What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

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Dlaw
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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Dlaw » January 25th, 2018, 4:44 pm

Frost wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 9:21 pm
Dlaw wrote:
January 23rd, 2018, 8:54 pm


First, you have to remember that Mises/Hayek are a direct, point-for-point reaction to Marx.

So, their theory of money comes from Marx's commodity theory. It's functionally the same.

What Marx, Hayek and Mises didn't understand (because it wasn't really part of their purview) was two things:

First, the terrible economic cost of using physical specie as compared to bank balances.





https://www.frbatlanta.org/-/media/docu ... wp9911.pdf


Once this change was made, money (qua gold) became less and less important and obviously bank ledgers dominated as they do today (as the basis for ultra-high-speed exchange). So the downfall of gold's exorbitant privilege began during the era of gold-based banking.
What does this have to do with the Regression Theorem?
The regression theorem (AKA "commodity equivalence") is just based on a false premise.

We can see that when the value of gold specie goes DOWN as bank balances become the important means of payment intermediation.

Bank balances are not a continuation of a barter technology any more than semiconductors are a continuation of analog tube technology.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Dlaw » January 25th, 2018, 4:49 pm

Bank balances are a digital technology. Gold is a physical substance.

Saying that gold determines bank balances is like saying that all the world's instances of Microsoft Excel are just adding up sums that are on abacuses somewhere.

It's not even wrong. It's just a non sequitur.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Dlaw » January 25th, 2018, 4:53 pm

I know bankers.

They don't even think about gold, the gold price, gold volumes, ETF volumes - it has nothing to do with their book of business.

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Frost
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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Frost » January 25th, 2018, 4:57 pm

The Regression Theorem is about how money got it's value. I don't see how any of what you said is relevant to this. It is not claiming that current money is based on gold.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Dlaw » January 25th, 2018, 11:12 pm

Frost wrote:
January 25th, 2018, 4:57 pm
The Regression Theorem is about how money got it's value. I don't see how any of what you said is relevant to this. It is not claiming that current money is based on gold.
Yes, but as I say, the proper analogy is between Microsoft Excel and the abacus.

Did spreadsheets get their value from the abacus because there is overlap in their functions?

In fact, money gets its value from credit and taxation. Think about it. There was a time before gold-based bankers would give letters of credit and there was a time after. In that time period, those bankers came to hold much LESS gold against their liabilities - LESS gold.

So clearly it was not the gold that secured the liabilities, it was the bookkeeping.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Frost » January 25th, 2018, 11:38 pm

Dlaw wrote:
January 25th, 2018, 11:12 pm

Yes, but as I say, the proper analogy is between Microsoft Excel and the abacus.

Did spreadsheets get their value from the abacus because there is overlap in their functions?

In fact, money gets its value from credit and taxation. Think about it. There was a time before gold-based bankers would give letters of credit and there was a time after. In that time period, those bankers came to hold much LESS gold against their liabilities - LESS gold.

So clearly it was not the gold that secured the liabilities, it was the bookkeeping.
Money gets its value from credit and taxation? Could you please explain how that works?

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Frost » January 28th, 2018, 1:47 pm

Dlaw wrote:
January 25th, 2018, 11:12 pm
In fact, money gets its value from credit and taxation.
Perhaps my response was missed, but I am curious how this is supposed to work. If this were the case, how could a monetary system ever fail?

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Frost » March 10th, 2018, 3:14 pm

Since this has apparently been dropped, I would like to explain a bit about what money is and its origin.

A long time ago, man would trade items with his fellow man. I will create overly simple examples just to keep this simple. In a small village, one man raises chickens that lay eggs, and he may take his eggs and trade for some milk from another member of the village. The man that produces milk may trade his milk with the man that makes pottery to store his milk, and so on.

