Faith In Society?
P1. Nowadays, money is not a real thing, it’s just a concept. Google up a Honus Wagner baseball card and see where you end up. You’ll find yourself staring at a page that has the numbers 2,100,000 on it and no that’s not how many were made, but that’s how much money you have to spend to obtain that card. It’s absurd how a single piece of thin cardboard could mean someone’s whole life worth. The craziest part is it literally doesn’t even have a player signature on it or anything to make the actual price of the card worth more than 5 cents, but people are out there willing to exchange 21,000 of their $100 bills in exchange for one small be of paper. None of it makes sense anymore cause why would someone trade 21,000 pieces of paper for 1 piece of paper, but hey that’s what our economy has turned into and this concept now rules over our society to this day. The only reason that this works throughout countries economies is because of the idea of faith. Without faith that trade would have never happened, but since people had faith in that 1 small colored piece of paper being given that $2.1 million label on it, it all the sudden became worth that price.
P2. Something as simple as numbers on a screen or numbers on a paper check determines the way your life is lived. The exchange of money for products is common around the world, but it’s strange that people take something so unrealistic so personally and valuably. If you wanted to today you could literally go anywhere and swipe a piece of plastic in your wallet and obtain an object or products within seconds. Whether it’s a sandwich from a fast food place or if it’s a car from a dealership. But the craziest thing is that all your doing is transferring some numbers from your account over to the companies. There is no exchange in that process, but everyone has had the idea that that one item is worth these numbers on the screen. This plays into to the faith of the system hugely as nothing may ever be materialized from those numbers on the screen, but it’s known that they are worth what they say.
P3. Learning about other currencies around the world should really make us question whether money is really real or if it’s just an idea planted in our heads by the government. The idea being presented isn’t that money isn’t important anymore cause don’t get it wrong, to survive in this world nowadays you will always need money. Although money controls a major aspect of everybody’s lives, the question is why are these non-physical things and numbers a concept and what would happen to money if the people in use of it lose faith in it.
P4. In the islands of Yap they have an extremely strange way to incorporate currency as they use limestones as a defining part of currency. Many may read about them and believe their out of their minds for letting a stone represent currency, but it’s in fact extremely similar to the United States currency. That is by the fact that the people of Yap use Fei (the large limestones) as currency and exchange it back and forth with each other, but they may never move it or even see it a day in their lives. The actual stones of Yap are not really worth the price the labeled as, but since the people have faith in them, they’re going to be worth what they say. There was even one stone in the middle of the ocean and someone had already claimed it so therefore they were known to have that stone and to have the worth of it. They could possibly buy a whole house with that stone and it would work because of faith even though their not physically giving anything in return for the house. The US does that exact same thing just in a different way. They use the internet to exchange numbers which represent your wealth and with those numbers you can exchange for things and products.
P5. Lots of money systems induced into societies all around the world today are getting more and more absurd. For example, Brazil was getting ruined by their inflation rates which was wreaking havoc on the whole economy and making people go crazy. One day a person could have some money in their savings and would be considered rich, but the next day they have the same amount saved and since the insane fluctuation of currency they would be considered average and/or that same money would be worth little to nothing. This was the Brazilian Real in which Edmar Bacha incorporated his plan to add fake money into their economy by inducing a new currency called Units of Real Value or URV’s. This means that if a product or purchasable item was set to be priced at 1 URV that tomorrow it will still be 1 URV unlike before when their currency was under cruzeiros where one day the price would be 10 cruzeiros for milk then the next it would be 20 cruzeiros. The inflation rate was insanely crazy in that way that it caused people to have to run to try to beat the workers from applying the new price labels on grocery items. URVs were set into the system to be a stable figure so that people can finally trust in their currency. The URV to cruzeiro price would change daily, but that one URV would always be able to still buy you the same as it would the day before. This leads onto the idea of faith the people of Brazil had to have in the new currency in order for it to take effect.
P6. A prime example of faith being put into currency systems is the France and United States deal for gold. In this instance the United States had “Frances Gold” in their possession, but France wanted it back. Instead of the ideal exchange where we ship their gold back to their country, both countries came to consensus of us putting Frances name on the gold that was in the US’s possession. France didn’t actually need their gold back, but rather just the known fact that the gold was theirs and not the United States. Looking at the actual gold/money that was in the US possession was not actually all our and France didn’t actually have all the money they say they had in their possession, but it was given with the idea of faith that everybody knew it was their gold and their money.
