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This essay is about crime.  As background I will provide a brief summary of the conclusions of the first essay in this “Invisible Hand” series which examined the physical object nature of our money and some of the unfortunate consequences of that nature.  I will be concise so if you have already read one or more of the earlier essays don’t worry, this review won’t take long.

All money in history (and pre-history) has been considered to be or to represent physical objects such as a basket of grain, a cow, a coin, or a paper bill.  Today most money is in computer accounts and though it zips around the world from account to account at almost the speed of light, it still is treated as if it were a physical object of some sort.  Because we treat money as if it were a physical object, anything which is true of physical objects in general will also be true of money.  This obvious point is ignored by economists and others who talk and write about money even though it is the most important truth about money.  The importance of the physical object nature of money cannot be overstated.  What follows are some of the consequences of that physical object nature.

First, money is like other physical objects in that it can be taken from its owner against that owner’s will; by force, fraud, or stealth and it can also be lost or destroyed.  This means that you need to suspect almost everyone of trying to get your money by fair means or foul.

Second, money must be amoral because all inanimate physical objects are amoral.  Even animals are amoral, in that they have neither an ethical sense nor morality, especially when they are used as commodity money.  You can use your physical object money for anything, good or bad.

Third, the money supply is independent of the supply of goods and services for sale because the supply of one physical object is independent of the supply of other objects.

Fourth, money falsely simulates a zero-sum game in monetary transactions because the money gained by one party must be lost by some other party or parties.  Money makes us think that other people can gain money at our expense and that we can only gain money at their expense.  It makes us treat others as if they were competitors, rivals, opponents, or even enemies.

Fifth, money is almost impossible for a society or nation to control.  In every nation that attempts to limit, regulate, or tax trade a black market comes to exist; and organized crime flourishes in all nations.

Sixth, money transactions are two-party interactions.  Two-party interaction is inherently unstable because if one party gets an advantage in power such as having more money, the stronger party can use that power to gain still more advantages.  This is particularly true of money.  The old saying “them as has, gets” is true.  Possession of money does make getting more money quite a lot easier.  Naturally, the weaker party in such two-party interaction will eventually want to end the interaction.  Thus the relationship is unstable.

Keeping that review in mind, let’s consider crime.

Before the development of government there was no crime.  There were things one was supposed to avoid doing and things one was obligated to do, there were customs and taboos and such but there was no law and there was no crime if we consider crime to be actions in violation of law.  There was sinning and there was getting a bad reputation.  There even was being excommunicated, shunned, or driven from the group and refused all aid and comfort.  But there was no crime.  There were governments for thousands of years before any laws as we would view them were propounded.  There was no mechanism to create or enforce laws for thousands of years after governments appeared.  In those times governments ruled by decree or by command.  You may have noticed that the Old Testament provides the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Ordinances or Ten Laws or Ten Statutes.

One of the main differences between government during that period and government today was that there was no writing and so no history and therefore laws could not be written.  And when writing developed the idea that the law somehow existed separately from the will of the tyrant or king or high priest took quite a while to be discovered.  In many times since these earliest written laws, government has become simply a matter of demanding obedience to whatever the ruler decided:  The Dark Ages seem to have had this kind of government, so for most of the time humanity has suffered and enjoyed government, crime was a nebulous concept.

And in most of history the law mainly concerned itself with one’s relation to the state rather than with interaction among private individuals.  Such actions as theft, assault, rape, and murder were considered to be private.  The victims of such actions or their families were expected to seek redress on their own without recourse to the state.  You may be familiar with the idea of compensating the family of the murder victim by a payment of money.  So theft, assault, rape, and murder in those nations were not crimes but rather wrongs done to persons and to be dealt with without the interference of the state.  As the centuries passed, in some lands, the state would provide courts to settle such disputes.

In the West, common law developed.  This brought the modern concept of crime as being not just an attack upon the person or property of the individual but also an attack upon the state.  Though the state’s courts at first were ad hoc rather than being permanent establishments, the use of precedent resulted in some consistency and one could have some idea of the expected outcome of particular cases.

