The relationship of man to money has evolved over the ages. One of the first predominant uses has been called that of providing a "medium of exchange" to overcome the limitations of barter, or, instead of trading some pigs that you might have for some wheat from somebody else, you trade the pigs for an amount of gold that allows you to purchase the same of amount of wheat that you would have swapped for. This is the reason everyone thinks money is one of man's greatest inventions, because it allows you to get tea from China, and nintendos from Japan.

But money no longer has any real physical value to it, being just paper. It is now considered a "token of purchasing power", rather than a medium of exchange —this means its ability to purchase something can diminish quite quickly if everybody suddenly decides it's only worth the paper it's printed on.

This process of using money as a transaction between swapping your production for somebody else's is represented symbolically as C-M-C, commodity->money->commodity.

The merchants were the first to change the process to one of M-C-M, using money to purchase a commodity for the purpose of reselling it at a higher price. The intent of this type of transaction was to wind up with more money than one started with, as differentiated from wanting to get what one needed. Then, the industrial revolution based upon fossil fuels came along and made it possible to hire somebody to work in a factory to make manufactured goods, and that is where M-C-M really took off, because of the incomparable fortunes that could be made by the owners of the factories, by those who had the M.

It is this possibility to hit it big that has generated such a profusion of things to buy, that allows advertising to influence enough buyers to make it worthwhile. It is the reason why the automobile companies bought out the street car systems in America and closed them down. It is the reason tobacco companies continue to thrive —nobody would grow tobacco and roll it into cigarettes to the degree that the factories do, if they were just doing it to get along with their neighbors: it's the ability to gain the big bucks that keeps it going, that makes so many willing to ignore what smoking does to people. This ability to rake it in by selling something for a profit has been called the "fetish of commodities", and it has alone been responsible for the design of the modern world much more so than is commonly understood.

Such has been the engine of a great deal of what we call progress, ¿but will it push us beyond the ability of the Earth to sustain us, before we become aware of the danger? ¿Has it already? There is nothing wrong with wanting more and more quality of life. That's the way it should be. But when we begin to threaten the future of humankind and the planet by this quest for more things without end and because there are too many of us, simply because that's the way the economic system works, it's time to wonder about a great many things we take for granted.

The third manner of using money is M-M, where nothing physical is purchased or made with the money —kind of like putting money into a slot machine hoping that more will come back. Whether or not more does, nothing real is created or done in the process, except for the losers passing it to the winners. A great deal of money whirls about the globe in this manner, caring not for the consequences of its fickle velocity, seeking only its own increase.

It is claimed that money provides an efficient allocation of resources; that money is directed towards the efficient creation of what people are willing to pay for, even if the silliest things can be demanded by those with cash to burn while those with little have to settle for less than enough. But when money starts chasing only after more of itself, this efficiency theory becomes one of a dog trying to catch his tail. Round and round and more and more and nobody cares whether there is any sense to it.

Home  Back