The Promise Merchants Part II

By Noni Mausa

The Promise Merchants Part II — Postulates
(Dan here…reformatted from the original posted earlier)

1. There is always [1] excess production. Individual human beings
cannot produce enough to live comfortably, but people in groups can’t
help but overproduce.

2. People can’t stop producing. The time, attention and efforts of
human beings are expended continuously. Their energy is like the
water through a hydroelectric dam – it generates electricity whether
that electricity is used or not.

3. There are two great domains of human wealth – story, and stuff.

4. Stuff is limited, immediate, distinct and substantial.

5. Story [2] is unlimited in size, shape and qualities, timeless,
mutable and amenable to distillation. Human beings distribute wealth
across time by means of story .

6. One of these stories is money. Money is a creature of time. Money
is the story which allocates the stuff across time.

7. People do not need money – they need stuff. But story liquefies
stuff across time and allows individuals to work, produce excess, and
share their excess without fear that their sharing will not be
returned in due time. Time being what it is, this fear is never
entirely unfounded, but the shared faith in money is itself so
productive that the slippage is usually well compensated.

8. One important class of stuff is the time, effort and attention
(TEA) [3] of human beings. These TEA elements, together measured as
tau, are “stuff” – real resources of real value.

9. Those whose domain is rooted firmly in stuff do not hold the
controlling hand in repayment or just compensation – quite the
opposite. Farmers and fishermen, teachers and artists, labourers and
healers and especially parents are instead captives to the stuff they
produce. The stuff each person produces is limited, but his needs are
continuous, multiple and urgent.

10. And then there are the twin motivations of love and
responsibility, caritas. Witness whether work continues in the
absence of remuneration — in the gap you will find caritas. The
greater the caritas, the more likely the poverty of the person driven
by it.

11. Money amplifies the potency of he who possesses it, out of
proportion to that person’s personal tau, by shaping the efforts of
others in accordance with his will. It is not, however, the only type
of story which can do this.

12. This shaping is not automatically good or bad – money may shape
efforts towards crime or towards charity. Story may shape efforts
towards the defense of Britain or the invasion of Poland. But some
patterns of shaping are more likely than others, and many of these are
destructive and self-perpetuating.

13. Stuff cannot be arbitrarily increased or erased [4], but money can
– in fact, strong rules must be in place to prevent this sort of
slippage. There’s a reason counterfeiting is a federal crime. The
production of false currency, like the writing of false IOUs, erodes
the faith that makes money work.

14. Counterfeiting money is not the only hazard. Story of all types
is eroded if it is not honoured wherever presented. Science is eroded
by false science, law is eroded by unjust or unenforced law, finance
is eroded by unequal honouring of accounts and investments. Stories
themselves, the original shared memory of our species, are eroded in
value by false or pandering narratives.

15. Story manages stuff. There is always slippage. But when the
disjunct between story and stuff is extreme, at that boundary you will
always find violence.


1) Absolutes are never true, unless they are definitional. However
at present, this “always” is a pretty safe assumption in human
cultures worldwide. Even the poorest create some excess, as proved by
the poorest nations still supporting their elites.

2) Includes such intangibles as knowledge, memory, culture,
accounting, language, mapping, science, finance and geneology.

3) I developed this term a decade before the Tea Party raised its
head. Nonetheless, those justifiably angry grass-roots Tea Partiers
would do well to study these postulates. They know they’re not
getting the benefit of their productivity – this could show them where
that benefit has gone.

4) Stuff cannot be erased, but it can be wasted. The water above the
dam cannot be annihilated, but it can be diverted to the spillway.