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Migrating away from money

Published November 05. 2011 09:01AM

"Money, money, money makes the world go 'round" is a lyric from a ditty performed by Monty Python. And this truism has never been more abundantly clear watching the last five years of life on this planet Earth.

Money, or more importantly who controls it, who needs it, who wants it and who is spending it as well as what is its worth are questions on all of our minds. The world economy teeters and our lives seem intertwined on the fate of the value of money.

What's amazing about this is our money is only worth the value we entrust in it. In essence our currency and most of the currencies around the world are scrip that has no value in itself. Instead its value comes from what we believe it to be worth, what others are willing to provide to us in goods and services for our pieces of paper and what we are willing to give to others in exchange. If the world woke up tomorrow and decided that shells would be our new money standard, all of this paper in essence becomes worthless.

The fascinating part about this system is that slowly but surely we are even migrating away from paper and coin currencies. Think about this. How many of you use debit cards or credit cards? Do you realize that now you are eliminating even this semi-worthless paper from the equation and your money exists virtually as a series of bits in the records of a bank computer? When you purchase something online, the bank doesn't send money anywhere. Instead it deducts a certain dollar amount from your account and sends it to the company's bank adding it to a particular bank account. Presto. Not one piece of paper moved.

If you find that unreal or if you aren't adept at technology then this next concept will really bowl you over where you sit. Not only have we eliminated physical currency with the use of technology, many people are actually using "real" money to purchase virtual assets. A virtual asset is a "thing" that only exists inside a computer. In other words, it doesn't exist in our world but only in the data on a server. You may not believe this, but it is 100 percent true. People buy and sell virtual real estate, property and even people in these cyber universes that exist solely on a computer and many spend real money for this imaginary pleasure.

One has to wonder how we have a problem if money is imaginary it seems. Why not just print more when we need it? Why not just add virtual dollars to everyone's bank account? I'm no economist, but I think the answer to this could be the fact that while money is a trust between people what gives it value is the mutual agreement we have on its worth. If we were to just start adding arbitrarily to everyone's account, the value of the currencies would plummet because no one would want it anymore. What's worse is as that value falls, the items that are limited which you are trying to purchase become more in demand forcing their prices higher and now this lack of stability creates a chaotic environment in which no one can afford anything.

This is why printing money doesn't solve problems instead it aggravates the situation. It may not happen quickly but it will cause inflation to increase and spending power to decrease. All money comes from somewhere and goes to somewhere else.

This brings me to the most annoying argument that I have heard with regard to money. Politicians who tend to forget that money doesn't grow on trees but instead is taken in the form of tax revenue from taxpaying constituents have this habit of believing what is in their treasuries magically appeared there. We need to remind them their money just doesn't appear like a rabbit in a hat. They taxed someone to get it, unless they are Feds then they may have printed it, but that's another story.

Keep this in mind when you hear the following terms, "free money", "government grants" and "subsidies". There are no such things. Every cent in every "gift" given by a benevolent politician comes from a body of taxpayers. While we can buy virtual real estate in a computer, there is no free ride in the real world. Someone, somewhere will always be footing the bill.

Remember this when you vote on Tuesday. Don't forget to exercise your privilege.

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