I was absolutely fascinated by This American Life tonight in which they raised their most “stoner” question to date: What is money?
Money is on the mind lately as we’ve had to come up with a lot of it in the past couple months to scrounge together a down payment for the house. We’ve managed to stick a few thousand dollars under the mattress in the past two months in order to make this happen. But, really, it’s in a bank account and is only a number on paper. The money doesn’t actually exist.
You see, I get paid by direct deposit. My employer tells my bank that what I do is worth X amount of dollars and tells the bank to add it to my account. But no tangible currency is ever exchanged. Then I write on a small piece of paper addressed to my landlady that I am giving her X amount of dollars to live in her building, but, again, that piece of paper represents the idea that I’m giving her something valuable which, in fact, doesn’t exist.
Money, apart from being a great song in Cabaret, makes the world go ’round, but we are living under the false pretense that it actually has value. In my dreams, we are living in a cashless society where I can give you my embroidery and in return you give me some shoes. That hasn’t happened since the industrial revolution… in other words, since people stopped making things that have real value. Now, we sit at desks and type all day and my employer thinks that my time has value (which, obviously, I agree with) and so they “pay” me with fake numbers that I can use to go out and buy potatoes with, or, write on a small piece of paper to my landlady. Maybe some day we will run out of fake numbers and go back to simply bartering for those potatoes instead.
What really gets to me about this-what I fail to understand- is that if money is fiction, then how come it matters so much when you don’t have it?
For fun: watch this