The mysteries of banking become even murkier in this dense economic treatise.
The pseudonymous author begins by noting the odd multiplier effect of fractional reserve banking: With a typical 10 percent reserve requirement and aggressive lending, every dollar of cash deposits creates $10 in bank accounts—new money out of thin air! Valis sees in this alchemy a deep confusion between the “identity” and “representation” of money, one that leads to a disastrously unstable monetary system built on debt. (The only solution, he suggests, is the encrypted bitcoin money scheme.) So far so good, until the book morphs into a foggy rumination on the nature of money, proceeding from turgid premises—“we are finally able to define monetary identity as being social omniequivalence itself”—into rarefied, baffling abstractions, as in, “Money, like everything else, is the substitution of nothing by nothing.” Sometimes, Valis’ book is less about money and banking than it is about nothing—or rather, nothingness: “Hence, nothingness is always different from itself, this way preventing the substitution of nothing by nothing from ever being impossible: even in the absence of any substitution as resulting from the absence of everything, nothingness can still substitute for itself, by remaining different from itself.” Every so often, Valis lapses back into intelligibility, touching on the labor theory of value, the difficulty of coordinating economic exchange through barter, and the origins of bank notes in vault storage receipts provided by goldsmiths. But for the most part, the mind-numbing prose drones on without much meaning or respite, so clotted with opaque jargon that it sounds like Marx and Heidegger balancing a checkbook after a few drinks.
A stupefying philosophical meditation on money.