Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Root of All Evil

Every now and then, in an attempt to remind myself that even some of the craziest people I contend with can, in fact, be out-done, I'll tune into "Coast to Coast" (Art Bell's old show) on XM radio on the way to work. Now, I'm not going to say that I'm the most open-minded guy in the world, but you don't arrive at viewpoints like mine without listening to new ideas and evaluating new perspectives. That being said, for anyone who hasn't listened to the program, about 99.9% of the content of the show is pretty laughable. It's a hodgepodge of some of the most militant UFO/Illuminati/New Age believers you've ever seen in one place. In other words, for someone like me, it's extremely entertaining. Generally what they discuss is so other-wordly that you can't even sit there and reason with any of it...you just have to appreciate the intricate madness that consumes these people. But every once in a while I will hear one of these people say something so utterly ridiculous not about their UFO-conspiracy world, but rather the real one, that is so absolutely ignorant that it's hard not to laugh. I caught one of those moments this morning.

They had a guest on who was speaking about the "secret" nature of the pyramids. At some point in the discussion they were talking about how the Egyptian government heavily restricts and tolls those wanting to investigate the pyramids. She began to get side-tracked on some of her points by trying to explain that the fines, of course, were really being positioned by corporations to make a profit...which in itself is kind of funny if you think about it. But then she went on to yet another extraction in which she was going on a tirade about the evil of profits. Now, I hear this all the time from people who don't know their ass from a hole in the ground concerning economics, so that didn't surprise me at all. However, what she said next did:

"Just think...if we didn't have money, we could just barter everything!"

Wow...Exactly how uneducated would you have to be to believe that actual currency is a bad thing? I'm not sure, but I was laughing pretty hard when I heard that.

Firstly, let me make the quick, and patently obvious, point that the medium of trade (or lack thereof) has nothing to do with acquiring profits. Not having such a medium may make purchases more complicated (and actually probably more expensive now that I think about it). But there is nothing about dropping money that would keep people in a free market from returning interest and profits (in any medium) to capitalists. And even if it did work that way, we would all owe you a debt of gratitude for putting the kibosh on personal purchasing power and our standard of living.

Put simply, money is just a medium for trade. In fact, until this past century, money was typically a service or good in and of itself (silver, gold, copper, etc.). I think that maybe some people take their distrust of the government controlled fiat money-system (which arbitrarily destabilizes and inflates economies today) and pin that negative conception against all "money." But, believe it or not, money is not an invention of governments OR capitalists. Money is a fluid good that becomes valued as a common means of exchange in any market-economy. It could be, and has been, things as simple as alcohol or grain.

In this way, money is simply a heavily traded good that actually lets you indirectly barter. You ARE bartering when you use money (well...non-fiat money...but that's a whole other discussion). You are just trading whatever good or service you provide for something that's more easily tradable (silver for example). Now, this became pretty obvious even to our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago, but we can elaborate a little more for the woman on the radio this morning. You REALLY don't want a direct barter system...especially in a complex economy. The town butcher or baker may not have too many problems getting the goods and services they need for bread and steaks but I can guarantee you that you're going to have some serious problems trying to get that fracture X-rayed for the latest copy of your book on the pyramids.

Some people just don't think.

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