Money is actually nothing. Did you know this?
In general, when people think of money, they either feel they don’t have enough, or fear that someone might take their wealth. One of the wisest things I’ve ever heard was that both the rich man and the poor man have nothing but a $1 at the end of the week. The poor man might have used his money to buy bread, while the rich man bought a third yacht, yet each only has $1 until the next payday.
No matter how much money we accumulate, we never feel we have enough. Thus, humans spend most of their lives fretting about money and most of the crimes against humanity and the planet are done in the name of money.
And yet, what exactly is money? In our imaginations, we often think it looks like this:
But the US dollar hasn’t been backed by gold since 1971, when the United States stopped selling gold to foreign official holders of dollars at the rate of $35 an ounce. As of now, there aren’t any currencies in the modern world completely backed by gold, or anything else, other than promises and goodwill.
In reality, modern money looks like this:
It’s kinda cool, all those 1’s and 0’s floating around in cyberspace. But it’s certainly not shiny and you can’t touch, taste, feel, or smell it. Money is now an extra-sensory experience.
This means that when we fret about the size of our bank account, we are fretting about a fictional number, one that has meaning only within the context of the story of the culture in which it exists. The cultural story of money depends on how various types of work and resources are valued. In America, if you write software, a big number gets written into your bank account. If you teach children how to read, a MUCH smaller number is given. And if you care for the elderly or the sick, well, your number is so small, it’s almost laughable.
It’s the same with expenses. If you live in California, a HUGE number is taken out of your bank account for your mortgage or rent. If you live in Alabama, a much smaller number is equated with the four walls and the roof over your head. In the end, the value of work and goods is completely irrelevant and totally out of any one person’s hands. Economists like to think that it’s all about supply and demand, and at it’s most basic, most monetary value is based on this. But demand is a fickle thing and supply can easily be manipulated. In spite of our desire for a…