Chris Lindstrom of the Berkshares local currency responds to the question "What is money?" asked by Aaron Wissner of Local Future during the 2009 American Monetary Institute's Monetary Reform Conference.
Chris Lindstrom: Well, thats a very big philosophical debate. My personal belief is that, if you were to see money as an onion, containing, sort of, different levels or layers of its existence, you start taking away, kind of, the outer layer, which might be, you know, seeing it as kind of a medium of exchange, or like in all these scientific definitions, and then you kind of, you go inside, and you say, oh, its more of an agreement, its more of a social contract, and you might dig in a little deeper What I would my personal belief is, really, when you go to the core of what money is, its just trust. Its belief. To give it a more abstract definition, I would say that its, you could almost say that its unitized trust, or unitized faith, because thats really all that makes money money, is our faith in it, or our faith in the a in our belief in it as a medium of exchange. So thats, I feel like thats kind of its essence, because theres no tangible, or so called intrinsic value in it. Its just, its something that we believe in, and thats what makes it valuable.
So, um, Stephen [Zarlenga] would say that its a social institution, or something that comes into existence through the law, but still, people have to believe in it, in order for it to be real. I mean, just because the government says it is valuable, does not mean that the people will believe that it has value.
So, thats sort of my basic, my personal belief. I would also say that money has a certain, theres something linguistic about it, like it almost has a, is derived from, its a kind of language almost, so thats Its interesting that money, actually, or perhaps you could say it is more of a writing system, or its derived from, or comes out of this same, um, parent, as writing cause actually, when you do your homework, and you look into the anthropological origins of money, you see that writing, that like, the characters that were the, kind of the original form of writing were also used for money, and that they were interchangeable, and so thats kind of revealing in my mind.
So, to break it down, Id say that its kind of a language, its almost a language of trust, its the language of acknowledgement that goes hand in hand with trust, so, I mean, you kind of have to play around with all, all of these different dimensions. I dont know if you can say that, like, money is this one thing, but it kind of comprises all of these different qualities, that make up its essence.