My Two Cents

July 10, 2009

“What backs our money?” I was asked this over a message board, and I replied with “Our Labor.” I then added “Perhaps both those words should be in quotes,” for example – “our” “labor”. I don’t know what made me remember this earlier today at work, but it bugged me. I work in retail, which also bugs me. And a lot of kids right out of high school also work in retail. I don’t know what minimum wage is, but let’s say they make $2/hr less than I do. That’s right – 2 dollars an hour less than I do.

How much work do they really do? How excited are they to be working? How many hours are they putting in a week? Does this damper their attitude? How much are they really making? And, how does that all compare to what I put in at work? Not that I’m terribly excited about working there.

What probably made me think about the question posed in the first paragraph was an overage I was charged last month. While I don’t earn the most money, and definitely don’t put the most effort into my work, an overage is still an overage. And putting 40 hours of my week into a bank account, and just barely putting in more than the overage was very disappointing. I may not love my job, but those 40 hours to break even could’ve been put to better use, and I’d be happy not making any more money from it (as long as I wasn’t losing money in the first place – although, I was). But that money could have also gone to hanging out with friends. I was lucky to pay for lunches the rest of that week.

So, what really does back our money? If the bank can charge me for an overage, where does my money really go? Did I earn it? Or did I just make up for what was lacking? I see the bills in my hands, but if I put them in and I’m still in the negative, was it like I even had money to start with? So, did I put labor into the ATM machine? Did I put gold in the ATM machine? Did I really have anything to start with?

The other side of the coin, however, is the barter system. Personally, I have nothing against the barter system. It makes more sense to me, on the surface. I don’t see how paper or a piece of silver really accounts for my hard work. But let’s say I’m a farmer and I grow corn. And I give you an ear of corn. That’s my hard work. Now, I can’t put an ear of corn into an ATM machine and have money, but I can sell it and have money. But, how much do I charge you for an ear of corn. FURTHER, if I were to trade an ear of corn to you, what’s it worth in…lumber, for example? That’s even easier than trying to trade corn with furniture.

So, what does back our money? The truth is this – our greed backs our money. Our desire to want things. Now, charging money for food is something I can understand. I would rather work all week and buy a thing of steak rather than buy a cow, wait for it to mature, kill it and clean it and cook it myself. But still, I’d be buying a cow from the start. And as much as I dream of owning a farm with solar panels and growing my own food, a steak’s a steak. I mean, c’mon.

So, if greed is what backs our money, are we truly in a recession? I remember hearing last summer how billions of dollars weren’t being used on airlines. I don’t see how greed can pay for a trip somewhere, but how many of you would like to see the Rocky Mountains or the Great Lakes or Great Britain or China? I guess to an extent I can see how greed would pay for a trip – “I NEED TO SEE IT FIRST!!! I NEED TO SHOW YOU PICTURES!!!”

And the truth is that, yes we are indeed in a recession. The proof with greed – it’s my time I sacrificed all week, it’s my hard labor, so it’s my money. I’ll spend it on what I want. And right now, not too many of us are spending it, so we aren’t getting out this anytime soon.

As much as I wanna believe I’m different from people, and don’t need money and don’t worry about social stats, it comes down exactly like my problem was earlier. I wanna work to use money for my friends. And when I’m in the negatives, why can’t I hang out with friends? I did indeed work all week, and sacrifice my time and labor.

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