Pay Me My Money
What is money? When first asked most will give the lackadaisical answer of “It’s what is used to buy things”. While this is true, it overlooks the counterintuitive nature of money and what it is. In reality, money is an “idea” that is used to exchange goods and services. A group of people called the “Yaps” prove this concept to be true. Moreover, the Yap is a tiny island located in the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of years ago explorers from the island found huge limestones miles away which they carved into massive discs. From there they brought the disc back on small boats and decided to use them as a form of currency. This currency was known as Fei. Thus proving that money is just an “idea” since something simple as stone can be deemed valuable and used transactions.
The Island of Stone Money by Milton Freidman furthers the concept that money is just a myth. Within this report, Freidman discusses how after the Germans acquired the Island of Yap they marked “Fei” with a cross in black paint. A similar incident occurred after the New York Federal Reserve Bank transferred its gold to the Bank of France, by placing the gold in separate marked drawers within their vault. Something that seems so illogical led the Federal Reserve Bank to believe they were weaker financially and the Yaps to think they were impoverished. This proves that money is no more than an illusion as none of the groups gained or lost anything yet they all felt like they did.
The Yaps concept of money differs from Americans’ concept of money in a few ways. For starters, the Yaps currency Fei never involves the changing of hands. Additionally, the large stone discs settle in the village and switch owners with every transaction. This is also true for American currency with the presence of online transactions. However, for in-person purchases, the US Dollar involves the changing of hands. Next, “Fei’s” value was dependent on the size of the stone and how difficult it was to obtain. This differs from the American Dollar as it is issued in several denominations including $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100. The denominations are meaningless as the value of money within the US is dependent on the economy. After contrasting the two currencies, I can help but wonder if the traditional US currency is truly efficient and if there is a better alternative similar to “Fei”. This is because the value is always changing leaving citizens unsure of how much their money is worth.
This then makes the Yaps money more abstract than the current currency used within the US. This is because the currency “Fei” is the closest to the digital currency scene within today’s society. In addition, both currencies never involve the changing of hands, but instead the changing of owners. This is especially seen within currencies like Bitcoin and DogeCoin being that they are completely intangible yet still have a monetary value. The abstract abilities of both currencies make me wonder if the exchanging of goods and services without any physical interaction is optimal as it is becoming increasingly popular. Moreover, the promiscuity of things like “NFTs”, which is digital art that can only be purchased through digital currencies like Ethereum and Solana seems pretty wise.
As mentioned before, the value of Fei is reliant on multiple factors like the stone’s mass and effort to acquire it. Since the American dollar is assigned a value that is dependent on the economy it becomes a non-fluid currency. For example, on one day $100 can get a customer 100 bags of chips making each bag a dollar each. However, if the economy is in a state of inflation, the customer may only be able to attain 50 bags of chips with $100. This then causes each bag to be valued at two dollars each, meaning that the value of the American Dollar has decreased. This makes me consider that one day my weekly $40 allocated toward groceries will allow me to even purchase more than three things. This is why the inflation problem within America must be assessed and revised.
The implementation of a virtual currency called URV’s could improve the problem with the United States economy. In the piece, How Fake Money Saved Brazil, author Chana Joffe- Walt describes the implementation and the effects of this currency within the Brazilian economy. To begin, Brazil was at its worst with an 80 percent inflation rate per month. It was so bad that customers in the store would try to beat the guy to items that were soon to be marked up. To combat this issue the URV’s would replace cruzeiros (Brazilian currency) on price tags. For example, the price of milk would cost 1 URV one day which was equivalent to 10 cruzeiros. The next day the cost of milk would still be listed at 1 URV, but equivalent to 20 cruzeiros. The purpose of this was to distract consumers from the fact that prices were going up to end inflation. With time, the fake currency did exactly that. Therefore, integrating a system similar to Brazil’s on things like groceries, electricity, and furniture, can eliminate the issue of inflation within America.
Having all that said, what we consider money is no more than a fantasy. It was something that was established as a medium of exchange, but holds no real value. A better alternative is cryptocurrency as it can serve as a safe store of value, something that the standard currency lacks. Next, they can allow for owners to control their money, rather than having the banks do so all time. Lastly, they will allow for instant transactions, whereas some can take up to a week. This is why it is time we take the step forward and consider the new future of “money”.
