Stone Money – thirdlady226

I have always felt that money was somewhat of a nebulous concept; during the process of my research on the Yap and their stone money system, some of my thoughts were confirmed. Each society has a different currency and a different monetary system. But are they all really that different?

The Yap use limestone disks, called fei, as currency. The bigger the disk, the wealthier the owner. If the disk was too big to move, it stayed in the same spot on the island. Yet they still acknowledged that it changed hands. They were content with the idea that the money now belonged to someone else. This baffles me. My initial thought was to wonder how they trusted one another with this currency system; after all, it was just someone’s word against another’s. It also made me think about our own currency system. We tend to take it for granted, but really how are we so different from the Yap? We give value to little green pieces of paper, but what is backing them up? We see numbers on our computer screens representing the worth of our bank accounts, but is the money actually there? We satisfy ourselves with the thought that our money can be used to pay bills, buy groceries, fill our gas tanks. But where is this money actually coming from? The bank doesn’t have it. We don’t have it. Is it really just a myth?

Brazil’s monetary situation got so bad that 4 graduate students had to come up with a fake currency just to stabilize the economy. Inflation caused prices to rise each day; people were in poverty. But with this new “currency” called the real, they could trick people into thinking prices weren’t changing. Everything was still bought using the actual currency, the cruzeiro. What changed each day was how many cruzeiros a real was worth. But by pricing everything in reals, the people felt that they had a stable pricing system to work with and thus stopped the wide-spread panic. And eventually it did stabilize the economy. The inflation rate decreased rapidly, and the poverty-stricken population were able to make ends meet. Japan is also attempting to end their national debt crisis by printing new money and creating more jobs.

Reading these stories really makes me think. It brings up a lot of questions about how our economy works. What does the national debt really mean? Why is college so expensive? Why does it take years to pay off a house or a car? Why do we need to pay so much money for healthcare? If Brazil can trick people into believing that the economy was changing, surely we can come up with a clever solution to our own money issues. It seems to be the same world wide.

What I’ve come to realize through this research is that money has imaginary value. We place value on it, but have no real way to back up that claim. We put all of our trust in pieces of paper and numbers on a screen. I started out thinking that the Yap system of fei was illogical and old-fashioned. But in reality, how are we any different? Money holds only the value that we give to it. And I can’t help but think that we could be doing a much better job. Each country’s problem is unique, but stems from the same issue. We put too much trust in the value of money.

                         Works Cited

Joffe-Walt, Chana. “How Fake Money Saved Brazil.” 4 Oct. 2010. 30 Jan. 2015.

Krugman, Paul. “The Curious Case of Japan’s Economic Stimulus.” 22 Jan. 2013.

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5 Responses to Stone Money – thirdlady226

  1. thirdlady226 says:

    feedback was requested.

    Feedback provided.


  2. thirdlady226 says:

    What I’ve come to realize through this research is that money has imaginary value. Even in the days of trading and bartering tangible items like cattle, chickens, or grains, those items had value because of what they meant to the people trading them. It isn’t any different now, except that our currency is consistent for everything we buy. We place value on little green slips of linen and everyone accepts them because it’s normal, which honestly seems more absurd than trading physical items.


  3. davidbdale says:

    I provide feedback as I’m reading your essay, thirdlady226, instead of reading all the way through first, to provide you with a running commentary of how a devoted reader responds to your argument in real time.

    P1. I may have misled you by suggesting that you share how your impressions have changed since reading our course materials, thirdlady. Those changes are worthy content for your essay, but they won’t interest readers enough to make them your introduction. You might be able to successfully employ the strategy of sharing your changing attitudes, but only if you were MUCH more specific and startling. No one unrelated to this class would take the bait you offer here. “I thought money was nebulous and some of that has been confirmed: societies use different money.” Would you read the second paragraph?

    P2. Careful with your tenses, TL. Do the Yap USE disks? The next few verbs are all past tense.

    I’m sorry to whine, but you need to lose the personal report approach. The “this baffles me . . . my initial thought . . . it also made me think” sequence is tiring, I’m afraid. If you want to detail your reactions, first draw your conclusions, then tell us how your study has changed your perspective, TL, but don’t give us blow-by-blow announcements.

    I see no connection between your observations about 1) trust in ownership and change of ownership, and 2) what backs up the nominal value of dollars.

    While I’m stuck here in P2, I also need to advise you more directly than I have in class against the use of rhetorical questions. You’re already having trouble making positive claims; you undermine your own efforts by asking questions instead when you should be advancing a positive argument.

    The first RQ, at the end of P1, is a weak alternative to the positive claim: despite different types of markers (stone discs, gold coins, dollar bills), all currency systems operate the same way.

    The FIVE you string together in P2 (broken up by just two declarations) are also substitutes for claims. Restated as declarative sentences, they would say such things as 1) we are not different from the Yap, 2) nothing backs up our dollars, 3) the money isn’t there, 4) the origin of our currency is mysterious, 5) Money is mythical.

    Readers might have answers to these questions, but you evade your own responsibility (and your best chance to write convincingly) when you don’t persuade them to accept your own answers.

    P3. Your strategy for this assignment is clear, TL. You’re giving a guided tour of your reading, offering commentary and counterpoint along the way. The trouble with the technique is that it only works for readers who have done the same reading. That’s never a good idea. Your job is to provide enough of the background (purposeful summary) to convince your reader of the validity of your argument on the topic. You do a fair job of sketching the invention of the real, but for no clear purpose. The relationship to the Japanese debt crisis is entirely unclear.

    P4. I want to be a fan, TL. I start each paragraph hoping this will be the one I can admire. And I am intrigued that you have such various reactions to the questions raised by the NPR stories. But telling us that you’ve been doing a lot of thinking is no substitute for convincing us of the correctness of your own thesis regarding money. As far as I can tell, you haven’t settled on a thesis at all except that money provokes thought.

    P5. Your conclusion appears to be your thesis: “We put too much trust in the imaginary value of money.” Briefly, let’s see how you have backed up this thesis.

    —You grudgingly admire the Yap for trusting one another to keep track of the ownership of their wealth. (They appear to be helped, not harmed, by their trust.)
    —You worry that nothing backs up our money, but you acknowledge that though it’s imaginary, it lets us pay our bills. (We appear to need to trust our money to make the system work.)
    —You admire the Brazilian success at convincing their citizens to accept the value of a new currency. (This is a true triumph of trust over doubt.)

    I recommend you start from a strong and certain thesis, thirdlady. Outline the ideas you propose to make and devote a paragraph to each idea. Don’t permit yourself to “survey” the readings in an arbitrary order. Instead, let the logic of your argument determine the sequence in which you address the important conclusions you have drawn from your study of money.

    I hope that didn’t feel like being beaten up, thirdlady. If so, I apologize, but I want to provide some early and certain guidance. The sooner we get this process on track, the better your chances of making substantial improvement in the weeks we have left. If you’re comfortable with the feedback you received, please reply. If you’d prefer more gentle guidance, please reply. If you’d like less interference on my part, please reply.


    • thirdlady226 says:

      Thanks for the feedback. It is certainly a lot to think about, but I now have a much clearer idea of how to go about this assignment. I definitely don’t want less interference, I’d like to improve my writing as much as possible during the remainder of the course. Thanks!


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