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Money Money Money, Was it Always Sunny?

"Money often costs too much.''

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Humankind began its adventure hundreds of thousands of years ago. Ever since humanity started using its mind to make life easier, it has constantly found new inventions and grown by evolving along the fine line of time. However, thousands of years ago, humanity invented something that changed the course of history and its destiny: Money. It is such a strange 'thing' that can make life easier and harder at the same time, and it is not clear whether it is a poison or a cure. This article will discuss the history of money, the most desired and also the most hated thing in the world.

Image by Gary Dorning /Trumpet.

Understanding money is like holding water. Since it is not known whether money existed before the invention of writing, it is impossible to trace the true origin of its invention. But one thing is known; it existed from the moment mankind moved into organised settlements and began to store grain. Of course, money from that day was not the same as the money that is used nowadays. People were using the barter method to meet their needs. If a pair of shoes were needed, it was necessary to give, in exchange, a sack of apples to the person who made them. However, the system was clogging up after a certain point, as the shoemaker could not accept sacks of apples for every pair of shoes he made. It was always a problem for him to carry them, store them and eat them. Barter was a practice that only worked with small good exchanges.

In this way, barley, wheat, beer (Sumerians), tea (Chinese), and salt (Romans) were converted into currency. For example, the Romans paid soldiers wages with salt; the origin of the word salary comes from here. The first coin in history was minted by the Lydians who lived on the territory of present-day Turkey. These coins were made of a gold and silver mixture and had lion figures on them. Today, when someone says "as rich as Croesus", they are referring to the last Lydian king who minted the first gold coin. These coins were taken by the Persians from the Lydians and then Alexander the Great from the Persians, the latter becoming the richest man in the world besides being the most powerful. Power and money are perhaps intertwined with each other from this point on.

Ancient Coins By Josh Illingworth.

The history of money is also the history of colonialism and capitalism. In the 15th century, Venetians entered the scene as the first capitalists. They bought many products from the Far East, India and the Middle East almost for free, and sold them in Venice and Europe. These capitalists, who used money to make more money, brought a new shape to the history of humankind.

Furthermore, explorations were launched in order to find gold and other valuable materials to get rich. When America was discovered, the land and homes of the natives were confiscated, and from the moment the supply of manpower became insufficient for production, millions of people were brought from Africa by ships and used as slaves. In the 18th century, money was controlling trade between the continents. The analysis of issues such as production and distribution led to the emergence of classical political economic theories, giving birth to classical liberalism. A hundred years later, Karl Marx studied the history of economic production and his thoughts led to the emergence of new regimes and new administrations. Money, which used to be a grain of wheat, was now strong enough to start wars.

Photo by Robert Clare/Taxi/Getty Images.

Thus, the greatest invention of mankind, which entered human society through the barter method, finds itself at the center of everything. Today, it is clear to see that money has not lost its power, on the contrary, it has penetrated the entirety of human life. Money has become a need in all spheres of life, and it is now impossible to live without it. Nowadays it is fair to acknowledge that money also symbolizes power. But does the insatiable love of power, that is, money, really make life easier for us people? Or are we making life difficult for the sake of having it?

As long as money rules people, it is obvious that it will be at the center of human life and its discussions. It would be appropriate to give the last word to the Cree Indians, who had a different perspective on money:

When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned, you will realize that you cannot eat money.”


Image References:

Author Photo

Umut Açıkgöz

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