As such a group increases in complexity, it begins to be more and more difficult to trade in this manner. How many eggs are necessary to trade for the services of a group of men that will build you a barn? What if they do not want eggs but rather want milk and grain? The person would have to go to the men that produce milk and grain and attempt to trade his eggs for them. He may get milk but not grain, since the main that produces grain in fact wants some cabbage. The point ought to be clear. In order to facilitate exchanges, a common medium of exchange will begin to emerge. It may be salt to begin with, and this helps to facilitate exchanges because more people are commonly interested in salt. However, as the budding economy grows in wealth and complexity, such a medium of exchange may no longer serve the desired purpose. Perhaps it is inconvenient to use, perhaps it has become more plentiful and its value is fluctuating too much, etc. Perhaps they choose a medium of exchange that has much better qualities. Let's use gold as an example, since it did become the common medium of exchange in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Its value is not as subject to rapid changes in value due to its scarcity, its slow increase from mining (we will ignore the vast influx of gold into Spain with the conquest of the Americas for simplicity sake), slow consumption due to low commodity consumption, it does not oxidize, and is readily identifiable, etc. Gold now is used as a virtuously universally accepted medium of exchange and can now facilitate any economic exchange.

Avoiding issues of fiduciary media, we can imagine that people don't wish to carry gold coins with them everywhere, particularly for large transactions. They may introduce gold certificates which function as a money substitute that can be immediately redeemed for gold at par. In effect, the pieces of paper are treated as gold due to their essentially being a title to a certain sum of the gold.

Perhaps through money substitutes, what is known as credit money may emerge, which is essentially a bank loaning out more money than it in fact has. This eventually may lead to the desire to disassociate the new credit money from gold entirely in order to inflate the money supply. This results in fiat money as is found in all modern civilizations today.

This fiat money has its value from past exchanges, which was linked to gold, and gold to its commodity use which could theoretically be traced back to the initial barter exchanges described earlier. This is the Regression Theorem. Money prices are not a measure of value, since in an exchange, a person exchanges a specific sum of money for a specific quantity of a good because he values the good more than the money and the seller values the money more than the good. This is the double negative valuation that occurs in every voluntary economic exchange. In this way, the value of money is never neutral. It fluctuates because there is a demand for money, which is why hoarding is never harmful economically. The quantity of money is irrelevant to its function of a medium of exchange.

That's all that money is. It is a medium of exchange to facilitate economic transactions. The fact that it is now represented by 1s and 0s does not change any of this. However, fiat money is dangerous because it has no set value, and it is able to be manipulated by the central banks and government as all modern nations see today. Hopefully this helps to demystify what money is.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Londoner » March 11th, 2018, 6:23 am

I know the idea that money arose from barter is the usual story, but I am skeptical.

What commodity could serve as proto-money? We want something to act as a reasonably stable store of value, but no commodity can do this. Gold is especially unsuitable; if there is an overall lack of some important commodity then gold loses its value. To put it crudely, if there is a famine, then you will swap any amount of gold for a loaf of bread.

Money only works if you can be sure that everything you need is available to buy. It goes with societies where people are secure enough to give up growing their own food and take up specialist jobs. Those sorts of societies have central authorities who organise things, ensuring that the system keeps running. So I would argue that all currencies are fiat currencies, in that people's trust in any form of money will always depend on their faith in the strength of the state they live in.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Frost » March 11th, 2018, 9:48 am

Londoner wrote:
March 11th, 2018, 6:23 am
What commodity could serve as proto-money? We want something to act as a reasonably stable store of value, but no commodity can do this. Gold is especially unsuitable; if there is an overall lack of some important commodity then gold loses its value. To put it crudely, if there is a famine, then you will swap any amount of gold for a loaf of bread.

Money only works if you can be sure that everything you need is available to buy. It goes with societies where people are secure enough to give up growing their own food and take up specialist jobs. Those sorts of societies have central authorities who organise things, ensuring that the system keeps running. So I would argue that all currencies are fiat currencies, in that people's trust in any form of money will always depend on their faith in the strength of the state they live in.
There have been various commodity monies that were used throughout history in the world, but gold and silver became the most popular and the most stable. Money only makes sense in a market economy, and a market economy is where there is a division of labor which increases the efficiency of work (Law of Association). There are no central authorities necessary for this to function.

