The Electronic Control of Human Economic
The marketplace is now
buzzing with electronic money. The economic transactions of millions of unsuspecting
citizens can be intercepted, monitored, recorded, memorized, merged, consolidated,
dissected, analyzed, scrutinized, etc. Buy a bottle of wine with a credit card, and the
technology can allow your banker, his agent, or some financial organization to know,
almost instantaneously, where, when, and for how much you bought it. And that's not all.
The electronic data warehouse can allow them to find out how often you
bought liquor -- last week, last month, last year, etc. Indications are that a global
electronic web will soon allow a few financial institutions in each country to monitor
and control the flow of most economic transactions.
IF THIS TREND REMAINS
UNCHECKED -- WITH NO ADEQUATE LEGISLATION, NO ADEQUATE PRIVACY PROTECTION, AND NO ADEQUATE
SEPARATION OF FINANCIAL AND COMMERCIAL POWERS -- THE MONEY TRUST WILL BE ABLE TO DOMINATE
AND CONTROL ALMOST EVERY ASPECT OF HUMAN ECONOMIC LIFE.
Millions in the United States, Canada, Japan, etc., have become "gadgeteers."
Unsuspecting citizens have replaced simple payments of cash with credit and debit
transactions. The purchase of a commodity is no longer a pure and simple transaction.
Instead, it has become a complex operation involving what Lewis Mumford called the
"megamachine" -- "'civilized' atrocities"1 consisting, for the purposes of
this discourse, of magnetized plastic cards, electronic point-of-sale devices, ABMs
and ATMs, telecommunication lines, computers, etc. --, to transact the simplest purchases.
on the 'Daemonic' Force.
What "'daemonic' force"2 is here at work? Where does the
"compulsion to repeat"3 the act of purchasing objects with
a PLASTIC CARD come from? One plausible answer has something to do with Freud's
"pleasure principle."4 According to Freud the compulsion
to repeat is organic and lies in the phenomena of genetic heredity. Humans
-- especially children -- have an inexorable need to repeat "pleasurable
experiences."5 According to this theory, financial
institutions that issue cards to their customers could be exploiting the "purely
infantile"6 compulsion of customers to
effectively spend money. The compulsion is pleasurable because it gives the buyer the
illusion of mastery over the purchase. For their efforts, financial institutions
earn a transaction fee, a percentage of the money spent, or interest. Man's instinctual
compulsion to repeat should therefore become a massive and necessary source of income
for the Money Trust. Ironically, Freud pointed out, the perceived pleasures are
"deceptive" -- they do not tend "towards change and progress," but are
"more complicated détours" towards "death" (the return to our
original state as "inanimate things").7
Why are so many people
willing to transform the simple act of purchasing into a potential act of control
-- or, as some would argue, of extortion? Why so many would be willing to pay
what amounts to a "tax" or "vigorish" by financial and other
institutions, for the simple privilege of allowing these institutions to transfer money,
from a purchaser's account, to a seller's account? The answer is not simple; but it is
not beyond our reach.
"Divinity" of Electronic Money. The findings of Mumford and Fromm
raise many profound and disturbing questions:
- Can Fromm's "marketing
character" transform humans (their mind, their personality, . . . even their
"smile") into "commodities" or "things" for sale in the
- Can the act of purchasing be
replaced by the "artifact" of a credit or debit card?
- Can a purchase -- a
manifestation of life -- become a "technical matter" -- a manifestation of
- Can people be intoxicated by
the "divine velocity"10 of electromagnetic bits and bytes?
- Can electronic money become
a form of "divinity" -- a sort of "fusion of technique and
"BIG BROTHER IS
WATCHING YOU," "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY," "TELESCREENS," etc., are no
longer figments of Orwell's imagination.12 The "megamachine" -- the
banks, the technology, the software, the computerized devices, the mass memories, the
global communication networks, the global positioning satellites, the global multimedia
broadcasting capabilities, etc.,-- all that is needed to dominate
economic life, all that is needed for global usury, is available now. And the
temptation to use it all is immense.
See Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine, 1966 and 1967, at 188-194 (The
Design of the Megamachine), 228-231 (Reactions Against the Megamachine), 231-233 and
(Curbs on the Megamachine). For a discussion of the connection between destructiveness and
the "megamachine," see Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,
1973, at 380-398 (The Connection Between Necrophilia and the Worship of Technique), and
381 (definition of "gadgeteer").
2 Freud's expression; see
Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology,Vol. 11, compiled and edited by Angela Richards,
1955, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1984, at 307-308 ("'daemonic force").
3 Freud's expression;
ibid., at 309 ("organic compulsion to repeat" and "heredity").
4 Ibid., at
275-338 (Beyond the Pleasure Principle).
5 Ibid., at
307 (repetition, mastery, and pleasurable experiences).
6 See Sigmund
Freud, On Metapsychology, Vol. 11, compiled and edited by Angela Richards, 1955,
1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1984, at 308 (purely infantile behavior).
7 Ibid., at
310 (change and progress as "deceptive appearance"), 311 ('the aim of all
life is death'; "more complicated détours before reaching its aim of
death"), 312-313 (repetition as a "lengthening of the road to death"), and
319, 322, 329 (connection between the "Nirvana principle," the
"pleasure principle," and the "death instinct"), and 413-415 (the
"Nirvana principle" belongs to the "death instinct").
8 See Erich Fromm, The
Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, 1973, at 380-398 (The Connection Between Necrophilia
and the Worship of Technique), especially 388-389 ("[f]or the marketing character
everything is transformed into a commodity").
9 Ibid., at
382 ("necrophilous tendencies").
10 Ibid., at
383-384 ("divine velocity"); the idea of divine velocity is from
F.T. Marinetti (1916), Futurist Manifesto, R.W. Flint, ed., 1971 (cited in Fromm).
11 Ibid., at
382 ("fusion of technique and destructiveness"); this connection is attributed
to F.T. Marinetti (1909), Futurist Manifesto, R.W. Flint, ed., 1971 (cited in
12 See George Orwell
[Eric Arthur Blair], Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), with a Note by Peter Davison,
1987 and 1989, at 3 ("BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU"), and 6 and 290
("FREEDOM IS SLAVERY").
|THE ORWELLIAN WEB: TOTAL CONTROL OF ECONOMIC LIFE
CONTROL OF ECONOMIC TRANSACTIONS TO CONTROL OF HUMAN LIFE
Plate 9-1 The Orwellian Web: The Threat to Individual Freedoms and the
Control of Economic Life
sacrifice their liberty for superior market efficiency? If yes, then
Capitalism is a sure road to total economic dominion over humans, by the Money
Trust. All the technological machinery -- to separate economic transactions and
money, from both the buyer and the seller -- is currently available. Unfettered, the control over economic transactions can lead to the
Orwellian control of human life. Not
even anonymous electronic transactions can be spared. A tracer dye injected into a
tributary can be traced by a few technicians downstream. Electronically serialized
"money" can be traced using similar principles. The source, the route, the
destination, the velocity, the concentration, and the diffusion of serialized
electronic money in the electronic web can all be determined inexpensively and accurately.
Technology may be dependable; but man's virtues are not!
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