Idea #12: Trackable Money

A very curious feature of this invention we call currency is that you can’t track it with ease. Pick a dollar bill in your hands, can you say if the past owner of that money was your employer, or if you got it from the market? No, most likely you can’t.

Short of conducting an investigation, money is virtually trackless. Owned by who posseses it, one needs simply to present it to benefit from it’s credit feature.

The average people need not know the origin of the money, but this information is relevant for governments, companies and organizations. A government is interested to know if money was involved in illicit activities, as well as to keep track of taxes, for example. A company would be interested in not being associated with crime.

There are means to track large flows of money. For example, any bank transaction higher than a set amount is notified to regulating banks. Personal intensive investigations, with correlating databases, can eventually uncover money laundering. But there is hardly enough people to investigate the population, so only a small fraction of the infractions are punished.

But how one could make money more trackable?

The first step into achieving this is to abolish completely the paper and coin currency. It’s simply impossible to keep track. Instead, favor electronic payment options. We will need to redesign currency as well as the infrastructure used by it.

Money currently has only one relevant attribute: it’s value, how much it represents. What if we added to every cent a list of owners, as well as a past transactions field and a timestamp?

This is a very simplified example of what I’m proposing. Say that for a particular cent:

table

The more down in the table you go the further back in time you are. So this cent went from the Government of Indiana all the way to Mary, who owns it now in her bank account. John loaned this cent from Peter in 15/06/2017.

Of course there could me more fields in this, as well as codes representing each type of transaction, estabilishment and person. This would have to be very synthetic however, since in the US alone there are  $1.56 trillion of dollars in circulation. Imagine the computer space required to store this information. Probably a record too far in the past could not be kept. Nothing is free of charge.

So a person would have many blocks of cents with different history in his/her bank account. Of course to him/hers, it could only be displayed the total amount.

In every store, there would be credit cards like machines that would register the transactions. They could also be owned by people, or be available in banks for people to register personal transactions such as loans. The banking system would compensate these transactions as it normally does.

Of course, people could still falsify the entries somehow. That’s why there would have to be standart security measures, like the ones used today to prevent credit card fraud. It may seem like too much an imposition to force everyone to use electronic payment means, but there could be considerable gain.

It would be required to process this information. The second step of this endeavour is to build advanced computer routines for scanning infractions, and apply them continuously to the data gathered.

For example, a large amount of small transactions from young consuming group could indicate a drug selling bussiness. A large donation from a company to a politician could trigger an investigation. An unusual growth in income could potentially lead to identifying criminal organizations.

People would ultimately barter or use a black market money, but it’s a lot harder to try to by crack with your iPhone than it is with money.

When in doubt, always follow the money trail.

[IMAGE: French Pacific Territories currency note, circa 1985 image source]

Idea #11: A Cap for Wealth

It’s a surprising simplistic idea but, why doesn’t wealth have an upper set limit in society?

A simple statistics by OXFAM this year states that the richest 1% hold more wealth than the rest of the people combined.

The answer the question stated above is quite simple. Wealth doesn’t have an upper limit because the individuals who own enough wealth to bother soon found out that they could make even more profit by cornering the law-making process. Thus economical power became political power, and wealth accumulation ensued.

Of course today this is done in practice by corporations and organizations. There is no need to tell that it’s not in their interest to have a limit for themselves.

As the relations became more complex, more and more safeguards and insurances to protect assets where put in practice. These include both physical methods (ie banking, security) to more powerful social methods such as:

  • alienation to the real status of wealth concentration;
  • creating the illusion that ordinary people will ever become rich;
  • carefully segregating society into social classes (for example, certain places can only be accessed by people in the upper class);
  • restricting access to education, particularly one that questions.

Today is a safe bet to say that, unless there were a major rupture in society (and I mean really major) these safeguards would deter any attempt to change this status. We live in our own cage of a system.

And our system isn’t able to correct itself against the most serious problems such as global warming and global inequality.

I say hit the ‘reboot button’ in society, starting by setting a cap and redistributing the wealth.

But do it in a non-violent way, by organized gradual awareness and polarization. Sure Gandhi taught us a trick or two. You could still count any extra money earned as a point system, if you care for measuring and comparing earnings.

I doesn’t even need to be a small cap, it can be enough to allow a relative luxurious life style. There is plenty of wealth around to give everyone more than enough to survive.

If you are still not convinced, it’s important when you read these plain statistics about wealth concentration to have this mental image:

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[The vulture and the little girl, famous 1993 Pulitzer photo by Kevin Carter image source]

This is the other end of being rich. There is only so much wealth in this world, and if you have too much then someone is short of it. We mask it by saying that this is caused by country poverty, but in reality there isn’t much difference. Certainly doesn’t make a difference to that child.

Any moral being of conviction would refuse to be rich on principle, with the exception of those who do it to help others. To quote a series, we comforted ourselves in the knowledge that it really wasn’t our fault, not really.

[IMAGE: US S5 dollar bill, portraying Lincoln image source]