The $elfish Djinn

Recently I heard a bunch of 1960s professors at Columbia participate in a panel about whether Marxism is still relevant today. One of them pointed out what he perceived as the spontaneous energy of capitalism, how it always seeks to find a way past obstacles, no matter what. Though he said it admiringly, he didn’t mean it in a totally good sense.

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There is indeed a tremendous vitality related to the acquisition of money. It’s undeniable. Look at the ingenious fierce energy with which financial companies grew rich, and observe the fury associated with the bailout, the AIG bonuses and the AIG counterparties. And notice the powerful homing instinct implicit in the vast sums of money that are returning to the firms that lost them in what should have been uninsured risk-taking.

This observation about energy reminded me of Schopenhauer and his theory of the power of the noumenon, the will implicit in all matter and human beings that seeks to preserve itself. I looked up what he had to say about money.

“Money,” wrote Schopenhauer, “is human happiness in the abstract; he, then, who is no longer capable of enjoying human happiness in the concrete devotes himself utterly to money.”

I have a slightly different theory.

I think money, and especially fiat money, is simply the disembodied Will itself, the urge to exist and accrete and reproduce, which is what money does best.

A djinn/genie is a supernatural creature in Arabic mythology which possesses free will.

Like the selfish gene for whom human beings are merely a convenient shell to aid the genes’ reproduction, so perhaps money is pure Will, a $elfish Djinn seeking to unerringly attach itself to those humans who will best aid it to reproduce as widely as possible. This simple hypothesis could explain a lot about the world.


Originally published at Wilmott.com and reproduced here with the author’s permission.

One Response to "The $elfish Djinn"

  1. Anonymous   March 18, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Very enlightening. I’m a great Schopenhauer fan, feeling rather lonely whenever I try to question the existence of freewill, and Have been wondering for a long time why people “worth” 10 billion $ needed more (of course those billions can disappear as fast as a djinn, but fortunately the taxpayer is always happy to help billionaires in need)