Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Nomisma" and "Argurion"

UPDATE 12/22//2011:  For disclosure and clarification of origin and intent, the following post is not related to the academic work of MMT.  It is though based on knowledge of state currency systems gained from a study of the MMT.

The Greek Scriptures consistently use two different words when referring to things that are most often today falsely conflated and called "money".

The first scriptural term here, nomisma, which looks like it is a derivative of the Greek word for "law", nomia, is used only once in the Greek Scriptures.
17 Tell us, then, what you are supposing. Is it allowed to give poll tax to Caesar, or not?" 18 Now Jesus, knowing their wickedness, said, "Why are you trying Me, hypocrites? 19 Exhibit to Me the poll tax currency." Now they bring to Him a denarius. 20 And He is saying to them, "Whose is this image and the inscription?" 21 They are saying, "Caesar's." Then He is saying to them, "Be paying, then, Caesar's to Caesar, and God's to God."  (Mat 22:17-21)
The English word "currency" shown here, in the Greek appears as nomisma.  Jesus uses this word when referring to the denarius, a Roman metal coin, with the implication that nomisma was a broad term that applied to state currencies that were being issued and taxed for provision of the civil governments of that day.  The taxes that were payable in this case to the Roman government headed by  Caesar, were payable in a certain unique type of nomisma.  It is revealed here that the Roman poll tax was payable in the denarius.

Other types of nomisma were also being used in that day.  The scriptures reveal that the Greek drachma and stater were also being used.
24 Now at their coming into Capernaum, those getting the double drachma came to Peter and say, "Is not your teacher settling the double drachma tribute?" 25 He is saying, "Yes." And, coming into the house, Jesus forestalls him, saying, "What are you supposing, Simon? The kings of the earth, from whom are they getting tribute or poll tax? From their sons, or from the aliens?" 26 Now he averred, "From the aliens." Now at his saying "From the aliens," Jesus averred to him, "Consequently the sons, surely, are free. 27 Yet, lest we should be snaring them, go, cast a fish hook into the sea, and pick up the first fish coming up, and opening its mouth, you will be finding a stater. Getting that, give it to them for Me and you."  (Mat 17:24-27)
In this passage we see that some other government authority was demanding tribute, payable in the previously issued Greek drachmas or staters.  What specific government entity this was is not revealed (perhaps it was the Herodians), so it is probably not ultimately important, but it is indeed revealed that the government authorities were issuing and taxing types of nomisma. In addition to government issuance and taxation for provision, these nomisma were also being used in general private sector commerce, here the denarius:
35 And already the hour coming to be much advanced, His disciples, coming to Him, said that "This place is a wilderness, and already the hour is much advanced.36 Dismiss them that, coming away into the fields and villages around, they should buy themselves bread. For they have nothing that they may be eating."37 Yet He, answering, said to them, "You give them to eat." And they are saying to Him, "Coming away, should we buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them to eat?"  (Mark 6:35-37)
As well as for personal savings, here with the drachma:
8 "Or what woman having ten drachmas, if she should ever be losing one drachma, is not lighting a lamp and sweeping the house and seeking carefully till she may be finding it?  9 And, finding it, she is calling together the friends and the neighbors, saying 'Rejoice together with me that I found the drachma which I lose!'  (Luke 15:8-9)
The Greek Scriptures depict how nomisma of  several types was being lawfully issued and taxed for government provision; and in addition, those outside the government were using these same nomisma in commerce and to fulfill savings desires.

Then we come to the other word in our study here, argurion which is the Greek word for "silver", the metal.

This word is never used in the Greek Scriptures related to payment of a government tax.

