Metaphorical Money

Now that I have resolved the god debate, ended terrorism, saved a planet (Pluto, not Earth), and found the solution for racism, it is time for me to tackle capitalism-run-amok (and maybe a bit of the global warming problem for good measure.) It should be noted at the start that I go at this topic as a literature and linguistics student. Any knowledge I might have acquired about economics is all selectively self-taught –- and not all that voluntarily, rather out of necessity. Way back when I started teaching English to students of Business and Economics, I hid my lack of knowledge by feigning feigning ignorance. ““I’’m just a language teacher; – why don’t you explain it to me. It will be good for your English” (wink wink).” They were supposed to get the impression that I was just pretending not to know. Over the years I actually did learn a lot about economics from my students and then supplemented my knowledge with information already put through the filter of liberal/progressive bias. If I ever did give my students something to read from mainstream or corporate media, it usually came with the instructions to identify the bullshit arguments and tear them apart.

Over the years of listening to hundreds of debates, it started to occur to me that the way we talk about money –- the idioms and metaphors we use -– have changed over the decades. I started collecting those idioms and metaphors and discovered that they generally fell into three distinct groups. One for each of the three forms any substance can take: solid, liquid, and gaseous. Let me explain.

A hundred or so years ago, money had the physical properties of solids. It was dough or bread. You could hold a big wad of cold hard cash in your hand or jingle the coins in your pocket. You could stockpile money, put it where your mouth is, throw it around, or stuff it in your mattress. Like Scrooge, you could stack up your wealth against someone else’’s or squirrel it away. You could pinch pennies, hold the purse strings, have money to burn or have money burn a hole in your pocket. Money talked.

Then something changed -– maybe it was abandoning the gold standard or deregulation. Who knows? But it seemed that the revved up economic motor got hot and money melted. Liquidity was born and savings turned into cashflow and liquid assets. Companies no longer went broke, they became insolvent. They didn’’t fuse, they merged . A small amount of money was a drop in the bucket. More and you were awash in it. See a good investment? Then “dive in!” Some of the money evaporated. Some of it “trickled down”. But even in its liquid form, there were still some natural barriers to keep money contained; you could pool it, but not for too long, because then it would go stagnant. Money had to keep circulating. And some of those pools had bubbles in them.

The economy heated up a little more and then, in 2008, came the “Great Economic “Meltdown”” – which strikes me as a misnomer. The economy had been melting for a good long while. This was more like the “”Great Economic Vaporization””. We suddenly discovered that money had become a gaseous substance somewhere along the way. At first it had seemed to be everywhere and limitless; you could just breathe it in. You could make money out of thin air. No need to produce anything or do actual work -– let the Chinese do that. We could just buy and resell stuff to make money because it was not connected to anything on the ground anymore. The FIRE economy (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate – in which nothing is actually produced) ascended, while roads, bridges and schools crumbled. But in money’’s new form, it started, like most gases, to rise upward, collecting in the stratosphere. For the 95% of us down here on earth, huge portions of it simply floated away; there was suddenly no financial oxygen around anymore, no cash flowing or trickling, nothing solid or tangible to put in your pocket. Poof. Gone.

What now? As I admitted at the start, I am not an economist -– or a chemist for that matter – but it seems to me there is no way to get all those escaped gasses back. And simply printing more money – as some have suggested – won’’t do anything to reverse the chemical processes that have been set in motion. I think we have to start building things again. Let’’s start with things that keep the planet cool. Like wind turbines. And solar panels. And schools.


One thought on “Metaphorical Money

  1. you’re spot on. This entry should go to Spiegel or Profil, actually.
    You’re on to something with the metaphor changes having to do with first the abandoning of gold standards and later disappearance of it alltogether from the regular peoples pockets into an etheral state, where nobody could get to it anymore (apart from the chosen few).


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