It’s Only a Paper World
by Richard E. Noble
They tell me that the notion of money began with the concept of barter. Barter is the idea that says; Give me ten chickens and I’ll give you a cow. This worked all right until some guy said; “That darn cow ain’t worth ten chickens - only nine and a half”
“What am I going to do with half a chicken? Half a chicken don’t lay no eggs!”
“Okay, I’ll give you nine chickens and three eagle feathers.”
So, thus entered into the concept of barter various items of accepted value. Some folks used eagle and turkey feathers, others used bobbles and bangles, and others - oat meal and brownies, and then others used gold and silver.
Gold and silver caught on. Some say gold and silver caught on because they were scarce, but then why not Yak eggs, or Dodo bird du-du? And then there were times when gold was pretty abundant - like with the discovery of the New World and the American gold rush of the 1840’s. Inflation ran amuck.
Gold and silver got scarce because everybody stated hoarding it and using it for barter instead of cows and chickens. Tomorrow if all the banks and Governments in the world dump all the gold and silver that they have been hoarding, that five hundred dollar gold necklace that you have around your neck will be worth $1.95. A few years back the British threatened to dump all of their gold reserves onto the open market, and gold dealers around the world nearly had a stroke.
But regardless of gold’s real value, now we had gold and silver as an accepted value of exchange. Everybody started stamping out Pieces of Eight and the like. This worked out pretty well until some guys started adding lead and copper to their gold and silver - pretty soon nobody could trust anybody and eventually banks were born.
Then banks started doing the same thing, and governments got into it. Somebody in the banks or governments got the idea of having their cake and eating it too. They stopped circulating gold and silver coins and started passing out lOUs. - pieces of paper with pictures of famous dead people on them with a written promise on the bottom to give you gold or silver if you really wanted it. Believe it or not people bought this deal. But then the governments and banks decided that they could double their volume of money by backing up their pieces of paper with pictures of dead people on them, with half as much gold and silver. Believe it or not, people bought this one also. They bought it right up and until the government finally got down to having about a nickel’s worth of gold and silver backing up a dollar’s worth of paper.
People finally got wise and started to panic. They took their pieces of paper with the pictures of dead people on them and brought them to the bank and or the government. The banks and the governments then said, OOPS sorry, we had the gold and silver here yesterday, but today we keep it safe in a special underground vault that we have hidden in west Slumbovia but,.. .but, we will give you another new piece of paper with a picture of a dead person on it, in exchange for any old pieces of paper with pictures of dead people on them that you would like to turn in. This kind of stupefies everybody for a moment or two, but then they say; Dahhh, okay.
Today, you can exchange pieces of paper with pictures of dead American presidents on them for pieces of paper with pictures of dead kings and queens who used to live some place in Europe or China or India, or Russia. And believe it or not everybody seems to be pretty happy about all of this. Oh, there are arguments over how many pieces of paper with pictures of dead American presidents on them can be exchanged for pieces of paper with dead Kings on them or dead dictators on them or dead emperors on them, but who cares. It is kind of like; I’ll give you four Ted Williamses for two Babe Ruths.
What I don’t get is, with all of this paper being passed around all over the world, how the heck does one country or another go bankrupt? Do they run out of pulp wood, or what?!?