Argurion is used when describing transactions or commerce among those of the House of Israel, and in specific instances relating to the provision of presents or offerings at the Temple.
2 And He commissions them to be heralding the kingdom of God and to be healing the infirm. 3 And He said to them, "Nothing pick up for the road, neither staff, nor beggar's bag, nor bread, nor silver, nor have two tunics apiece.  (Luke 9:2-3)
26 "Now, answering, his lord said to him, 'Wicked and slothful slave! You were aware that I am reaping where I do not sow, and gathering whence I do not scatter. 27 It was binding on you, then, to be depositing my silver with the bankers, and on coming, I should recover what is mine together with interest.  (Mat 25:26-27)
2 And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they may be assassinating Him, for they feared the people.  3 Yet Satan entered into Judas, called Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.  4 And, coming away, he confers with the chief priests and officers how he may be giving Him up to them.  5 And they rejoiced, and they agreed to give him silver.
The argurion is dealt with solely in measures of weight.
 24 Now, at his beginning to settle, one debtor was brought to him who owed ten thousand talents.  (Mat 18:24)
15 Now they weigh for him thirty pieces of silver. (Mat 26:15)
1 Now, looking up, He perceived the rich casting their approach presents into the treasury.  2 Yet He perceived a certain widow also, a drudge, casting there two mites. 3 And He said, "Truly, I am saying to you that this poor widow casts in more than all. 4 For all these cast out of their superfluity into the approach presents of God, yet this woman, out of her want, casts in all the livelihood which she had."  (Luke 21:1-4)
Nomisma is never weighed, it is counted.  See the references above to 200 denarii of bread and the woman's 10 drachma of savings for example.  The archeological records of ancient Rome confirm this also, as denarii are often found in hoards, and the individual coins vary in size and weight.

So we can learn from the Greek Scriptures how in the days of Jesus  ministry, the civil government of Rome was running what we might call today a state currency system, using the issuance and taxation of quantity measures of nomisma to both provision the government and facilitate commercial transactions and savings.  While the religious authorities of the House of Israel used weight measures of argurion in certain transactions related ideally and primarily to religious procedures and the operations of the Temple.

The two terms nomisma and argurion are never conflated or used interchangeably in the Greek Scriptures, because they are logically two completely different things that have no commonality.  Nomisma has nothing to do with argurion.

The system utilizing nomisma was mandated out of the lawful authority of civil government, while the system utilizing argurion was mandated by the lawful authority of the religion of the House of Israel.  Completely separate earthly authorities both set by God.

Fast forward to today.  Which of these authorities is in control of the systems we operate in the economies of the west today?  It seems like it is a chaotic false misguided conflagration of both earthly authorities, that results in systems that simply cannot deliver just and righteous economic outcomes.


peterc said...

Awesome post, Matt.

Considering Jesus' conflicts with the religious authorities of the time, I wonder to what extent the religious practices involving physical things, e.g. silver, were at the root of (or at least contributed to) these conflicts. I am referring to the tendency for people to forget what a physical thing or symbol is meant to represent and begin to attach god-like properties to the thing.

Just a thought that occurs to me, considering there seems to be a similar tendency when it comes to social relations and their objectification (and mystification) in things.

I might be off track. In any case, the focus of your post, both the historical and the scriptural aspects of it, is fascinating.

Tom Hickey said...

@ peterc,

What was that Jesus said about worshiping either God or mammon? ({Mt.6.24; Lk.16.13) "Mammon" signifies riches, or property.

Mammon is the name of an ancient Deity worshiped by the Sumerians. He is the God of wealth and his name translates as "property". The Christians began to use the Holy Name of Mammon as a pejorative, a term that was used to describe greed, avarice, and unjust worldly gain in Biblical literature. It was personified as a false god in the New Testament.{Mt.6.24; Lk.16.13} The term is often used to refer to excessive materialism or greed as a negative influence.
Etymologically, the word is assumed to derive from Late Latin 'mammon', from Greek 'μαμμωνάς', Syriac 'mámóna' (riches),[1] and was an Aramaic loan word in Hebrew meaning wealth[2] although it may also have meant 'that in which one trusts'.[3]
The Greek word for "Mammon", μαμμωνάς, occurs in the Sermon on the Mount (during the discourse on ostentation) and in the parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:9-13).

Wikipedia entry on Mammon

Buddha taught that the cause of suffering is "grasping (lust) and "clinging" (greed). The rest of the vices proceed from these. Meher Baba summarizes the cause of ill, both individually and collectively, as "self-interest based on low desires."

