Thursday, January 31, 2013

Definition of Money

There are two common ways to characterize money. The first is the idea that money is a commodity like gold, silver or apples. And like any commodity when the supply increases the value or price declines. The second theory of money stated in my book, Rule of Money, defines money as a coupon equivalent to the work effort expended. Money, in whatever form, equals the work done to earn it.  Money is the physical evidence of earnings obtained by working for someone. It is a chit that can be exchanged for products equal to the value of the service provided to earn it. This right of exchange is guaranteed by law in most countries.

I define the Rule of Money as it must be earned to distinguish it from money created by the Central Banks of the world. I draw this distinction and show in my book that funds that Central Banks create do nothing to increase the wealth of a country unless the money is earned. If this was not the case countries with hyperinflation rates approaching 1,000,000% like Zimbabwe or Hungry and Greece after WWII would be the envy of the world with their currencies denominated in billions and trillions. When currency is stated in a billion or trillion Zimbabwe dollars or Hungarian pengo it is no longer connected to the value of work. It is only a point on an inflationary spiral. At this point money is no longer connected to reality. Money must be grounded in the value of work otherwise it is a meaningless value.

Money is not a new invention. It began as a way for Kings, Pharaohs, Sultans and similar political leaders to increase their wealth. They could make money for less than the value they stamped on the coin. The more they produced the richer they became. Most early inflation occurred when these Princes decided to reduce the thickness of a coin or insert lower valuable minerals during casting, but left the value stamped on the back unchanged. Their attempt to gain some unearned income usually failed. Most of the time this attempt to maintain the value of their coinage while reducing the precious metals inside was rejected by users of the coins resulting in currency inflation. The value of coinage dropped, but still reflected  the market value of the precious metals contained within the coins. If a monarch reduced the silver content by half, the value of the coin lost half its value.

When money is defined as a commodity it is subject to supply and demand pricing. Supply and demand pricing of money allows Central Banks to push the value of money up and down by adjusting interest rates for people or banks that have money. For people and companies that need to borrow money it makes their life more difficult and more expensive. Conversely, when money is defined as a receipt for work it is not affected by changes in interest rates.

Similarly, when money is defined as a commodity it is subject to inflation. The value of money fluctuates up and down with the commodity the currency contains or is redeemable for. On the other hand when money is defined as a receipt for work it is not affected by changes in commodity prices. It is affected by changes in labor rates. This is why in the 2000s inflation was low in western countries and high in Asian countries as labor rates adjusted.

One of the prevailing theories in modern Economics is the assumption that simply increasing the quantity of money in circulation causes inflation. When money is defined as a receipt for work it is not affected by changes in the quantity of money in circulation, because there is a one to one relationship to increasing earning and an increasing quantity of money.  On the other hand, when money is defined as a commodity the quantity of money in circulation is paramount, because an increase in a commodity reduces the overall value of the commodity in circulation. It is the level of supply that determines value. In conventional Economics, if a government increases the quantity of money in circulation the theory states the value of money will fall, because the demand for money is less relative to the supply. Whereas, N Theory states the quantity of money does not matter as long as the money is earned through work. But “unearned” money added to the money supply causes the value of all money to fall. One of the most prevalent kinds of unearned money is sovereign debt. Sovereign debt is unique among all other debt. It is not an investment, but only a promise to repay. It is not backed by an asset or redeemable by acquisition of collateral.
When a Central Bank like the Federal Reserve Bank in the U.S. decides to increase the amount of money in circulation they do so to stimulate business activity, thereby creating more jobs. But by modeling money as a commodity the Fed is constrained by their fear that increasing the amount of money in circulation will cause inflation. On the other hand, if the Fed understood money as only earned revenue according to the rules of N Theory they would not fear inflation. They would expand monetary assets by encouraging new business creation.
The way the Fed defines money affects how they manage the monetary resources of the country. The definition of money affects government policy. When money is considered a commodity the government is in charge of opening and closing the money spigot. Unfortunately, this opening and closing is governed more by a fear of inflation than by the factors of employment or business creation. On the other hand, when money expansion occurs according to N Theory employment is step one. Consequently, the justification for monetary expansion precedes the increase in the money supply effectively preventing currency inflation since there is no excess.

How should money be defined? Money is any object or equivalent electronic notation recorded to an account in a financial institution that is earned through work, and that can be exchanged for different products or services.

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