ebonypearl: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] ebonypearl at 08:42am on 05/08/2009

Money can’t buy love, but what other purpose does money serve than to buy happiness?

What makes us happy are things like security, safety, food, clothing, and shelter in addition to hobbies, leisure activities, and opportunities to be with or communicate with friends and family and to provide gifts for said friends and family – and what do we use to provide ourselves with these things?

Money.

In our society, for the most part, we use money to provide ourselves with these things. There are instances of barter, of trade, of receiving gifts, grants, and assistance, but those are all fueled at some point with money. I’m also aware of the so called “freegans” who themselves may not use money to acquire things, but those things they take used money at some point.

Most people will tell you they know what money is: it’s bills and coins. They’re wrong.

Money is not really an object in and of itself. It’s worthless on its own. You can’t eat it. It’s not sturdy enough to provide shelter. Paper money can provide a modicum of flame – and the face value of paper money is meaningless when it’s used as fuel – a dollar bill burns as quickly as a $100 dollar bill and provides just as much flame. Coins can be used as ornaments or weight. Beyond that money as an object is pretty worthless.

Money is a concrete symbol. It stands as a token for human endeavor, human skill, and human knowledge. We placed a numeric value on our labor, time, skills, and knowledge so we could widen our bartering ability. We bartered for things we needed (food, shelter, clothing, safety) and wanted (toys! art! comfort items! fancier, prettier, bigger things!).

Where did money start? We aren’t really sure, because tokens have been used among humans for a very long time and the beginnings weren’t written down. Almost every culture has something small and portable they used as a symbol of money – cowrie shells, beads, small metal bits, paper notes, and so on. Person A would give or do something for person B and receive a token he could then exchange with someone in person B’s network of people who owed favors or things to her - either collecting a favor or object or token to someone outside her network (if what he was seeking was outside her network). There was no set numeric value on the tokens back then – the people making the exchange determined the value of the labor/skills/knowledge and number of tokens.

“Bankers” arose who could exchange tokens from one group for those that worked in another group, and they determined the numeric value of the tokens. Perhaps it was they who proposed the idea of writing notes for the value of X number of tokens so the bulky tokens themselves didn’t have to travel, just pieces of paper.

As populations grew, the people who decided they were in charge of other people took control of these tokens and the bankers and set a fixed numeric value on them. Eventually, religions and governments came to control the tokens that became money until now, money is the primary concern and province of governments.

In the end, though, money is an exchange medium, not a collectible item. It is not something meant to be collected or hoarded for the sake of having it. Money is somebody’s sweat, somebody’s creativity, somebody’s skill, somebody’s knowledge. We are not exchanging bills and coins – Mary is given money for her woodcrafting, which she gives to Bob for his weaving, who gives it to Sue for her accounting skills, who gives it to Henry for his storytelling, who give it to a train company for tickets, who pays the ticket seller for selling train tickets, who gives it to George for his apples, who gives it to Bill for his horse, who gives it to Mary for her woodcrafting. It may not be that evident and money may be added or subtracted during this process because apples aren’t usually enough to pay for a horse, but you get the idea, eh? Each bill and coin is human endeavor spread around.

It’s a 2 way exchange – what one person believes her apples are worth or his skill at filing records as opposed to what the other person is willing to offer for those apples or the time and skill spent filing. Filing is low-paid because there are lots of people who can do that job and are willing to do it, so they are not being paid what the person is worth, but what the task is worth. George’s apples are sweeter, bigger, healthier looking than Henry’s so George’s apples will command a higher exchange than Henry’s. Betty’s hair styling skills are better and more pleasing than Barbara’s, so people will pay Betty more. And so it goes.

If we stopped thinking of money as money and looked at it as trade markers for what we can do and are willing to do in exchange for what will make us happy, perhaps we would allocate our resources in ways that would maximize our happiness, and maybe even our job satisfaction.

Money isn’t the goal. What money provides for us is. Money is supposed to buy happiness. Why aren't we using it that way?


And now for something completely different:

Why are the “beware ice” signs out on all the bridges today when temps will rise above 100ºF?


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