Money - past, present & future - Thor 21 May 2017

 

Background discussion:

 

Almost everyone claims to want money, so (to me) it is kind of astonishing that apparently few people care to think about what money really is. Hopefully our meetup on Sunday 21 May, can explore this a bit.

Here are some random starter ideas for building more questions:

a) Money, like the idea of a society, or a religion, or an ideology, is a mental invention which only gains value when it becomes a shared “virtual tool”. If there were only one person in the universe, money would be pointless. The more money is used as a catalyst, a tool, to get people to do things, then the more useful it is. Two ideas: 1. Healthy circulation: when money is sucked off into offshore bank accounts, for example, it is no longer useful and we are all poorer. There are now trillions of dollars warehoused in offshore bank accounts. 2 Social risk: $1 has much greater value to a poor man than to a rich man. Where the difference in the value of $1 between a rich man and a poor man becomes too great then the money tool becomes less and less efficient at gluing communities together and civilizations fail.

b) The effect of humiliation on health and crime is really interesting. Most murders worldwide are committed by young men between 18 and 25 who feel that their (sexual) status has been threatened. However, the RATE of, say, murder, depends on what gives status. In the United States, MONEY is king. It turns out that the murder rate in Chicago is 30 times higher than the murder rate in England where money (surprisingly perhaps) is somewhat less important to the killers. The same sort of thing applies when it comes to health: envy from inequality, rather than actual national wealth, is the main determinant of poor health in populations. For detailed studies on this, see the book by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, “The Spirit Level”, or for their shorter article at http://evonomics.com/wilkinson-pickett-income-inequality-fix-economy/

c) It seems that in human primates at the most basic level, men are attracted to female beauty and women are attracted to male status (chimpanzees about the same). This gets endless cultural wrinkles, but that appears to be the foundation. Ever since money was invented, it has rated near the top as a status marker. Therefore, to get the girl, men plunge into a grim pursuit of money, meaning work, wars, corruption .. and all the rest. Others have noticed this. Back in the 1400s, Geoffrey Chaucer (“The Canterbury Tales”) through his Pardoner con-man character was declaring that "money is the root of all evil", which by the values of medieval Christianity might translate as "women are the root of all evil".. Ha ha, so you wanted an argument. Have we outraged enough people yet :-)

d) Money - a simple idea? Well no. Our ideas about money are generally simple, which is different from money being simple. People will kill for simple ideas (strange that). They are also dead suckers for simple ideas (look at Trump). However, if you want to dive into some of the technical complication that money might involve, have a look at MMT, modern monetary theory, at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Monetary_Theory . You could also google "block chain technology" to see a revolution coming over the horizon.

e) Block-chain technology allows groups beyond the control of governments to create money which is still secure, more or less. Bitcoin is the best known example, and has had a wild ride. As this technology matures and becomes more secure it will partly replace the sovereign power of governments, but also be used by them. Here is an example of criminals attempting to use Bitcoin: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/consumer-security/bitcoins-murkier-rivals-line-up-to-displace-it-as-cybercriminals-favourite-20170518-gw8chp.html

 


 

Exploratory Questions:

 

1. Why is money so important in people’s lives?

2. Do men and women often have a different attitude to money? If so, how and why?

3. Some people prefer to ‘live for the day’ while others think they should always save some money. Which group do you belong to? Why?

4. The Australian government has lately been talking about “good debt” and “bad debt”. What do you think they mean by this?

5. Many psychological studies show that for most people, the more money they have, the more they want. At the same time they become less generous. Why is this?

6. Currency (money) issued by the government used to be guaranteed by gold. Now it is not (it is called fiat currency). What happens when people lose confidence in fiat currency?

7. What will be the most expensive things you buy in your life? Are the most expensive things the same in Australia as in other countries?

8. How important is money for your idea of lifetime success? Why / Why not?

9. If you had a billion dollars, what would you do with it? Really?

10. In England 500 years ago it was common to say that “the love of money is the root of all evil”. What did this mean? What, if anything, has changed?

 



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