Humanity is ever beset with the same moral issues, which then become social, political, and economic ones.

"The more things change, the more they remain the same," as they say.

Aristotle observes that human nature is such that we are pulled between excess and defect, and the challenge is to "hit the mark" of the golden mean that lies between them. The science of life, so to speak, is discerning the target, and the art of life lies in hitting it. (Nichomachean Ethics).

Mario said...

this is great matt.

It seems the nomisma has less psychic or connotative influence to the people compared with argurion. Nomisma was just a means to an accounting end and really not much more than that. It was practical and workable.

Argurion seems to have much more spiritual significance and meaning. It seems to be impregnated with emotional/psychic power in the minds of people. As if your real wealth was measured more by your argurion than by your nomisma. Jesus appears to have deflated some or most of that weight given to argurion and transferred that meaning to more spiritual significance through the parable of the talents. Many people seem to forget that it is a parable and therefore its real meaning lies beyond the literal story and in a parallel reality that operates in the same fashion as the literal narrative story. Of course the question most people ask is what is the parallel story??? Regardless it is fitting to note that he said to carry no argurion on their journey.

This is very interesting indeed and I completely agree with you about the hodge-podge mix we seem to have in our world today. We have no argurion in our society. We all think that a larger quantity of nomisma eventually shifts into argurion, yet this is just not the case.

I think that this practice of argurian probably came to the Isrealites from the Egyptians if not through various tribes and peoples they encountered in Genesis, etc. But ultimately I would bet that those various tribes got their argurion practices from the Egyptians.

Very interesting post indeed.

Perhaps today we could make full employment, a diminished output gap, and rigorous education/intelligence our "argurion" and measure of real wealth.

Matt Franko said...


I intend to stick with this line for a while here.

Parable of the talents: In that one, the parable starts where the slave owes 10,000 talents (unpayable debt) of argurion and his master redeems it for him, but then when he goes out and goes after the other slave, that slave owes him 100 denarii and he comes down hard on this guy.

So the slave left the economy of the House of Israel and did the loan deal in the economy of the Greco/Roman nations or what those in the House of Israel called Gentiles.... this departure from the economy of Israel over into the economy of the nations to make a loan I believe adds meaning to the parable...


The "root of all evil" is often falsely said "love of money is the root of all evil", there is that useless word "money" again....

I believe this statement comes in Apostle Pauls first epistle to Timothy. In this verse the Greek word for "love for money" is 'philargurion', which is better translated "fondness for silver" ie not fondness for nomisma. I think this goes to Tom's point here wrt "Mammon".

The orthodoxy of Christendom conflates all of these issues... and this then has worked it's way into the mainstream of the orthodox economic academe in the west... and we can witness the unjust results.


Mario said...

interesting indeed Matt.

Perhaps our society and all the mammon around us is in desperate need for some real Argurion....I wonder if the value of silver fluctuated then as it does today. Was the value of argurion set/stable or not? How much volatility did it have? I would guess that it had very little and was quite stable, but I don't know. Perhaps something that CANNOT be traded or valued according to market principles would be of value for our society....something that we can truly "rest assured" upon. Something that indeed had spiritual significance.

Matt do you know at all if when people tithed back then they tithed with nomisma or argurion? I would imagine they tithed on argurion no? Or would it be both? THAT would be a very revealing fact wouldn't you agree?

Fascinating stuff.

Matt Franko said...


Yes it looks like they were tithing. Jesus in Mat 23:23 says to the Priests and scribes something like: "you are taking tithes from the dill and the mint and the cumin, but the weightier matters of the law.... these you leave."

So they were taking the tithe, but.... this was a tithe from their GUARANTEED INCOME from their individual allotment of the land. I draw a parallel between the MMT JG and the Mosaic Law of irrevocable guaranteed allotment of the land. The KJV mistranslates "allotment" into "inheritance" which looks better if you are a King James and trying to justify a Monarchy.

