Stone Money- Johnwick66

Money, Society’s tool

Money is very much a essential part of the society’s functioning. Through its value people are capable of buying/selling just about anything they wish. It seems simplistic enough, however very few people actually take the time and ask themselves the question ” How is my money even worth anything?” The answer to that is even more interesting. Why is money worth anything? Because society wants it to.

Money is only worth as much as the people who use it allow it be. Its through this shared idea behind the value of it that gives it well its value. Look no further than Milton Friedman’s The Island of Stone Money to further back this notation. The people residing on the island of Yap had their currency represented by large stones that were quarried and moved from an island about 400 miles away. These stones were often enough to large to move between locations when transactions were made so, what they did was simply state that the buyer now owned that stone. It didn’t even matter if they couldn’t physically reach it, one of the more wealthy groups on the island has a large stone under their ownership that’s currently sitting underwater 100 miles off the coast after the stone, which was being brought back to the island, sank during a storm. (Friedman,1991) We don’t do this. The residents of the Island even took drawings on the stones as a change in ownership. Back when Germany was occupying the island, they repeatedly requested for the path ways to be fixed but the people refused to do it. So one day the Germans marked the Stones with a black cross and said the stones will be under the owner ship of the Germans until the roads were fixed. Low and behold with their currency in crisis the people quickly repaired the pathways on the island. With the pathways cleared the Germans cleaned the crosses off the stones signifying that they once again belonged to the people of the Island.

As I read through this article I could only think about how ridiculous it sounded. Money that is only valued through word and social agreement and not actual physical property? That idea just sounded so stupid, until I realized something. The world follows that exact principle today just a little different. Let me prove to you what I mean. Check your wallet right now, see how much money you have in their. You have how much? At most $100 in total maybe 200 depending on the person. Now we still can pay with a physical exchange on money. But how are a majority of todays transaction completed? Through the like of debit and credit cards.

Think about for a second, we use credit cards to handle money but the money that is used through those systems we never really even seen and much less likely to even touch. Similar to the people of Yap, who agree on the ownership of their stones, a large portion of the money we own we don’t physically hold onto, but rather we are in agreement with the banks in regards to the value of it in our accounts. For example when was the last time you physically handed money over when buying a plane ticket, or a car? Its a social agreement between everyone and the banks. If society wanted to it could reject the dollar turning it worthless to anyone who would still owned them.

Along with the paper, the NPR Broadcast also pointed out to me that as much as society can make money worthless it can also establish a currency’s value. During that podcast they talked about how Brazil economy was basically rebuilt on a lie. At the time Brazil was dealing with a incredible amount of inflation, so much so that the prices of most items were increasing daily. Their money was becoming worthless because of their rapid inflation. I found it remarkable that the government pulled the country out of this spiral by creating fake currency and getting everyone to believe that it held real value. It pushes the idea that money only holds the value society wants it to because of how well Brazil’s economy responded to this lie. Once the people were convinced of the “fake” moneys value, they would pull themselves out of their ricket and become the 8th biggest economy in the world. Not because the fake money actually held legitimate value, but because the people of brazil (society) decided that it held value.

This idea continued to make sense to me as I read through the transcript in regards to the interview with Jacob Goldstein. I was intrigued with his telling of the creation of paper money. How back in ancient China Kublai Khan basically enforces paper money as the countries currency rather than lugging around Iron coins that were previously used. Honestly it made sense to me because around that time Chinese citizens were starting to prefer using receipts over the iron coins, so for Kahn to just make the process quicker seemed like a reasonable step. But what I also found interesting is how quickly currency can be swapped out in order to avoid a major crash. For after originally swapping to paper money they ended up printing to much money leading to several large inflations of money. Enough for the Chinese to actually give up on paper money in order to go back to using grain.

Finally I never considered why society created money in the first place. How we as people created money as a means to help solve some sets of problems, but through its creation it also created problems. But to simply exist without it would also be near impossible. (Goldstein)

I had somewhat of an idea about society’s value to money prior to reading/ listening to the articles. But after going through these pieces of information I realized that were several factors in regard’s to that, that I didn’t even consider. It gave me something different to think about in terms of money’s value.



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

What is MONEY? Jacob GOLDSTEIN’S book Explains ‘SHARED FICTION’. (2020, September 08). Retrieved February 17, 2021, from

“The Invention of Stone Money.” 423: The Invention of Stone Money. This Is American Life, WBEZ. Chicago . 7 Jan. 2011.

