Money Revised – Jesse Samaritano

The idea of the fei seems irrational to most people who are told the story of the Island of Stone Money and Yap’s form of currency because it is for reasons such as convince and means of possession of the currency. The fei can be compared to currency of more developed countries in the sense that it is a concept of exchange in the Island of Yap and the concept of currency is somewhat universal, but to say the currencies are the same would undermine the currency of the more developed countries.

US currency in itself, the paper dollar we use to purchase different things, holds little physical value, but the real value is represented by what the government has assigned for it, where as the Yap’s fei money is only stones brought to the island to represent what the islanders see to be the cost of cattle. Although the stones represent the cost of cattle, it is entirely up to the people to decide what the exact value would be for each stone. If two Yap citizens were to both sell the same size cattle or work the same job for the same amount of time in exchange for the fei, there would be a very good chance that one fei would be slightly larger than the other because it is near impossible to carve two stones to the exact same size and measurements. This would mean that one of the two citizens would be getting more value for his equal work or possessions, but if it were US currency, the value of the money would be the same.

When the Yap would purchase something from one another, they would be content with an unmarked portion of the owner’s fei that would not be in their possession, and the only way to keep track of who owns how much fei is if everybody knows and keeps track of everybody else’s transaction. Even fei that has never been seen is accepted as if it were there. This is much different than the concept of banks and bank accounts. When somebody writes a check to you, you are now in possession of the currency represented on the check, therefore, you are in control of the currency and the person who wrote the check can no longer use that money. Bank accounts are also much different than Yap people’s acceptance of money they are not in possession of because at any moment with a bank account, you can go into that bank and withdrawal your money so that you will have physical possession of it.

Currency of more developed countries is more sophisticated in the sense that people know that the money is only a representation of what it stands for, and we only use it for the sake of convenience. The Yap also understand that the stone money is a representation of something else, but I feel that they missed the point of having a currency, which is meant for convenience in means of trade.  The currencies of countries like the US act as an I.O.U. note from the government who are in charge of the real worth of the money. The value of money from our government may fluctuate due to economic problems like inflation, but paper currency makes it easier to trade with other countries, and the other countries are aware of what the currency is worth.  The fei is more of a social status showing that you own more if you have the bigger rock.

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