A Fool and His Money

stone

One of the most complicated and convoluted topics that can be discussed is that of money and finance.  In addition to countless magazines, newspapers and websites dedicated to an ongoing discussion of the details and trends of personal, local, state, federal and international economics, there are those who find such discussion so enthralling that they opt to dedicate their lives to dissecting the finer points of all things monetary and adopt such lofty titles as “financial advisor” and “market analyst”.  I can think of no better illustration of the utter folly that man’s overblown sense of self-importance has engendered. Money, despite its existence in the form of paper and coin tokens, is an illusory notion that we have all agreed to treat as real.  Initially, it was invented to replace the act of bartering goods and services with symbolic assurances of worth, backed up by actual precious metals or other valuable raw materials.

At present, most of the world’s money is no longer supported by anything other than the printing press on which it is created.  Add to this fact the ridiculous notions of credit, debt, investment, and all other abstract ideas designed to enable people to pilfer from themselves and others, and we are left with our current financial system that despite having no basis in reality, has the power to cause the life of a person, family or even a country to come crashing down in a pile of worthless rubble.  Remember all those people who leapt to their deaths during the Great Depression?  Do you know what actually happened to cause these folks to make such a permanent and desperate choice?  NOTHING.  Nada.  Money and our financial systems cannot do anything of themselves.  Again, currency in itself has no worth.  Yet, news of a worthless symbolic system receiving a large dose of further worthlessness inspired many people to choose death rather than suffer the humiliation of appearing “broke” on paper.

And of course, I’ve had more enthralling conversations with three-toed sloths than those I’ve had to suffer through with people who inexplicably find economics to be an interesting subject.

But I have a solution to all of this insanity.  Actually, the inhabitants of the Micronesian islands have the solution and I have brilliantly co-opted it.  The ancient natives of Micronesia started a monetary tradition that continues in a more limited form to this day: Rai stones.  These are huge, nearly immovable, generally circular slabs of rock that serve as currency.  I propose that we replace all of the world’s currency – dollars, pounds, euros, yen, rubles, francs, deutschmarks, pesos – with Rai stones.

First of all, with weights sometimes in excess of a half-ton, our would-be tycoons will really need to dedicate themselves to a better goal than hoarding wealth.  There would simply be no practical way to pull off being a millionaire, let alone a billionaire.  Then we can strike those two unsavory words from our collective lexicon.  Second, in order to facilitate trade, we’d have to develop an honor system similar to that used by the ancient Micronesians: if I wish to purchase something on E-Bay from an overseas seller, I obviously cannot mail such a large and unwieldy payment.  Perhaps a photo of a sizable Rai stone sent in an e-mail can serve as a guarantee of payment.  But is the world ready to engage in a system of trade that relies on honesty and trust?  That was a rhetorical question.  Of course, it isn’t.  Just look at what we’ve done to the notion of fair and honest dealings with all of the abstractions we’ve laden upon the simple act of trading.  For this reason, the entire system of credit has to be put to rest.  You are entitled to whatever goods and services your existing store of Rai stones can buy, and nothing more.

But even in the unfeasible honor system scenario envisioned above, eventually an actual physical transportation of the Rai stone would need to occur, unless the seller of the product is content just knowing that he has a big old stone with his name on it halfway across the globe.  I see now that this throws an enormous wrench into the works of my new financial plan for the planet.  Let’s go back to the drawing board…

Fuck it.  What the hell was wrong with bartering, anyway?  I’ll see your cow and raise you three chickens.  That’s as high as finance should ever have gotten in the first place.

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