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Money: The Gift & The Curse

2393 words - 10 pages

Money: the abstract illusion of finite value given to otherwise worthless objects; an idea that our 'modern' society is both plagued by, yet hinges on. Constantly, we hear phrases like "time is money" and "money makes the world go 'round", and have almost been brainwashed into believing so, attesting to its effect on civilization over the last several centuries. As an item given a set exchange value, the concept of money becomes closely tied with that of a commodity, often resulting in the clouding of both ideas. Going beyond its face value as 'legal tender', the psychology behind money as we know it today is the product of hundreds of years of history and development. With a multitude of possible avenues to investigate, the theoretical aspects of money and its offshoots can be looked at from various standpoints, including its symbolism, its effects on modern culture, its role in the lives of individuals and its limits (moral, ideal, or theoretical, if any). Money is a symbolic idea of value that was instated to provide an economic standard for valuation of goods, but instead gave humans the means to fundamentally revamp society and morality, often in the name of profit. For as long as it has existed, money has revolutionized cultures and given definition to economies, and continues to do so with every passing generation.What is money? Money is whatever we make it. It is nothing, and can be everything at the same time (without attempting to sound poetic). Money is the lifeblood of today's civilization, and, in an oversimplified manner of stating it, a symbol. Thus, one is left to wonder the fate of our society knowing that its lifeblood is nothing more than an abstract symbol.We humans, by instinct, do everything we can to satisfy our own needs, so when the holes in the barter system became apparent, we created the 'ultimate tradable commodity': something that eliminated the coincidental dual-need requirement of bartering, and something universally accepted with a standard value. Money became the common denominator, so to speak; the benchmark upon which the value of everything else was derived. In his commentary called Money and the Commodity of Culture, George Simmel says, "Money is 'common' because it is the equivalent for everything to everything; only that which is individual is distinguished; that which is equivalent to many things is equivalent to the least among them and therefore pulls even the highest thing down to the level of the lowest" (239). His use of the word common to describe money couldn't be more fitting, because that is exactly what it is, because money was created to produce a standard. The pitfall here is that the standardizing of values to one measurement (the dollar) debases the worth of that which may have previously been seen as 'above' pricing. Items that at one point were seen to have no equivalent could suddenly be given concrete dollar values, thereby overruling the principle that had governed the barter system,...

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