I am a nanny. I clean, I cook, I change diapers, and I also play board games. I am a professional Sorry player, a whiz at Chutes and Ladders, and not one to be messed with when playing Clue. But there is one game that I cannot seem to get into. In fact, I have never even sat down to a game of Monopoly in my life. A game that teaches children thievery and politics? Count me out. Monopoly, however, introduces banking to children. In simpler words, it is about money. But when was the last time you were playing Monopoly on family game night and someone asked for your giant rock sculpture in the shape of a coin in exchange for their property?
The island of Yap in the South Pacific is remote in many aspects. They are off the beaten track geographically, and they are unique in the way they do many things, including payments. Giant stones in the familiar round shape of coins are traded and used as a currency system, something that any civilized person or group of people would think ridiculous. But is it? Milton Friedman’s paper titled The Island of Stone Money puts into perspective what these island natives have going for them. The currency, called Fei, provokes all sorts of thoughts for me as Friedman shares that the Yap will even leave their money where it lies. Literally too big to be moved, the Fei is not something that the Yap need physical protection over to sleep soundly at night, prompting me to ask the question “What is wrong with our society?”.
Us millennials have grown fond of the idea of money. It’s everywhere, it can do anything for you. People build their lives around it and put their trust in it like it’s their Lord and savior. Five reporters podcasting The Invention of Money challenge the existence and purpose of money. Is it fictional? More importantly, is necessary? According to the Yap, not the way we do it it’s not. Another reporter from The Lie that Saved Brazil speaks of money giving people nightmares. She warns that messing with money is dangerous and has consequences, like the incident in Brazil where the currency system completely fell apart. Japan is seriously in debt, but has a differing factor in their country’s currency system. An article titled The Curious Case of Japan’s Economic Stimulus states of the prime minister “Mr. Abe may be ignoring the conventional wisdom on spending, and bullying the Bank of Japan, for all the wrong reasons — but the fact is that he is actually providing fiscal and monetary stimulus at a time when every other advanced-country government is too much in the thrall of the Very Serious People to do something different. And so far the results have been entirely positive: no spike in interest rates, but a sharp fall in the yen, which is a very good thing for Japan”.
My generation is conditioned to think in terms of rich and poor; High and low class, wealth and poverty, professional NFL player’s mansion and homeless. I have seen money break down families, and I have seen it build up lives. I want to be indifferent towards the subject but unfortunately that is not possible in this day and age. Although I don’t remember when gas was lower than a single dollar or penny candy was all the rage, I remember when one hundred dollars was a huge amount. I remember when Christmas had a lot more presents under the tree. These memories bring me back to questioning what is happening in today’s society. If the people of Yap can be comfortable and civilized by dropping off a huge stone in their neighbor’s yard for a couple chickens and cows, then why can’t we? If a man from the southern pacific island drops his Fei into the ocean, he will be content knowing that albeit gone, it is his. He owns it and he is rich in that knowledge. I believe that money is the source of controversy, feuds, and disagreements. After reading and listening about the Yap, my only question is why can’t we adapt their ways of thinking?
Friedman, Milton. “The Island Of Stone Money.” (n.d.): n. pag. Feb. 1991. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.
“The Invention Of Money.” N.p., 07 Jan. 2011. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.
Walt, Chana. “How Fake Money Saved Brazil.” NPR. NPR, 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.
Krugman, Paul. “The Curious Case of Japan’s Economic Stimulus.” truth-out.org. 22 Jan. 2013.