Ancient text holds key economic insight

Archaeologists recently unearthed some remarkably well-preserved scrolls from a cave in the Jordanian desert.  While many have been translated as key biblical corollaries, I found this one—apparently a simple journal—to be the most enlightening:

I’ve seen much in my twenty-nine years, but even an old man like me can still be surprised.   I speak of this new thing called money.

We were blessed with many sheep this season, more than we need, so I decided to take three of them to the crossroads and trade them for what I could.  I intended to fulfill my wife’s wishes for a new water bucket, a metal scythe, and a barrel of good olive oil.

At the crossroads, a man offered me ten coins for my sheep.  He showed me several round, flat stones with some carvings on them.  I said, what in Jehovah’s name would I do with those?  The man said, anything you want, it’s your money.  I said, my what?  He said, you’re not from around here, are you?

He said, see here, I trade you these coins for your sheep, and you trade them to someone else for something you want.  I said, but why would anyone give me something valuable for these worthless stones?  He said, because they can trade them for something they want.  I said, do you take me for a man drunk on grape?  They’re just stones!  He said, no, they’re money.  You can trade them for whatever you want.  Look around.

He was right.  I saw men trading these stones for tools, and chickens, and pomegranates.  One man even walked off with a bag full of these things without trading them for anything.

I said, now what should happen if that man comes back and people won’t trade him anything for those stones?

He said, that’s the beauty of money, my friend.  People will always trade for it.  It can’t lose its value like a sheep or a pomegranate.  And you can carry a year’s labor in your pocket.

Well, I took that man’s ten coins, and traded them for a new water bucket, a metal scythe, and a barrel of good olive oil, and still had one left over.  I brought it home and showed my wife, and she smacked my ears and called me a stupid old man.  Can you imagine?  A happily married couple like us fighting over something like money!

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