The subject of money, who has it, who needs it and who deserves it, is a big part of the political forums in recent decades. I thought it might be useful to examine just what money is and what it represents by breaking it down into a series of simple correlative statements.
Money is a Symbol of Value
What is money? Pure and simple it is a mutually agreed symbol. A symbol of value. Various currencies come in quantities, denominations, sizes and shapes representing different quantities of a pre-defined system of value. That value may change in relation to other similar symbols of value but any form of money currency is just that – a symbol of value.
Money is a Means of Exchange
Why the need then for money? OK, we have this agreed upon symbol representing some value, but what for? When interacting with other people in society it is necessary to have some mutually agreed upon symbol as a means of exchanging things of value or exchanging the symbols of value themselves. One man has something another one wants, the other man wishes something of value in exchange.
If both have some ‘thing’ the other one wants, they can simply trade outright. But lacking such a mutually satisfied need, one person may choose to exchange a ‘thing’ of value for a ‘symbol’ of value that he can later exchange for some other ‘thing’ he needs. Thus the need for the symbol, as a means of exchange of value.
Money is Earned or Made
Since money currency is a mutually agreed upon symbol of value and means of exchange, how does one ‘get’ money? Well they could exchange some ‘thing’ of value for it as in with the example above. That ‘thing’ could be something someone has already acquired in the past, something they created themselves or even a product of their own labors. (see below)
Therefore, by making an exchange of a thing or action, it is said that one ‘earns’ the money they obtain.
Our country is somewhat unique in world history in that we also have a notion that one can ‘Make Money‘. How do you ‘make’ money? In general it would be by applying your labors and abilities to ‘create’ something that someone wants that may not have existed before. (unfortunately, we have departed from emphasizing this notion in our society as most opt to instead ‘earn’ money rather than find ways to ‘make’ it, but that is a subject for another essay)
Things Earned or Made are the result of Effort, Experience and Knowledge
If money is ‘earned’ or ‘made’ through one’s labors and abilities, what are labors and abilities and how are they applied to generate income in the form of symbols of value? Labor is the application of one’s physical efforts and time. Ability is the accumulation of one’s individual experience and knowledge – experience and knowledge that was acquired in essence through physical efforts (trial and error or research) and time. So essentially, even experience and knowledge boil down to efforts and time.
Effort, Experience and Knowledge are Facets of Human Existence
Unless you are completely apathetic and lethargic, you could accurately describe your every day functions as some combination of the passing of time and the application of efforts. Efforts directed (hopefully) by the insights resulting from your accumulated experience and knowledge and further honed in the form of new experience and further knowledge learned in the process.
If your every day functions can be described as application of effort over time guided by knowledge and experience, then these very components are the core of existence itself.
Earning value from the application of one’s efforts, knowledge and experience is how we, as societal animals, co-exist with other people, exchange the value derived from those efforts and obtain the essentials we need to continue existing.
Existence is Life
All of the things described above – application of effort guided by experience and knowledge – to re-iterate, are part-and-parcel of being alive. The value gained, exchanged, earned and made in the process are values gained from living itself. As already described, money is a mutually agreed upon symbol of value, of that value (the value gained from efforts, experience and knowledge), the value gained from ‘existing’ in a way that benefits ourselves and our fellow men in exchange for value that we need, want or desire.
All this can therefore only logically lead to one conclusion….
Money = Life
“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden