Stone Money—jets

Symbolizing Wealth

To understand the actuality of “money” or “currency” you must first understand the concept that it is not real. Money is no more than a piece of printed paper, it is the extent of value in which we put in to it that makes it worth anything at all. The symbolic meaning put behind terms such as money, wealth ,currency etc. Is defined by the people and its culture. The only fundamental truth I see behind the idea of money is that it is fluid, its value can very simply disappear and its physical concept is ever changing due to alteration of societal perception.

It seems that people are unaware of how powerful their perception can truly be. For example the question of where did the money go when the housing market collapsed? According to Ira Glass a speaker in the NPR broadcast the money never actually existed in the first place.  All those houses used to be worth a certain amount and now they were worth a lower amount. Simply because that’s what everyone now agreed. We as people but worth behind items. Something as seemingly plain as stone was worth more than gold to the people of Yap.

The island of Yap and its inhabitants are an extraordinarily example of how we as people determine value. Our society today would put little to no value in an object as ordinary as stone but yet for some reason this society used these impractical giant stone shaped coins as their currency. And to make it even more bizarre these stones were not actually moved or given away, in essence you didn’t actually have to have this stone to own it. It was the symbolic meaning of just knowing that you owned it is what satisfied them. You might sit here and ask yourself how can that possibly make any sense? But as a matter of fact it’s not so different than what we have done and continue to do today. Friedman’s essay elaborated on the similarity between the french and the U.S. and how the money in our national reserve served really no purpose to the french considering it was just sitting there. But it satisfied the French because it symbolized the wealth of the French government.  

After Analyzing these articles and NPRs it is abundantly clear that we can only symbolize our wealth, we can never physically have it. When someone asks you how much money do you have you would most likely tell them the amount that is currently in your checking account. But yet again that is nothing more than a symbol. You do not physically have that money and even if you did, cash itself is nothing more than another symbolic reference of wealth. Discussing the idea of symbolic currency, makes me think of the more and more our payments are being made online. But a question comes to mind when evaluating the idea of paying bills online. How is it considered a payment if actual money isn’t being sent. It is yet again another way we symbolize wealth that we don’t actually have. As Ira Glass claimed in the NPR broadcast at no point does the bank go and deliver $100 to the phone company on my behalf. It really is just numbers going back and forth in the computer. In essence the majority of the money that exists is just the idea. It is simply the bank telling you this is how much money you have. Yet, symbols and perception have the ability to cripple or save a country

The country of Brazil was on the brink of complete economic failure. High inflation plagued the country and it seemed no one had a solution. Until a new approach was brought about by 4 men considered the heros of brazil. They saw the people as the problem. The people of brazil had a false perception that their money actually had value, but the truth is brazilian money lost its symbolic meaning and the only logically way to counteract this dilemma was to create a new symbolic meaning for money in which the people could trust. They would call it virtual currency, and the funny thing is that it was completely fake. The only worth it had was the worth the people put into it. It is this concept that I feel is true for all types of currency. Basically, what we put into it was what we get out of it. A prime example of this would be the digital currency of bitcoin. Bitcoin is all a computer generated value, it does not involve real money. What it does is represent the idea of online cash, but in actuality when you “pay” for something you are sending a fake currency that would have no value if people didn’t believe and invest in it.

After reading the article that dealt with the internet era currency Bitcoin, I came to the realization that not only is this another way people can symbolize currency and wealth but how unpredictable the value of money could be. In matter of fact all these articles showed how unstable the value of the dollar really is. Bitcoin worth dropped from $288 to $54! And Brazil’s dollar value was constantly changing due to mass inflation, so bad to the point where people’s money was near worthless just after being paid. It seems that it is impossible to predict what the value of the dollar will be, because it is also impossible to determine exactly how much money is in the world because money is constantly circulating from business to business or person to person.

After reading and analyzing all these articles related to topic of currency and money, I am able to formulate my own perspective on what money really is. And it is clear to me now that money and currency are nothing more than symbols and it worth is what we as people put into it.

References

423: The Invention of Money. (2017, December 14). Retrieved from https://www.thisamericanlife.org/423/transcript

Joffe-Walt, Chana . “How Fake Money Saved Brazil.” NPR.org. 4 Oct. 2010. 30 Jan. 2015. http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/10/04/130329523/how-fake-money-saved-brazil/

Renaut, A. (2013, April 13). The bubble bursts on e-currency Bitcoin. Retrieved from https://sg.news.yahoo.com/bubble-bursts-e-currency-bitcoin-064913387–finance.html

Friedman, Milton. “The Island of Stone Money.” Diss. Hoover Institution, Stanford University , 1991.

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3 Responses to Stone Money—jets

  1. jets1313 says:

    I would like help with my citations and logic flow

  2. davidbdale says:

    OK, Jets. Let’s start with logic flow.

