Sunday, May 30, 2010

Invisible money

The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work...
He shall go directly to the creation.
-- Walt Whitman*

I walked down to the local coffee house for a small cup; often paying with odd looking coins and bills. One morning, I paid with a Peet’s Card "charged up" with $21. The clerk poured me the coffee. When she saw the card she said it wasn't my usual funny money. I said, “It’s invisible money!” Almost all money is now invisible. For many years, I carried little pieces of jade and silver in my pocket; a habit picked up from my friend Glenn, who enjoyed buying small amounts of silver and old copper coins, as well as picking up deep green jade stones at the beaches near Gorda (south of Big Sur) in California. Jade, silver and gold make excellent money tokens. But no one uses them as money anymore.

The dematerialization of money started with paper money. Originally, paper money was "backed" by gold, silver or other tangible items. Later, we removed money's "backing" or base; effectively, debasing money. Most money is now intangible data configurations stored in computers. Paper? Why even use that? Plastic cards are better. Actually, "money" is even more intangible than the computer's memory banks; it's the meaning we give to these data configurations that defines money. Money has absolutely no physical basis at all, not even the electronic data. It's all mental. Money is based on customs of trust between us, banks, and governments. Inflation, deflation, and monetary collapses show us that money is mostly a state of mind. It's time to break the money mind spell; to go directly to the creation, and stop confusing symbols for reality.

*From "Preface", Leaves of Grass (1855).

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