One of the more fruitful sources of insight during my excursions (incursions?) into to economics has been reflecting on the nature of time. This has been particularly helpful in thinking about money, because money is a measure and time is a measure. The usefulness of a theory of time is accidental to understanding money, because it is useful in so far as time is a measure rather than time as it is in itself. However, it demonstrates to me the fundamental importance of understanding natural philosophy in understanding less obvious or less certain fields.
Most recently, I was reading Zippy’s post on money (among other things). I was thinking about that post when I was rereading Cardinal Mercier’s “A Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy,” particularly on the nature of time. He notes that time is nothing other than motion in its concrete reality, while being logically distinct from motion. To use John Deely’s formulation, time is fundamentally real and extramental motion, but is formally and actually mental and abstract. Aquinas notes this as well in his commentary on the Physics.
Money, as a measure like time, is really just property. It is something valuable that can be exchanged. Certainly, it is logically distinct from property as a measure of value, but in reality it is nothing other than another form of property. This seems to be exactly what Zippy is getting at.
Now the consequences of failing to realize this can be worked out for both time and money. Modern physicists typically attempt to make time something in itself, that is a substance of some sort within which all events take place. Others will deny the reality of time, because there is no “t” in quantum mechanical equations. Consequences for understanding free will, the nature of God, the possibility of science become increasingly problematic.
For money, Zippy has done good work in showing some of these consequences, such as seeing inflation as intrinsically unjust, irrationally valuing something used as money, etc.
To solve these problems, we need a firm grounding in reality and this can be down with the most fundamental of the sciences, i.e. natural philosophy.