Stone Money – fromcasablanca

At a young age I was told money could buy you happiness. After all, as a child who would get whatever I desired, I began to believe it was true. No matter how I felt at the moment, whether I was filled with frustration or sorrow, whenever money was given to me my face would light up. This belief that money could buy happiness stuck with me until I saw people who were much happier without the materialistic things money could buy and also when I noticed that money in certain areas of the world didn’t hold value.

In Milton Friedman’s essay, Island of Stone Money, he talks about the small island of Yap and how he was impressed with their monetary system that revolved around stone. I found an immediate contrast between American society and Yap society, as Americans hold gold with much more value than stones would ever have. Unlike American society, Yap society holds stone with the same value as we Americans hold gold, which is why stone or as the Yap people may call it “Fei” is the currency of the island. As I continued to read the essay, I found it interesting that “it is not necessary for its owner to reduce it to possession.” Meaning if the stone could not be carried, the ownership would be switched, marked as a form of exchange and left undisturbed. I was surprised to know how easy it was for the people of Yap to trust someone with their stone but I noticed that it isn’t any different than me putting my “money” into a bank account.

As I continued on with my readings, I didn’t understand how Americans have allowed money to cause so many economic issues and control us. Then I remembered the time I believed money could buy happiness. In the article, “How Fake Money Saved Brazil”, the people in Brazil believed that “people have to be tricked into thinking money will hold its value”. In this article, four economists trick the people of Brazil into saving the country from inflation by slowing down the the creation of the Brazilian currency and developing a new currency called the “real”. The catch to the real was that this currency could not be carried like the people of Yap could not carry the Fei because of its weight but because it wasn’t real. It didn’t involve coins or bills because it never existed. Although the real wasn’t physical, it was virtual and was involved with anything that had real currency. The trick behind this new, fake currency is that people would think prices weren’t going up because it was listed as something different. This demonstrates how people control the value of money and can continue to control the value of money because money itself is fiction.

The belief that money can buy happiness is fiction. The idea that money can hold value is fiction. In various articles, the value of money is whatever we allow ourselves to believe it is. For instance, the Yap use stones to determine their wealth and how much they have. Also, the people of Brazil allowed four economists trick them into thinking prices weren’t going up and that they were saving more money. Money is nothing but an idea, that can involve value and trust. Most importantly, money is what we allow it to be.

Works Cited

Friedman, Milton. “The Island of Stone Money.” The Island of Stone Money (1991): 1-5. Print.

Joffe-Walt, C. (2010, October 4). How Fake Money Saved Brazil. Retrieved from

“The Invention of Money.” This American Life. N.p., 7 Jan. 2011. Web. 7 Sept. 2015. <;

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6 Responses to Stone Money – fromcasablanca

  1. davidbdale says:

    You forgot to categorize. Do you know how?


  2. fromcasablanca says:

    Feedback was requested.

    Feedback provided. –DSH


  3. fromcasablanca says:

    At a young age I believed that a thin, green, piece of paper could buy me happiness. After all, how could a government document that is marked with a value, be relevant to me? As a child who was well fed, well clothed and had a room full of the newest toys from Toys R’ Us, I could easily see how these pieces of paper that have the faces of our noble Presidents of America on it had stole my heart. No matter what my current mood was at the time, it was and still is very astonishing to know that these slips of paper could dictate my mood. Whenever money was presented to me, my cheeks would become redder than a dozen of roses on Valentine’s Day. This belief that money could buy me happiness stuck with me until I saw people who were much happier without the green slips of paper and when I discovered that they hold no value in other places of the world.


  4. davidbdale says:

    I’m writing at the airport by sweeping on a tablet so this might not be eloquent commentary, from casablanca but i don’t want to keep you waiting any longer.

    P1. This is certainly an intriguing opening but mostly because l didn’t expect from this assignment.
    The theme of whether money provides satisfaction is not contained in any of the readings, so you have some convincing to do. If you don’t connect your theme to the subject matter, which concerns how money is represented and how it holds value, your first paragraph may be irrelevant. Let’s continue.

    P2.Your second paragraph is an uncomfortable combination of two unrelated ideas, fc. You spend half a paragraph to say that the Yap use limestone for the same reason we use gold.

    Then you change the subject. That money doesn’t physically move for big transactions on Yap has some similarity to us putting money in the bank, I guess, but your job is to explain HOW it’s similar because there are many many ways in which the two are entirely different.

    Plane is starting to board.

    P3. I’d like to be positive about this paragraph, fc, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I truly hate to leave you here, but I’m on my way to a wedding in Ohio. Hopefully back soon with some encouragement.

    Now writing in the Columbus Ohio airport. You appear to want to make a sociological argument about the things we do for money, including I would guess, going to college and working hard but also stealing and saving and investing, and we certainly do all those things for money. And in those cases the value of money is real. Right? To say it’s not would be preposterous. What the articles and this unit are investigating is not the logic of earning and spending but the artificiality of how we keep track of who earns what, who owns what. We used to own cattle not money, and we completed transactions in cattle, which was not artificial since cattle have tangible value. Gold coins replaced cattle. Paper dollars replaced gold. Digital accounts eliminated physical objects completely. The aspect of money that is fictional is its non~physicality or the fact that it’s no longer redeemable at the bank for cattle. Your essay is pursuing a different agenda, that wealth is an odd goal, or that happiness and satisfaction don’t require it. There’s nothing wrong with that agenda except that the source materials don’t regard it and won’t support it.

    P4. Much of what you day here is true, fromcasablanca, but let me suggest a tweak. Money is a fiction, but that doesn’t mean it has no value. When you have a cow and I have a thousand dollars, the fact that I give you paper for the cow means the paper has a value you and I agree to. In Brazil, the cow might cost me two thousand next week, but that just means we agree again that the paper had a new and smaller value. It’s a communal fiction we all agree to.

    I hope you find these notes helpful, fc, and not discouraging. Please reply.


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