Money Money Money Money Rockin Everywhere
There are few things nowadays that people actually value. Something that has always stayed consistent throughout the years, generation after generation is—money. Of course the value of money has changed like a roller coaster, but the sheer fact that money itself or currency actually holds value in this world will most likely never change. This is a concept that is overlooked by the average person, but many economists have studied and reporters accounted on. In the NPR Broadcast, we hear the stories recalled from the five reporters trying to unravel the truth about money and what exactly it is. Early on in the podcast we find out that money indeed is just fiction and a made up concept of currency and value.
What is the intrinsic value of money? Well, there is none. It’s zero. Money is given it’s value by man and as a society we all agree upon it. The innate value of money is that we all essentially value it and decided we need it to survive and flourish in the world. Regardless of what kind of currency is used in a country, there is always this sort of exchange happening whether with metals, paper or digitally. Let’s use our own country for example. We didn’t always have our founding fathers on the bills, what do you think they used? I’m sure they didn’t carry photos of themselves on paper and call it dollar bills. There was a period of time in the 1820’s that there was free banking and free trade with money. Money was a receipt issued from the bank and because of this there were thousands of different kinds of money in the U.S. “And if you brought your note to the bank, they would give you gold or silver in exchange.” said Jacob Goldstein in “What Is Money?” interview.
Exchanging bank notes for gold or silver in the U.S. seems so obsolete to us now, but what about exchanging a 12-inch to 12-foot stone coin for currency? This is what the Yaps do. The concept of money is essentially the same thing all around the world as it is in Yap. The currency would be the fei (stone coin) and would be exchanged for goods. Something interesting about the fei is that when the ownership has changed from one person to another, the fei itself remains in the same spot. It is far too large to move, therefore the new owner is quite content with knowing it’s in their possession without even truly moving. To the Western world where most currency is paper (very light-weight and easily transferable) this concept seems odd and possibly almost silly? However, what about digital currencies? We never truly have it in our possession as a dollar and so we can’t really hold on to it either. It’s just a number on a screen going up and down everyday. So in a sense, it isn’t too different after all.
Even though there are some similarities between the two different types of currencies, there are still some differences. When the Germans took over the ownership of the islands, there were some changes to be done for the new currencies. When they had to redo their roads and highways, the German government came and put black paint in a cross formation on the coins which marked that it was the government’s currency. Finally the highways were repaired once this happened then shortly after the black cross was removed. One would not see this with the U.S. currency since our government is already pretty established on it’s own. Another difference is that when a stone coin is transported to Yaps, the native islanders see it at a manifestation of wealth. This term manifestation would normally not be heard of with our money as it is seen as very logical and not as spiritual in comparison to the Yaps.
The Yap concept of money is more abstract than ours because of the large stone coins that are known as their currency of course. Rai stones and fei cover the Micronesian islands and if anthropologists did communicate with them about their currencies it would not be known that these large eye-catching stones are their money. Even though banking and online money which are not tangible might seem abstract to a Yap, to Americans, this stone that is not possible to move is very abstract. It’s almost the equivalent of owning a property because wec cannot actually move it but we do own it—except this is their exchange of goods.
The value of our money is one of the most fluid things in the government. I wouldn’t say it comes and goes, but it definitely fluctuates in it’s worth. As mentioned in the NPR broadcast, “money is fictional”, so the value it has is only temporary and will soon change. This also goes hand in hand with the government of course because they are the ones who essentially control how our money works and it’s worth of the dollar. Public faith in the value of currency is everything. If people lose faith in the government and the “higher authority” then the sense of money and it’s worth innately means nothing.
When you are asked “what is money” or try to explain to someone else, it turns out to be a really difficult question to answer. It means something different to everyone like their own worth they give to it. A businesswoman compared to a yoga instructor for example may both have completely different notions as to what it means, but it all comes down to one thing. Money is fiction and the worth the government gives to it is all the value it holds. A man made idea and worth put into our currency is all our money ever is and will be.
Friedman, Milton. The Island of Stone Money. Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 1991
“The Invention of Money.” This American Life, 19 Feb. 2018, http://www.thisamericanlife.org/423/the-invention-of-money.
“What Is Money? Jacob Goldstein’s Book Explains ‘Shared Fiction’.” NPR, NPR, 8 Sept. 2020, http://www.npr.org/2020/09/08/910586930/what-is-money-jacob-goldsteins-book-explains-shared-fiction.