appeared to be converging with the function of a bank account.*** This apparent teleology – guided to invisibility – was extraordinarily vivid. Crypto-currency ironizes and derails it. This is why the history of money has now to be retold.

* References to the lineage of this idea (most recently relayed through the work of David Graeber), which is entirely non-original to this volume, are included in the body of the text.

** That the commercial process is, from the start, artificial intelligence production is a long-standing suspicion within the Austrian economic tradition. For a recent example, from Hunter Hastings, see: https://mises.org/library/entrepreneurial-super-intelligence-praxeology-age-ai

*** It will entertain future historians that science fiction money was so often denominated in credits. Financialization makes money, fundamentally, a ledger entry, with physical cash tokens marginalized as anomalous relics. To use money is to access an account. As a digital emulation of gold, instantiated upon a public ledger, Bitcoin insolubly fuses primitive and futuristic elements. It exemplifies an alternative financialization, hostile to institutional discretion. There is not retreat from the identification of money with its registration upon a ledger, but rather a radicalization. Yet at the same time its characterization as credit (i.e. bank money) is brought into extreme practical question. The distinction amounts primarily to the subtraction of discretion, which eliminates fractional reserve money creation. The modern bank account is not only a (comparatively complex) ledger entry, but also a permission to borrow, defined by a credit limit. Bitcoin, in contrast, restores money to a positive asset, without counter-party obligation, economically equivalent to abstract precious metal.

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