Warning: this content is older than 365 days. It may be out of date and no longer relevant.

Money is based only on faith

I had the terrific experience of speaking in front of high school students today, and the part that I think disturbed them most was the opening discussion about money and where it comes from. It’s unsettling to a lot of people to realize that money – currency – has no intrinsic value. Its value is entirely based on the faith you have in it and the government that’s backing it, as well as the faith of the vendors from who you buy stuff.

Once upon a time, money had backing and intrinsic value. You could redeem a United States dollar bill for a dollar’s worth of silver or gold, albeit a small amount, and thus the money had intrinsic value. Today, it’s only a medium of exchange, as there’s no store of value any longer. Your money is worth only what you think it’s worth, and more importantly, only what others think it is worth. Ask anyone in the currency exchange markets just what the worth of a dollar is relative to other currencies in the world.

At the end of the day, if there ever was a serious crisis of confidence in the US dollar, it wouldn’t matter whether you were a pauper or Bill Gates – your money would be worth the exact same amount – the paper it’s printed on. Ask anyone still alive who survived the Weimar Republic, when citizens burned Deutschmarks to keep warm, so low was their value. History was not kind to the Weimar Republic or what came after – a dictatorship led by a guy with a scrubby mustache who gave us a second World War.