There have been many relatively recent (with “recent” being the last 400 years or so) attempts to justify on some basis – usually religious or moral – the existence of various laws, or to argue against some law or laws.  Here in the U.S. and the West we have the idea of “natural law.”  Now natural law is not what a legislature produces or tyrants decree.  Natural law is something independent of the state in the sense that it exists whether a state exists or not.  Natural law is discovered, one might say, through the use of reason and the analysis of human nature.  By our use of reason, it is maintained, we can discover what the law ought to be.  My own personal opinion is that there is nothing at all natural about law.  It seems to me that law is purely a human construct created to justify certain behaviors we would like to require of others.  But since natural law, and the law itself, is of the human mind… I will ignore whether law can be natural or not.  Those who espouse natural law justify it on utilitarian or ethical grounds.  That law which is good law has good consequences, or is useful in achieving order and peace for the public, that law meets the utilitarian criteria.  The law which supports and enforces some ethical system or religious system meets the ethical grounds.  Usually it doesn’t take much rationalizing to hold that enforcing some morality also is the utilitarian thing to do.

So the natural law exponents judge the law as valid or invalid on these utilitarian and/or moral criteria.  It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the concept of “rights” is very important to natural law exponents.  In the times of kings, it was the rights of those kings (which in some cases were believed divine) which were most important, and the rights of individuals were ignored or denied altogether.  In modern times the rights of individuals are extoled and the rights of those few kings and queens who remain are largely ignored.  Democracy probably has a lot to do with that.  If the voters select who is to rule, it’s only natural that the talking points of the politicians would reflect individual rights since those would appeal most to the voters.

In the time of kings, the kings made such law as there was with the intent to make things easy and pleasant for the kings.  Thus, treason was stringently punished in a most public manner.  But today, opposition to those in power in a democratic (that’s with a small “d”) government is expected and hardly punished more than a reduction in rewards.  But the democratic government will, today, have created a host of laws concerning what an individual citizen may do and must do.  Kings demanded money and obedience.  Parliaments, on the other hand, demand money and playing nice.  Parliaments have to protect those constituents who voted for them in the last election or to at least give the impression that they are trying to do so.  The number of laws under kings is small enough that they can be written on a single monument in some cases.  The number of laws under parliaments is large enough that the paper on which they are printed could be used to build a sizable monument.

It is a curious thing that though there are more and more laws in a democracy as time goes by, the morality of the citizens seems to not have been affected much.  Whether some action or failure to act is in violation of some law or not seems to have little to do with the incidence of that action or failure to act.  It’s hard to say whether Prohibition resulted in less consumption of alcohol.  It’s hard to say whether laws against various frauds have reduced the incidence of fraud.  Fraud still seems to be extremely common.  Laws against certain sexual behaviors don’t seem to have made those behaviors rare.  Have all those laws made us any safer from the actions of other people?

We know that law happens when human interaction among strangers becomes common.  If almost everyone you see and interact with during a day is a friend or at least someone you know well there is little need for law.  It is only when your interactions with strangers, with people about whom you know little, become frequent and important to you that something like law will develop.  Custom, folkways, informal norms are quite sufficient for cultures with a low level of technology.  But when it becomes the norm in a nation to have interactions involving physical object money in its economy, formal laws are the result and crime as we know it is born.

If you know someone well, you know how to get along with them.  If you must interact with a stranger in some way important to you both, the two of you need to share some common understanding of what actions are acceptable, what actions are required, and what actions are prohibited.  This is especially true when the relationship is one of rivals, competitors, opponents, or enemies.  I hope that listing sounds familiar because it is exactly the same listing as the zero-sum game relationship, one of the consequences of physical object money, hereafter abbreviated as POM.  This suggests that the use of a POM encourages the creation of laws.  It seems to me that such is exactly the case.  How many of our laws have something to do with money as we know it?  I contend that almost – but not quite – all laws have something to do with interactions involving money.  Miss Manners tells us how to interact using courtesy, politeness, and good manners.  But these instructions for getting along well with others do not have the force of law.  Those laws dealing with human interaction which have a criminal component and which do not involve money are relatively few.  We are required by law to not physically injure or kill others except in self-defense.  We are required to care for children in our charge.  We are required to refrain from quite a list of sexual behaviors.  We are required to refrain from using certain drugs without a doctor’s prescription.  But there is not much more to the criminal law which does not involve money.  Contrast that with the huge number of laws which involve money interactions.

