Ttl;dr?! At it’s root, the value of money is it allows us to efficiently transfer or exchange goods and services.
Hanging out at the root of all evil, billionaires are hoarders.
Eat the rich.
We ride at midnight.
Spring cleaning. Written pre-COVID-19, the text still stands. May 2020 updates below.
I don’t pay my dentist in beets. My dentist doesn’t deny me dental service because he doesn’t eat beets. I don’t have to grow my beets and ration my beets and store my beets in a root cellar through the year and search for equitable trade of my beets for goods and services I need.
On a basic level, money gets us out of bartering. In this example, we abstract the value of my beets (goods) and the value of dentistry (services) and value both with an object we call money. In Ancient Rome, money was in physical metal coin. As economies evolved, we stored our value in paper backed by a precious metal — gold until Nixon. If we so choose, we could decide that marbles could stand in for money.
Money gets us out of bartering. Money is a stand-in for the value of our goods and services. It is not a good or a service but a transferable object. I don’t barter with my dentist for his services. I don’t go to the grocery store and trade beets for milk.
Money allows us to specialize. I grow beets. Teachers teach. Dentists practice dentistry. The value of money is the useful and efficient transfer of goods and services that allows us to specialize in production of goods or services.
The flow of money between individuals is what makes for a healthy economy. I say these things not as an economist but as an observer. From where I report, there is not enough flow of money on Main Street. Services are undervalued to the tune of minimum wage. People are forced to work two or three jobs to
grow enough beets make ends meet. Government subsidies allow corporations to devalue human labor, the working poor. Imports allow corporations to devalue human labor in other countries. Work the poor world-wide.
Corporations deface and devalue the environment in someone else’s backyard but I digress.
Government subsidies to corporations is not as objectionable as government subsidies to citizenry, to individuals. Why is this? Why is it so easy for us to under-fund the social safety net while offering tax breaks to corporations? Let’s face it, the social safety net is so thin now that more and more people fall through and land smack down on the bottom of the circus floor. And this circus is a s*itshow shamshow.
Although this may read as a screed against corporations, it is not. Corporations specialize. Corporations provide societies with complicated products and services impossible to produce by one individual. Henry Ford. Steven Jobs. Individuals who started behemoths. Look around. If you are reading this, your world is filled with product, human creativity, and innovations attributable to successful corporations. And we are all of grateful.
But currently Main Street businesses do not thrive because money flows to Wall Street. The Wall Street named for a wall the Dutch built and it might as well have been a dam. Ain’t enough water make it to Main Street once it’s behind the wall.
Money as water
Water, like money brings the green. Spread over a large area, it greens up. Farm fields with irrigation, watered lawns in Las Vegas. In the absence of water, they brown up. The corn isn’t knee-high by the Fourth of July. Dry and thirsty barren landscapes.
A Reagan era economic relic is trickle down economics. It’s a nice theory — as business flourish so will the populace. As direct evidence that trickle down does not work, I offer billionaires. Bill Gates retired in 2009 with only $50B or $50,000,000,000 dollars or wimwams1. If you check on Bill Gates’ net worth today it is over $100B or $1×1011 wimwams. That’s a lot of wimwams Bill.
Let’s do math! Bill Gates doubled his money in 10 years.
10 years = 87,600 hours (24*365*10)
Bill Gates’ was earning $570,771/hour ($50,000,000,000/87,600 hours) and that is if Bill is working 24 x 7. But I assume Bill isn’t and doesn’t. So …
~2,000 working hours/year * 10 years = 20,000 working hours
I assume Bill works more than 2000 hours/year. Let’s use 3,000 hours. He must be at least 0.5 more productive than someone working 8 hour days, so since he has retired:
$50,000,000,000/30,000 hours = $1,666,666.67/hour.
That is $1,666,651.67 dollars more than someone making $15/hour.
Whoa! Bill is a long way from a proposed minimum wage.
$1,666,651.67/hour / $15/hour =
111,111 employees paid a minimum wage of $15/hour
May 2020 Update: Amidst COVID-19
Thirty-six million people (36 x 106 or 36,000,000) are now unemployed. The US Senate hesitates on legislation to provide direct relief to individuals. It is still more palatable and easier to pump
water money into the economy via trickle down than provide direct relief to individuals.
The US National Debt clock today is at ~$25T or $25×1012. To put that in less science-y perspective, it is at ~$75K or $75,000/citizen.
Jeff Bezo didn’t retire but he and MacKenzie divorced. His net worth was in the $150B range and MacKenzie took less that half.
A check of the Bezos’ net worth today (May 15, 2020):
Jeff: $142,100,000,000 ($142.1B)
MacKenzie: $46,400,000,000 ($46.4B)
Or a total Bezos’ net worth of $188.5B.
Whoa! That’s even more wimwams. I guess the divorce really paid off.
I use the Bezos’ and Bill Gates as evidence that trickle down doesn’t. Their wealth may be on paper, but so is the national debt. Paper. Money. In the hands of real people it becomes physical goods and services.
Or food, lodging, transportation, dentistry, beets. IT’s a long list.
Eat the rich.
1Wimwams: Wimwams is a generic term for any unit of money. This term was coined by Mr. Viva while on a trip in which we were made painfully aware of the “exchange rate” of our dollars. How many wimwams for that nutella? How many wimwams to stay here tonight? How many wimwams for us to hop on that bus? I stopped translating our spending to US dollars.
And doesn’t wimwams sound way funner than dollars? Heh, heh. Funner. More way fun. Wimwams.