Thursday, August 2, 2007

Renew the Infrastructure? Alter the Monetary System

The Minneapolis bridge-collapse is surely a tragedy, one that will be forgotten within the week. But as this Popular Mechanics article Brittle America points out, it draws attention to a looming issue that is currently much ignored: the decay of infrastructure in the West. Not just bridges, but highways, roads, plumbing, the electrical grid ... much of it was built many decades ago, and beyond it's intended lifespan. At best, it's obsolete; at worst, crumbling.

I couldn't help but think of a video a friend sent me some weeks ago, Money as Debt by Paul Grignon. Much of the movie consists of a historical and logical vivisection of the financial world, but about an hour in he spends a few minutes describing an alternate sort of money supply, one created not as debt but as value. It would be backed up by the creation of infrastructure, being the best sort of collectively shared wealth. Instead of trading paper tokens representing promises to pay back to central banks, people would trade paper tokens standing in for shares in transportation systems, communication networks, and power grids.

One of the benefits of such a system (separate from those mentioned in the movie)? It would very much favor the creation of new infrastructure, and the renewal and maintenance of that already existing. Value-based currency would depreciate in value as the infrastructure backing it up aged (I can't really say why this is so, to be honest; it's just my intuitive economics speaking.) To maintain the economy, the infrastructure would require maintaining; to grow it, it would have to be extended or replaced. Definitely something to think about as technological change and environmental constraints continually raise the opportunity cost of using the antique crap we all inherited from our grandparents.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: