The Soul of Enterprise Interview [Part 2]
As I shared on Friday, over the next few Daily Prophecies I’m going to be sharing the transcript of an interview that I did with the hosts of The Soul of Enterprise.
If you missed part 1, you can go here to catch up. Keep scrolling to read part 2…
Ron: Right, right. George, you said you were in Jackson Hole or are you still going there?
George: Yeah. I spoke in Jackson Hole and a sort of counter offense run by the American Principles Project and Steve Lonegan. It was really exciting. Alan Greenspan was supposed to be the main speaker but because he didn’t show, I became the main speaker. I would have done better, I think, with all the attention Alan would have attracted but Paul Krugman frightened him away.
Paul Krugman just wrote an article in the New York Times and attacked Greenspan for going to this conference of cranks in Jackson Hole. Greenspan dropped out.
Ron: Wow! Okay. If we have time, we want to ask you about your gold paper that you…
Ed: Coming back, Ron.
Matt: Stand by, guys.
Voice over: You are tuned into The Soul of Enterprise with Ron Baker and Ed Kless. To find out more about our show, visit us on the web at thesoulofenterprise.com. You can also chat with us on Twitter using #asktsoe. Now, back to The Soul of Enterprise.
Ed: We are back with George Gilder. George, Ed Kless here. My pleasure to meet you. My relationship to you is through Ron. I guess I owe it to Ron’s dad as well. I wanted to just pick up on, we were talking a little bit about Knowledge and Power. I just got 1 question on that. That is if all wealth is the accumulation of knowledge, how accurately can that then be measured?
George: It can be measured if you have a measuring stick. One of the real problems in recurrent economy is the measuring stick is now floating. It’s now part of what it measures, that is money is the measuring stick of economic activity. Money through the centuries, much of the time has expressed a particular weight of gold and thus has had a tie to the actual, physical constants of the universe.
My new book which is available for free at the americanprinciplesproejct.org in a PDF, you can download it, shows that the reason gold has been such a valuable measuring stick is that it’s not that gold is shiny or gold is valuable or gold is a good conductor of electricity or gold is jewelry but rather that as money, gold is as not part of what it measures. Gold, through history, has cancelled out economic progress in itself. Its cancelled it out just pretty much by happenstance.
It so happens that as technology for mining gold and transporting it and finding it and collecting it has improved, the gold itself has become more difficult to extract than deeper loads and more thinner deposits. New technology has been cancelled out by the greater cost of finding the gold. What’s left is a measure of time. Gold is measured by the time it takes to extract it. Time is actually the 1 unmanipulable, unhoardable, unstealable, unfalsifiable, it’s the 1 element in the universe that is a perfect measuring stick. In fact, when people do try to create a measuring units metric and root them in physical constant as the [system for national 00:22:35] in Paris where they measure the meter and the second and the lumen and the amp here and the mole and the kilogram.
All these different units of measurement, they all finally are rooted in time because they all have to refer to some frequency or some temperature or some other metric that is rooted in the passage of time, a frequency of so many cycles per second, the temperature is so many oscillations per second. They’re all based ultimately in the speed of light. Money is also based on time. That’s why gold has been the measuring stick over the centuries that succeeded.
When Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous inventor of Bitcoin, tried to create a new currency, his chief goal was to mimics gold in its roots in the passage of time. If you got wealth is knowledge, growth is learning, money is ultimately time. If you manipulate money, you manipulate interest rates, manipulate the measuring stick, you end up really trying to manipulate time. Time always wins.
Ed: I teach a project management class for Sage. One of the things that I say in class is that time is a constraint, not a resource and what …
George: That’s an important insight.
Ed: Yeah, it’s critical. This is coming around to our audience, George. One of the things that Ron and I teach is a course about getting off of the billable hour for professional firms because we believe that it’s a challenge because it’s really based on Marx’s labor theory of value and that people shouldn’t charge for their time.
What I find so interesting about this and what is creating some real cognitive dissonance for me and I think for Ron as well is we have railed against this idea of charging for time because we said that time is not money. You’re making a very subtle difference. It’s almost not an equals. You’re saying time is not money but money is time because otherwise, if access to gold represents time and effort of extraction, wouldn’t that make Marx’s labor theory of value correct, in a sense?
George: You see, if it’s labor, then labor comes all sorts of different qualities and entails different forms of capital and tools and technologies and different levels of sophistication and knowledge. The crucial point is that the measuring stick can’t be part of what it measured. If you have money based on the measuring stick of human labor and creativity, you’ve got money is part of what it measures. It can no longer be a guide or an anchor of value. It’s just a part of the process of learning and growth that characterizes the economy.
The crucial thing is money has to be a measuring stick. That means the measurement has to be rooted outside of what it measures. That means time. It’s not labor time, it’s time itself. That, as you say, is not a resource. It’s a constraint. It’s what forces trade-offs. It’s what allows you to allocate resources and to define priorities. I always say that socialists assume infinite time. If you have infinite time, everything’s possible so nothing can be measured or calculated. It’s recognizing that money is time and it constrains your decisions is crucial to understanding the real nature of money and economics.
I hope that wasn’t completely confusing. It is a subtle difference, though. It’s not labor. If it’s labor then you can have the computers involved and wars, laws advance. Money just becomes a plaything as the financiers. Pretty soon, the whole economy is dominated by finance. That is the peril we currently face, the horizons of investment strength until finally, you have markets dominated by flash boys as they call them, Michael Lewis, doing transactions in microsecond.
Ed: Yup, great. Thank you. It was not confusing. It actually provided a lot of clarity for myself. Thank you.
We’ve got about 2 minutes for a break here. You brought up Bitcoin. I have 2 quick questions about Bitcoin. I’ll get them out and see where we can go. Do you think that Bitcoin might grow faster in some of the emerging world countries as it is in Argentina and then actually loop itself back to here in the more developed world?
George: No. I think that’s one of the things that is happening.
Another thing that’s happening is the Bitcoin blockchain is emerging as a new layer of internet software, the internet under the OSI Model as it’s called has 7 layers and some of them are being collapsed and merged but essentially there are 7 layers which spring from Shannon’s theory.
I believe that we need an eighth layer. That’s a transactions and trust layer. I think that the Bitcoin blockchain can be layer 8 on the internet. Gradually, they come an increasingly important force in the world economy. I think this is positive because it represents a return to a new form of goal rooted in time.
Ed: Yup. Last quick question on Bitcoin, then we’ll take the break. You have studied Bitcoin well, much more than I have. I have asked this question to a lot of people and never really get, I think, a satisfactory answer is what happens when we get to 21,000,000 Bitcoin?
George: We have a learning curve? People have been taught to believe that inflation is the natural condition of capitalist economics. This is really giving up if you think costs are always going up. You are essentially saying that learning has stopped and we’re in a long period of secular stagnation as Larry Summers once said. The fact is that the natural condition of capitalism is for prices to go down and everything gets cheaper all the time.
The granularity of the Bitcoin is 100,000,000 units. There’s not a big danger that it’s going to represent some kind of constriction on economic growth. I think the fact that time is the 1 thing that remains scarce when everything else grows abundant. You have to have the time manifested in the monetary system where the monetary system can’t regulate transactions and commerce.
Ed: Excellent. Thank you so much.
Editor, Gilder’s Daily Prophecy