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Page 3- The Many Forms of Money The exchange of life energy, money, has taken many forms over the years. Here are examples of a few of them.
- In China in 140 BC White Deer Skin
- In Malalita (in the Solomons) porpoise teeth - with red teeth being 20 times the value of white teeth
- In New Guinea Boar Tusks
- In Santa Cruz islands Red feathers of a jungle bird
- In the Pacific Northwest Beaver & other skins, Snail shells, blankets & human slaves, fortunately for the slaves their only value was if they were alive where on Borneo Human skulls were used as money
- In Egypt grain was used
- In the Mediterranean countries Cattle was used
- Coastal and Island peoples in India, China, the Middle East used strings of shell thousands of years before Christ and later in Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands
- In the New World Wampum (seashells) became the first currency. A 1648 law stated that they should be strong and not disorderly, probably to eliminate counterfeiting. White beads, 4 to 8, equaled a penny but they were often died to simulate the more valuable black beads. Massachusetts allowed wampum to be used for small debts but not for payment of taxes.
- In the 12th Century BC in China agricultural tools were used as currency and miniature tools were minted to act in the place on actual tools. The first coins were minted by the Greeks in about 750 BC
- In the 6th Century Croesus, the King of Lydia, minted coins of pure gold and silver.
- Romans used salt as currency. The Roman word for Salt is Salarium which in its modern version is salary.
- In the late twentieth century in New Guinea pigs were used; about 28 pigs were required to purchase a wife
No matter what physical form the exchange took place in the exchange was always the same, life energy for life energy.
Money in Early America
In colonial America, governments fixed the values of various farm products for use as currency. In fact, taxes could be paid with produce. Laws even established fixed values for corn, rice, and cattle; and some of these laws were in effect as late as 1720.
Tobacco, in particular, offers a fascinating history of the power of money over the minds of its inventors. In 1619, Virginia declared tobacco, already used as a currency with one pound to be equal to three shillings. Because production increased so rapidly the value of tobacco tumbled and laws were enacted forbidding certain people (such as carpenters and other crafts workers) from growing tobacco and restricting the amount that could be grown.
In 1640 and 1641, the legislature fixed the value of tobacco at about five times its value in the marketplace and growers were forbidden to sell their tobacco for less than the official rate. Not only were these laws ineffective, but they also created serious inequities between debtors and creditors. When increasing cultivation resulted in declining value the legislature passed a law requiring that contracts be payable in tobacco. This virtually made tobacco the sole currency. So, of course, people wanted all the more to grow money.
In 1666, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina entered into a treaty in which they agreed to grow no tobacco during that year. But by 1683, the falling price of tobacco caused vigilante groups to go about burning the tobacco crops and the legislature viewed this destruction of currency as subversion and made it punishable by the death penalty.
Once given the magical designation of money, tobacco became far more than a crop. Its seeds were no longer rooted in the earth but in the minds of the people as well. Its power as money caused for more tobacco to be planted than the price of tobacco could have justified. The authorities refused to accept the prices set in the marketplace, but instead believed they could legislate the value that tobacco should have. Crops were not planted and fields were burned, but the powerful lure of money was such that the supplies of tobacco/money increased nonetheless.
The Stone Money of Yap
Money can really be anything that we agree it is. To illustrate the power our minds give to money - and money’s power over our minds - let’s look at the island of Yap (one of the Caroline Islands in the Pacific) in the nineteenth century. On Yap, the money, called fei, was in the form of quarried stones with a hole drilled in the center of each stone. The stones were one foot to twelve feet in diameter and the hole allowed this very heavy money to be slung on poles and carried.
Their money was quarried on an island four hundred miles away and after being transported to Yap, many of the pieces of currency were so large to that they could not be moved easily around the island. This led to transactions in which the ownership of the fei would be transferred, but the actual stone would not be moved. The old owner would merely give a verbal acknowledgment of the change of ownership, and although the stone itself didn’t move, everyone understood the ownership of the fei had changed hands.
Since everyone agreed who owned a particular stone, it didn’t matter where the stone rested. This is particularly true of one special stone that was so immense and exceptionally beautiful that it bestowed great wealth to anyone who owned it. After being minted on the distant island the boat carrying it back to Yap encountered a violent storm and sank. However everyone agreed that because the owner could not be faulted for its loss, the stone continued to be traded as currency for generations even though it lie at the bottom of the sea. The islanders simply decided that their money did not have to be in their immediate possession, or even visible, to have value and be owned or transferred.
In 1898, the German government acquired the Caroline Islands, including Yap, from Spain. Since Yap had no roads and the paths were in poor condition, the German’s ordered the islanders to improve the condition of the paths. The islanders had walked these paths for generations with fei hanging from their shoulder poles, and neither needed nor wanted to improve the paths.
Faced with the passive resistance of the people of Yap, the German authorities pondered how to force compliance. The wealth of the islanders dotted the landscape in the form of fei, but it would require far too much work to confiscate this money. And if it could be moved, where would it be stored? At last the Germans came up with a diabolic plan.
In order to rob the island of its wealth and force compliance with it’s work order, a man was dispatched around the island with a can of black paint. On the most valuable pieces of fei he painted a small black cross. The German’s then announced that any stone with a black cross was no longer money. Without their wealth the islanders went to work and improved the paths. When their work was done the Germans sent another man to remove the black crosses and reinstated the island’s wealth.
Of course nothing had changed on the island except for paint being applied and removed and the thoughts in people’s minds. Whether it was money or wasn’t or was again, it was all in their minds. If the island of Yap’s system of money seems primitive, consider the modern worker. He or she will go to work, the employer, through direct deposit, tells the bank how much money has been earned. The worker then goes to the store slides an ATM card through a card reading machine and the bank tells the store that they now have the money. Did the money actually move? What form was the money in anyway? While it was kept track of by computer bits, it was all really in their minds, by mutual agreement, of the parties involved. Just like on the island of Yap.
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