Some of my favorite people to talk to are economics majors. It’s not because I think they’re smart or I love hearing about Keynesian theory. The truth is, I really like to argue with them — especially about money. My favorite thing to ask them is, “Why can’t we just print more money?” The answer that I (and others who enjoy arguing with them) always get is that inflation would devalue the dollar. Under a government that runs a yearly budget deficit and pumped $3 trillion into the economy last year during the pandemic, I have my reservations about money being real.
One of the first examples of the U.S. changing money for our benefit started during the Great Depression. With banks failing nationwide, people began to hoard their gold to prepare for the worst. This meant that less money was in circulation and made it virtually impossible for the economy to begin again. To stop this, President Roosevelt offered citizens money in exchange for their gold coins, bonds and bullion. This allowed the government to control circulation and dictate the monetary value of gold. However, Nixon’s administration abandoned the gold standard altogether in 1971. It no longer served us to print a fixed amount of money based on a physical standard, so we changed the rules. We changed the concept of money’s impact to best serve interests we deemed most important.
In our society, access to resources and necessities are directly tied to money. I’m not just talking about food, clothing or shelter. Things like leisure activities, safety and preferences are all things that we desire (and deserve to have considered). Everything—from basic necessities to wants and desires—is tied to a person’s ability to receive wages. The more money you print, the less value it has because more people have access to it. The amount of money that is currently circulating is meant to provide it with a certain level of legitimacy so that people feel inclined to use it. Inversely, the less money you print, the more value it has. If we started increasing the amount of money in circulation, people with large sums of money would no longer be the only wealthy people since the dollar wouldn’t mean what it did before. However, people who didn’t have as much money in the past have more to gain because it increases their chances of having access to resources. Decreasing the value of money decreases the legitimacy of the system but not the resources that people are looking for.
There is always an assumption that average people can’t understand the complexity of economic systems. I would argue that it’s that lack of knowledge that elites rely on to exploit people. For example, take the 2008 housing market crash: people with poor credit were applying and being approved for loans by large banks. They didn’t know that their misfortunes were being taken advantage of by banks looking to make a quick buck. By the end of the housing crisis, big banks were recovered while families were left picking up the pieces.
This isn’t to say that eliminating the use of money will stop greed. Resource hoarding would more than likely still exist without money. What it does mean is that the power complex that wealthy people use to justify hoarding resources would no longer exist. Money exists to serve those who have it, and it shouldn’t be left up to people who have little to lose by changing it.
By Aminah Jenkins, Associate Editor