If the market system breaks down because of a large enough disaster, sure, the monetary system will also not function, but that doesn't change that money is a medium of exchange within a market economy with the division of labor. If there is a not so severe disaster, money still functions as a medium of exchange, but you are right that someone may value food more than any money they may have. That is the point of money, particularly in disaster situations, where the price of food would increase and people are willing to pay it because they value the food more highly than the money used in exchange for it.

Governments historically attempt to alter the value of money. Throughout the history of specie use in Europe, kings have clipped coins or mixed them with less precious metals and attempt to declare the value to be the same, but people are not fooled for long. The specie is still valued based on previous exchanges and the value of money adjusts in exchanges and prices go up. It still serves as a medium of exchange, but the king profits at the expense of his subjects.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Londoner » March 11th, 2018, 2:51 pm

How do we know gold and silver have been any more stable than anything else? Measured against what? If the price of a penny loaf rises to twopence, has the value of bread doubled or the value of a penny halved?

I would not agree that you can have a division of labour, or markets, without central authorities. At the very least, if one creates more than one can personally use of anything, one needs security. One also needs a way to arbitrate and enforce contracts. No individual can do that; you need an authority. Hello taxes.

I think that the debasement of money was quite subtle. As King, if I owe people money then it is in my interest to reduce the real value of money. But if I am owed money, the reverse is the case. So I try to do both. If people owe me money they have to pay in a special currency that I can make sure retains its value. It doesn't have to be a real coin, just a unit of account. So, here we have a currency that contains no bullion, nor can it be exchanged in the market, yet is still valuable. Why is it valuable? Because if you don't acquire enough to pay your taxes you know I will send some heavies round to help you sort out your priorities! So, long before modern paper currencies, the value of money was a function of state power.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Frost » March 11th, 2018, 3:05 pm

Londoner wrote:
March 11th, 2018, 2:51 pm
How do we know gold and silver have been any more stable than anything else? Measured against what? If the price of a penny loaf rises to twopence, has the value of bread doubled or the value of a penny halved?
It is the quantity of the money that matters. That is how stability is maximized as a medium of exchange. However, money is not neutral and its value fluctuates, but this is a consequences of individual subjective valuations that result in economic transactions, not fluctuations that occur as a result of inflation.
Londoner wrote:
March 11th, 2018, 2:51 pm
I would not agree that you can have a division of labour, or markets, without central authorities. At the very least, if one creates more than one can personally use of anything, one needs security. One also needs a way to arbitrate and enforce contracts. No individual can do that; you need an authority. Hello taxes.
This occurred historically in Europe. There were no central authorities and that's where markets were born and trade across many nations. In Anglo-Saxon areas, common law, private arbitration, etc. all occurred. While I do believe in government authority, I don't see the relevance to taxation and money. Whether a government taxes or not does not change that money is a medium of exchange and that gold is the best standard for money.
Londoner wrote:
March 11th, 2018, 2:51 pm
I think that the debasement of money was quite subtle. As King, if I owe people money then it is in my interest to reduce the real value of money. But if I am owed money, the reverse is the case. So I try to do both. If people owe me money they have to pay in a special currency that I can make sure retains its value. It doesn't have to be a real coin, just a unit of account. So, here we have a currency that contains no bullion, nor can it be exchanged in the market, yet is still valuable. Why is it valuable? Because if you don't acquire enough to pay your taxes you know I will send some heavies round to help you sort out your priorities! So, long before modern paper currencies, the value of money was a function of state power.
No, the value of money is still dictated by individual economic transactions. If governments could actually change the value of money, why do you think your country got into so much trouble post World War 1 when it tried to restore its money to what it was before the war? It had to attempt to manipulate European countries and plead to the U.S. to inflate our money in order to prevent Gresham's Law from operating in Britain. We did, but your economy still retracted as needed to restore the value established by actual economic transactions. This helped to lead to the Great Depression in the U.S., by the way, which the mishandled of by Hoover and F.D.R. led to a nice world recession. Why all this if the government can just say the currency is worth what it wants it to be? Simply because they cannot do that because that is not how economic transactions occur. The value of money is established in transactions.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Londoner » March 12th, 2018, 6:22 am

