Stone Money Rewrite–todayistheday

P1. Currency is a crinkled piece of paper and a hefty limestone rock. Currency is whatever we want it to be. The definition of currency depends on an individual’s belief and culture. As Americans, we are raised around the mindset that the paper in your wallet and the number on a ATM slip make your worth. While others across the globe could hold the standard of wealth to the greatness of your limestone. Our currency is controlled by people who decide on the importance of said currency. Increase, decrease, demand and value are all set in place.

P2. As we learn in, “Island of Stone Money” by Milton Friedman, a small island made of five to six thousand people base their wealth on a large limestone rock in their possession.  Yaps are pre-industrial people who used massive stone sculptures as currency, known as fei. They collected this limestone from an island several hundreds of miles away.  Fleets of boats were sent to travel the distance, across dangerous water, just to seek the limestone. Once found, they began to work on shaping the large stone.  After this task was completed they heaved the heavy stones into the boats to bring back to their homeland. The ownership and possession of the stone was known amongst the people even though the stone never moved from its resting place outside. These giant stones were never exchanged between hands; simple acknowledgement of ownership was all that was warranted. The Yaps knew which families were in possession of which stones. Although, one wealthy family had no stone in sight the Yaps were sure of its existence. While the men were bringing back stones, there was a storm in which the stone went overboard and sank to the bottom of the ocean.  When the men told the people back home of the lost stone they were unwavering in their trust that the stone was out there. The stone in the ocean was possessed by a family who had never seen the stone along with all the other villagers. The importance was unquestioned. The men who ventured on this journey to bring back the stone determined the source of currency.  Just like the Yaps the American system has certain men who determine our currency.

P3.  The Federal Reserve is not a part of the government, although federal is in its title, and they do not look to the government for any decisions.  “Invention of Money” discusses in detail, how the Federal Reserve can create currency out of nothing. It can whip up pieces of paper and small coins within moments.  These items make the world go around. Paper and chips of metal are what people spend their whole lives working for; yet the Federal Reserve can produce it in seconds.  They decide every six weeks if there should be more or less money in the US. More money which can mean more jobs and opportunities but also can mean high inflation.  Less money can slow down the economy too much.  This is a balancing act that if not done right can devastate.  Federal Reserve gives money to banks in return for treasury bonds. Button pressing, that’s what it comes down too. Our money system relies upon this magic trick. If the determination of our currency was left in the hands of the people madness would ensue. Citizens would print more money every day. This is problematic because the more money in circulation the higher the inflation.

P4. Money is not only the paper in our pocket but it is also something we can’t see. Digital money is easier to manage and easier to lose. From our phone screens, we can move money to one account into another. But people hundreds of miles away can move that money into their possession just as easy. My debit card account was recently tampered with and it feels as if someone walked into your home and broke into your piggy bank.  Whether the paper is in your pocket or a number on an ATM screen it doesn’t make it any less personable when someone steals from you. Someone taking your money makes you feel unsafe in all aspects of money handling.

P5. Its bewildering to look at a stock market or housing market crash; we wonder how did the value just plummeted. We ask where did those millions and trillions of dollars go? The answer: it doesn’t go anywhere because it never existed. In “Invention of Money”, the Planet Money team questioned the idea of disappearing money. As logical people who understand million and trillion is a very large number the enormous loss confuses us. The Plant Money team explains that money is only a concept and not tangible thing.  Money doesn’t exist as a thing but rather an idea.  Money isn’t solid and its value could disappear at any given moment. So, one day your house could be worth three hundred thousand and a week later be reduced to two hundred fifty thousand.  Your house didn’t change but the market did.  Nothing made your house worth fifty thousand less, expect the fact that perspective buyers changed.

P6. There isn’t much difference between a stone at the bottom of the ocean and a number from the ATM. Both we cannot see; we simply trust they’re present.  We depend on the rock at the bottom of the sea and the printed numbers from the bank.  We never hold or even lay our eyes on such measurements of wealth yet we believe in them.  The power of money is only registered and fueled by our unyielding belief.

