A Counterintuitive Assignment:
Stone Money

Before class WED SEP 14, post a reflective response to the story of money on the island of Yap. Find the resources for your assignment in the sidebar under the Category A01: Stone Money.

  1. Listen to the story of the stone money of Yap from the Planet Money team at NPR. The first 10 minutes of the broadcast provide a useful introduction and the stone money story. Listen to the rest of the broadcast if it intrigues you. (It certainly won’t hurt on this assignment.)
  2. Read the closely related 5-page article, “The Island of Stone Money,” by Milton Friedman.
  3. For a deeper understanding of the role of faith in money systems, listen to the broadcast concerning the Brazilian real.
  4. Analyze the abstract concept of money. Describe how your thinking has changed in just two days (or why it hasn’t) about money, wealth, and our faith in things we never see.
  5. Listen to or read enough of the source material to cite two sources besides the NPR broadcast and the Milton Friedman essay.
  6. Post your response to the blog (see Details below).

Notes: I’m not interested in your critique of the quality of the writing or the production values of the Planet Money team that produced the story. Instead, I want you to examine the thinking and the behavior of the people involved in the story: for example, the Yap islanders, the German government, the French Bank, the US Treasury, the Brazilians who used cruzeros, the Brazilians as they adapted to the real. What is their concept of money? How does ours differ from the Yaps’? In what ways was the Yap concept of money more or less abstract than ours? How fluid is the value of our money?

Sample questions to consider: What is the intrinsic value of money? How could labeling some gold in a basement vault in the US bring down America’s banking system and usher in the Great Depression? What feature of our monetary system might the Yap consider most bizarre? What made Brazilians trust the new currency? How did the recent “fiscal cliff” debate in the US raise questions about our own money as a reliable vehicle of wealth? How could the Japanese plan to invigorate their economy go wrong? Why is public faith in the value of a currency so important?


  • DUE: Midnight Tuesday (11:59 pm TUE SEP 13).
  • Publish your assignment in two categories: A01: Stone Money and the category for your own name found under Author.
  • Give your post the title Stone Money–Username, substituting your own username, of course.
  • Cite two sources in addition to the NPR broadcast and the Friedman essay.
  • Include a Works Cited.
  • Word count is irrelevant, but thorough analyses of whatever length will be graded higher than superficial writing that wastes words. Complex ideas briefly expressed are rewarded best.
  • You will receive just one grade for this draft, which is intended to diagnose your abilities and needs. If you request feedback, you’ll receive guidance to help you improve your grade, one time, with a Rewrite.
  • Customary late penalties. (0-24 hours 10%) (24-48 hours 20%) (48+ hours, 0 grade)
  • Minor (Non-Portfolio) Assignment (10%)