‘Papa, is there anything fun to do in gardening?’
That’s what my four-year-old daughter asked me on Saturday after about half an hour of building a new garden bed in the backyard.
Gardening Australia’s 30-year anniversary program on Friday night inspired me to jump out of bed the next morning with great gusto.
Removing grass really isn’t that fun when you want to be a princess, a pilot and a ballet dancer…
‘Keep digging,’ I said. ‘We might find treasure.’
And shiver me timbers! We did.
Yep — as far Em was concerned, anyway. We dug up an Australian coin from 1950.
The thing was so black and worn that I couldn’t see what value it was. The only thing that I could make out was the year and a marking for King George.
Mind you, I didn’t have much time to inspect it, either. Em ran off to show her Mum — and squirrel it away in her piggy bank.
I was left alone to battle on with the compost and mulching…
What was Australia like 69 years ago? How many hands did that coin pass through? How did it end up buried here? Should I be planting peas at this time of year?
My daughter is only four years old and already knows coins have value.
One wonders what kids will think and learn about money when there are no coins in the economy at all. That day is coming.
Here’s why it might be worth thinking about. Coins remind us that there’s a link between finance and the tangible world of metal, work and sweat.
Gold’s enduring appeal as an asset class, for example, is based on a very real history as money across thousands of years.
Once, a gold coin was a dollar. Not many now know that the banknotes in their wallet were once supposed to merely represent gold. They were certainly not considered money alone.
Those that advocate for a return to gold like the fact that you have to work to get it. You can’t just wish gold into existence.
You have to find it, dig it out and refine it. It takes time. It takes money. That puts a natural limit on the supply in any one year.
It’s a reminder that value and wealth are created through work.
The Santa Claus story: a fool’s game
It’s one reason I’m beginning to hate the role of Santa Claus in Christmas. My daughter thinks presents just appear thanks to this bozo.
No. The hard work of her parents put that nice trampoline over there.
I read a book by author and teacher John Marsden years ago.
He warned against lying to your children over Santa. He also said children are perfectly capable of coming up with their own imaginative games and stories.
They don’t need Christmas. It’s adults that do (not to mention our consumption based economy). My daughter proves his point every day.
Why on Earth did I agree to go along with this idiocy?
Regardless, I blinked when it came to the crunch. We play along with the Santa silliness at our house, even in one full of toys already.
What good does this do anyone anymore? At least in years gone by there were the good teachings of Christ as part of the package. Be kind. Be good. Be grateful.
Gold enthusiasts often add a moral dimension to their advocacy. They say that a credit based money system is an inherently inflationary one.
That brings the attendant vices of gambling, loose behaviour and speculation. Gold puts limits on people in the same way it does on government spending.
All this is to say you cannot separate a society’s money from its culture. The two are linked.
In the age when Romans debased their currency, trust went down alongside the precious metal content in the coins.
The rise of bitcoin says something
Human nature does not change.
Part of the appeal of bitcoin today is clearly linked to the idea of being part of something greater than the individual nation state.
You can spend and received it anywhere, all over the world.
The petty wrangling of local politicians and bankers are immaterial to its success, or otherwise. It’s no surprise the digital currency began in 2009 — in the wake of 2008.
It’s not corruptible in the conventional sense. It can’t be used to promote power by carrying the head of Caesar or King George.
Bitcoin makes no claim, like Westpac, to transgressing a ‘social license’.
It’s interesting to note that critics of bitcoin often point to its potential links to criminality because its outside the direct control of the tax office and government.
But, as the Australian banks clearly show, our current monetary system is hardly pure. That means neither is the culture.
I find it hard to believe the chief bankers and staff in 1950 would have behaved then as they clearly have done now.
The coming digital currencies may be an improvement over coins and notes for convenience and cost.
But if the society underneath is simply self-serving, greedy and ruthless, what good is that?