P7. In “Invention of Money” we learn the Brazilian people had to be tricked into believing that their money was more valuable than it currently was. In the 1950’s Brazil’s president wanted to build Brasilia, a beautiful new city.  In order to get the money for such a pricey expansion. He printed more money which raised inflation dramatically.  From this point on, Brazil was on a downward spiral.  The price of milk one day could be one dollar and over the next few weeks it would double. The changing prices were sky rocketing and grocery stores were always adjusting prices. Four underdog economists working with the Brazilian government, created virtual currency in hopes that this would fix the economy. Virtual currency was created which is synonymous with imaginary money.   People trusted this new currency after they saw prices steady. For milk, the price was one URV (Unit of Real Value), but the one URV might be worth 10-20 cruzerios (Planet Money). Fake money became real money when the people believed in it. They used their virtual currency to purchase items that would normally take several months to pay off. With virtual currency the price was attainable and would be paid off at a later date. People began spending. This brought Brazil into the eighth largest economic country.  From nothing to everything; all in the belief of this new money. This idea relied on the publics belief.

P8. Americans, Yaps and Brazilians are all on the same page. Americans believe in paper, Yaps believe in stones, and Brazilians in virtual currency.  These do not become currency without belief.  We give meaning to our own currency’s.  A dollar bill means nothing to the Yaps while the same goes for a large stone in America.  And virtual currency would mean nothing without the Brazilians belief.  Money is what we make it.  Money is both our rise and our fall.

Works Cited

Friedman, Milton. “The Island of Stone Money.” Diss. Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 1991.

Goldstein, Jacob. “The Invention Of ‘The Economy’.” NPR, NPR, 28 Feb. 2014, http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2014/02/28/283477546/the-invention-of-the-economy. Accessed 19 Sept. 2017.

This entry was posted in A04: Stone Money Rewrite, todayistheday. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Stone Money Rewrite–todayistheday

  1. todayistheday19 says:

    I’m still not sure this is good enough to submit as my final rewrite. If you have time before the deadline to critique my writing further it would be greatly appreciated. I found your feedback on my original Stone Money post very helpful and hope it bettered my writing!

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    • davidbdale says:

      I will certainly return for another look if time permits, Today. Good enough or not, you’re always welcome to continue to improve your work, before and after posting, before and after grading.

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      • todayistheday19 says:

        Okay, thank you! I just want to make sure my writing can be the best it can be. My grades are really important to me as well as my writing skill improvement. So if you do have the time to look over my writing that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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  2. davidbdale says:

    A few Notes before the deadline. (You’re not obligated to make changes before midnight, or to make any changes at all. You may continue to improve your essay for weeks, until I declare it Permanent, if not Final.)

    P1. Yeah money is important, and you illustrate that knowing your balance can become an obsession, but why does that mean we “must ask” what money is? Maybe you mean it’s ironic that we spend no time understanding the hidden nature of something we spend so much time thinking about. (It isn’t, actually; most of us, to take an example close at hand, write every day without ever stopping to examine how we achieve persuasion, or sound sincere, or fake sincerity . . . .). Anyway, never waste your opening paragraph (it may be your only chance to hook your reader). Maybe when you tell me “what money is” I’ll have a better idea how to help with your opening gambit.

    P2. Be careful with your first definition, Today. You may have to live with it. Here, I believe you’re defining not “money” but “currency.” They’re not the same thing, of course, which is obvious when Bill Gates is presented with his bar tab and says, “I don’t have any money.” He’s making the same mistake you make here: he means “I’m not carrying any cash,” or, “I came here with no currency.” We understand him in casual conversation, but you need to be more careful in an academic essay.

