What is the Meaning of Money?

Sam Young
7 min readJan 20, 2021

Out of the many interesting things that have come out of the pandemic, one issue that I think is going to become increasingly relevant is how people treat the concept of money. More than a few people noticed how the Federal Reserve was able to conjure up trillions of dollars in liquidity seemingly out of thin air at a time when many were and still are agonizing over finding jobs, paying rent, and affording basic necessities. I have noticed heterodox ideas like Modern Monetary Theory, which essentially recommends governments print as much money as they need to pay for social programs, are gaining more traction especially among young people. I am not remotely qualified to discuss such theories, but I don’t think the theory itself is even what appeals to people. Far more important is the question being implied.

What is money, and why do we need it? It seems like every economic theory and discussion of policy begs the question. Pundits can talk about the national debt and the cost of various programs all day long, but it’s difficult to comprehend what any of that even means. Money is an abstraction invented by people, whereas food and labor and shelter are physical realities inextricable from human existence. If Jeff Bezos has as much money as 2.8 million years worth of the average full-time American worker’s income, does that mean he’s such a genius that his contribution is equivalent to that of…

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Sam Young

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.