Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ooh, Shiny

The United States Mint has stopped printing buffalo head gold coins. People are hoarding gold. This is the most intelligence defying act since Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president. Granted, intelligence is defied on an almost daily basis lately, but this is bad. People have been talked into hoarding gold because it is alleged to be the standard of financial systems throughout history; the only thing of true, undeniable value.


Gold is valuable because it always has been. Since the earliest recorded days of what passed for civilization, gold has been the material by which wealth has been measured. Tombs were encrusted with it. Untold hundreds of thousands have died in its search, either killed in the quest, or by those questing for it.

What is it about gold that has made it so valuable? Great medicinal power? Physical strength? Is it an aphrodisiac? (No; the wealth it implies is the aphrodisiac.) Gold became valuable to ignorant people no more than three steps removed from apes because it is shiny, and easy to make pretty jewelry with. Period. The practical uses of today's gold were undreamed of in those days. They collected it, paid dearly for it, killed and conquered for it. Because it was shiny.

Want more proof? Even today, when (most of us) will readily agree the earth is round and rotates around the sun, it is a rule of thumb for a man to spend three months' salary on an engagement diamond. The true value of this diamond is nil. Industrial diamonds have some utilitarian value, but they're not used for jewelry. Jewelry diamonds are expensive because they're shiny. They would be of more genuine use if they had remained in their previous form; at least you can heat your house with coal.

For all the talk the current crisis has inspired about what is truly valuable, few are talking about the only three things that have inherent value. Not gold, silver, or even platinum. Not uranium, stocks, or bonds. Not derivatives or real estate. In the end, those are no more valuable than tulip bulbs. The three things that have inherent value in this, and, for us, any other world, are edible food, breathable air, and potable water. That's it.

Ask someone in Somalia if he'd rather have an ounce of gold or a bushel of corn. All other measures of wealth are eventually evaluated by how well they can provide the only three we really need. Wall Street masters of the universe will die in minutes if they can't get a breath of air, no matter how much money they made on their stock options.

Much of the current crisis is due to mankind's inability to remember what is truly valuable. If we don't get a handle on our greed, we may have this lesson proven to us sooner, and more unpleasantly, than we'd like.


Runs with Scissors said...

That's why I'm voting for Obama; he is the shiny, new guy.

Dana King said...

You wouldn't be the only one. Obama may or may not have the answers. At the very least, he'll give us some different mistakes. We've seen how the Republican movie goes, and it doesn't end well.