Stone Money- swim1903

Stone Money

Our whole life seems to revolve around this idea of making money. We use money in our everyday lives to pay for the food we eat, the house we live in, and even the school we attend. We go to school our whole lives starting by the age of 5, just so that we are able to get a job and make money.  But the question that no one really asks themselves is, what is money? Why are we putting in all this time and effort just so that we are able to obtain money?

Just like how it is used in today’s society, money was created hundreds of years ago as a way to have something that everyone can use to pay for goods and services. The Island of Yap, located right off the coasts of the Philippines, created discs out of limestone deposits that explorers discovered on an island far away from their own. They took these discs back to their own island and decided to use them as their form of currency, mainly being used for big purchases such as to make up for lost crops.

The funny thing about these stones is unlike today where money is physically exchanged between each person, these stones would not move locations, it would be mutually agreed upon by everyone who that stone money belongs to at each time. The location of the stone was not a major part to its value in any way, because at one point the stone ended up at the bottom of the ocean and even then everyone decided it would still be of use to the village.

A big question that was being asked is why did the people of Yak use these big stones as a form of money, even though they are unable to be moved. A NPR podcast called “The Invention of Money”, with Scott Fitzpatrick an expert on the island of Yak, brings up an interesting point where says that “like many societies, the people of Yap took the thing they had that was pretty — their version of gold — and decided that was money” It was interesting to see that this society is a lot like our own, they believed that these stones were pretty and looked like they had value, so they created value for them. It is a lot like how gold is used in our society, gold has value because of how pretty it looked to those who discovered it years ago, they created value for this gold and it can be used as money now as well. 

Most likely people who read about the stone money are thinking that this is some ancient system that is outdated and useless, in reality this is a lot like how money is today. Believe it or not, it is counterintuitive that money is simply just a piece of paper and little pieces of metal that are taking up space in your wallet, when in reality, those pieces of paper and little metal pieces are able to get you a big house or a fancy car.

But why is this so? Why can something so little get you something so big? Why did the people of Yak still believe that the stone money was effective even when it was at the bottom of the ocean where no one could see it?

In the NPR podcast, titled “The Invention of Money”, brings up a good point. He says “If you go online to pay your electric bill, what’s really changing in the world? Some digits in your bank account get shifted around, along with some digits in the power company’s bank account”. What he is basically trying to say is that regardless of what you buy, nothing is physically changing in the world, yeah you might be “losing money” but all money really is in this context is a bunch of numbers. When someone pays their electric bill, they are giving their numbers to the electric company, and the electric company now is in possession of those numbers.

All Money is, is value in a physical sense. You are still giving the electric company something of value, which in this case is money, in exchange with something of value to you, which is the electricity in your home.

We all use dollar bills for these types of exchanges because that is what we, as a society, have collectively agreed on has value. If someone from Europe came into America and tried to purchase something with Euros, they would not be able to make the purchase. It’s not because they are trying to pay with something that isn’t money, because Euros are a form of money. It’s because in America we don’t see Euros as something of value. This just furthermore proves that all money is, is a physical object that holds value.

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3 Responses to Stone Money- swim1903

  1. davidbdale says:

    Your References section does not comply with the course requirements, Swim.
    Follow this link to the instructional material that will help you make good citations and a compliant APA-style References section.

    APA Citation

  2. davidbdale says:

    The first thing we’ll have to work on together is paragraphs.
    An unbroken block of 1000 words (yours is actually only 810 words) will never do as an academic essay.

    The simple organizational value of paragraphs, for both writer and reader, is that it sets aside a couple hundred words to address ONE MAIN IDEA. Every paragraph is a short argument that proposes and develops a small thesis.

    Step by step, small argument by small argument, you guide your reader from your introduction to your inevitable conclusion, devoting one paragraph to each step of the way.

    I’ve divided your text, and numbered the sections, at what seem like natural break points. The next job will be to decide if you’ve adequately addressed your main idea in each of those small sections.

    That’s the other value of paragraphs, for the writer. They make it easy to spot the steps, which in turn makes it easier to see if they’re successful.

  3. davidbdale says:

    You’ve gotten hold of one central idea here, Swim, that money is just a physical object that holds value, but several of your illustrations contradict that money has to have a physical component at all. You’ve left so much material on the table by depending entirely on just one or two aspects of the money of the Yap that it’s hard to grade this draft highly. It may not be worth a lot to you to put in more time on this non-portfolio assignment (only you can decide that), but if you do want to succeed with it, spend some time with the Brazil episode, the Federal Reserve story, or even other aspects of the Yap’s sense of money (how the Germans could devalue it by painting crosses on it) (how the US/France/Gold episode compares to the German/Fei episode). There’s enough material at your disposal for several 1000-word essays that don’t waste words and have to struggle to squeeze in all the insights. Several of your classmates have submitted essays of this type.

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