On money & wealth

Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Robert Anton Wilson, from 1976. I include it here because I find it the clearest, most concise summary of RAW’s thoughts on these matters that I’ve read. I think he retained this basic outlook over at least the following two decades.

RAW: Of course, my position is based on the denial that money does store wealth. I think it’s a semantic hallucination, the verbal equivalent of an optical illusion, to speak at all of money containing or storing wealth. Such thinking should have gone out with phlogiston theory. The symbol is not the referent; the map is not the territory. Money symbolizes wealth, as words symbolize things, and that’s all.

The delusion that money contains wealth is the mechanism by which the credit monopoly has gained a stranglehold on the entire economy. As Colonel Greene pointed out in Mutual Banking, all the money could disappear tomorrow morning and the wealth of the planet would remain the same. However, if the wealth disappeared — if squinks from the Pink Dimension dragged it off to null-space or something — the money would be worth nothing.

You don’t need to plow through the dialects of the debate between the Austrians and the free credit people like Tucker and Gesell to see this; any textbook of semantics will make it clear in a few hours of study. Wealth is nature’s abundance, freely given, plus the exponential advance of technology via human intelligence, and as Korzybski and Fuller demonstrate, this can only increase at an accelerating rate. Money is just the tickets or symbols to arrange for the distribution — either equitably, in a free money system, or inequitably, as under the tyranny of the present money-cartel. 

RAW frequently cited Benjamin Tucker when discussing this subject, but I always thought his framing on money/wealth owed more to Buckminster Fuller’s futurism. (Fuller’s Critical Path wasn’t published until 1981, but Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth and Utopia or Oblivion came out in 1968 and 1969 respectively).

You can read the full interview at The Anarchist Library. The interview originally appeared in New Libertarian Notes/Weekly 39, September 5, 1976.

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