Of course some of the very first laws were tax laws, which have become very complicated and with good reason:  It is via the complications that the wealthy avoid paying taxes.  So rather than simply being exempt from all taxes, as were the nobility of France in the times before 1800, the wealthy can give the appearance of being good citizens while paying only a tiny share of their wealth in taxes.  It’s only human.  You’d do the same thing in their place.  The temptation to pay a minimum amount of taxes would be overwhelming.  Tax laws are also some of the most violated laws on the books.  It is a rare person who has not violated the tax laws in part because they are so complicated but also because it’s so easy to do.  With everyone paying taxes, the difficulties of enforcing those laws are huge and would cost a large amount of money.  Of course, enforcement would also involve violations of the law in bribery and other forms of cheating by those who are employed to enforce the tax laws.

I believe it was Winston Churchill who said that there are two things you don’t want to know how they are made, sausage and laws.  To a considerable degree, crime is more a product of the making of laws than of utility or morality.  In other words, some behavior is a crime mostly because it’s against the law – rather than because that behavior is immoral – or because things work better with that behavior being suppressed by the state.  The public generally will come to view criminal behavior as immoral just because it’s illegal, and will likewise come to view any legal behavior as moral.  This is putting the cart before the horse, of course, but that’s how people tend to justify their feelings and positions on various political issues.  Because of the way that laws are made, we get a lot of law that is justified on one set of grounds but motivated on a completely different set of grounds.  That is, legislatures enact laws to please their big money supporters.  The big money supporters lobby for laws to protect their wealth and to help them gain still more wealth, it is human nature to do so.  POM motivates such behavior and provides the means to bring about such lawmaking.  Therefore all POM economies will have laws which favor the wealthy, and legislators who become wealthier for having passed such laws.  For a good understanding of what goes on in the making of laws in the U.S. I recommend the biography of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro.  It’s a four-volume work so far, of a planned five volume series, but almost any one of them will provide an accurate look at what goes on behind the scenes in politics during the creation of laws.  It’s enough to shake your faith in democracy and appreciate why Churchill said that democracy was a terrible form of government it’s just that every other form is worse.

But as I said before, we need those laws to govern interactions involving POM.  Without them, the contending parties rely less on fraud and resort even more to force.  The Dark Ages had little government and a lot of force.  Those who had the power oppressed those who did not have any.  It was direct, face to face, and brutal.  It’s much better to be a victim of fraud:  You will live longer and in better circumstances being defrauded than you will being mugged.  Life as an actual slave is worse than life as a wage slave for a major corporation.  Life as a coal miner is pretty dangerous and difficult but it was far worse before laws concerning mine safety were enacted.  So we may well chafe under the laws as they are today, and we may well oppose such oppression as the laws provide; but without law, without the peace imposed by the force of government, things would be even worse.

Now as is my practice in this series of essays, I will point out that the things we don’t like about the law are a product of the physical object nature of our money and that things would be much better with a non-POM.  I have already noted that the false simulation of a zero-sum game interaction in money transactions using POM creates a relationship of competition, rivalry, opposition, and enemies.  But I can add to that the fact that POM is amoral which allows it to be used for immoral purposes as in creating unfair laws and using immoral means to promote unfair laws.  We should also note that POM use is uncontrollable so that the nation, the law, and the society cannot prevent its being used in immoral ways.  And finally, that two-party interaction instability generates big money interests with POM which have the power to shape law to their liking.