Frost wrote:
March 11th, 2018, 3:05 pm
It is the quantity of the money that matters. That is how stability is maximized as a medium of exchange. However, money is not neutral and its value fluctuates, but this is a consequences of individual subjective valuations that result in economic transactions, not fluctuations that occur as a result of inflation.
Surely the same can be said of anything. If the quantity of grain or wool or pork fluctuates, so does its value. We normally use the word 'inflation' about money, but the same thing occurs in any economic relationship. If there is a glut of fish, then if you want to exchange fish for apples (either by barter or through the intermediary of money) then the cost of apples will be 'inflated' in terms of fish.
This occurred historically in Europe. There were no central authorities and that's where markets were born and trade across many nations. In Anglo-Saxon areas, common law, private arbitration, etc. all occurred. While I do believe in government authority, I don't see the relevance to taxation and money. Whether a government taxes or not does not change that money is a medium of exchange and that gold is the best standard for money.
I would have to disagree. There have always been authorities and they said who could or couldn't hold a market and on what terms. They also administered the law; that was their whole function. When authority collapsed, for example in a prolonged war, so did trade.

As I wrote earlier, the importance of stable government is that it ensures there is going to be some goods available to exchange your money for. If I am afraid that there will be no food to buy this winter, what use will having a bag of shiny metal be? In times where there is the possibility of real scarcity, the authorities will force food producers to bring their food to the market. If they didn't, then society would collapse as everyone would give up their jobs to become hunter-gatherers - or criminals.
No, the value of money is still dictated by individual economic transactions. If governments could actually change the value of money, why do you think your country got into so much trouble post World War 1 when it tried to restore its money to what it was before the war?
But that is not money in the sense we are discussing above.

The problem the UK government had after WW1 was they were deeply in debt and could not balance the budget without further depressing the economy. That was the 'trouble'. As a response to that trouble, maintaining the exchange rate of the pound had some advantages and some downsides. So did devaluation.
It had to attempt to manipulate European countries and plead to the U.S. to inflate our money in order to prevent Gresham's Law from operating in Britain. We did, but your economy still retracted as needed to restore the value established by actual economic transactions. This helped to lead to the Great Depression in the U.S., by the way, which the mishandled of by Hoover and F.D.R. led to a nice world recession. Why all this if the government can just say the currency is worth what it wants it to be? Simply because they cannot do that because that is not how economic transactions occur. The value of money is established in transactions.
Sorry, I do not recognise that as history.

I have not suggested that a government can 'just say the currency is worth what it wants it to be'. On the contrary, I am saying it is a commodity like any other.

I have no disagreement that 'the value of money is established in transactions' but it seems to beg the question in that 'transactions' is so unspecific and so is 'money'. For example, the value of having a dollar note to me now (in the UK) is made up of my expectation of future exchange rates between the pound and the dollar, which in turn depend on my guess of future economic events. But having a physical note means I am not earning any interest, the amount of interest offered again being a function of expectations of the economy. And so on. In other words, the value of that dollar depends on.... 'everything'! Nothing is 'established'

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Frost » March 12th, 2018, 12:23 pm