And I believe most still had access to the allotment just as not all of us are unemployed today. Lazarus and his little sister Mary being a notable exception, their family had somehow been screwed out of their allotment and Mary went to prostitution and Lazarus was reduced to beggary at the door of the rich man and then he died.

But this was lawlessness. There is NO WAY Lazarus family should have ended up in that economic position if the "weightier" economic laws (ZIRP and JG) were being enforced...

I'll do a post on this in the future with more references and Greek language analysis...

I believe Deuteronomy contains the Mosaic Laws related to the tithing, the tithe I believe was provided to the Tribe of Levi (not the Temple per se) and it was to be provided in actual agricultural products produced off of their GUARANTEED LAND FOR FARMING, ie their Job Guaranty.

That info is in the Hebrew Scriptures and I have mostly been focusing on the Greek Scriptures in my devotional time...

I intend to expand on this line of Scriptural analysis going forward here as I see some pretty good economic info in the Scriptures that we perhaps should be taking into account today, whether you are Body of Christ, House of Israel, or other person of faith, or perhaps even agnostic...


Mario said...

fascinating. So they were taking tithes of the actual goods (crops) and not of nomisma or argurion at all is that correct?

does anyone know if silver and gold historically had fixed prices or were volatile? I think that is an important element when understanding how argurion fits into a social framework and economy of value.

I look forward to your future posts on these issues. Indeed it should be noted that such allotments are quintessentially Marxist as well. Gasp!!!

Mario said...

and yes Deut. holds many a good key (almost a "how-do guide") on setting up an independent agrarian society, economy, tribe. Very interesting stuff in there.

Matt Franko said...


To be perhaps clearer, the tithe was not payable in nomisma because when the Law of Moses established the tithe, there was no nomisma because that was before Greece and Rome where the archeological record shows nomisma first appearing.

And again providing the tithe would be no problem because it was 1/10th of whatever your guaranteed farm produced that year. So it was like what we might call a royalty deal today, it was based on a %, not a fixed fee, and again the access to the farm was GUARANTEED. You have a bad year: no problem you just provide 1/10th of the reduced crop yield. Everyone rides together.

Nothing we humans have ever cooked up has ever compared to the just economy God set up for Israel.

This is in contrast to what we do to ourselves today where we do fixed price deals and then interest. So if you have a bad year, then you still owe the fixed amount, then if you cant pay you have BKs and chaos.

So you can see why God structured it with a royalty (tithe) and forbid interest on fixed price deals (ie zero interest rate policy).

Anyways I intend to try to write some more about this going forward and we still have morons at the controls today...

hang in there!!


Mario said...

yes exactly. I find it very interesting that there was no tithing on argurion.

Today we all really only tithe on nomisma, which seems to be rather unfortunate perhaps, however I am not so sure how appreciated 1/10th of my wheat or my accounting services or plumbing work, etc. would be to my church....perhaps nomisma is here to stay for better or for worse? However as you say perhaps we can very easily update this ancient economy through a JG and ZIRP policy.

first it must be seen before it can be made manifest....so at least we are here envisioning!!!!!

Matt Franko said...

Right... what some in the leadership of Christendom do is try to apply the "tithe" part of the Mosaic Law (like you say payable in nomisma) but then leave out the "JG" and the "ZIRP".

Can't work.

Jesus said: "one iota or one serif may by no means be passing by from the law till all should be occurring."

So it is a "all or nothing" deal.

And then you have "Rome" in there running the issuance and taxation flows of the nomisma system which MMT shows is very important to economic outcomes and the "tithe" people are basically blind to all that in the first place.

So this is all screwed up.

To put that kind of pressure on people, (tithe but no JG) well, I believe is basically diabolical.


Mario said...

To put that kind of pressure on people, (tithe but no JG) well, I believe is basically diabolical.

very interestingly this set up seems to marry together the neo-liberal concepts of self-interest and individualism with Biblical Faith and Trust in God the Provider and all the Biblical Scriptures and undertones of "The Promised Land" and the Law of Tithing, etc. Tithing came from Melchezidek with Abraham tithing to him and from that came this "assumption" or reality perhaps that when you give (joyfully) 1/10th to God on earth, then God will care for you and look well upon you, except then God did that through tribes and communities of people that we also "churches." And it works and helps to grow the church and community, etc. Tithing back then was like a form of saving for the community. Today however the community is in most cases no where near as intimate or engaged as it was back then. This makes our tithes far less relevant to the tithers while still equally relevant to the church itself of course.

