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.
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.