By James Strauss
It didn’t work. It still doesn’t work.
Trading goods for other goods and services is about the most inefficient way to equate value that exists on the planet. Is an old pair of scissors, left lying around for years, worth the same amount as a used guitar amplifier or a broken toaster? There are good reasons you don’t walk into a swap meet and pick out items, while dumping off other items, to replace them. The possession and movement of money is required to function in life today. Real advancement and innovation didn’t markedly enliven and growbefore the invention of money.
Money came into existence when early peoples discovered important uses for certain rare materials, such as obsidian, copper and tin. All the cultures which wanted these materials didn’t necessarily have easy access to them, but there were other cultures around them, which did. Barter, and then money, came into being. Money was invented by unknown individuals as far back as twelve thousand years ago. The concept is undoubtedly even older, but records just don’t penetrate deeply into the three and half million years Homo sapiens are known to be on this earth.
Somehow, the word money, and the transfer of money (commonly called commerce), have taken on emotional dimensions all their own. Today, money and commerce are considered “cold” and “hard,” but very necessary, elements in all types of human survival. The struggle to determine value involves more conflict and downright lying than any other human endeavor, including those involving sexuality and procreation. The question “what is it worth?” goes right to the heart of what money represents. For a long time, money was ‘backed’ by hard goods, such as gold and silver. Quantities of rare and precious metals, or other valued minerals, were kept to insure the concrete validity of the value purported to be inherent to whatever was used to represent the valued item, and the amount of it.
Today nothing backs money other than the word of communities, governments and countries, wherein a stated value for the item is mutually agreed to be it’s worth. Money is not, and can never be, any eviler than guns, nuclear bombs, or cotton candy, for that matter. Like these other inanimate objects, it is a physical thing, or more accurately, a physical manifestation of something else with almost no intrinsic value of its own. What’s the worth of a few pieces of paper money should the word of whomever or whatever is backing it become valueless? Its worth is nothing, unless circumstance is factored into it’s valuation. Imagine a person standing in the middle of forest where the temperature is below zero; the wind is blowing and snow is flying about. The person has kindling; plenty of dried wood, and even flint and steel to ignite some tinder with its sparks. The dry paper money, shredded into small pieces, would have what value to any person in that circumstance? Everything has a value,but that value is seldom assignedwithout an evaluative judgment of a human being involved.
Money is a leveling instrument of worth that’s invention was intrinsic to the the rise of civilization. Only the use of money allows a worker, artist or creator in one area, to be rewarded with goods and services in other areas, which are completely different, butstill absolutely necessary for survival, comfort and advancement. This great “leveler” is deeply entwined in, and among, all human cultures.But it remains a socially objectionable arena when discussed or considered. Like the word ‘politics’, a word oft substituted for leadership, money has come to mean many more things emotional than analytical. There is no “The Power of Money”, to counter a common money-related comment made these days. There is power in amassing amounts of money to accomplish certain goals, but in reality the only power money itself has, is to act as a leveling agent in mediums of value adjudication and distribution.
To have no material, or service to offer, or something of subjective value (there is no objective value on anything assigned value by human beings) is to be considered to be poor in every culture living on planet earth. There is also no limit to how much money a single human, or group of humans, can amass. A thousand trillion dollars is the approximate worth in U.S. dollars for everything on the planet. Only about five percent of that amount (50 trillion) would encompass valued assets and services of the United States, while the wealthiest family on earth is still presumed to be the Rothschild family of Western Europe with assets of about half a trillion dollars. The “cold” and “hard” emotional assessments made about money come from the lack of any form of measurable justice in its distribution. Where some cultures assign higher value to work than to inheritance, and others assign more value to familial connections than goods possessed, all cultures intrinsically understand that it remains impossible to develop a single set of ethical standards to govern the possession and distribution of money.
Early in the development of the human race there were whole cultures that based their economic structure on complex sets of gifting (with everyone ‘owing’ everyone else for goods and favors extended or exchanged), and also on forms of barter that entailed trading differential goods, for other hard goods or services, using individually negotiated values. Those systems never consistently worked well, however, and all eventually fell to the ease and relative fairness of a single set of monetary symbols, coins and common currency. But fairness is relative, as it’s always been, and always will be. To consider having the leveling standard of money fair, requires the possession of it. Living inside a culture where the entire social order revolves around the movement and valuation of money absolutely requires the individual to have possession of some modicum of it, in order to do anything other than live a short life of regretful longing. Not having money in a world revolving around money may set a human being free, but that “free” life will necessarily be a very short, and probably painful one.
Along with the concept and practice of money comes a good bit of secrecy and mythology.
The very wealthy guard the secrecy of their monetary worth to the extreme. Even in today’s connected world, where everyone complains about everything being too public there is almost no data available on the identity of offshore account holders, how they got the money to put into distant secret accounts or what they are dong with it. Only recently the U.S. Supreme Court determined that contributors to political action committees working to elect presidents don’t have to be revealed by name or the amount they contributed. Tax records of all individuals are deemed to be secret, as is the money held in banking and savings accounts all over the world. How much fellow workers are paid is also kept secret. What is all the secrecy about? Power. The ability to have one medium (money) to assign the valuation of all things requires that those who have more power to make such valuations than others keep that power at all cost. The power of those who hold large sums of money or are in charge of handling it is so great that recently, when about three trillion dollars went missing from the American economy the only concern any authority had, or has had since, is recovering the money from the taxpayers not in punishing those who took the money or even pursuing what they did with it. Money is not evil, just as guns and other weapons are not evil, but there is a good body of evil held and maintained by many of the humans who control this universal solution to all valuation on earth.