Stone Money – themildewmuncher7

Money is an interesting aspect to life. When asked what money is, most would suggest that it is a thing, and point to their wallet or the paper money in their hand. This is true for any civilization; we all have different forms of money but it all serves the same purpose. And it always has the same aspect that few people succeed in realizing. Money is not a thing, but rather a concept. We use it to value objects of desire in a clear, algorithmic way. And who dictates money always serves as quite an unpredictable variable.

Before being introduced for the first time to these fundamental ideas, I fell in the pit with all of the other conformists. I looked down at Jackson’s face and thought, ‘I have money right here’. That thought now lies in contention with some of the greater lies I have told myself. Milton Friedman wrote an essay entitled “The Island of Stone Money” which details a small Micronesian island in which the indigenous people use large limestone rocks as their currency. He explains that the stones can be used to purchase things despite not having to actually be transported due to their immense and inconvenient size. While this seems illogical at first, Friedman is able to draw parallels with the United States government during the Great Depression, citing that they conducted a very similar move sanctioning off gold for the French merely by labeling it (Friedman 2-4). He proved that all monetary systems are in essence the same, despite some seeming less logical on the surface.

Today, we suffer from an even more illogical economic strategy, that being online banking. We are all told we earn money and that money is placed in a bank account, but nobody ever sees it. Chana Joffe-Walt explains that the money we earned is not necessarily real, as it is never physically held, just told it exists. Furthermore, in our society today, there is an unbelievable reliance on online banking and transactions. Though the money we pay on Amazon is coming from “our” bank account, what does that truly mean? Is it our money? Or is it just a promise that we’re able to trade and negotiate with at our own will?
Bitcoin deserves a notable mention here, as it gained popularity recently and is already notorious for being a worthless investment. The idea behind Bitcoin is to provide an anonymous, easy method to transfer funds. They present themselves, them being Bitcoin, as a concept, not a currency. This being said, there is no true value to them; they have no backing in the real, physical world (Reeves). Since they advertise themselves as failing to have a tangible value, they are in a sense making themselves vulnerable to an unstable worth. People see them as being not real, unlike paper money, such as USD, which they think is, and people do not value them as much. The concept of money, in this sense, is a curse as it maintains that currency must have a physical “value” in order for the lie that is money to work.

To some extent, money is a real thing with real value. But practically speaking, it functions as a system through a series of lies and promises that may or may not be true. Your money in your bank account may have been dropped in the Atlantic Ocean, but it is still your money, and you can still withdraw it from your account.

Works Cited

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. 7 Sep. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/10/04/130329523/how-fake-money-saved-brazil&gt;.

Reeves, Jeff. “Bitcoin Has No Place in Your – or Any – Portfolio.” MarketWatch. Livefyre, 31 Jan. 2015. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.

Glass, Ira . “The Invention of Money.” NPR.org. 4 Oct. 2010. 7 Sep. 2015. <http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/423/the-invention-of-money?act=0#play

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6 Responses to Stone Money – themildewmuncher7

  1. themildewmuncher7 says:

    Feedback was requested.

    Feedback provided.
    —DSH

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  2. themildewmuncher7 says:

    Cows and Chips Rewrite:

    Furthermore, in our society today, there is an unbelievable reliance on online banking and transactions. Though the money we pay on Amazon is coming from “our” bank account, what does that truly mean? We load up our PayPal accounts and see a numerical balance, but there is no physical proof that the balance we are seeing actually exists. There is such an over reliance on technology that we are forced to believe what we see in that small box is true and undeniable. The numbers take the form of merely a promise, a promise that we can deduct a certain amount from there and allocate it to Amazon to receive a certain amount of goods.

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  3. davidbdale says:

    Here we go, mildewmuncher. I comment as I read, instead of reading through all the way first, so you’ll know how an interested and engaged reader reacts to your arguments as you make them. I hope you find this sort of feedback helpful. It can be harsh, but I hope not cruel. If you need less blunt critique, just ask. I can be kind.

    P1. This is a terrible tease, mildew. You spend more time telling us that you’re going to tell us something than you do telling us something. Look at all the ways you taunt us:
    —an interesting aspect of life
    —most would say it’s a thing
    —it all serves the same purpose
    —it always has the same aspect

    Then:
    —it’s not a thing
    —its purpose is to value objects

    That’s too much teasing for the value of the revelations. You have an interesting point to make, but you’ll tire readers if you feint too much. Be direct and share more details of money’s essential abstract nature. You could also tell us in P1 just who always determines the unpredictable value of money.