Londoner wrote:
March 12th, 2018, 6:22 am
Surely the same can be said of anything. If the quantity of grain or wool or pork fluctuates, so does its value. We normally use the word 'inflation' about money, but the same thing occurs in any economic relationship. If there is a glut of fish, then if you want to exchange fish for apples (either by barter or through the intermediary of money) then the cost of apples will be 'inflated' in terms of fish.
Yes, and the point is to have a medium of exchange that has a stable quantity in order to minimize fluctuations in value. This allows a pricing system and calculation method to arise which is necessary for a market economy. This cannot occur with something whose values fluctuate wildly due to frequent significant changes in quantity, and a market economy could not emerge with such a medium of exchange since economic calculation could not be possible.
Londoner wrote:
March 12th, 2018, 6:22 am
I would have to disagree. There have always been authorities and they said who could or couldn't hold a market and on what terms. They also administered the law; that was their whole function. When authority collapsed, for example in a prolonged war, so did trade.
You said a “central authority.” There was no European empire after the fall of the Roman empire. Of course there was always some sort of authority, but you said central. While I agree that a government can help to secure stable market conditions, when they attempt to control the market, who gets to sell, etc., they will hamper and undermine the market system.
Londoner wrote:
March 12th, 2018, 6:22 am
As I wrote earlier, the importance of stable government is that it ensures there is going to be some goods available to exchange your money for. If I am afraid that there will be no food to buy this winter, what use will having a bag of shiny metal be? In times where there is the possibility of real scarcity, the authorities will force food producers to bring their food to the market. If they didn't, then society would collapse as everyone would give up their jobs to become hunter-gatherers - or criminals.
If there was a food scarcity do you really think that food producers are just sitting on food stores and not selling them? That makes no sense. Sellers sell their products, and they have even more incentive to sell them if they’re scarce because the price goes up. No government can help in this regard. However, if the government institutes a price control, you can bet there will be a shortage. The best bet is for the government to stay out.
Londoner wrote:
March 12th, 2018, 6:22 am
The problem the UK government had after WW1 was they were deeply in debt and could not balance the budget without further depressing the economy. That was the 'trouble'. As a response to that trouble, maintaining the exchange rate of the pound had some advantages and some downsides. So did devaluation.
No, the trouble was caused by their inflation of the currency and then trying to re-establish the pre-war value for the currency, and the point is you can’t do that because that is not how the value of money works. It cannot be established by government decree.
Londoner wrote:
March 12th, 2018, 6:22 am
Sorry, I do not recognise that as history.
What is that even supposed to mean? That’s the economic and monetary history of that period.
Londoner wrote:
March 12th, 2018, 6:22 am
I have not suggested that a government can 'just say the currency is worth what it wants it to be'. On the contrary, I am saying it is a commodity like any other.
What is the commodity use of your current paper money? Kindling? Bedding for pet hamsters?
Londoner wrote:
March 12th, 2018, 6:22 am
I have no disagreement that 'the value of money is established in transactions' but it seems to beg the question in that 'transactions' is so unspecific and so is 'money'. For example, the value of having a dollar note to me now (in the UK) is made up of my expectation of future exchange rates between the pound and the dollar, which in turn depend on my guess of future economic events. But having a physical note means I am not earning any interest, the amount of interest offered again being a function of expectations of the economy. And so on. In other words, the value of that dollar depends on.... 'everything'! Nothing is 'established'
A transaction is an explicit praxeological concept. There is either an exchange of property title or there is not. There is no partial exchange. This is determined by a double negative subjective valuation on the part of each party to the exchange. Money is the commonly accepted medium of exchange.

A dollar only earns no interest in a progressing economy due to inflation, but otherwise it would. The value is established in the subjective valuation of each individual person, but it is obviously influenced by the buying power established as the social average on the market which is based on past average social valuations. This value of money is described in Mises’ Regression Theorem as described earlier.