What we have now is a type of pressure on each worshiper since we are "subjects" in this neo-liberal economy and the church is in most cases completely separate from our daily lives (most people don't live with their church members and share in closed communities like they do in Genesis). This makes tithing VERY different today than what it was then. Today to tithe brings up connotations of survival versus abundance along with a challenge to keep the faith and trust in your God by tithing (and joyfully and freely at that) for what we have received even though we may get fired tomorrow or lose business, etc. and that has no impact on the church itself (granted there were uncertainties then as well like invaders, crop failure, and weather). Not only this but in most cases today, tithers never really "see" those tithing dollars come "back around" except in the maintenance of a church building they frequent and funding church employees, etc. The circuit is no longer nearly as closed as it was back then and so tithing within a neo-liberal economy appears to be doubly void of its power both through using nomisma as well as through individualizing and separating from the direct benefits of our tithes and church communities. I wouldn't be surprised at all to find more independent church communities form if the economy continues to drag. In fact our ancestors (the pilgrims) existed in communities far more reminiscent of Israel in Genesis than we do today...and likewise their tithes had far more material significance for them than ours do today in most cases.

It is very interesting to compare these circumstances. What we find today, at least as far as I can see, is an angst for believers today attempting to live according to a (perhaps) less applicable custom in today's neo-liberal economy. Tithing is much more of a personal sacrifice today then it was when it was first instituted.

Matt Franko said...


The way I look at it, if you were an Israelite, you couldnt "get fired" back then as you didnt work for anybody other than your family on your farm, which you didnt own of course, but you had unrestricted use of it.

This may be what at the spiritual level seems to bug the Marxists (I'm trying to understand what motivates Marxists lately) who seem to me to be very attentive to "class"; and very attentive to "labor" vs "capital" type of thing.

The Law of Moses arranged things so there was no "labor" vs "capital", in fact those two words are non-scriptural.

The word "capital" does not appear in scripture, neither does the word "labor" as used in the Marxian paradigm.

So getting back to the tithe, how hard would it then be to give 10% of your ag yield to the Levites who ran the religious procedures and facilities (therefore could not farm: no time for it) when you had a guaranteed enjoyable job that could provide a robust income for you and your family?

That is a slam dunk compared to what we put ourselves thru today.

For instance St. Peter (Simon) who fished: To me, he didnt fish as "his job" he did the fishing as a side job to sell the fish to get nomisma to pay the tax to avoid running afoul of the govt tax collectors. This had nothing to do with the tithe or his guaranteed farming operations, he probably just had to do a little fishing a few days a month to get some nomisma to stay out of tax jail... no big deal.

He still had access to his allotment of the land which so to speak "covered his nut". The fishing rights in the Sea of Galilee were not part of the allotment of the land so that was wide open to be worked to obtain nomisma.

Same thing with Joeseph, who was an artisan, and perhaps Jesus if he helped his dad. They could easily go work for some Romans (fixing things/repairs/building) in Judea a couple days of the month to obtain the nomisma to pay the poll tax.

If you look at my post, the 200 denarii worth of bread would go to feed 5,000 men a hearty meal. So one denarius would pay for 25 meals. If you worked a day you could make a denarius (that is in the scriptures). So compare that to today. Can people work for a day today and make enough USD to buy a meal for 25 people? I dont know about that, maybe some.

And even so, that would have been in excess of what they were already getting from their guaranteed farming operations... these people were all rich for crying out loud!

We are stupid to accept the economy we are faced with today (morons). We could all be living so much better...


Mario said...

oh man I love what you are talking about.

What you are suggesting was the set-up for Peter and others back then sounds more accurate to me then I ever thought.

