The marketplace is now buzzing with electronic money. The economic transactions of millions of unsuspecting citizens can be intercepted, monitored, recorded, memorized, merged, consolidated, dissected, analyzed, scrutinized, etc. Buy a bottle of wine with a credit card, and the technology can allow your banker, his agent, or some financial organization to know, almost instantaneously, where, when, and for how much you bought it. And that's not all. The electronic data warehouse can allow them to find out how often you bought liquor -- last week, last month, last year, etc. Indications are that a global electronic web will soon allow a few financial institutions in each country to monitor and control the flow of most economic transactions.


Mumford's "Megamachine." Millions in the United States, Canada, Japan, etc., have become "gadgeteers." Unsuspecting citizens have replaced simple payments of cash with credit and debit transactions. The purchase of a commodity is no longer a pure and simple transaction. Instead, it has become a complex operation involving what Lewis Mumford called the "megamachine" -- "'civilized' atrocities"1 consisting, for the purposes of this discourse, of magnetized plastic cards, electronic point-of-sale devices, ABMs and ATMs, telecommunication lines, computers, etc. --, to transact the simplest purchases.

Freud on the 'Daemonic' Force. What "'daemonic' force"2 is here at work? Where does the "compulsion to repeat"3 the act of purchasing objects with a PLASTIC CARD come from? One plausible answer has something to do with Freud's "pleasure principle."4 According to Freud the compulsion to repeat is organic and lies in the phenomena of genetic heredity. Humans -- especially children -- have an inexorable need to repeat "pleasurable experiences."5 According to this theory, financial institutions that issue cards to their customers could be exploiting the "purely infantile"6 compulsion of customers to effectively spend money. The compulsion is pleasurable because it gives the buyer the illusion of mastery over the purchase. For their efforts, financial institutions earn a transaction fee, a percentage of the money spent, or interest. Man's instinctual compulsion to repeat should therefore become a massive and necessary source of income for the Money Trust. Ironically, Freud pointed out, the perceived pleasures are "deceptive" -- they do not tend "towards change and progress," but are "more complicated détours" towards "death" (the return to our original state as "inanimate things").7

Why are so many people willing to transform the simple act of purchasing into a potential act of control -- or, as some would argue, of extortion? Why so many would be willing to pay what amounts to a "tax" or "vigorish" by financial and other institutions, for the simple privilege of allowing these institutions to transfer money, from a purchaser's account, to a seller's account? The answer is not simple; but it is not beyond our reach.

The "Divinity" of Electronic Money. The findings of Mumford and Fromm raise many profound and disturbing questions:

·         Can Fromm's "marketing character" transform humans (their mind, their personality, . . . even their "smile") into "commodities" or "things" for sale in the marketplace?8

·         Can the act of purchasing be replaced by the "artifact" of a credit or debit card?

·         Can a purchase -- a manifestation of life -- become a "technical matter" -- a manifestation of "necrophilous tendencies"?9

·         Can people be intoxicated by the "divine velocity"10 of electromagnetic bits and bytes?

·         Can electronic money become a form of "divinity" -- a sort of "fusion of technique and destructiveness"?11

"BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU," "FREEDOM IS SLAVERY," "TELESCREENS," etc., are no longer figments of Orwell's imagination.12 The "megamachine" -- the banks, the technology, the software, the computerized devices, the mass memories, the global communication networks, the global positioning satellites, the global multimedia broadcasting capabilities, etc.,-- all that is needed to dominate economic life, all that is needed for global usury, is available now. And the temptation to use it all is immense.

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1 See Lewis Mumford, The Myth of the Machine, at 188-194 (The Design of the Megamachine), 228-231 (Reactions Against the Megamachine), 231-233 and (Curbs on the Megamachine). Lewis Mumford, 1966, 1967. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.
For a discussion of the connection between destructiveness and the "megamachine," see Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, at 380-398 (The Connection Between Necrophilia and the Worship of Technique), and 381 (definition of "gadgeteer"). 1st Owl Book ed., 1992. Erich Fromm, 1973. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, Inc.
2 Freud's expression; see Sigmund Freud, On Metapsychology,Vol. 11, at 307-308 ("'daemonic force"). Translated under the general editorship of James Strachey, compiled and edited by Angela Richards. Angela Richard and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1964. Angela Richards, 1984.
London, England: Penguin Books Ltd.
3 Freud's expression; ibid., at 309 ("organic compulsion to repeat" and "heredity").
4 Ibid., at 275-338 (Beyond the Pleasure Principle).
5 Ibid., at 307 (repetition, mastery, and pleasurable experiences).
6 Ibid., at 308 (purely infantile behavior).
7 Ibid., at 310 (change and progress as "deceptive appearance"), 311 ('the aim of all life is death'; "more complicated détours before reaching its aim of death"), 312-313 (repetition as a "lengthening of the road to death"), and 319, 322, 329 (connection between the "Nirvana principle," the "pleasure principle," and the "death instinct"), and 413-415 (the "Nirvana principle" belongs to the "death instinct").
8 See Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, at 380-398 (The Connection Between Necrophilia and the Worship of Technique), especially 388-389 ("[f]or the marketing character everything is transformed into a commodity"). 1st Owl Book ed., 1992. Erich Fromm, 1973. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company, Inc.
9 Ibid., at 382 ("necrophilous tendencies").
10 Ibid., at 383-384 ("divine velocity"); the idea of divine velocity is from F.T. Marinetti (1916), Futurist Manifesto, R.W. Flint, ed., 1971 (cited in Fromm).
11 Ibid., at 382 ("fusion of technique and destructiveness"); this connection is attributed to F.T. Marinetti (1909), Futurist Manifesto, R.W. Flint, ed., 1971 (cited in Fromm).
12 See George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair], Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), at 3 ("BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU"), and 6 and 290 ("FREEDOM IS SLAVERY"). Note by Peter Davison, 1989. Eric Blair, 1949. Estate of late Sonia Brownwell Orwell, 1987. London, England: Penguin Books Ltd. (1st pub. by Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd.)

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