P7. Faith plays a much bigger role in economies and societies than many may think as it is the main control to why we trust in our currency systems. Nowadays, many places don’t use any physical object to represent currencies and/or many only use paper that has a number tacked onto it. Societies faith in those numbers and those numbers they read on computer screens is what keeps these economies from falling apart. If society loses faith in the currency used in their country, the economy will begin to collapse to the point where it will cause havoc. People may not know until told, but faith is what got us paper and numbers on screens in the first place.
Rovell, Darren. “Honus Wagner Card Sells for $2.1M.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 6 Apr. 2013, http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/9140901/t206-honus-wagner-baseball-card-sets-21m-auction-mark.
Joffe-Walt, Chana. “How Fake Money Saved Brazil.” NPR, NPR, 4 Oct. 2010, www.npr.org/sections/money/2010/10/04/130329523/how-fake-money-saved-brazil.
“The Invention of Money.” This American Life, 19 Feb. 2018, http://www.thisamericanlife.org/423/the-invention-of-money#play.
Kosman, Josh. “App to Let Fans Buy Minority Shares of $3M Honus Wagner Baseball Card.” New York Post, New York Post, 11 July 2019, nypost.com/2019/07/10/app-to-let-fans-can-buy-minority-shares-of-3m-honus-wagner-baseball-card/.
Shaq, I’ve had only a few minutes to scan your work, but I’m impressed with your handling of individual aspects of the material. Next we’ll work on sequencing them to make the most of the transitions from one point to the next.
I’m going to number your paragraphs to make them easier to refer to in these Notes.
Mostly I’ll analyze your arguments on a first Draft, Shaq. That way, when you rewrite, you won’t be tempted to hang on to individual sentences or claims and will be free to radically revise.
P1. You’ve selected a good example of a small piece of paper that’s worth a lot of money, which is certainly part of what’s bizarre about money, but focusing on the baseball card is a distraction. Your claim that “money is not a real thing” doesn’t get a hearing once you mention the card. Instead we’re asked to ponder why anybody would spend thousands of $100 bills for that little bit of cardboard with a dead man’s picture. In effect, you’re reinforcing the idea that the currency DOES HAVE VALUE that the baseball card cannot. The other angle, that somehow this odd valuing of collectibles is a new phenomenon, seems unnecessary. Rare postage stamps, for example, were worth the equivalent of $21 million dollars long before there was baseball. You get closer to a pure analysis of the mystery of money when you say “this works throughout countries’ economies” by which I think you are comparing the way currencies fluctuate against one another. Why in the world should $1 be worth €2 one day and €2.5 the next month? We’re willing to accept our pay in $$$$ because we know somebody will accept our $$$$ for steak and beer. And we’re willing to trade our $1 for €2.5 only if we’re sure we’ll get $1 worth of steak for €2.5.
The baseball card has a place to play in that conversation, but it doesn’t do much to reinforce the concept of the irreality of money.
P2. A technical matter: we don’t use the 2nd person in academic essays for good reasons I’ve either explained already or will explain. Purge all instances of YOU YOUR YOURS YOURSELF and YOURSELVES from your assignments for this class.
It is of course bizarre that we can “swipe a piece of plastic” in our wallets and drive away in a car in return, but that act doesn’t make money unreal. It does point out how extremely abstract our economy is. Those numbers dancing in the ether that tell us how many cars we can drive away with at any one time aren’t unreal. But it’s interesting to track how we got to this place. When you start your essay with the most abstract transactions, you miss the chance to engage your readers in the narrative of how we used to trade wagonloads of grain for something to ride. It’s not true to say “there’s no exchange in that process.” I think what you mean is that nothing physical has changed hands. That would be more surprising to your readers if we had first had a moment to consider bartering, or gold, or the first paper money before we started swiping cards.
P3. I don’t think we need to be convinced that money is important, but you’re right to question why we’ve chosen “these non-physical things and numbers” to contain the value. And you’re definitely right to contemplate “what would happen if people lost faith in money.”
P5. There was nothing inherently absurd about the Cruzero, and the claim that currencies are getter “more and more” absurd is unnecessary. The result of their runaway inflation was not that their savings disappeared overnight but that they had no incentive to save at all. I understand how hard it is to describe the technique by which the URV stabilized the economy. You’ve given it a good shot. If you’re up to it, this would be a good chance to introduce that idea you hinted at in P1, where currencies fluctuate against one another. The URV was created to be the stable currency against which the cruzeiro could fluctuate. As faith in the URV improved, fluctuations of the cruzeiro became less dramatic and ultimately flattened.
Thank you for all the feedback prof!!!! I’ll be sure to fix all the mistakes and will look to improve the entirety of the essay!
I appreciate your enthusiastic response, Shaq. 🙂