An interesting take on the beginning of our seemingly irresponsible valuation of money is brought up in the NPR Broadcast titled “The Invention of Money”, they discuss the history of the Yap people of the Caroline Islands and their “stone money”. The Yap developed a system of carving huge stone wheels out of limestone for large purchases between islanders. However, since the large stones weighed thousands of pounds, and there were no roads or carts to move the stone between people, it was simply known and trusted to be owned by that certain islander. Pretty preposterous how an islander could have wealth that is made true by a stone that is on another man’s property.
How could such a system work, when the only evidence of worth the stone has is the stone itself? But it is eerie how we question the simplistic monetary values the Yap people had, while we have established our own make-believe system of money in the present day. We have our dollar bills and our pennies and quarters, as do other countries with respect to their own currency. We started off the same way as the people of Yap, using the precious metal gold instead of nearly inaccessible limestone as our monetary value. Eventually when we saw how our gold supply was running out/being misused, we evolved the system and instead instituted paper bills and coins that were backed by the worth of gold. However, we have not had a backing to our money since the gold standard was eliminated in 1933. It has been 82 years since our money has actually had a material worth attached to it, yet our economies and monetary systems have been kept in tact for the entire duration.
There has been ups and downs in markets, but eventually, the “dollar” gains its worth back just because, for some strange reason, we believe in it. “Money is like Tinker Bell in the final scene of the play, Peter Pan. If people do not believe, it will fade away. But, of course, people do want to believe and the spot-light on Tinker Bell brightens with the loud cheering of the audience” (Livingstone). We have surpassed the point in time where we can question the system in place, and we must carry it on for as long as we can. We have surpassed the days of limestone-money trading and our own history with gold. It is very interesting to look back and see similarities between our society and societies in early history, but it is even more exciting to evaluate and hypothesize what our future holds for us. We can physically see and touch and smell the money that we have, but we cannot see its worth. We know what it is worth in our heads, because we speak and communicate the value behind each dollar. We cannot see it, and yet we still believe in it.
The dollar is sort of like Santa Claus. We see the presents under the tree, the half-drank milk and the devoured cookies from a festive plate, but we never see Santa. There is all this evidence that he exists, there are stories and songs that tell tales of his history, but we never see him. Even if we never see a jolly, fat man in a big red velvet suit, we are going to believe in him. Just like money, we have evidence it exists and we attach worth to it, but the real value is our belief in the system, and that will never fade away.
Beattie, Andrew. “The History Of Money: From Barter To Banknotes.”Investopedia. N.p., 17 Apr. 2007. Web. 07 Sept. 2015.
Livingstone, Zuerrnnovahh-Starr. “Money, a Belief System.” Money, a Belief System. N.p., 15 Oct. 2002. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.
“The Invention of Money | This American Life.” This American Life. N.p., 7 Jan. 2011. Web. 08 Sept. 2015.