Money: The Most Enduring Lie
What if I told you there was a lie that every person endorses. A lie so deeply embedded into our society that it is no longer registered as a lie. A lie that consumes and motivates every person, every single day. The lie states that money is a real tangible thing. Money is not real… money is an illusion… money is the most enduring lie ever told. The adoption of that lie is what consumes our daily lives. In the most simplest terms, money is the middleman. When requesting goods or services, money can be used to even out the exchange. Money has no value if the buyer and seller don’t mutually agree on its suggested value. That’s precisely why money is a scam. The government issues billions of dollars worth of bills and coins and assigns values to them, and all we have to do is trust that value remains stable.
A very peculiar system of money was referenced by Milton Friedman in his essay called, The Island of Stone Money. In this essay he details the odd monetary system the Island of Yap adopted. Apart of the Caroline Islands, the Island of Uap or Yap, adopted a strange currency called Fei. The Fei was a large, solid, thick, stone wheel ranging from 1ft to 12ft in diameter. Since the island contained no metals, they had to alternate to limestone. Don’t fool yourself, they didn’t mine the limestone on the Island of Yap either. They traveled over 400 miles to mine the massive wheels of limestone, and transported the Fei back to the island. In William Henry Furness III book of the same name, The Island of Stone Money, it is detailed that, “a family whose wealth was unquestioned,—acknowledged by everyone—and yet no one, not even the family itself, had ever laid eye or hand on this wealth; it consisted of an enormous fei… and at that very time it was lying at the bottom of the sea!” This massive Fei was reported to be thrown overboard after a monstrous storm gave them no other choice. Once the party arrived back at the Island of Yap, they all attested to how utterly massive the Fei is. The family’s wealth was vouched for and stayed that way for generations. “A noteworthy feature of this stone currency is that it is not necessary for its owner to reduce it to possession.” The remarkable amount of faith the Yap put into themselves, and the value of their Fei is very similar to the United States. Without the undying mutual faith in the value of the dollar, none of it would be possible.
From 1899-1999, the Germans owned the Island of Yap following a purchase from Spain in 1898. Among the Germans traversal through their land, they noticed the Yap’s roads weren’t sufficient enough to advance through. The chiefs of the concerning districts were notified that these roads must be put into good order or their will be fines for their disobedience. “The fine was exacted by sending a man to every… disobedient districts, where he simply marked a certain number of the most valuable fei with a cross in black paint to show that the stones were claimed by the government.” Furness continues to say, “This instantly worked like a charm; the people… repaired the highways to such good effect… that they are now like park drives.” This exchange of funds for services definitely seems a bit rudimentary and barbaric, but it is the backbone of what our society was built on.
In the modern day we have banks, and numbers on a computer screen, even more solidifying the illusion of money. Another brilliant illusion came from the Brizilian Government tricking 150,000,000 people into believing their money was worth something without there being any evidence to support that claim. Detailed in NPRs podcast The Invention of Money, the narrator Chana Joffe-Walt takes the listener on a journey through the triumfant rise of the Brizilians. Its 1993, President Collor has just been impeached for digging the Brazilians into more and more crippling inflation. President Franco has hired a finance minster whom knew nothing about economics. This would seemingly be a terrible start to a Presidency if it werent for the heroes of Brazil. Four economist drinking buddies proposed a brilliant plan to save Brazil’s economy. This plan revolved around the URV (Unit of Real Value), a stable, dependable, trustworthy, but also fake. This currency would be entirely fake. Citizens would be paid in URVs but would still have the native currency (Cruzeiro) in their pocket. The plan would be to make people think URVs instead of Criuzeiros. Each day there would be a chart to convert URVs to Cruzeiros. After a long enough time “…when we were satisfied that prices were relatively in good synchrony we declare, well, from this day the virtual currency becomes a real currency. The crusero real is going to disappear,” said Mr.Bacha, one of the Brazilian economists saving the country. Inflation started rapidly decreasing and the country was in a good standing.
Continuing with the digital currencies, the world is full of currencies such as Bitcoin. Michael Crider, author behind the article What is Bitcoin, and how does it work, explains that Digital currencies such as Bitcoin have “no corresponding physical element, like coins or paper bills. The value and verification of individual Bitcoins are provided by a global peer-to-peer network.” The price of Bitcoins fluctuate more than any regular stable currency or even most stocks. Crider continues to divulge that “The ups and downs of the Bitcoin market appear to be coming much faster and more frequently …the entire Bitcoin market could implode tomorrow… There’s no way to know.” The magnitude of fake digital currencies that have flooded the market, leaves people to wonder where its headed and where it stops.
Whether it’d be digital currencies such as the CRVs or Bitcoin, or materialized Fei or US minted bills, money is an illusion. A scam endorsed by the mutual agreement to uphold its suggested value. Money will continue to be the most enduring lie ever told.
Friedman, Milton. “The Island of Stone Money.” Diss. Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 1991. https://miltonfriedman.hoover.org/internal/media/dispatcher/215061/full
The Invention of Money – This American Life. (2018, February 19). This American Life. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/423/the-invention-of-money
Crider, M. (2020, April 24). What is bitcoin, and how does it work? How. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.howtogeek.com/141374/htg-explains-what-is-bitcoin-and-how-does-it-work/