Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The value of a value

Somehow, I found myself reading this opinion piece about the economy over the weekend. It must have been one of those rabbit hole situations, because I can't say I remember going over to CNN's website, but then there I was.

The essay sparked some horrendous comments from both sides of the political spectrum, enough so that I hesitated to link to it. I'm not at all interested in arguing about who is responsible for getting us here. I will say that though I fall way left of center, it seems to me that the situation has reached the point where we need to be willing cut precious social programs AND raise taxes on the highest income bracket. We may well be past the point of an either/or approach. And as for how we got here, why argue the philosophy behind the construction of the ship while the boat is sinking? Get as many people on the lifeboats as possible, we can figure that out later.

But on to the meaningful stuff. The part of the essay that struck me was the bit about the actual value of money.

Many years have passed since the dollar was backed by gold. Instead, the value we assign to our currency represents a measure of our faith, what we believe it to be worth. This has never been more true than now. Often the value only appears a number on a screen, up then down, in our hands and then out before we've even touched it. Almost a figment of our collective imagination, and yet we spend a large number of our waking hours working to get at it.

But I don't want to chase after something that doesn't exist. I want to pursue real things. Sure, you say, but we need money to get those things. Having money often clears the obstacles. Right. That is the paradox isn't?

Still, I am wondering if a little philosophy change might help, even if it just comes down to semantics. Like the travel experience I want to have is the focus instead of the trip itself, the end goal now twice removed from the money part. I want to live in my neighborhood because of the amazing people. What, besides buying a house here, can secure that? Maintaining these relationships if I have to move down the road a bit. Continuing to rent this house might do it too. So it could be about getting to the heart of whatever it is that I want and sticking to that. And the big part - being open to whatever else there is to get me there.

Moving to Boston on one income has been a stretch for us. On top of that we picked an expensive area. We chose it because of the schools and the 95 commute and the close access to the subway. We wanted those things because of our values - education, leisure time, and access to culture. Of course, all of that comes with a price. An actual dollar amount. So it isn't easy. It is something that stays on my mind. It has also caused me to think about money (and how to get a bigger chunk of it) more than I have in years.

But this money as a theory thing has me wanting to shift my focus. To stop zeroing in on the finances. To move on to thinking about things that have real value. Things that actually exist.


Allison Kruskamp said...

1) Isn't it ironic that humans used to trade things that they knew how to use...shells, horns, game. We don't know how to use those things now so we trade money for a bowl whose route is sterile and indulgent. Meaningless.
2) An airline employee turned writer compared the value of the intangible versus an actual product. Where Americans buy things, Europeans value family and leisure.

Katherin said...

I used my debit card to get gas the other day. The pump started slowing down at 11.02 then stopped at 11.76. Oh yeah, because that's exactly how much money I had in my account. I thought about the transfer from account to gas tank the entire ride home. Like coins were just pouring into the tank.