Thursday, July 08, 2010

What is Money?

I caught the last half of a show on PBS, The Money Fix. Before I write anything about it, I will give the upfront warning that there is a lot of very liberal woo involved in the documentary, but eschewing that, it was fascinating.

Here's a clip from the movie:

Another explanation:

So...the entire monetary system is almost like a pyramid scheme of debtors.

I'm going to think about this for a while before I post my thoghts


Anonymous said...

Have you ever listened to the NPR podcast Planet Money? It's great about explaining economic issues. Apparently is spawned from the show This American Life from a special they did about the financial crisis.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Money is an expression of trust in the general system in which one operates. Increasing the level of trust in a society is a good thing, generally - it allows people to ship orders knowing they will be paid for, hastening delivery, reducing the need for large inventory, saving time. Countries with low levels of cultural trust founder, those with high levels prosper.

This is why cultural and moral issues have actual value, though difficult to measure. When untrustworthy people move in to a system, or trustworthy ones move out, there is a ripple effect in cost. Trust should go as far as it is deserved, but no farther. May attempts to make money at its point of exchange intentionally ride the high-risk margin of trust, like a car tailgating in order to pass in an unsafe place. They are depending on the trustworthiness of the other drivers and exploiting it.

It works great until it doesn't work.

I often wonder how much of Jesus's directions not to put our trust in money is meant to extend beyond the simple individual spiritual goal of not being tied to this world, and how much is intended to caution us against building systems of trust that are eventual competitors to God. The line in scripture does not seem at all clear to me.