Monthly Archives: January 2014

What is money?

Cash, bread, scratch, funds, greenbacks, and my favorite from my friend Ian, “Fun Vouchers” are all nicknames for that stuff of which most of us wish we could collect more.

But what is it really?  Where does it come from?  Perhaps most importantly, why does it seem to buy less and less as time goes on?

After helping create and then helping operate the most popular “Honest Money” website ( for over ten years, I’ve been researching, discussing, debating, arguing, and explaining simple economic concepts for some time.  

When one is surrounded by really smart people, discussing topics of mutual interest, and nearly constantly expanding one’s own knowledge about those topics, it’s easy to forget that there are many people who are new to the subject.

The subject today is money.

While there have been many commodities used as a medium of exchange over the millennia, gold and silver remain the gold standard (pun intended).  Both have a stable level of rarity, a definite (if somewhat variable) cost of production (digging it out of the ground, minting coins, etc.), and let’s face it, homo sapiens like shiny stuff!
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During our otherwise heavenly 18 months living on the remote Indonesian island of Sulawesi, my youngest son, Nathan (7 years), was struggling to stay out of trouble with his teacher in the small company-operated school.  I think there were three or four kids in his third grade class.

Another kid in the class was one of those who likes to stir the pot, to provoke other kids when the teacher isn’t looking in order to enjoy watching his classmate take the heat.  Nathan’s somewhat pugilistic personality was easy fodder for this closet bully’s games.  He would consistently be in trouble with the (downright saintly) teacher because it was Nathan’s reactions, not the other kid’s provocations, that were getting noticed.

I came upon an idea one day and decided to tell Nathan about an “old time hockey player” named Gordie Howe.  This master of deception would goad younger players with an elbow here, heal of the stick there, or even the back of a hand to the nose, etc., all when he knew the referee wasn’t looking.  Oftentimes, he could provoke one of these young hotheads into taking a swing at him or to commit some other prohibited act that would land him in the penalty box and gain an advantage for Mr. Howe’s team in the form of a “power play.”

Nathan is all about the “life is a game” concept and the “spirit of play”  so I suggested that the problem in school was a game and that his classmate was winning.

“Do you want to win, Nathan?”

“Yeah, Daddy, yeah!”
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As I am about to embark on a half-round the world journey in the role of  passenger (and also since I’m stuck on an unexpected overnight with nothing but a pilot costume and an iPad), it seems like a good time to share an observation I’ve made about travelers and their luggage.

This imminent trip will put me over a million miles as a passenger/customer just on my favorite airline.  That and the last 13 years alternating as an airline pilot and a VIP charter pilot has found me trying to occupy the same space as somebody else’ luggage often enough to draw a conclusion.

The occasional traveler will often overpack, especially those who are obsessed with having multiple matching shoe options for the six outfits they brought for the weekend.   Their travel adventures are simply not frequent enough (or painful enough) to impel them to pack, as well as equip themselves, to travel more lightly.

Backpack travelers are usually packed in fairly compact and, I presume, reasonably light packages.  Actually how austere their lifestyle is on the road, I don’t profess to know but I seldom see any really giant backpacks.  When I do, I chuckle and think that it will surely be lighter by the time they get home!

Seasoned business travelers and those who travel for a living (such as airline crews) are usually packed pretty light, knowing exactly how many pairs of underwear and socks are necessary for the length of the trip and they know how to mix and match outfits to maximize space and minimize weight.  Oh you still sometimes run across the multiple matching shoes crowd who diligently keep their fashion ducks in order and it’s OK because Continue reading

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