    P2. PUNCTUATION: Single quotes are used only to quote inside double quotes. The periods ALWAYS go inside the quotation marks. Therefore: “I have money right here.”

    Note quite what you mean, unless you’re going WAY out of your way to say that this simple linguistic ambiguity (the twenty-dollar bill is money) is competing with big self-delusions to be the greatest of all the lies you’ve told yourself. Is that it?

    You have an ambitious style, mildew, that promises much but sometimes gets in its own way. You don’t mean “despite not having to actually be moved.” You mean the simpler “without having to be moved.” Maybe: He explains that the stones, too big and inconvenient to move, can be used to purchase things without being transported to the new owner.

    Friedman’s parallel was actually between the German crosses and the French labels. Your detail about the Depression is accurate but misleading. Readers who haven’t read the original will wonder why you mention it. You might mean sectioning, not sanctioning.

    He certainly demonstrated that monetary systems share some interesting aspects; that’s quite different from proving they’re all identical.

    P3. I appreciate the effort at vocabulary and precise language, mildew, but watch out that you don’t send mixed signals. We’ll be looking for suffering very soon. We’re also looking for a strategy. You don’t really deliver on either. Considering that the payoff claim is that we don’t see the currency that represents our pay, rather than promise us suffering and strategy, you might just say that we have become oblivious to how abstract our currency now is. We work and we’re told our wealth is enhanced, but we aren’t handed anything at the end of the week, just the promise that numbers on a screen we have to go looking for represent our increased account balances.

    Are you sure Joffe-Walt says our money is “not necessarily real”? It’s an odd claim. Is it real or not? What’s the necessity part? What is an “unbelievable” reliance? Does it mean you’re surprised how much we rely on it?

    I’m allowed to ask you questions here, mildew, but don’t rely on them in your essay. Your Rhetorical Questions are no substitute for bold clear claims. Replace all of them with declarative sentences. Example: These accounts seem like vague assurances that we can spend what the screen tells us we have.

    Create a paragraph for Bitcoin. Only when new topics are isolated in their own paragraphs can you clearly see whether they’ve been well enough developed with their own topic sentences and evidence.

    Bitcoin may be a worthless investment, but it’s also a currency, and that should be your first concern for this essay.

    Instead of introducing they for no reason, why not let Bitcoin present itself: Bitcoin presents itself as a concept, not a currency.

    That said, I dispute the claim. It’s a currency. It’s a countable form of transfer of value from one entity to another. That’s a currency whether there are coins in the physical world or not.

    Now you’re getting to the heart of an argument. “There is no true value to them.” No backing. That’s an important difference, but not one that matters as long as people accept them in trade. They can be accumulated, saved, and spent. What gives them value is that they can be spent.

    Huh? They advertise themselves as failing to have tangible value? Work harder on this section, mildew, to make clearer claims about the special nature of Bitcoin. It’s essential to your overall argument, but you’re not really wrestling with the troubling nature of Bitcoin. Take the position that its partial success indicates that currency can be divorced from nations and see what conclusions that helps you draw about the new nature of money.

    Your “concept of money is a curse” is a problem without a sufferer, it seems. Who is cursed by this?

    P5. Your “to some extent” is a copout, followed by another: “practically speaking.” What is the extent of money’s value? And why does it need any more reality than that it functions practically? Are we threatened by the thought that we’re walking on a thin rug above an abyss and that if everybody realizes for a moment that our money is based on nothing but blind faith we’ll all fall down?

    Your conclusion is rosy, but the implications of your essay are not. Decide which one to focus on for your rewrite.

    Is this feedback helpful, mildew? Too little? Too much? Too critical? I gladly provide detailed feedback for students who appreciate it and respond with substantive rewrites. For those who don’t respond to so much attention, I provide less. Reply, please.

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    • themildewmuncher7 says:

      Thank you for this reply, first of all. It is clear that you spent a lot of time reading through my material and constructively criticizing different aspects of it. I feel it will be much easier to focus on certain elements of my writing during my rewrite due to the feedback I received, which I felt was just right; it was not too harsh or critical. Thank you again, and I hope my rewrite will please you and I alike.

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      • davidbdale says:

        I’m glad to hear that, mildew. You’re right; I spend a lot of time carefully reading and doing my best to provide advice that will help. I consider that my part of the contract between you and me. Yours is to write the heck out of your rewrite. 🙂

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