Let’s Talk Money

That got your attention, didn’t it? The mere mention of the stuff seems to trigger an instant reaction … a sense of excitement for some and maybe a sense of dread for others. Some people lay in bed at night, worrying that they don’t have enough of the stuff. And others, who do have enough, lay in bed at night, scheming and plotting to get more. But what exactly IS money? Did you ever think about that?

Let’s get something straight, right away. In my mind, money is NOT a commodity and you shouldn’t think of it as such. Money has been around almost as long as mankind has. And its form has changed many times over the course of history and in different societies ….. but its meaning … what it represents … has remained the same. And its meaning is the single greatest affirmation that mankind could ever have conceived, of his honesty, his integrity and his inventiveness.

You can’t eat the stuff and gain any bodily sustenance from it. In fact, we exhort our kids to NEVER put coins in their mouths for fear that they’ll either choke on them, or catch some unspeakable disease. After all, you just don’t know where it’s been! You can’t do anything significant with it. Paper money won’t even keep you warm if you burn it and its already covered in squiggles … so its not even any good for drawing on! And yet we worry and we plot and we scheme to obtain more of the stuff. People who have it are admired and those who don’t are derided in our society. To many people, its the universal symbol of success and substance.

So the real power of money doesn’t come from what it is … its physical form ….. but rather from what it represents. And what it represents is honesty and integrity. Think about it. You work hard all week and, at the end of it, your employer gives you some pieces of metal and paper (or even just manipulates some electrons over some wires in these days of electronic finance) You can’t eat it. You can’t feed it to your family or heat your house with it. But you have toiled to produce some commodity or provide some service that has ADDED VALUE to the world. And in return, you are paid with money.

Imagine trying to swap that same quantity of metal and paper if it wasn’t in the form of money. You couldn’t swap it for a sack of potatoes or for a tank of fuel for your car … much less trade it for rent or for the assistance (labour) of others. But since it IS in the form of money, you CAN use it for all of those things and more. That little bit of paper and metal is the representation of your week’s hard work … your week of value that you added to the world. And you can trade that representation with other human beings for similar value. They will fix your car, paint your house, provide you with food and other physical items …. in exchange for those same bits of metal and paper that you traded for your honest labour.

Its an amazingly simple and complex system. Instead of trading your goods and labour for goods and labour, you can instead use a medium of trade that is universally accepted. Instead of having to find some individual to trade with … someone who has the very thing that you want and who wants the very thing that you have to trade …. you can use the medium of money. You give money in exchange for whatever you require and the person you give the money to, trades it with others, for whatever he needs and so on and so on. And the entire system is totally reliant upon the honesty and integrity of all of the people who use the system. It only works because people make it work … they agree on how much of the medium of exchange (money) will represent the values being exchanged (goods and services) and they ALL HONOUR THAT AGREEMENT. They each have to trust in the integrity of the person they trade with and in the integrity of the system itself … and therefore in the integrity of their fellow human beings. The only reason anyone will accept a few scraps of paper and chunks of metal in exchange for their labour or their goods, is that they HAVE FAITH in the belief that money can and does represent, and can be traded for, a similarly real and tangible VALUE.

In other words, we can only use money as a medium of exchange because we believe in it being an honest representation of a tangible good or service … something that has real value to all people. But more importantly, that we believe in our fellow traders, to honour the value that the money represents.

The money isn’t the value, its the PROMISE that the value you have exchanged for it, will be returned to you. Its the MEDIUM by which one value will be exchanged for another value. And the strength and the viability of the entire monetary system relies entirely on the collective honesty and the integrity of those who participate in it.

Any dishonesty or lack of integrity within the system will inevitably weaken it and will serve to destabilise it. And it will reduce the total value of all of the goods and services that the system’s currency represents.

Mankind has been using money as a medium of exchange since earliest times and it is surely one of his most noble and inventive achievements. But of course, nobility of mind and integrity of spirit are the highest human values and not universal ones. And as long as money has existed, there have been lesser beings, endlessly looking to take from the system without giving any value in exchange. They are endlessly inventive in the ways they come up with to milk the system. And whether they are stealing money from your bank at the point of a gun, or they are skimming money off the currency market through some clever deals .. where they add no value at all but wind up possessing assets that they didn’t help to create, they are thieves all together. The only difference between the bank robber with a gun, or the currency wheeler dealer in his pinstripe suit …. is that the bank robber is less dishonest!

It stands as a testament to the goodness and the integrity of mankind … that despite being plagued through all of history by the charlatans and the crooks all trying their best to take that which they didn’t contribute to …… the concept of money as a medium of exchange between honest people, is still honoured and adhered to today. In a sense, it does confirm that there is more good in humanity, than there is bad. And while we might have plenty of shysters and crooks within our ranks, collectively we still lean towards goodness and decency.

It is said that the love of money is the root of all evil. But I don’t believe that is so. The real evil, is in showing contempt for what money really represents …. in being willing to denigrate that most noble of mankind’s achievements and in making of oneself a thief … in the very temple of his integrity. And all you have to do to reach the very lowest of what mankind can be … is to take that which you didn’t fairly earn or to pay less than what a thing is worth. Bank robbers are more honest than that!

Andrew Caddle 2013-10-14



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