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2 Responses to Stone Money- Johnwick66

  1. davidbdale says:

    John Wick, your particular type of wordiness is different from most I’ve encountered. Ordinary wordiness results from the writer’s desire to use as many words as possible to describe an already exhausted idea. It uses repetition and rephrasings of one idea until a word count is met. Your paragraphs aren’t guilty of that ruse. Instead, your sentences sound like transcriptions of an oral document, as if you spoke your ideas onto tape and then copied them word for word.

    Here in this early essay, the overly casual tone that results won’t hurt you badly. But you should strive for a more formal tone in your Portfolio work. Again, this is unusual advice. Most students, trying to sound academic, need to be urged to be less formal.

    I’m going to share with you a version of your work that is NOT a rewrite. I won’t change your arguments or the logic or order of your sentences. But I’ll fix grammar, punctuation, and usage errors and remove the words and phrases that make your work sound so “spoken.”

    Money is an essential part of our society’s functioning. Through its value, people can buy and sell just about anything. It seems simple enough; however, very few people ask themselves, “How is my money even worth anything?” The answer: money has value because society wants it to.

    Money is worth as much as we allow it be. Our shared idea of value gives it its worth. Milton Friedman’s “The Island of Stone Money” makes the point. The people of Yap used as their currency large stones that were quarried on an island 400 miles away. These stones were often enough too large to move when transactions were made, so the Yap simply agreed that the seller took possession of the buyer’s stone where it stood. Friedman says one wealthy group is enriched by a stone 100 miles off the coast that sank in a storm on its way from the quarry.

    The Yap even considered markings on the stones as a change in ownership. When the Germans bought and occupied the island, they demanded repairs to its paths. When the Yap refused, the Germans defaced the stones with black crosses, and claimed ownership of them. With their currency in crisis, the Yap quickly repaired the pathways on the island and gained back their wealth.

    These stories of money that is valued only through word and social agreement sound ridiculous. But our “modern” world follows the same principle today. Most of us carry no more than a few dollars in our wallets, but we can pay for things as if we had much more using debit and credit cards that don’t require the transfer of anything physical.

    Our credit cards move money, but we never see it, much less touch it. Like the people of Yap, who agree on the ownership of their stones, we don’t physically hold cash, but we agree with our banks about the value of our accounts. We buy plane tickets, even cars, without handing over a single dollar bill. We have a social agreement with the airline, the car dealer, and the bank. If society wanted to, it could reject dollar bills entirely, making them worthless to anyone who owned them.

    The NPR Broadcast pointed out that as much as society can make money worthless, it can also establish a currency’s value. For example, Brazil’s economy was rebuilt on a lie. Brazil was suffering rampant inflation, so much so that grocery items were re-priced every day. The government pulled the country out of this spiral by creating a fake currency that seemed stable and getting everyone to believe that it held real value. The fact that Brazilians willingly accepted the lie demonstrates that money holds whatever value society wants it to. Once the people accepted the value of the “fake” currency, the economy grew to be the world’s 8th-largest, not because the “Real” held legitimate value, but because the people of Brazil accepted its worth.

    Jacob Goldstein describes the creation of paper money by Kublai Khan in ancient China as a logical replacement for the cumbersome iron coins it replaced. The Chinese citizens already preferred paper receipts that represented the coins, so Khan’s innovation was a reasonable second step. More interesting was how quickly currency can be swapped out to avoid a major crash. Shortly after switching to paper money, the Chinese printed too much of it, triggered a crippling inflation, and gave up on paper to go back to using grain as currency.

    I had never considered why society created money to solve a set of problems. I also hadn’t realized that through its creation we also created problems. But, as Goldstein observes, to simply exist without any sort of money would be nearly impossible.

    That paragraph is the better conclusion. Your last few sentences don’t add value to your essay.

    I recognize that what I’ve done here is radical, John Wick. I don’t want to dictate how you should write for your own purposes. But writing for a composition class that uses an informal academic tone, the best style is an informal academic style. I’ve done what I can to model that style for you without changing your arguments. I hope it helps you.

    I’ve graded your post at Canvas, John Wick. If the grade satisfies you, nothing further is required. If you wish to revise, you can do that right in this post (no need to create a Stone Money Rewrite post) and Update it. Once you’ve revised it, you can request a regrade for one week by putting this revised post into the Regrade Please category.


  2. davidbdale says:

    John Wick, your one-week window of opportunity to revise for a Regrade expires today at 6:53pm.

    You’re under no obligation to revise, but if you don’t, your grade already posted to Canvas will stand.


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