    Since you’re talking about cash, currency, or “pieces of money,” you might consider examining them more closely. Fei would be hard to counterfeit, right? Sending the boats, quarrying and shaping the stone, rafting it back to Yap, and rolling it into place before someone’s house IS MAKING FEI no matter who undertakes it. If you can afford the venture, you’re rich by definition. Wouldn’t this be a good time to mention who makes dollars, why we don’t let citizens make their own, what happens when someone does? Maybe even what happens when someone tries to pilfer the digital versions of our money, breaking into our online bank accounts, for example. These are all essential elements of cash, shaped by cultural differences as you suggest.

    P3. This is intriguing, but the connection is unclear. I really like that the enormous physicality of fei avoid any chance of a fiscal crisis (unless some powerful Germans paint their marks on your stones). But say “financial crisis” to 100 Americans and not 1 will ask: “where did those billions go?,” I’m afraid. That question arises when the crisis is phrased rather specifically. When the “housing market” is worth $2 trillion dollars one day, but just $1 trillion dollars the next day, then yes. People do wonder where the money went. And obviously the answer is: the homes were radically over-valued. The people who measured their wealth in terms of the value of their real estate holdings do wonder how all their wealth evaporated. Be careful to provide your reader with enough information to follow your logic.

    P4. Unless your reader has also listened to the Island of Stone Money broadcast, she doesn’t catch the reference to the “stone at the bottom of the ocean.” Avoid this common error by providing your reader with the background. It shouldn’t take long to tell the anecdote of the sunken fei. (Maybe you can do it in P2 while you’re describing the minting and transporting of fei.)

    P5. Again, there’s no way an uninformed reader will follow your argument here, Today. For starters, they’re going to think you mean an invisible currency like Bitcoin. They may also wrongly conclude that the new money was a rogue currency, instead of one sanctioned by the government of Brazil. Fixing this won’t be easy, but it’s essential.

    P6. You seem to be literalizing a metaphor here, Today. The original author most certainly did not mean that there was no economic activity before the coining of the term “the economy.” She’s making a point that we didn’t pay attention to those business macros until somebody started compiling the numbers. What do you do with this clever observation? Read it again before you answer. Maybe you want to use “the economy” or “the gross national product” as a measure of a country’s wealth similar to a person’s individual wealth. I’m not sure you do, and not sure why you want to.

    P7. You have a breathtakingly glib style, Today. I don’t want to jeopardize it by drawing too much attention to your technique, but I do want to caution you to be very clear what your argument is at all times. By now, after several anecdotes regarding the invention of several currencies, we should be seeing the pattern you most care to emphasize. What is it, and does this paragraph complete the list of similar observations? I’ll be very impressed if you can answer this question in your Reply below.

    P8. Almost. You’re almost there. If this were poetry, you’d have arrived. But we have a responsibility in nonfiction persuasive essays to be more direct, less ambiguous. What is the fiction of money? That it has value? Why is that fictitious? If you’re willing to give me a car for a pile of paper, then the paper DOES have value. It’s WORTH a car. Granted, that value might disappear in times of crisis, but the fact of its devaluation doesn’t mean it was always worthless. Hold yourself to a high standard of accountability, Today. You’re certainly a skilled stylist and a clever thinker. You’ll be more persuasive when you can be better understood.

    I hope I’ve encouraged you to keep working on this post, Today. I’m eager to see just how much better it can be.

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    • todayistheday19 says:

      Okay, I think I gave it a makeover. I tried to really act on purposeful summaries and give good background information. I didn’t even realize that I wasn’t explaining certain aspects well enough. I think what I’m trying to say is that our belief in currency gives it value. By showing the differences in currencies I wanted to show regardless of the differences currency still had value when people believed in it. I really tried to fix everything that was wrong. I cut out glib and left room for more fact. My opening is weak so I think I’ll ask for help on that during my conference. I hope I didn’t go backwards in this rewrite. Thank you for your help and I really found your guidance useful in my rewrite.

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