These are obvious.  I hope that those who have been regular readers of this series were way ahead of me in that listing of how POM promotes bad law.  But there’s far more to the effects of POM on the making of law than that.  You remember that I noted that the law, even with all these bad laws in the mix, was necessary to provide order to some degree and reduce the use of force in economic interaction.  When one plays a game it’s no fun if one of the players is cheating.  The cheating winner has not actually won the game since, by not following the rules of the game, the cheater was not playing the game but doing something else altogether.  The cheated loser has not only not won anything, but has been made an enemy, an opponent in reality rather than just in the context of the game.  That cheating goes beyond the game and is an attack on the relationship between the two people.  When POM interaction takes place, the zero-sum simulation goes beyond the context of economic interaction whenever one or the other parties to that interaction cheats in some way.  Changing the law to benefit one or the other parties is one means of cheating.  But there are far more ways of cheating that POM makes available.  Remember that two-party instability?  The relationship between employer and employee is a two-party interaction.  The employer has the advantage and can use POM to gain still greater advantages.  Laws against union activities is one way of increasing that advantage.  Contractual fine print is another source of advantage.  In fact, the marketplace is riddled with force and fraud both legal and illegal.  So POM creates relationships which encourage actions which harm other people.  We expect strangers to be our enemies and to try to harm us, at least by taking our money, and perhaps worse.  One of the justifications for our lack of gun laws is so that everyone can be armed to defend themselves and one of the main motives for those who might attack us is to take our money.

But the law is not very effective in controlling behavior.  Much of the law is simply ignored by both the general public and the enforcement agencies.  The law is so vast and so complicated that we can know but a tiny fraction of that law and for the average person even much of what we think we know is probably wrong.  Therefore those parts of the law that do get enforced are applied capriciously, inconsistently, and are applied mostly to those who are powerless.  This is all a product of POM.

Now let’s see what a difference a non-POM would make.  With a non-POM the mutual interdependence of human beings is emphasized.  If one person benefits, others also benefit.  If one person suffers, others also suffer.  Therefore the behavior one would expect from strangers would be help if we needed help, support if we needed support, assistance in the accomplishment of our goals, protection from threats of all kinds.  Since most of criminal law with a POM is due to POM being taken from persons against their will by force or fraud, those parts of criminal law could be ignored with a non-POM since the crimes could not happen.  Since fines and monetary court settlements would be impossible, those aspects of the law would also be ignored with a non-POM.  Taxes would cease to exist so that body of law would be irrelevant.  So the opportunity to commit criminal acts would be greatly reduced even if one were looking for a way to commit a crime.

Moving on to the creation of laws, there would be no big money involved in shaping the law.  There is no means by which a non-POM can be used to lobby a legislator.  The wealthy cannot hire anyone using a non-POM.  A legislator supporting the passage of a law which resulted in more harm than good would lose far more future income than any bribe could offer.  But even if such a law were passed, it would not be enforced in a non-POM system.  Finally, the legislature has no non-POM and has little or nothing to do with the economy so almost no motive would exist to even attempt to lobby a legislator to pass a bad or oppressive law.  The legislature would have almost no power beyond that of recommendation or suggestion.

The remaining law that would be enforced would be concerning such things as assault.  In other words actions which harm other people in some way.  Such actions would result in less possible future income for the person who committed such actions.  Also, the prevention of such actions would earn income for those who took actions to prevent them.  Such actions would reduce further income for all those who aided the person to commit those actions.  So if you provided the gun which was used to harm, rather than protect someone, your future income would be reduced.  Finally, anyone who successfully reduced the harm done by such actions would also have earned non-POM.  As a result of this context for action, of this set of circumstances, the only reason why one might choose to harm someone else would be due to some kind of insanity, whether temporary or permanent. (Crimes of passion are often considered “temporary insanity” for example and I consider QUOTE “killing for God” UNQUOTE to be a form of insanity.) The common motives which tend to lead to crime today would no longer exist.

