The Magic $100 Bill
In the spirit of our upcoming work for our new show, FOOD, SEX & BIG CHECKS, I wanted to share a story I recently heard that somewhat highlights the ridiculousness of our money system. I acknowledge that it is highly simplified, but it still makes you stop and think about it.
A travelling salesman comes into a little town, and goes to the local hotel. He speaks to the hotel manager, and says that he'd like to book a room for the night, but he's very particular, so he would like to look at the room first. The hotel manager agrees and asks for a $100 deposit in exchange for the key. The salesman hands him a $100 bill and goes to look at the room.
While the salesman is upstairs, the hotel manager looks out the window and notices the butcher across the street and remembers that he owes the butcher $100 for meat he needed for an event the week previous. He runs across the street and pays the butcher the $100 and thanks him for the meat which made the event very successful.
The butcher thanks him and puts the $100 next to the register. Just then, the plumber comes in and the butcher remembers that he owes him $100 for repairing his freezer the week before. He gives the plumber the $100 and thanks him for fixing the freezer, for it would have meant disaster otherwise.
The plumber happily takes the payment and goes on his way. He gets to the gas station to fill up, and the garage owner comes out and asks if he has the $100 he owes him for fixing him car last week. The plumber remembers the $100 bill and gives it to the garage owner, thanks him, and goes on his way.
As the plumber is heading back to his garage, he passes the prostitute that he had met the week before. He remembers that he still owes her $100, pays her, thanks her, and returns to his garage.
The prostitute continues on her way, and passes the hotel. She remembers that she still owes $100 for a room she booked the previous week, and goes in to find the manager. She finds him at the front desk, pays him the $100, thanks him, and goes on her way.
The hotel manager places the $100 on the counter, and the travelling salesman comes back downstairs. He states the the room is just not his style, and he'll be on his way. The hotel manager takes the key back, gives him the $100 bill, and the travelling salesman leaves.
What has just happened? A piece of paper, the same piece of paper, floated around between people, and suddenly they feel as if they have more. They are $100 richer, or, as is more applicable to today's world, $100 less in debt. But none of them has done anything more other than make the walk and exchange between themselves and the person they owe. The work was already done, and needed to be.
If the paper was not there, wouldn't we still need our everyday things? Wouldn't we still need each other?
If we could speed this up infinitely, wouldn't it pay off all our debts? Or would it not, because it eventually halts at a certain point, with a certain institution, or in a bank?
I'm just thinking about these questions, and how we think about money. I don't necessarily have a solution, I'm just not sure our system is the best one.
Money is not a real thing. For a long time now, it has no longer actually represented gold or any other specific, physical thing. It is a concept, an idea, a way that we think of things. It is a way we place value on things, on each other, on our work. So the way we think about money is extremely important, because those thoughts are what make up the parts of our lives that clothe us, feed us, and enable (or prevent) us to do the things we want to do.
I am looking forward to exploring these ideas and thought patterns that I also hold myself when Tut'Zanni begins work in just a couple of weeks!!