Archive for January, 2011


Money Worries

Worrying about money is probability a seasonal thing, judging from the crowds of people that thronged the high streets and shopping centres recently in the name of Christmas, a lot of people are most certainly wondering where their money went. Or if not where it went at least how they were persuaded yet again to squander their hard earned cash on things that yet again failed to deliver the deep contentment promised on the packaging.


What is the point of having an excess of money anyway if not to indulge yourself or the people around you in some of life’s small luxuries? Why not indeed, money isn’t a lot use when your dead? What else to do with money except spend it? That is what its made for after all. My own worry over money is that I can’t for the life of me figure out what it is. What is money exactly?


Money does seem to be important. If you don’t have any you do tend to notice. Suddenly you’re not welcome in a lot of places, like your local food shop or even at home if you can’t find the rent. There are a few descriptions floating about but none of them survive even simple scrutiny. Lets look at a few of them: “Money talks”; no it doesn’t, not even if you torture it. “Money makes the world go round”; not true either, if money did that then surely the speed of the earth’s rotation would be dependent on the amount in circulation.


A popular misconception is that the cash in your pocket somehow represents a bit of gold somewhere else in a secure vault. If this were true then the Americans would have had a hard time magicking into existence $600 billion worth of gold to back up the $600 billion in cash they magicked up late last year. Fiscal easing is the correct term for magicking up money I believe. Everyone can in principle create money, but most people who try this at home end up I prison.


Could money be something magical created by people who aren’t just broke but really don’t have enormous amounts of the stuff. The larger the amount of money you don’t have seems to be advantageous in some perverse way. The worlds richest nation is also the nation most in debt.


The vast majority of money in circulation today is virtual money anyway. Most of money made in the various property booms is not kept in piles of bank notes but in ones and zeros in a computer somewhere. Money doesn’t have to exist physically, you can have negative amounts of it so its obviously not at all like bananas or gold. The more I think about it the further I get from understanding what it is.


If one should decide to take part in the equally abstract concept of owning a bit of our planet you need quite large amounts of money, either positive or negative, to be able to achieve this dubious end. Could it be that money represents a bit of the planet? The total amount of money in circulation is increasing at the same time as the amount of available natural resources declines. This would explain where the stuff is coming from. Could it be that every cent, virtual or otherwise represents a tiny bit of the planet someone has destroyed? A frightening thought.


What then about poverty? Extreme poverty is usually described as having an amount of money close to zero. Someone living on less than a dollar a day is considered a pauper by conventional measures. This way of measuring poverty is misleading. Someone with access to land and water so they can sustain themselves comfortably. Combine these with the skills needed for agriculture and building and life on a dollar a day doesn’t look all that bad. Water, food, clothing and building materials to make a shelter are the necessities of life. Real poverty is lack of these basic necessities.


Who is poor? The man who has no money but possesses all the skills and natural resources they need to survive, or the man who has a wallet packed with currency and a bank account full of positive ones and zeros but lacks even the most basic knowledge on how to grow their own food. I think that this all depends on how long stocks last.


I wish I could figure out what money is.


Ian Fiddies

3 January 2011

on a train to Uppsala






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