Money Just isn’t Real
There truly is no such thing as “money”. All around the world, there are different iterations of currency that all possess a monetary value of their own. However, this value isn’t simply just innate. Afterall, every single variation of a US dollar bill, be it a ten, twenty, or fifty, is made of the exact same materials. This is because the value of “money” is subject to change at any given moment, and this is decided by everyone alive who is spending money at all times of the day. Money is not a solidified concept, and in and of itself, is abstract. While we have different values and physical or digital forms of money all around the world, we all still utilize currency in one way or another.
In the Western Pacific Ocean, there is an island known to the rest of the world as Yap. In the article The Island of Stone Money, written by Milton Friedman, he describes how the people of Yap based all of their transactions on giant stone disks called fei, with holes fitted in the middle of them to insert long poles, if they needed to be moved. “After concluding a bargain which involves the price of a fei too large to be conveniently moved, its new owner is quite content to accept the bare acknowledgement of ownership and without so much as a mark to indicate the exchange.” The people of Yap simply mark the stone, and are content with leaving it right where it is. This is strikingly similar to our banking system, in which a cheque holds the value of money you do not possess on your person, but is held within the bank. The people of Yap simply mark the stone, and are content with leaving it right where it is.
These stones truly do not possess any inherent value. Afterall, they are just big stones. The people placed value upon them. By doing this, they created their own system of currency that they can control amongst themselves. Knowing this, you can conclude that money is just totally fake. There is nothing innate about money, as the labelling is done by humans. We decide when we want to calculate the worth of something. That “something” in question can be quite literally anything. Once that has been decided, a currency can be born. This is exactly what the Yap people did, and what every civilization has done before them.
When dealing with physical money, you must deal with the influence of inflation on the value of your money. Every single day, the value of a US dollar changes, even if by just a little bit. Perhaps the most abstract thought when it comes to money is digital currency. This is because it seemingly has no physical value, and nothing actually moves when you make digital transactions. Meet Bitcoin: the anonymous, inflation proof, and fully unadministered cyber currency of the future. In the Yahoo! News article The bubble bursts on e-currency Bitcoin, author Anne Renaut states “Once mined, Bitcoins are stored on a person’s hard drive in a virtual wallet, and can be directly sent to another person, bypassing banks and remaining largely anonymous.” This makes Bitcoins obtainable by anyone who owns a computer, and prevents the value from being influenced by “politics or human error”. It’s unbelievable how far we have come from simply placing value on a static object and physically handing it to someone else as payment.
Being that Bitcoin isn’t regulated by the government in any way, where does it come from? When someone refers to the process of “mining” Bitcoin, they are speaking in Layman’s terms. There is a software tied to Bitcoin that allows you to earn the currency. Using your computer’s processing and GPU power, it facilitates transactions for Bitcoin between users, thus causing the program to generate 1 bitcoin. Your computer has to solve puzzles, and whether or not you can beat another person’s computer to the chase is directly related to the amount of mining power your computer is providing to the system. “The software is written in such a way that it becomes increasingly difficult to generate new bitcoins, with the number in circulation designed to eventually top out at 21 million” Renaut explains. This is absolutely insane to think about. Literally anyone with a computer can participate in this process(despite the hardware requirements that you will need to generate bitcoin in the modern day, due to the increasingly difficult blockchain and demand for raw processing power). A new currency is being generated by the day, without any interference from the government. One particularly crazy part of this is that not only is Bitcoin a currency of its own, but it has a price in dollars, that is continually increasing as time goes on. Bitcoin thrives on outside currency, but can’t necessarily be controlled by the government. This makes it safe from inflation.
Now we shift focus to one of the strangest parts of currency exchange: inflation. The Brazillian government wanted to build a new capital city for Brazil in the 1960’s. They found themselves short of the money that they needed in order to do this. In order to afford the expenses, they simply decided to print more money. If only it were that simple and there were no negative outcomes to this, but that was and is not the case. Reporter for This American Life and Planet Money Chana Joffe-Walt provides a watered down explanation of this occurrence. “The problem with doing this of course, is inflation. If there are 100 dollars in the economy, you create 100 more? Now every dollar is worth half as much. That’s inflation.” Being that there was more money by a considerable margin, all money in Brazil was worth significantly less than it was before. The inflation rate reached nearly 100%. This caused economic problems from hyperinflation until the 1990’s.
The definition of money is equally mind blowing as it is difficult to pin down. Every single day, there are changes being made to the monetary value of our money, and there are even new forms of money being placed into circulation throughout the economies of the world. All in all, there will never be a day that money can be described as anything other than a completely man made and defined way to perceive value.
Friedman, Milton. “The Island of Stone Money.” Diss. Hoover Institution, Stanford University , 1991.
Renaut, A. (2013, April 13). The bubble bursts on e-currency Bitcoin. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://sg.news.yahoo.com/bubble-bursts-e-currency-bitcoin-064913387–finance.html
Glass, I. (2018, February 19). The Invention of Money. Retrieved February 16, 2021, from https://www.thisamericanlife.org/423/the-invention-of-money