I would imagine that a Marxist would ask though, "How did Peter get his land? Was it inherited or bought? Where did he get the money? etc., etc." And they would ask the same thing regarding his "rights to fish in the Sea of Galilee" as well.

It's not so much an over-population issue as it is a resource allocation issue....assuming that all people are willing to work/farm/fish/etc.

It would be most interesting to note the ratio of small business owners to employees there were back in those days as well. I suspect it was much higher than today, suggesting more business owner than employees. The question becomes WHY...what was going on in their economy that allowed for more business owners as opposed to employees on average? That is, at it appears to me, the real Marxist question. I am not a Marxist persay but I have read and appreciate Marx and some of Marxist theory. And it seems to me that Marxism is rather libertarian in a sense that it is against "asymmetrical" advantages of PRODUCTION and enterprise. People mistake Marxism to be about distributing profits or finished goods to everyone equally, but that is not accurate at all. Marxism is all about allowing each person equal rights to PRODUCE their own goods rather than work for a shoe manufacturer as an employee for example. Marx is about empowering people in a more closed circuit system for themselves and to have a government that is blind to everyone so that it doesn't end up creating skews and asymmetries (ie favoritism) amongst certain select people. It is that favoritism that leads to the alienation and angst that citizens feel within their society. "Labor" and "Capital" essentially refer to the disadvantaged versus the advantaged respectively.

Matt Franko said...


Under the law seems like there were to be no "advantaged" or "disadvantaged", or labor and capital... so perhaps the spirits of some of today's Marxists are seeking a return to those more just arrangements... but they are using the academia and human reason instead of a faith based approach. They cannot see that it is perhaps their spirits that are really guiding them.

Hey should have posted this before this is the inter-linear tool I have been using for a while:


I think it came out in 2010.

Also here is the Codex Sinaiticus which is also recently on-line for the first time last year...



Matt Franko said...


"I would imagine that a Marxist would ask though, "How did Peter get his land? Was it inherited or bought? Where did he get the money? etc., etc." And they would ask the same thing regarding his "rights to fish in the Sea of Galilee" as well."

Peter's access to the land: This was to be assigned by the lot; hence "allotment". Land parcels were numbered and then people pulled numbers... something like that, I will try to document.... no inheritance, no purchase. I believe that God "retained title", they had unlimited use rights.

Peter's "money": He got nomisma from working to provision the Romans and/or Herodians? Argurion from exchanging with others in the House of Israel as those limited types of exchange transactions were necessary.... ??? Otherwise he didnt need "money"?

Fishing rights: Squatters rights??
Boats perhaps were not plentiful as the "Jesus Boat" recently found has some wood in it that is 600 years older than other wood in the same boat that meant that wood was being recycled as a building material for centuries... perhaps that was a real resource constraint that created real barriers to entry into the fishing industry..



peterc said...

Matt and Mario: Great discussion. I nearly missed that the thread was still going.

Also, Tom: Thanks for the interesting response to my question.

Regarding Marx and Marxists and their objection to wage labor and capital, these were the result of the separation of people from their means of production (particularly access to land for productive use). This is what compelled people to sell their labor power to capitalists, etc.

Matt, that is fascinating about the convenient King James translation into "inheritance" rather than "allotment". Scandalous, really.

I'm really glad you are exploring this topic and I look forward to reading the future posts you write on it. I am very influenced by Marx in terms of my economics and interpretation of capitalism, but I am also very aware of a spiritual motivation for trying to understand the way forward to a better world. I don't know right now exactly what I believe in terms of spirituality, but I don't discount anything along those lines. Once I understood the basic insights of MMT, I felt a strong impulse to help in any small way I could to help get the word out. Almost like the disciples spreading the good news. :-)

The power of the MMT understanding, IMO, is that it opens up an understanding of what might be possible. Suddenly it is easier to see positive ways forward, rather than just a negative critique of the current situation. The negative critique is also important, because it tells us the causes of our problems and what needs to be addressed. IMO, Marx is important for that. Others' mileage may vary.

Tom Hickey said...

