When people are confronted with the daunting question of “What is money?”, they usually stare at you like you’ve just asked them to explain the equation for special relativity.
Money is anything with inherent value that is used to measure the value people attach to products and services. It acts as a medium of exchange in order to facilitate trade. What started out as people trading physical goods for one another, developed into an immensely complicated modern economic system as more specialised products and services arose. People realised they needed a universal medium of exchange, and this led to the revolutionary invention of money.
There exists an interdependent relationship between money and goods & services: the value of money is measured in the number of goods and services it can purchase (purchasing power) and the value of goods and services is in turn measured in what amount of monies is needed to purchase it (prices). It is a very delicate balancing act which can only be achieved by the invisible hand of the market, which is why the market must be free.
As far as inherent worth goes, gold seemed a pretty solid option to use as money. Here’s why:
The amount of gold relative to the number of people is relatively miniscule; the demand outweighs the supply by far. Gold thus has a lot of value attached to it. Seeing as the global population keeps increasing, the demand for gold also keeps increasing. Hence the rise in the value of gold; it keeps getting relatively scarcer. It thus makes complete sense to use it as a medium of exchange seeing as it keeps its value.
As nations rose and fell and economies grew ever more complicated, governments the world over decided that the best way to maintain gold as the primary means of exchange, but also make it more “flexible” in order to adapt to modern specialised markets, was to have it represented by paper money and coins. Currency was thus invented.
Currency is different from money in that it has no inherent value. It merely represents the real money: gold. Currency is also easily divisible into much smaller units. Currency was essentially a middle man that nudged its way in between gold and domestic products and services. The balancing act became even more delicate. The gold standard was created.
The gold standard is a fool-proof system at worst. The value of the gold is measured in terms of the currency used. The gold backs up the currency and gives it value and consequently purchasing power; another fine balancing act that can only be achieved by the market’s invisible hand. This act determines the purchasing power of the specific currency.
As explained earlier, in the long run the value of gold keeps rising as the level of demand grows at a faster rate relative to the level of supply of gold. The paper currency representing the gold will thus not lose its purchasing power. When the US finally decided that the whole “live within your means” thing wasn’t working for them, Nixon abolished the gold standard in 1971 and replaced it with a fiat currency.
The word ‘fiat’ is a Latin term meaning “let it be done”. A fiat currency is a system of currency that is backed not by anything of value but by a central government’s arbitrary authority. The US Federal Reserve, for example, is allowed to print US dollars non-stop as long as its financial overlords give it the green light. The only difference between a $1 bill and 1 Monopoly bill is that the government sanctions the former as a viable means of exchange. Yet, it has no inherent worth.
Currencies’ worth is now determined by market forces within the money market, the place where currencies compete for domination. The quantity of currency within an economy can now be adjusted by a central government in order to influence the exchange rate, internal interest rates, and thus the value the currency holds. Reserve banks can also influence exchange rates by actively competing in the money market, also known as ‘dirty floating’. It is no mystery why governments keep on printing worthless paper money: massive expansionary fiscal and monetary policies demand it.
Economists such as Michael Maloney keep warning governments and central banks that they’re creating an unsustainable global financial bubble that is going to implode. There is no foundation on which modern economies are based. Money exists no more.
What we now have is an artificial form of “money” with no inherent worth. It is simply not sustainable. The gold standard keeps the economy in a state of natural unison. It is a system that balances itself out. It is a system that works. It is a system that is endowed with foolproofness by its very nature.