Someone has just provided a service for us perhaps

Info icon This preview shows pages 5–7. Sign up to view the full content.

Someone has just provided a service for us. Perhaps that service was provided by a large corporation, built with the bits and pieces of cap- ital of literally tens of thousands of investors. The employees have struck their own contracts and agreements with the corporation. The coffee itself comes from Colombia, brought to the United States by a series of independent transport companies and wholesalers who buy their transport equipment from another set of companies. The Styrofoam cup was produced by yet another corporation, which acquired its raw materials from petroleum products suppliers, using equipment built in Japan and Germany by corporations that have their own tens of thousands of investors. If enough cups of coffee are sold, the coffee seller makes a handsome profit. Its stock rises on the exchange. It undertakes a debt-fueled expansion, borrowing the cap- ital of further tens of thousands of savers, while other companies compete for the same limited supply of capital. It employs construc- tion companies, equipment makers, investment bankers, consultants, advertisers. In the end very nearly the entire world, in some way, was cooperatively involved in producing this cup of coffee. The extended order encompasses virtually all of human activity and includes politics and government as well (which can be seen as another kind of cooperation, a necessary component of the extended order). Economics can’t be separated from politics, both of which might be considered a form of anthropology, because the political system is the means by which the citizenry adjusts the operating con- ditions of the extended order. In the nineteenth century, the two weren’t separate, but combined in the study of the political economy. Because money is so vital to the extended order that has made the high productivity and indeed large populations of today possible, it is worth taking a close look at exactly what it is. Modern money very nearly doesn’t exist at all. For small transactions, coins and paper bills are used. The paper’s material value is almost nil, and the coins are GOLD: THE ONCE AND FUTURE MONEY 5
Image of page 5

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

mere tokens that no longer contain precious metals. For larger trans- actions, bank checks are common—nothing but a scrap of paper and a scrawl. Transactions on an institutional scale are almost completely electronic and ephemeral. Money today is mostly just the arrange- ment of bits in computers. Money, in other words, is information. Not a single person knows how the cup of coffee was produced. The system is not planned. The extended order is organized through the use of money. It is far too complex to be arranged by rational thinking—the classic argument against the feasibility of the Stalinist Soviet model. Even the Soviets depended on money to help organ- ize their economy. Through the system of markets and prices, exact real-time information is conveyed about how much coffee to grow, how many Styrofoam cups to produce, the most efficient arrange-
Image of page 6
Image of page 7
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.
  • Spring '12
  • zinctolg
  • stable money

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern