Stone Money- brxttyb

On the small island of Yap located in Micronesia, large limestone disks the size of cars are what they use for their currency. Sounds weird, don’t y0u think? Ironically though, the most illogical form of currency is a bit more close to home. “Fake Money”, actually saved an entire country that is now rumored to be the next super power. What is the abstract concept of this thing that makes the world go round?

In the Caroline Islands, there is a small island that goes by the name of Yap. The natives, use a currency of “fei.” Fei are large limestone disks the size of cars. The Yap people mined them and carried them back on bamboo stretchers. Fei was not just for anything, though. Fei would only be traded for something very large. It wasn’t so much possession of the fei though, fei was too big to be moved around from owner to owner. Once someone had possession of the fei, everyone knew it belonged to that person or family. Fei was still tangible on the bottom of the ocean, even. One family is in possession of fei that has not been seen for 3 generations; although the stone is still valid in trade.

From 1899-1919, Yap was a German colony. The roads were in bad condition, and the Germans asked the Yap people to fix them, and refused. As a way of getting what they wanted, the Germans painted large “X” shapes over the fei stones therefore “freezing” their currency. This alarmed the Yap people, therefore the roads were repaired and the paint was washed off. The yap really believed black paint would freeze their money, and that is the abstract concept. In Brazil in the 50’s, the government printed money to build a new capitol. When it failed and accounts were frozen. Everyday the prices for everyday necessities changed drastically. They needed a plan. A man named Bacha coming out of grad school with his three friends had an idea. They made a fake currency. The currency was virtual. They were called URV’s. People still used their cruzeiro, but everything was priced in URV’s. The plan manipulated how many cruzeiros the URV was worth. Prices would change, but the URV’s were stable. Everyone started to get brainwashed by URV’s. The fake money- eventually became real. It became the country’s actual form of currency called the real. Twenty million people rose out of poverty and Brazil is rumored to be the next super power.

Judging from these stories—people believe money rules the world; and in a way it does. Some people such as the people of Yap, believe it more than others. For the Yap, the fei was all they knew. From their prospective, their currency was frozen by these invaders until they did what was asked. For the Brazilians, they believed in the URV in my opinion, because they had nothing else to believe in. They were willing to try anything. For the Germans, they knew the Yap were much less developed than they were, and knew that marking their fei would get them what they wanted. And for Bacha, he just wanted to save his country. To me, that sounds a little bit like goods and services. I think what the Yap would consider so bizarre about our currency is our banking system. It is so complex, and I feel as though the Yap would find it all so unnecessary. To us though, it is necessary because we are a super power. Honestly, i think the way of the fei would be so much easier.   Today our country is trillions of dollars in debt, we have 1% of the people with 99% of the wealth, and to me it does get confusing. I can imagine how confusing and crazy it would sound to the people of Yap.

So what exactly is the intrinsic value of money? The concept that not all things have correct prices. We think somethings value is right, but a lot of times it may not be based on many different factors. According to Sean Edwards at, “Money doesn’t have value in itself. They have value because we as a society have agreed they can represent our labor”. To me, that rings very true. What can we actually do with it? We can’t drink it. We can eat it. We can wear, sit, or sleep in it. So what really is it? It’s paper. Money is a piece of paper that holds some kind of value in our heads but in reality means nothing. According to Roger Ray, “Real wealth is created when we build something, grow something, mine something, or assemble something.” This is also something I agree with. Having pieces of paper is not wealth, not really. It is only a concept perceived as wealth.

Before getting this assignment, I never even thought about the concept of money. I remember clearly in 2008 in our recession asking my mom “If America is running out of money, why don’t we just print more?” She laughed. But now that I am more aware of how our economy works, essentially, that’s what we do. I never really knew it worked that way. I always just assumed our money was backed up by gold but now i realize it’s a lot more complicated than that. Why do we have so much faith in things we never see? The Brazilians never saw the URV at first but believed it. The Yap never knew for sure why exactly the fei had value. And we as Americans have so much faith in our country and in our currency but why? I’ve never seen the federal reserve. Or the gold that supposedly backs up our money. So why put so much trust into it? Because it is what we have been told to be true.


Edwards, Sean. “Why Money Does Not Exist.” Sean Edwards. N.p., 14 Aug. 2014. Web. 07 Sept. 2015. <;.

Ray, Roger. “The Truth about Money: It’s Just a Concept.” Springfield News-Leader. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2015. <;.

“How Fake Money Saved Brazil.” NPR. NPR, 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 07 Sept. 2015. <;.

Friedman, Milton. “The Island Of Stone Money.” (n.d.): n. pag. Feb. 1991. Web. 7 Sept. 2015. <;.

“The Invention of Money | This American Life.” This American Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2015. <;.

“The Invention of Money | This American Life.” This American Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2015. <;.

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4 Responses to Stone Money- brxttyb

  1. brxttyb says:

    feedback was requested

    Feedback provided.


  2. davidbdale says:

    Hello, brxttyb. I’m happy to comply. 🙂

    My method for providing feedback is to respond as I read rather than first reading all the way through. I do so to provide you with a paragraph-by-paragraph reaction to your writing the same as any reader would respond. I hope you find this method helpful.
    P.S. I am very critical of all writing; harsh comments are common. I will praise your work only when I find something truly commendable. If you prefer gentler guidance, you only have to ask. I can be kind.