@ peterc

Marx was a Hegelian turned inside out. That is, instead of emphasizing ideas as historically determinative, he emphasized the real conditions as determinative. For Marxists, the central passage in Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind (Phänomenologie des Geistes) is the master-slave section. See Alexandre Kojève on this.

From his anthropological studies, Marx realized that there was a transition from a classless tribal society with a gift economy based on community in which exchange was freely entered into but non-monetary to a class-based society in which the economy was driven largely by slave labor. Such early economies were still largely pre-monetary, too, and external trade and local markets limited and controlled. What one was permitted to do and own was based on social status relative to TPTB. Social mobility was based on favors granted by TPTB. This evolved into rather feudal societies in variou parts of the world during the agricultural age.

The class-based and therefore hierarchical and authoritarian societies whose economies were based on slave labor set the pattern for the wage-"slavery" and debt-"slavery" of later monetary societies, in which like the slaves previously workers received subsistence wages and were often mired in debt, essentially rendering them unfree, if not technically slaves in that they were not chattel. But for all practical purposes there was not much difference. This occurred in the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

Marx saw that when labor is commoditized, this condition is inevitably generated since it is in the interest of those in possession of "private property," i.e., land and capital as the means of production to price labor as inexpensively as possible. while this was no longer legislated as slavery, institutions were erected that achieved essentially the same end as far as the ownership class was concerned.

Marx saw that only by confronting this institutional form of "voluntary" servitude could workers hope to extricate themselves from it. Since workers made up 99% of the population and the ownership class only 1%, Marx saw that through uniting in common purpose, workers could "throw off their chains" of wage and debt slavery imposed by the power of the ruling class through the military and security forces, which were also recruited from the 99% but were given special privileges in order to separate them from their roots.

Because institutions were so tightly controlled Marx (with Engels) did not see it possible to effect change politically, nor did he think that it would evolve through natural proceses, and so he considered revolution as the only practical alternative.

In order to understand and appreciate Marx, one needs to understand that the basis of his thinking is extrication of workers from slavery in whatever guise. Marx was an "existentialist" in the sense that he saw the fundamental nature of human being as freedom, just as Hegel did. Like Hegel, he realized that freedom requires law to deliver it from descending into license. This is the purpose of government as an institution. A free people is one that determines its own laws. As long as law and institutional arrangements are imposed by a minority, especially for the benefit of the minority, it is not free.

Matt Franko said...

Under the Mosaic Law, the only true authority was "vertical". Israel was to recognize only the authority of God above. This was HPA, or High Powered Authority.

All other "horizontal" relationships, or ie their earthly human relationships, netted to zero. "You do a solid for me, I do a solid for you".


Mario said...

exactly Tom. I think that non-violent revolutions can also be just as effective and Marx was not for revolution without cause...he in fact stated in one of the later editions of the Manifesto that much of what the Manifesto called for had already been accomplished, etc.


it is interesting to note that Marx was also greatly influenced by Feuerbach who essentially inverted Hegel's works and then applied that to the Church to disprove religion as an institution. Marx was opened up by that and essentially did the same thing except he applied it to the state. So Marxism has a very deeply engrained skepticism of religion and by association (falsely or not) also of God. It is of course most unfortunate b/c the Hebrew economy really is very much in harmony with much of Marxist thinking. Of course though Marx was from Germany and Austria in the 1830's and the Jews were not exactly prized or respected then...indeed you can see the germs for Nazism as far back as the early 19th century in Germany. So I suppose this discussion is in a sense picking up the "blind spot" of Marx in this regard and truly it is very interesting.

All other "horizontal" relationships, or ie their earthly human relationships, netted to zero. "You do a solid for me, I do a solid for you".

I think you know this already since you put horizontal in quotations, but this view towards earthly life is really quite analogous to MMT's analysis of private versus non-private flows. Horizontal money nets to zero. Again incredibly fascinating to see the dove tails of MMT with the Ancient Hebrew economies. Wow. What a discovery!!! Seriously!!!

Mario said...