“The Invention of Stone Money.” 423: The Invention of Stone Money. This Is American Life, WBEZ. Chicago . 7 Jan. 2011.
Friedman, Milton. “The Island of Stone Money.” Diss. Hoover Institution, Stanford University , 1991.
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/
You haven’t told me what you want for feedback, Spy, so I’m going to spend some time on your first paragraph and hope it provides you insight enough to improve your essay (if that’s what you want).
Overall, I appreciate and admire your “tour guide tone” and your systematic way to answer a question, Spy. Readers will feel they’re in good hands when they sign on to have you teach them something. We can work with that. Let’s look closely at what you want to demonstrate and your approach to proving it.
What is money?
—By now you’ve heard me rail against Rhetorical Questions. They’re dangerous and inadvisable because they invite your reader to answer with hypotheses antithetical to your own, which means you start your argument on defense, trying to refute an opinion you haven’t even heard. In this case, the damage is slight, because no reader will have a clear answer. Nobody thinks about what money is. All the more reason to make your bold claim out of the box. Startle them with the answer.
When first asked most will give the lackadaisical answer of “It’s what is used to buy things”.
—Better writers persuade their readers through compliments, not correction, Spy. What your sentence says is: “You’re a common person who hasn’t bothered to think about this question as deeply as I have. You’re most people, whereas I am enlightened.” Expect most readers to bail on you right here. Who could blame them?
While this is true, it overlooks the counterintuitive nature of money and what it is.
—Big talk for somebody who hasn’t proven anything yet. All I said is, “It’s used to buy things.” I know it’s counterintuitive. Who gives up something of value for something without value? It’s totally weird that we crave slips of paper that aren’t delicious. Is that what you mean?
In reality, money is an “idea” that is used to exchange goods and services.
—This would be more convincingly demonstrated by a comparison set than by an abstract statement. If you started with a list of tangibles (Money can be gold; it can be rare shells; it can be paper that represents tangible assets; it can be numbers in a stock or bank account; it can even be huge limestone disks on the island of Yap: the physical fact of money is irrelevant; it’s an idea, anything a culture agrees represents value sufficient to facilitate trade.) That’s one way. What doesn’t work is to lay down your abstract phrase without context to replace the answer you forced out of your readers in advance.
A group of people called the “Yaps” prove this concept to be true.
—They do, but so does every culture that uses any system other than barter. We all use “something” to represent truly valuable commodities. Your proof is backwards here. We don’t need the Yap to prove their money is an idea. We use the Yap to show us that OUR money is an idea by forcing us to see how odd we are to use PAPER or DIGITAL CODE to represent houses or cars or college educations.
Moreover, the Yap is a tiny island located in the Pacific Ocean. Hundreds of years ago explorers from the island found huge limestones miles away which they carved into massive discs. From there they brought the disc back on small boats and decided to use them as a form of currency. This currency was known as Fei.
—Not at all. Whether they went looking for it or not, they found limestone on a distant island, recognized it as something not found on Yap, and realized that because it was unobtainable at home, it could be used as a medium of exchange if brought back in the form of “money.” It can’t be counterfeited. It’s gotten here at great cost in labor or it doesn’t exist. The cost of making and transporting the coins gives them their value.
Thus proving that money is just an “idea” since something simple as stone can be deemed valuable and used transactions.
—Sort of, but backwards. We’re momentarily startled that the Yap value a rock, but within seconds we have to confront that our own money, by comparison to ANYTHING, is the most abstract and ludicrous concept of all, made from absolutely nothing, based on faith in nothing at all except that somebody is counting correctly.
I hope that was helpful, Spy.
Your sentences are fine and your voice will persuade readers to follow any logical line of reasoning. You can count on me to hold your arguments up to scrutiny. I hope you want that sort of help. If not, give me some guidance the next time you ask for feedback.
Feedback is conversation, Spy. I require responses! 🙂
I really appreciate the feedback. I apologize for not giving you anything specific, however, the suggestions made on parts of my essay are extremely detailed and helpful. I definitely learned my lesson when it comes to using rhetorical questions to start a paper. I definitely see where in some parts of the paper I need more of an explanation to tie things together. This is especially for the part where I claim that money is an “idea”. I will definitely make some of these changes and get back to you. Thanks.
You’re welcome, of course, Spy. I’m glad the feedback was useful. 🙂