    P1. I’m out. This does not pass the Prime Directive test, brxttyb. If I were not your professor devoted to your success, I would bail after the third or fourth rhetorical question. The Prime Directive of your first sentence is to get your second sentence read . . . and so on to the last sentence. The little nugget about coins the size of cars is the first fragment that would encourage a reader to continue. Could you start with it? Of course you could. And NOT as a question. In just one sentence you could attract your reader’s attention AND introduce what could be your primary theme and insight:

    On the tiny and isolated island of Yap, coins are limestone disks the size of cars, but theirs is not the most illogical currency in the world: Ours is.

    Perhaps this rhetorical question technique is your favorite opening gambit. If so, please let me offer you several others. Questions might be the right way to start one time in a hundred.

    P2a. I don’t like to offer grammar and punctuation corrections on first drafts because students often respond by making only those corrections and thinking they’ve done a “rewrite.” However, I have to point out two things here.

    The natives, use a currency of “fei”. They are large limestone disks the size of cars. They mined them and carried them back on bamboo stretchers.

    PUNC: The period ALWAYS goes inside the quotation marks. SO: “fei.” NOT “fei”.
    UNCLEAR ANTECEDENT: Your first THEY refers to the limestone disks. Your second THEY refers to the natives.
    Avoid the confusion of unclear pronouns by eliminating most of them. SO:

    For currency, the natives use limestone disks the size of cars, which they mine 400 miles away and transport home on bamboo rafts.

    A little more:

    Fei was not just for anything, though. Fei would only be traded for something very large. It wasn’t so much possession of the fei though, it was too big to be moved around from owner to owner. Once you had it, everyone knew it belonged to you.

    NEEDLESS PRONOUNS: This time you’re repeating “it” instead of “they.” Four times. All can and should be eliminated. Also eliminate the “YOU,” which is banned in this class for reasons I will explain WED SEP 16. SO:

    Since fei were too big to move, they were spent only for large purchases. The Yap knew who owned the biggest stones, and when fei changed hands, the Yap knew that too, though the stones stayed in place.

    Please note I’m suggesting you try to sound “academic.” Plain language is fine—in fact it’s superior—provided it’s clear.

    You get close to an essential and admirable claim but then steer away, brxttyb. You claim “One family is in possession of fei” on the bottom of the ocean. Readers deserve an explanation of how the “owners” can be said to “possess” this perhaps imaginary fei. Such an explanation would be the most important you have made to this point.

    P2b. P2 is at least two paragraphs, brxttyb. P2b begins: “From 1899-1919 . . . .”

    You are “pointing at” phenomena here. Essentially just summarizing Friedman’s essay and, like a tour guide saying: over here is something peculiar. You tell the black cross story and conclude: “that is the abstract concept.” Where your job should begin, you declare yourself finished.

    P2c. P2 is at least three paragraphs, brxttyb. P2c begins: “In Brazil in the 50’s . . . .”

    Here you don’t draw a conclusion at all. You just summarize the NPR anecdote. Do the three anecdotes (Wet fei, painted fei, fake real) all demonstrate the same phenomenon? If not, why do you tell us three of them in one long paragraph? I’m not sure I would read this far to find out without some assurance that the investment would pay off. Let’s see if P3 redeems them.

    P3a. Money rules the world. I don’t see it, brxttyb. The first story is about tracking ownership of currency; the second is about freezing accounts to compel performance; the third is about dwindling purchasing power. They do have something in common, but it’s not that money rules the world.

    I highly recommend that instead of clustering your three anecdotes into P2, you instead break them out into paragraphs of their own and make your observations one story at a time.

    P3b. P3 is at least two paragraphs, brxttyb. P3b begins: “I think what the Yap . . . . ”

    Hmmm . . . isn’t that huge fei at the bottom of the ocean almost exactly like a huge bank balance, brxttyb? Out of reach, locked safely away, providing its “owner” with “wealth” even if it never changes hands? Also, doesn’t owning a huge rock in front of somebody else’s house resemble credit? Yap are likely to give me things and work for me if they know I own the means to pay them, even if they have to accept being paid over time, right? Instead of yearning for the Yap/fei system, it would be more productive to describe how we all share the same need to represent goods and services with something abstract.

    Your conclusion contains good observations that are worth preserving, brxttyb. Perhaps they are misplaced. I’d like to see them spread throughout your essay here, so that readers have a better idea why they should keep reading. For that reason, I suggested you introduce the idea in the first sentence that OURS is the most illogical currency (it’s almost entirely abstract!). That idea is worth developing, and you have plenty of material here to illustrate it.

    Did you find this feedback helpful? Overbearing? Some of each? I can only afford to spend this amount of time on writers who value the interaction. Please reply.


  3. brxttyb says:

    Prof Hodges,
    Thank you for your critical feedback. Although harsh, it was what I needed to improve my paper. I personally don’t take criticism very well, but it is what I needed to hear. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to give me that elaborate of a response.

    See you Wednesday,


    • davidbdale says:

      I don’t take criticism well either, brxttyb. I do my best to be sensitive to others who share my problem with hearing the truth by making my feedback as honest as I can and offering to do less for those who want only encouragement. I’m impressed that you appreciate a frank assessment. Thank you for your reply.


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