Money: The Universal Language
What is money? Is it a status symbol? It is a means to happiness? Or is it a universal language, beneficial to and understand by all.
Before money, people typically obtained goods by directly trading with one another, through a system of bartering. The first widespread use of a currency took place in 600 BC, in a region of Europe called Lydia, (Modern-day Western Turkey) and the Chinese were the first to devise a system of paper money in roughly 770 B.C.
The direct trade of goods and services through bartering, such as a baker exchanging some bread to a hunter for some meat, has been around since the beginning of civilization. Trades like this can be complicated though, considering the baker and hunter might disagree on how much bread is worth compared to a cut of meat, especially if the relationship continues over time.
The first uses of money were coins, made from precious metals such as silver and gold and were typically stamped with a picture of the ruling party of the country. The acceptance of currency as the medium of exchange saved time and hassle, as traders no longer needed to argue over the value of two objects in an exchange. The sellers knew the gold coins they were receiving were backed by the full faith of their ruling party and were able to set a clear price, even it was still negotiable.
The adoption of paper money first came from the East, with China being the first country in recorded history to adopt a paper currency. When Marco Polo travelled along the silk road, it is reported the Chinese Emperor had a good handled on the money supply and Chinese bills were even inscribed with a warning: “Those who are counterfeiting will be decapitated.”
As the use adoption of paper money spread around the globe, so too did material wealth for humans everywhere. Global marketplaces were made possible as money allowed for strangers to trust one another, trading with currency instead of words.
We tend to associate greed and power with money in the modern world, but the adoption of currency has allowed for people to participate in the marketplace without the fear of being exploited. You do not have to figure out how many steak dinners your Xbox is worth when you sell it on Facebook marketplace, you only have to worry if the buyer has the agreed upon amount of dollars when it comes time to sell.
So, is money the root of all evil? Or is money the most important tool man has ever created?