Peter's access to the land: This was to be assigned by the lot; hence "allotment". Land parcels were numbered and then people pulled numbers... something like that, I will try to document.... no inheritance, no purchase. I believe that God "retained title", they had unlimited use rights.

yes I think you're correct there. In fact I believe there is reference to this very process in Acts somewhere. Which is of course a whole other discussion regarding the early christian economy compared to the old hebrew economy compared to MMT. And then of course my personal question is so how can we do that today? And even more personal...how can I do that today? And what does that look like and what's the plan and set-up, etc.?

When Peter died, do you know if his kids would inherit his allotment or would the allotment go back to the community and straws would be pulled again? I really don't know and I really don't know which way I feel is more appropriate.

Doing allotment is much easier when the only real cost of land was fighting for it against someone else. The whole community was involved in that process. And then allotment was easy enough to justify I suppose. Perhaps the warriors would have liked to be given the best parcels I don't know. Regardless how can allotment work today in any real way? Or if you wanted to start a community how could allotments work? Perhaps get a community together to pool money to purchase land to then allot by straws and then what? But under whose name is the land purchased? And if some partnership or 501c3 purchased the land, whose names are in the partnership or 501c3? And what prevents them from leaving and taking their share of the land with them? Did Israel have such issues like that and how did they deal with them?

With those open source ecology farmers doing their work it is actually quite possible to work the land, live on the land, pay the taxes as necessary and do whatever you have to do just like you describe Peter doing with nomisma. It's a very interesting idea on how to live today. The internet makes it even more interesting and multi-dimensional too. Indeed if a man could hire the open source ecology guys for reasonable rates to build his house on his own land, then this process could be done by an individual too. Just thinking out loud now...trying to see "other ways" of doing things that actually do work....

Matt Franko said...


I have looked at your parts 4 & 5 of MMT (the policy side) some time ago as that it appeared to be biblically inspired from the Mosaic Law.

This was the JG and the ZIRP of MMT. Which I parallel between the part of the Law pertaining to "the enjoyment of the allotment" (I equate to a JG) and the Mosaic Law's ban on usury ('the natural rate of interest is zero').

I believe this is where that policy part comes from. (Don't tell Bill Mitchell! ;)

So the first parts of MMT are the technocratic explanation of how our modern "nomisma" system (if you will) operates (which I agree obtaining this understanding has been critical for me too). Then the policy parts are an attempt at implementing modern forms of the most significant economic parts of the Mosaic Law (JG and ZIRP) but while using the Roman currency system... I have my concerns with that...

So it is still a bit of a conflation of these two what look like separate systems identified in the Scriptures and I can understand your view of this as perhaps if I may paraphrase "it doesn't go far enough".

I have been trying to understand where Marx was coming from and what Mario, Tom, and Peter have written here is certainly helping that... thanks guys!!!


"And then of course my personal question is so how can we do that today?"

That is perhaps the question of the ages! ;)

Cheers all!!!! Resp,

Tom Hickey said...

IN the context of history, Feuerbach, Mark, Nietzsche, etc., were not "opposed to God," as is often asserted, as much as they were against the religious use of "God" as a means of institutional control.

I doubt that any of them were overly concerned about personal beliefs. They were proto-institutionalists who viewed religion as a cultural phenomenon that had been co-opted by the rulers to cement power through institutions, e.g., "divine right of kings," "mandate of heaven, etc., and to shape cultural mores through religious morality that ingrained respect for higher authority.

They were "protestants" who thought that Protestantism had lost its way. Yes, I am aware that Marx was Jewish, but he was well aware that he was situated in a predominantly Christian culture in which the original teaching of Jesus had become Christianity and later Christendom.

Marx's teaching about a classless society and a gift economy based on community pretty much approximate the economic structure of the community of the early followers of Jesus before the development of Christianity. Jesus was not a "Christian," nor were any of the apostles or early disciples, and they would not have recognized what it later became.

BTW. Marx was a proto-DFH that came from a wealthy family and married well. He turned his back on that while still a teenager and the rest is history. See a synopsis of is early life at Wikipedia here. Sounds like quite a character. Would have been interesting to drink a few beers with him.