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The power of money, whatever its form, is entailed in the ability of some power to force payment in that form. The Romans enslaved the Carthaginians not only by conquering their armies but by requiring that taxes be paid in Roman coin and that failure to pay taxes resulted in forfeiture of property, liberty and life. Those who wished to live a moderately quiet life were forced to work for the state or its appointed lackeys who were the only source of money needed to pay the taxes.
In our supposedly more enlightened times, the same force applies. Do we think for a moment that central authority would exist without its power, backed by force, to require that taxes be paid and that they be paid in the form prescribed. Legal tender is only half of the story, since the state will accept ONLY its own scrip, money acts as a proxy for enslavement. (See the forced exchange rate in Nazi-occupied France and the criminalisation of p2p exchange)
In times of plenty it is a light yoke, but in hard times it is a hard yoke indeed. All other discussion of what money “is” is merely an accounting of the number of angels dancing on the heads of pins.
I’m sorry to see the calumny against Americans not “having the grey matter” to “make changes to their collective mentality”. In the first place, it is not possible to MAKE changes to a collective mentality. That mentality is an emergent property of the collective and, while leadership can help to make a difference (Gandhi for example) it is a very slow, incremental process until it reaches a watershed. Gandhi was, BTW, a great exponent of the oppositional culture, there is no way he could have united India without the British and in the end the religious differences were too great to contain.
Change is even more difficult in times when there is an existential threat of any kind. The fact that Americans are under increasing threat from their own system is part of the tragedy of all empires, but it guarantees that they will find it too dangerous to change because the cost of failure in that change is too terrifying to contemplate.
Similarly, it the the process of all Empires to accrete and centralise all benefits and to begin to fail at the edges, leaving the centre relatively unscathed until the final phase when it finds itself incapable of sustaining the system which is inherently dependent on looting the periphery. Once the periphery comes inside the national borders the process eats itself and dies.
That does not in any way reflect on the intelligence of the members of the empirical community, their entire world view, for all of their lives and those of several generations before, is informed and conditioned by the fact of empire and the hidden subsidies that it supplies. Breaking out iof that requires something akin to mental illness, the willingness to see, and believe, that what is all around is false and that some alternative that cannot be instantiated until the old way is removed will be better.
It may be the case, but it will get you “treated” for delusions in every empire that has ever existed. The Romans threw the Christians to the lions, the US throws its dissenters to the pharmaceutical business until they become “well” again.
It might be useful to think of Europe’s troubles as the failure of the periphery of the US empire than as some discrete event, for example.
TAE and TOD readers, the Archdruid and others are doing the only thing possible in this world, creating a thinking model and action plan for small groups who can act as sources of knowledge and skills when the inevitable happens; to imagine that any empire or its denizens can do otherwise is neither helpful nor reasonable.
Point of clarification.
You say, “A major buzzword among New Zealanders is “rates”; people are acutely aware of the potential various levels of government have to raise tax rates. “.
Rates in this case is our term for city or regional property taxes; we are rated a share of the total council budget according to the value of the property we own.
The “rate” of that tax, ie the number of cents payable per $1 of property value varies according both to changes in property valuation and city budgets that need funding.
Otherwise, cities have no power to change any other tax rates such as sales tax or income tax, all of which are set by central government.
Looking forward to meeting Nicole in Turangi next month, she’s been a hero and an inspiration since I first found TOD nearly a decade ago.