Once upon a time there was a man in a far away land called Canada. This man was much like an American. He had a job. He wasn't crazy about it. And he had a dream. I would venture to say it was a very a American dream. He wanted a house.
However, he had a problem. He didn't have enough Money to buy a house. However, he didn't live in America--where Money was king. He lived in Canada where people did all types of fantastic things like speak French, put gravy and cheese on french fries, and survive the -75 degree winters.
Because he lived in the fantastic world of Canada (where dreams come true--and there's a huge history of trading furs) He set a goal in the tradition of his fur-trading ancestors to trade up from a single red paper clip to...
...wait for it...
A house! Like the kind you live in. His Canadian dream! You can check out this Canadian's story at http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com/
Well, I have not been a very good American. I'm not a realist. I don't believe in the idea that if you simply work hard you will succeed. So I dared to dream like a Canadian and started pondering the concept of Trade. I began thinking about concept of Commerce. Suddenly images flooded my mind:
- farmers trading bags of wool and a fresh pie for smith-ing some horseshoes,
- majestic sailing ships lunging across the ocean filled with jewels and wares of all kinds,
- a boy wandering through the meadow picking flowers to exchange for a girl's smile.
Corporeal imagery. So...
When did we start trading money? I mean what is money anyway? What good is it? My questions kept spiraling until I finally got to:
"How did we go from bartering inherently valuable goods to hoarding strings of digital numbers in investment accounts that continually count up and down?"
Surely, there is some reason that money replaced actual things.
Well, First of all, You don't want to trade your doctoring skills for a homemade pie. Your skills are worth more than pie.
We needed a Standard of Trade to level the playing field and measure the value of a service.
But second, you don't want to trade the time effort and materials of putting a roof on your neighbor's house for 15 chickens, a pair of boots, a coil of rope, and 4 gallons of moonshine--just because that's all your neighbor has.
We wanted a standard of trade that was independent. This goes back to the American Dream. I don't just want things you're willing to offer.
I want things that I want.
The American Dream is built on the idea that if I do something worth value, I can trade it for something else of value. So that begs the question.
What is valuable?
I mean what is money anyway? It used to represent gold--the gold standard. But... as of 1933, money had nothing to do with gold. And what was gold anyway? Just a shiny mineral. What good is that?
People believed that this shiny mineral had magical properties--that would instantly make you a wealthy person. At the time money was minted, Gold was the most beautiful substance on earth--used traditionally to honor gods and rulers. It held the power of tradition. But it's actual value was making high quality jewelry that wouldn't turn green over time and kept it's brilliant luster. However, if everyone who sought it over the last 1,000 years actually found gold? Guess what? It would have lost it's value. Anyone could have made jewelry with high quality metal. You wouldn't reserve it for only important things. It wouldn't be special anymore. The value is in the scarcity.
Money is an idea.
It's the very idea we spoke about above: The idea that
"If I do something worth value, I can trade it for something else of value."
And we're back to that question.
"What is valuable?"
Culturally, I can tell you:
Americans want the power to independently get what they want when they want it.
So, you're an American. What do you want? And when do you want it?
...More importantly, what would you trade to get it?