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Re: What is Money? (Note: potentially wonkish)

Post by Londoner » March 13th, 2018, 6:44 am

Frost wrote:
March 12th, 2018, 12:23 pm
Yes, and the point is to have a medium of exchange that has a stable quantity in order to minimize fluctuations in value. This allows a pricing system and calculation method to arise which is necessary for a market economy. This cannot occur with something whose values fluctuate wildly due to frequent significant changes in quantity, and a market economy could not emerge with such a medium of exchange since economic calculation could not be possible.
You miss my point that nothing has value in isolation, just 'in itself'. The value of gold is only in what it can be exchanged for. That value is not stable, prices change, depending on the supply and demand for commodities.
You said a “central authority.” There was no European empire after the fall of the Roman empire. Of course there was always some sort of authority, but you said central. While I agree that a government can help to secure stable market conditions, when they attempt to control the market, who gets to sell, etc., they will hamper and undermine the market system.
And after the Roman Empire collapsed trade suffered. Later, Europe had Kings and with stability trade returned. If at any time an area of Europe lacked any sort of central authority to maintain order then trade collapsed.

How would you feel about setting up your market stall in the badlands of Afghanistan? Nobody controlling the market there, so is the economy flourishing? Or would you prefer London or New York, where you have policemen, courts, trading standards etc.?
If there was a food scarcity do you really think that food producers are just sitting on food stores and not selling them? That makes no sense. Sellers sell their products, and they have even more incentive to sell them if they’re scarce because the price goes up. No government can help in this regard. However, if the government institutes a price control, you can bet there will be a shortage. The best bet is for the government to stay out.
If you think you are going to starve this winter, would you exchange your stock of food for bits of paper or bits of shiny metal? You only sell your product if you have a surplus - and (more important) if you can exchange it for something better. In a famine, there is no store of value better than food, so the incentive is to hoard.

Even without natural events like famines, there is often a good reason for producers not selling their goods in the market. If you can corner the market, then you can create a scarcity and drive up prices and profits and also establish a stability of income. Again, you need governments to prevent this.
What is that even supposed to mean? That’s the economic and monetary history of that period.
I disagree. I do not think your description of the situation of the UK after WW1 or your explanation for the Great Depression are correct.
Me: I have not suggested that a government can 'just say the currency is worth what it wants it to be'. On the contrary, I am saying it is a commodity like any other

What is the commodity use of your current paper money? Kindling? Bedding for pet hamsters?
I do not see how that reply is connected to what I wrote.

As for money, you are using 'commodity' in a very restricted way. The value of paper money is (a) that it is a claim on the goods and services of the nation that issues it and (b) it is a very liquid instrument. So, the value of that piece of paper money is a function of the economic health of the nation that printed it (and thus changes) and also you are paying a price for the liquidity in that you are not getting any interest.
A transaction is an explicit praxeological concept. There is either an exchange of property title or there is not. There is no partial exchange. This is determined by a double negative subjective valuation on the part of each party to the exchange. Money is the commonly accepted medium of exchange.
If it is only about an exchange of property title then you might as well leave money out of it entirely. No need for money to do that.

To conclude with the sentence saying that money is a medium of exchange is fine, but this thread is a discussion of how it performs that function, now and historically.
A dollar only earns no interest in a progressing economy due to inflation, but otherwise it would. The value is established in the subjective valuation of each individual person, but it is obviously influenced by the buying power established as the social average on the market which is based on past average social valuations. This value of money is described in Mises’ Regression Theorem as described earlier.
The dollar earns interest because it is no longer your property; you have lent it to somebody else. The interest is the rent they pay for use of your dollar. The longer you lend it for, and the ease with which you can ask for it back, determines the amount of interest you will get. The interest will also be determined by the future risk that you won't get paid back at all, also by the anticipated future purchasing power of the dollar, and by the anticipated return on whatever the borrowed dollar is invested in (so also based on expectations of the economic future).

So I do not see what 'the value of money' could mean. Because the lender has different expectations to the borrower, and because the lender is in a different situation to the borrower, the value of the dollar is different for each of them, (just as the value of a sack of coffee beans or a flat in Hong Kong or anything else is different to different people.) If the value was the same for everyone there would be no trade. We could do a sum of what everyone was willing to pay for a commodity and take the average, but how would that be useful?

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