Money permeates everything in this world. It has come to be the material object around which the earth rotates. Gravity seems to have been replaced by the central need in all of mankind to earn and gain horrendously large amounts of money. Scanning the channels on the television set, I am arrested by images of man killing man because of money, of entire nations going hungry for the lack of money, of people portraying lives of others, doing outrageous stunts in order to gain more money.
Taking my eyes off the money-bought television set, I think on more realistic instances. My mind dwells on the fact that so many of the people I know wake up everyday to go to work to perform tasks they don’t feel a great propensity to do in the first place; all in the name of a paycheck that will arrive at the end of the month, or at the end of the week. I think of how so many of my fellow students try so hard to boost their grades so that they can land good jobs which are hopefully accompanied by fat salaries.
I think of all the commercial ads and the magazines sporting toned bodies and smiling beauties in an effort to get people to spend more money in order to have the people behind the campaigns and behind the products gain more money. The earth has come to revolve around money and all that it implies. But should the world really be so caught up in it? What does money truly mean and where did it all begin? Everyday, mankind encounters a piece of paper with a number printed on it. Is money simply glorified pieces of paper and overrated coins of metal alloy?
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary traces the word money itself back to the 14th century. It comes from a mixed background of cultures from the Middle English moneye, the Anglo-French moneie and the Latin moneta. In an epithet to Juno, a Roman deity, were written the words “Juno Moneta Regina”. Coins were minted and offered at Juno’s temple and money was thus coined from the epithet. The word moneta itself is said to mean “to warn”. Other words that have come to be related to money are cash, moolah, bread, bills, and dough.
The main difference between the word money and these synonyms is the fact that these synonyms usually pertain to currency or the economic component of money. Money, however, can pertain to more than just these aspects. Wealth, for example, is another word that links to another aspect of money. It does not indicate the economic component but rather pertains to the well-being and possession that comes with having money. Although these words are closely related and sometimes even used in place of the word money, they do not provide a clear definition of what money really is.
One textbook definition of money describes it as being a common basis or standard against which commodities and other items considered both capable of being sold or bought can be measured against. With this definition of money comes a prerequisite that it must be something known to all parties concerned in the transaction and something that is in ordinary and everyday use. (Crawford, 5) A similar microeconomic approach to defining money states that regardless of the differences in the acknowledged concepts of money, one crystallization point is the component of inclusion of the currency in circulation.
Thus the currency that is in use in a given location is considered to be money and as a result, all things that are capable substitutes of this currency may also be considered to be money. A popular way by which money is defined is through an analysis of its functions in society. Money, in its most basic and economic sense, has several functions. Foremost, it serves as an instrument of payment. (Bofinger, 11) Money functions as a measure and storer of value.
Because it is designated with a specific worth against which other commodities can be compared with and because it stores this designated worth, it is a way by which individuals are able to settle their transactions. During ancient times, transactions were simple because these were done through bartering. One commodity was swapped for another and there was no need for money. However, as markets were established and more commodities were made available, there grew a need for a more standardized system, a trade system that made use of a common value – money.
Throughout history, different objects were used for money. These included barley, salt, whales’ teeth, cowrie shells, beads, feathers, and even fishhooks. However, the inconvenience of using these forms of money soon became evident and money made out of metal coins with specific values and weights soon became the norm. In the 1800’s, printed paper bills emerged as money in America. (Jordan, 2-5) Today, bank checks and even plastic credit cards are used as forms of money. When one looks at the word money, however, it is inevitable that one goes beyond these traditional and textbook definitions.
Money is not only about economic transactions or about stored and designated values. Money, although at its core is rooted in currency, is not only about financial aspects. When one speaks of money, one speaks of much more than just being able to trade with others and more than just about being able to buy or sell commodities and services. The definition of money, just as its forms, has evolved through time. When one speaks of money, one speaks of power. A person with money is a person with power in this world.
The nations with the most power on the globe are those with the most amounts of money, those whose currencies are the basis for other currencies. Money has then, connotatively, come to mean power. Going back to its synonyms, money has become closer to the meanings of wealth in its real usage as a word in present day society. This may be the reason behind the massive surge of mankind to gain more and more money. Money means power. Money means being part of the elite classes who have been statistically shown to compromise less than half of any given nation’s population.
Yes, money and its functions have given people a new look at its definition. Because money is the way by which all transactions are completed, money thus means the achievement of whatever needs and pleasures an individual may aspire for. Money, as an instrument, is a means to an end. However, in the quest to attain the instrument, it seems it has replaced the goal and has, in conclusion, become the goal itself. Money means the happiness that is linked with a luxurious and opulent life thus money has become equated with happiness. Money is happiness.
Money is power and money is happiness. The power that money gives those who have it in large quantities also bestows upon those individuals god-like abilities. They are able to do as they please and to justify their own actions and conduct with their elevated status, a status given them by their acquisition of money. Thus money means glorified individuality. Money means fame and deity ranking. Thus the formulation of phrases such as “born into money” meaning inheriting a position of wealth or as “on the money” meaning “exactly right”.
The former speaks of the glorified individuality that is attributed to money and the latter speaks of the moral ascendancy that money itself is connected with. However, there are also those who have shunned money. For these individuals, money has come to mean greed and a great gluttony. Money has come to symbolize a yuppie breed of individuals and has thus come to be, for some people, a dirty and vulgar word that is essential in the purchase of commodities but not in the experience of life. There are those who would go so far as to say that money is evil. These present a completely different connotative definition to the word money.
Although money was initially meant to simply be an instrument that would make the undergoing of transactions much more convenient, it has come to be so much more than just that. Money, in itself, is simply a word and a tool. However, when it is dissected and defined it is clear that it is much more than just a store of value or a means of payment. Currency is not only the essential aspect of its definition. In fact, money has become a multidimensional word with so many different meanings that it is impossible to tackle all in just one essay. Money is not as simple as its five letters make it out to be.
Indeed, money has affected the world and mankind in such a great way that it has become the subject of many fields of study. It has determined by itself who sits at the top of the world and who waits below for their share. Money, although simply a tool, has made the world revolve around it that everyone pines for it, works for it, and is not satisfied with only a fair amount of it. If one wishes to see just how important money has become, simply throw a handful of bills out the window and watch passers-by fall over themselves just to be able to grab even one piece of the printed papers.