Big Money

Big Money

(Image found here. Copyright Unknown.)

“Did you know that our staple food is also our currency?” Andy said as he took a big bite of his Big Mac.

I knew, by now, not to say anything for, or against the matter–he’d propound one of his bizarre theories no matter what I thought. Resigning myself mentally for what was to to come, I silently sighed and took a bite out of my Big Mac myself.

“In the Early Times, the currencies of the world were valued on the amount of gold possessed by each country,” he began his ‘impromptu’ lecture.


“Geographical divisions, each with an independent political system,” he explained.

“Sssh! Not so loud!” I hissed. “You can’t use the i-word that freely, dude! You know that!” I whisper-yelled at him, my eyes darting around the canteen to see if anyone had heard his stupid gaffe. Thankfully, most heads were buried in their own, personal Macs – the edible kinds. Assured that we were safe, I closed my eyes in a silent prayer of thanks. Andy, meanwhile, continued his chomping like nothing was wrong.

I swear I feel like strangling him sometimes–but then, I’d be alone for lunch.

“The gold standard was quite effective until one of the countries–”
“Plural of country, an in–”
“Sssh! I get it!” I hissed again, interrupting him before he could carelessly spit the i-word like an offending piece of lettuce stuck between his yellow teeth.

“–one of the countries raked up a debt that was twice its annual income,” he continued, oblivious to my nervous twitches. I was following him more closely–not because I was interested but because I was worried that he might say something stupid.

Then again, what he was saying was beginning to make sense, but I’d rather die than admit it to him. He already had a head that was two sizes too big for his shoulders.

“This country, they just kept adding to their debt until the day came when there was no more debt to be accrued–simply because there was no more money! They couldn’t sell their gold either because they had borrowed all the money there was, leaving not just themselves but the whole world in debt!”

“That doesn’t sound logical at all. If one of them was in debt, someone was owed, right? They could simply foreclose on them, right?”

“True, but the debt also accrued interest over time and this went above and beyond the capital holdings. In a world of money, it doesn’t take too many digits for things to go wrong,” he picked up a fried potato stick and stared at it. “Did you know, these were called French fries?”

“French?” I asked, demonstrating my ignorance again. “French, as in, of or belonging to France, a country from the Early Days,” he lectured tonelessly. Mt ears perked up at the mention of the word ‘country’. Fortunately, the side-discussion-slash-footnote had ended there. The main discussion, however, continued.

“What they realized was, the value of their money was based on the value they attributed to their gold. Gold, back then, was a very precious commodity,” he said slurping his Liquid Happiness.

I found it somewhat ironic that he was expounding the preciousness of gold while drinking through a straw, out of a cup–both of which were made of the very same metal. He must have caught the irony in my look because he hurriedly added, “Of course, this was Early Days – way before the Martian deposits were found.”

“Gold was valued differently by different countries – some flaunted kilos of it on their person and others stored huge blocks in underground safes.”

“So? What difference does that make?”

“A world of difference, apparently. Since gold was valued so differently, the costs were also quite different.”

“You’re not making any sense, you know that, right? Also, what does this discussion have to do with this?” I said pointing at my Big Mac – the object that started the discussion in the first place.

“To answer your questions: a. Let me explain and b. I’m coming to that,” he said coolly, eliciting another silent sigh from yours truly. I nodded and the ‘lecture’ continued.

“Look at this glass,” he said, lifting up his glass of Liquid Happiness. “How much do you think it costs?”
“I dunno. They probably buy it wholesale–a whole bunch of them for a Beem, I’d say.”
“True. Yet, if this glass were to be the glass that your partner had her Liquid Happiness in, during your first courtship period, how much would you pay for it?”
“Ah, in that case, it’d probably be worth a lot more!” I nodded in agreement.
“Similarly, the cost of gold was always offset with the value attributed to the gold. Countries where gold wasn’t available but had a higher value – sentimental or otherwise – usually sold gold at a marginally higher price, the marginal difference being that of the offset, of course.”
“That’s ridiculous!”
“Yet, that is how it was in the Early Days.”
“I can see why the whole thing fell apart. It was fundamentally flawed from the very beginning!”
“Exactly! Somewhere, during the end of the Early Days, a young tyke of a newspaper reporter wrote about how the same food item was priced differently in different countries.”
“There were more than two countries?”
“More than two hundred, if my memory serves me correctly.”
“Anyway, it was only supposed to be a humorous piece describing the disparity in the valuation of currencies–the disparity occurring because they used gold as a standard baseline.”

He slurped the last remnants of his Liquid Happiness and threw the cup and straw into the Recyclable Disposal Unit. I did the same with mine.

“One of the countries seized on the opportunity to stage a revolt against the gold standard baseline. They dissociated themselves with the rest of the world, privately abolished the gold standard and adopted the food item mentioned in the news-piece as their currency standard. It was initially meant as a joke but the idea took off and soon it became a norm. They even nationalized the chain that was responsible for producing the food item. Come to think of it, they did that–the nationalizing, I mean–with a lot of things during that time.”
“Lemme guess, the food item in question was the Big Mac?”
“Hence the name Beem; its just a shortened version of the name – Big Mac.”
“Funny story.”
“Yup. What started as a joke became the foundation for the unification of the world. Countries all over the world were anyway frustrated with the gold standard. They saw the Beem as a release from the financial clutches of the debt-ridden ‘super-powers’ and almost immediately followed suit. The Beem spread like a wyld-fire.”

I could see he was on fire himself. Figuratively speaking, of course. Then again, I was too engrossed in his story, by now, to care.

“Not long after that, one of the space missions revealed that huge deposits of gold-per were found underneath Mt. Olympus on Mars. Some believed that it was a last-ditch effort by the gold-standard consortium to bring back the old standard. They even came up with a smart punchline to sell the idea: ‘Old is Gold’ or something like that.”
“I like that.”
“Yeah, it was good but not as good as the retaliation by the Federation of Beem-standard Countries. They simply reversed the phrase.”
“Gold is Old?”
“Heh. Smart AND funny. I like it better!”
“Exactly what the rest of the world thought. Moreover, the discovery of the gold-deposits eventually worked against the gold-standard.”
“What? How?”
“More gold meant less demand, hence–‘
“–less value. I see it. Simple demand and supply theory.”
“Economics 101,” he said and lifted his gold tray to discard it to the Reusables counter, thus making an emphatic point – if there ever was one.

I wrote this after I read a piece about how the price of a Big Mac was different in different countries. I wondered whether the Big Mac would make a good currency standard and started writing. Feels incomplete, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because most of it is hogwash anyway and I didn’t really want to put my entire ignorance on display – at least some of it should remain hidden, right? ;)

In other news, I am doing the NaNoWriMo again this year but the discipline from last year is missing – my current word count is a measly 2678 words. I hope to do a word-sprint (word-marathon-run?) this Sunday and cover about 9 times that number. I’ll hopefully be up to 25000+ words next week.

Wish me luck. :)