    To understand the actuality of “money” or “currency” you must first understand the concept that it is not real. Money is no more than a piece of printed paper, it is the extent of value in which we put in to it that makes it worth anything at all. The symbolic meaning put behind terms such as money, wealth ,currency etc. Is defined by the people and its culture. The only fundamental truth I see behind the idea of money is that it is fluid, its value can very simply disappear and its physical concept is ever changing due to alteration of societal perception.

    Terms are critical to logic. An example of how they can mess it up:

    “Cats,” or “animals” are the natural predators of mice.

    See the problem already? Your first sentence makes this mistake. You’re right to want to make claims about both “money” and “currency,” but here you’ve chosen one physical item and one conceptual item and claimed that both are “not real.” You can’t possibly mean the same thing about both. Currency has physical reality. And money has a conceptual reality. If something is unreal about either one, it must be something about the meaning we ascribe to it. Kids have a very real faith in Santa Claus, even though adults understand that the fat guy is “not real.” The same with money? That would be a strong and understandable logical claim about “money.” But it would make no sense to say that the “currency” is “not real.” There may be other examples of squirmy terms in your essay. Be alert for how you use them.

    Be careful, too, with your conceptual phrasing. The “symbolic meaning put behind terms” and “the only fundamental truth behind the idea of money” are both tough to follow. Fewer words might help limit the strangeness. Maybe you mean, “The value of money, wealth, currency, is determined by culture.” Maybe you mean, “The truth is that money is fluid.” If you can’t find the one word that serves your purpose, your idea is probably unclear and therefore will be impossible to communicate. As for “its physical concept is ever changing due to alteration of societal perception,” I can only guess you mean, “what we use as currency depends on where we live,” or perhaps, “If stones are money on Yap, get paid in stones.” That’s a lot more fun to read and conveys the same message, I think.

    As for the overall logic of your conclusion, consider that the value of everything, not just money, is fluid. During apple harvest, apples are cheap near the orchard, more expensive the farther we live from the orchard. Try to pay an orchard keeper with apples and he’ll laugh at you, but on an apple-free island, they could be money. Baseball cards, cassette tapes, pirated copies of unreleased video games, every commodity has temporal and regional fluctuations just as much as Bitcoin. My dollars aren’t “worth more” when I can buy more apples with them. The apples are worth less. But my dollars might be “worth more” yen if the value of the yen slips against dollars on the currency exchange. What makes dollars different from apples is that the apples will always be apples, but the dollars can represent apple, yen, baseball cards, or Apple stock. I think that’s the logical conclusion you’re trying to draw in your first paragraph, but it might take different language to communicate it.

    So, that’s my reaction to your first paragraph. I’d be happy to continue with more reactions if you’ll keep this dialogue going. Make some revisions to your P1 (and follow through with changes to the rest of your paragraphs too if you can), then put your post back into the Feedback Please category along with a Reply that lets me know you’re finding this process useful, and HOW. I’ll be happy to take another look.

  3. davidbdale says:

    Let’s look at a sample citation:

    It seems that people are unaware of how powerful their perception can truly be. For example the question of where did the money go when the housing market collapsed? According to Ira Glass a speaker in the NPR broadcast the money never actually existed in the first place. All those houses used to be worth a certain amount and now they were worth a lower amount. Simply because that’s what everyone now agreed. We as people but worth behind items. Something as seemingly plain as stone was worth more than gold to the people of Yap.

    To begin, is “Where did the money go when the housing market collapsed?” an EXAMPLE of “how powerful people’s perception can truly be”? If so, I’m missing something.

    Your problem here is only partly one of citation mechanics, Jets. The other common difficulty in incorporating outside material into our essays is that we have to BOTH make our own claims about the material AND educate our readers about its content. So, to discuss the housing boom and bust, we’ll need to let readers know what Ira Glass was talking about, and later in the same paragraph, what the Yap think is valuable. One way to do that:

    We don’t usually confront our abstract ideas about money and what things are worth as directly as the NPR broadcast, “The Invention of Money,” in which host Ira Glass asks a perplexing question about the 2008 collapse of the stock market following the bursting of the housing bubble: “Where did the $3 trillion go?” Overnight, the value of investors’ stock portfolios vanished. According to NPR, the money never actually existed. Stocks aren’t money. They’re commodities that people are willing to buy for a price. Overnight, the stocks were worth $3 trillion less because nobody wanted to buy them. Money didn’t disappear. Demand disappeared. The “worth behind the items” was devalued. Where and when we live determines what is valuable and what is not. Beachfront property, baseball cards, even polished rocks can be valuable if the culture makes them so.

    Is that illustration enough to help you make better citation choices, Jets? If so, make some revisions of your own and invite me back for another look. If not, ask me for specific advice about another of your particular citation decisions. I’ll be happy to continue this conversation at any time. (Don’t forget to put the post back into Feedback Please.)

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