Doc Yale

On Money
Excerpt from Doc Yale's Novel "Monte"
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21st Century Objects of Worship

This is an excerpt from Doc Yale’s Novel  Monte.  The novel is set in the future but is neither a utopian nor a dystopian story—but rather a story of a small community that managed to survive the many catastrophes that we can see coming—global warming and biological disruption,  governmental disintegration, economic collapse,  human  plagues, social disorder.  The character Opa is an ancient one who has lived through all of these catastrophes and thus has some perspective on the changes.  Monte is his great grandson who is pretty oblivious to history but is starting to get curious about some of his past.  The novel features some of Opa’s journal entrys of which this is one.

Opa’s Journal (On Money)

Monte is asking me a lot of questions lately, and every time I try to explain to Monte about the gangs of the olden days I end up having to talk about money and banks.  Yet it is so hard to explain and I have had to go back and read and think about it. 

The conundrum is that I grew up in a society that worshipped money yet that money was not real.  You say that to Monte and his eyes glaze over with that look that says ‘you’ve been smoking too much again Opa.’

But it is true.  These days we have reverted to using gold and silver pieces or coins as money and this works pretty well for trading.  Neither is particularly useful for any practical purpose but as long as people recognize it as valuable it is as good as clam shells, or totem poles, or bear claws. 

It was the creation of banks that changed all of that.  As I understand, jewelers were the first bankers.  Since they had safes or some way to protect the gold they worked with, some people liked to bring their gold or silver to them for protection.  In turn, the jeweler would give them a piece of paper acknowledging that they had done so and that they could reclaim so many ounces or shekels. 

Some greedheads, however, realizing that the jewelers had all this gold stored would go to them and ask them to lend some to them—to buy a horse, to provision a ship, or so on, something that would make them wealthier.  And some of the jewelers started doing this, but being shrewd and realizing that they were taking some risk, they insisted that the borrower return more gold than they had received. This also worked.   

At some point, however, they realized that they did not have to actually provide the borrower with the gold.  They simply had to give them a slip of paper that said that it was redeemable for the amount of gold they were supposedly lending. 

The big breakthrough in banking came when the jewelers realized that they could issue more of these papers than they actually had gold in their safe.  As long as all the people with one of these pieces of paper didn’t all come in and ask for their gold at the same time, the jeweler could sit back and reel in the money from interest without providing much of anything for the community.  These jewelers eventually became known as bankers and they no longer needed to make or sell jewelry.  And their businesses came to be known as “banks”. 

The next big stage in the evolution of money came when the gang which came to be called “the government” —the original revenooers--realized that they could get in the banking business.  They were big enough and powerful enough and rich enough that they could corner much of the market.  They formalized this by printing their own form of loan notes—which came to be known as money.  In the beginning these notes said that they could be redeemed for a certain amount of gold or silver—and the government gangs actually had vaults with some of these metals.  But like the jewelers they issued more notes than there was in their vaults.  But as long as the people accepted, and as time went on, worshipped, these pieces of paper the system worked well for the government gang.  If the government gang needed more money, they simply had to turn on the presses and create a little more.

As the government gang became more confident they realized, like the jewelers of old,  that they didn’t really need to keep so much gold and silver in their vaults—in fact their notes no longer certified that the gang would redeem them for gold or silver.  They were simply pieces of paper that said “In God we Trust”.

From this stage, the future evolution of money was pretty simple.  With the advances in computers and communication, one no longer needed the paper money or paper line of credit but could carry around a little piece of plastic which allowed someone to tap into the banks for more credit.  Coins and paper money virtually disappeared from the marketplace.  But the vulnerability of the banks was still there—there was, after all, a lot more money out there than there was gold or silver.

The collapse of the monetary and banking system was one of the first signs of the great turning.  At the time I sort of enjoyed it, shadenfreuden if you will.  The bankers were some of the worst gangsters – right up there with lawyers and politicians so I was happy to see them go under.

 And when the banking system went under so did most of the commerce and government. 

The most interesting stories, however, were of those who were overnight transformed from robber barons to paupers.  When the money system collapsed the ability of the rich to boss around their slaves also collapsed.  Servants would no longer come to clean their houses, make their dinners, drive their cars, or even sleep with them.  Some of the rich had put away enough coins that they could barter them  and their possessions away.  But the biggest shock was to realize that that little pieces of plastic or paper that used to allow them to go anywhere, buy anything, and so on was as valuable as fresh cow pie.

I’ll try to explain all this to Monte—but I’m not too optimistic.  I can still hardly comprehend it myself