There’s no reason to make a law if virtually everyone is trying to avoid harming anyone else.  It’s not as if the public did not realize that some action was harmful until the law was passed.  That only requires education, as in the case of seat belts and smoking; it does not require making some action into a crime.  Therefore, laws against actions which harm others would be redundant.  For example, laws against speeding are created to save lives and reduce injuries and damage to property.  Yet when I drive on the highways and streets I see that most of the vehicles are going faster than the speed limit:  The law has not prevented speeding.  But the law has made possible the existence of speed traps whereby local governments are able to reduce taxes by imposing fines on travelers.  To prevent deaths, injuries, and property damage with a non-POM economy, means other than law would be utilized for attaining those ends.  Coercion is harm to those coerced so coercion would be employed only in extreme cases.  But manufacturing vehicles which will detect maximum safe speeds for conditions is certainly possible with today’s technology, and those vehicles can refuse to go faster than the limits.  Drivers under the influence of some substance can be detected by the vehicle, which will refuse to be driven by a sleepy or otherwise distracted or bewildered driver.  Yes, these technologies might well be employed if required by law in our current economy, but with a non-POM they would be put in place as soon as tested and found practical – and would be made available and installed on all vehicles as soon as possible.  Anything which improved safety would be applied without being required or forced. If it was considered a necessity, the user would not be charged for the “upgrade”.

You will perhaps have noted that the law concerning crimes against property and crimes against the person can be somewhat complicated.  But even so, the law often must ignore the context within which a violation has taken place.  Also, the law comes complete with coercive penalties and punishments.  So the law is often a source of injustice – as in when a person defends themselves from unlawful assault by a police officer, and is thereby guilty of “resisting arrest” or some such law.  With a non-POM each incident, each case in which a person is harmed is judged on its own unique merits and features.  Everything that can be taken into account is considered, and every effort is made… not only to render justice, but also minimize harm to people.  Putting the mother of small children into jail is rarely the best course of action under the circumstances.  There are almost always less harmful courses of action to deal with the situation.  With POM the law often ties the hands of the court and the criminal justice system, with non-POM there is no such requirement.  The only rule with non-POM is do the best thing for this situation with all its ramifications regardless of previous cases (or precedents) of a similar nature.

Finally we arrive at the most destructive of kinds of crimes, those which go under the heading of organized crime.  I prefer a broad definition of organized crime.  I think everyone includes such things as prostitution, gambling, illegal drugs, loan sharking, and protection rackets within the general concept; but I like to also include activities such as price fixing, money laundering, moving profits off-shore, pollution, environmental destruction, suppression of innovation, and the massive frauds practiced by the large corporations.  Just because some big money interests use their power to bend the government to their will does not make their activities any less harmful.  With POM such crimes are standard operating procedure.  They are as old as government which means their origins are in pre-history.  But they are also the most damaging of crimes in the damage they do to the economy and to the social order.  The disruption to the economy of the world produced by the mortgage fraud crimes of the last decade gives a hint of the scale of these crimes, and of the harm they do to the fabric of society.  The efforts of organized crime to control politics is apparent in the massive amounts of money involved in our elections in the U.S.  The resultant political disorder and ignoring of our real problems threatens our continued existence.  Mother Nature will present us with a number of challenges over the next century or so, and we will be ill-equipped to meet those challenges due to organized crime.

With non-POM organized crime is impossible.  At the street level there’s no way to get paid for illegal drugs or sex, or to gamble for money.  Extortion doesn’t work when the victim cannot turn over the cash.  Illegal organizations cannot pay their members or “divide the loot” when POM is not available.  So both the means and the motivation for organized crime is simply nonexistent with non-POM.  Without having to lift an enforcement finger organized crime will simply wither and die over the course of a few weeks from the transition to non-POM.  Businesses which today depend upon fraud for most of their profits will dissipate with their employees quickly turning to other work.  Banks, insurance, and the stock markets will no longer function since their reason for being will no longer exist.  Harmful agricultural practices will lose earnings and fade away.  Non-POM cannot be used to advocate for one candidate or another and there’s no motive to use non-POM to gain money from the government since the government has no money.  The consequences of the elimination of organized crime over the course of a couple of years would be stunning.  Even the streets would have far fewer potholes.  The slums would have disappeared.  The first Tuesday in November would be just another day for most people.  Even the food available in the grocery stores would be different.  People would be healthier and construction activities would be commonplace.  Day-care would be available to all the children, none of whom would ever have to go hungry.

Of course, if you currently make your money from organized crime activities, remember that you, too, are a victim of organized crime in more ways than you know.

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