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The Midas-Excess and Pleonexia

by Paul C. Martin Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007 at 10:47 AM

The Midas-excess, the more-addiction or pleonexia is similar to the grand delusion of self-righteousness. Our narcissist culture, the dance around the golden ego, must be fought on all fronts. The vulgar materialist dismisses everything inward, spiritual and divine.


By Paul C. Martin

[Dr. Paul C. Martin sketches an interesting property-scenario and shows societies existed without “property” or where property was lived very differently. This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,]

King Midas governed a fantastic kingdom sometime somewhere in Asia Minor. Since the gods loved him, whatever he desired was fulfilled.

Midas desired that whatever he touched would become gold. Midas was obviously dead. Every piece of bread or mutton, everything he touched, became gold. As the richest, he was at the same time the poorest person under the sun.

We like to tell this saga to show the vanity of striving “only for riches.” At the end, the rich one was the beaten one since he had nothing.

We do not ask whether Midas could really have been so dumb not to notice the consequence of his madness-desire. His imagination should have told him: “If everything you touch becomes gold, you will soon be dead because you cannot eat gold!”

What does the Midas-saga really teach us? Isn’t it only the simplistic, transparent and superficial story of one who wanted more and more and ultimately everything and died?

Arnold Kunzli wrote a marvelous book “Mein und Dein. Zur Ideengeschichte der Eigentumsfeindschaft” (“Mine and Yours. On the Intellectual Anti-Property History,” Koln, Bund-Verlag 1986) that focuses on the enigma of property and the desire to have more and more.

“From Aristotle on, the `natural’ human depravity is cited again and again as a reason for not renouncing on private property. Pleonexia, the human insatiability, played an important role in the anthropology of the ancient Greeks.” (p.15)

So far so good. One is tempted to break out into the well-known lament about the never-ending greed and degeneracy of the world.

How else should a person get rid of the permanent original guilt if not with the help of property? Only property or “capital” can be used under debt pressure (since nothing else is “valuable”)…

Worthless or useless property is not property but a social irrelevance like pears falling from a tree picked up by no one because no one knows that pears fell from the tree or that a pear tree was there.

Most property criticism begins with the logical flaw that something must already be “property,” either “common property” or “private property.” “Pre-property” is the primal reality, “things” or “land and property” that exist without belonging to anyone.

Let us leave the fools who find fault with private property, themselves and their logical flaws. “Pleonexia” is involved here, the drive for acquiring more that can increase to the Midas-excess.

Interestingly enough, Midas craved “gold,” a special “means of payment” giving the owner the concrete decision what and when to consume in the endlessness of time. Whoever craves money does not have “it” in reality but “later.” The bridge from “today” (=payment) to “then” (=exercise of a concrete consumer desire involving vases, palaces, slaves, clothes or weapons) is only possible with the help of indestructible gold.

What if Midas had desired all the land of the earth? Such a desire would not have been less impudent than the desire for gold which also aimed at “everything.” With all the money, Midas could have bought all the land (with all the residents). Since Midas knew that “riches” can ultimately only be what the earth and earthlings produce, his desire for gold was in reality a desire for time!

He wanted to determine the moment when he could buy “everything” with all the money. Thus Midas only superficially failed in a food problem.

The Midas-myth is actually the same as the myth of the “first man” Adam who was expelled from Paradise because he desired something – immortality -, not because he did something.

“Then the Lord God said: Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever – therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden…” (Gen 3,22-23)

Midas’ muddled trick is obvious. He longed for endless gold since gold would solve his finiteness problem. He wanted the confounded “everything.” Under his hand, everything should become gold.

By reaching too high, he committed his fatal mistake in reasoning. All the gold should make possible his exodus from temporality (Adam-effect with the second tree in Paradise). But whover is no longer “temporal” can delay the satisfaction of all his desires infinitely long with the never-ending gold. Whoever has “everything” or could have everything is obviously “immortal” and does not exist.

Whoever is immortal needs nothing. His original guilt is blotted out all of a sudden. Immortals can wait infinitely long for fulfillment of their desires. This means they have no desires.

What then is the reason for gold?

Arnold Kunzli narrowed down the problem of pleonexia (without solving it) with a beautiful sentence of the German super-brain Immanuel Kant:

“If a person is given everything that he longs for and at the same time desires something, this everything will not seem to be everything.” (Kunzli, p.15)

This throws us back into the money problem. Since Midas obviously desired a “means of payment” (and not simply “gold” to embellish his palace), he could not possibly ignore the quantity effect. The more gold he would have, the less would be its value. Will he not die of hunger since he cannot eat a morsel of bread any more? Maybe he could feed himself with a pipette as one feeds a swallow fallen out of the nest. Kings have many possibilities.

Perhaps Midas died because no one could give him anything for his gold, not even a topsoil of earth – simply because everything had become gold and therefore worthless or useless?

When we humans have funny feelings like this “wanting to have more and more” which the ancients termed “pleonexia” (literally: “more-addiction”), we may have a deep uneasiness whether the more when it becomes more and more is really more – and not less.

Three situations should be considered in this context:

1. The California-Effect

The price for food measured in the newly discovered gold soared dramatically after the 1848 Gold Rush in California. Gold-prospectors who returned home heavy-laden from their claims thought they were “rich” but could only afford a bath and a steak with a bottle of whiskey for what they had found after months of hard labor.

2. The Gossen-Effect

In the middle of the 19th century, a Braunschweig member of government named Gossen published the “law of diminishing utility.” The more someone has of a thing, the less is its worth. With the “additional” units, the “utility” of this thing diminishes.

3. The Everyman-Effect

This play with its deeper “meaning” ends with a grand philosophical paradox, the hopeless situation of every capitalist. At the end he has nothing any more because the poor devil who owes him something has long been over-indebted and can never pay. “Compensation” inevitably means the death of the over-strained creditor or believer.

“Everyman” sees the one who heaps up money remains culpable and is really only a “pitiful man”…

In fact the prospects of the rich man are depressing and gray because he makes the debtor’s situation increasingly desperate by “becoming ever richer.” Pleonexia is self-explanatory. It is not greed but ultimately the fear of the rich before nothingness.

This effect was deciphered long ago in aggregate economics. As everybody knows, more “money” is worth “less and less” in an “inflation.” This is also true for an individual economic entrepreneur. The very, very rich, the “capitalists altogether from Midas to everyman, run aground by “having everything” [cf. Dr. Paul C. Martin “Der Kapitalismus – Ein System, das funktioniert” (Capitalism-The System that Functions”)].

Several secret theses have developed in the course of time:

Original guilt has nothing to do with immortality. Rather the subsistence duty of people is to feed and maintain. This duty has nothing to do with money. There are also no original assets. Those are only absurd word games.

Our planet is the life foundation for our existence and cannot be privatized. Our planet must exist cooperatively with its resources for all people. A basic error of the system lies here.

The interest denounced again and again can theoretically be gigantically inflated but ultimately only because the citizen cannot create money himself. Interest would not occur where everyone can create money.

If we change the social and cooperative things in life through our resources and allow everyone to create his own money, nothing would inflate. We could live in a tax-free or tax-exempt Paradise in harmony with nature.

States did not arise out of the tribal tradition but out of the assumption of power by violent rulers. The enslaved lemmings had to do forced labor and were set in the hamster wheel since the Middle Ages where they were excluded from the money system.

Industrialization was the result of the privileged access of a few to capital. With the growth pressure, it changed the ways of life of the whole world and still impoverishes today everyone who does not participate in the system.

The consumer addiction of people makes them materialistic.

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