Tag Archives | Money

The Incan Empire: Wealth Without Money

picchuFor students of economics and ancient civilizations alike, the strange economy of the Incan Empire is fascinating. Annalee Newitz writes for io9:

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Inca Empire was the largest South America had ever known. Rich in foodstuffs, textiles, gold, and coca, the Inca were masters of city building but nevertheless had no money. In fact, they had no marketplaces at all.

Centered in Peru, Inca territory stretched across the Andes’ mountain tops and down to the shoreline, incorporating lands from today’s Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru – all connected by a vast highway system whose complexity rivaled any in the Old World. The Inca Empire may be the only advanced civilization in history to have no class of traders, and no commerce of any kind within its boundaries. How did they do it?

Many aspects of Incan life remain mysterious, in part because our accounts of Incan life come from the Spanish invaders who effectively wiped them out.

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Rich People Feel Poor If They Have Less Than $5 Million

wealthyVia ThinkProgress, a survey of investors reveals the self-perception of the affluent in our deeply unequal society. More than two-thirds of millionaires do not feel that they are wealthy, and two-fifths of those with more than $5 million still feel non-wealthy:

Rich investors say that it takes at least $5 million to feel wealthy, according to a new investor sentiment report from UBS.

They also define being wealthy not as having a certain amount of money, but having “no financial constraints on what they do.” That does indeed likely come with a large price tag.

The inflation of how much the rich thinks it takes to be rich comes at a time of skyrocketing income inequality. The good news for the uber rich is that less than 20 percent have a pessimistic view of the long-term economic outlook. That differs sharply from the general population, as half of Americans say the economy is getting worse.

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The Danger Of Putting A Price On Everything

market societyVia Motherboard, Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel on our slide toward a market society:

In recent decades we’ve been in the grip of market faith, which says that markets are the primary instrument for achieving the public good. This assumption has gone largely unquestioned in the past 30 years. As a result from that we have drifted from being a market economy to being a market society.

A market economy is a valuable tool for organizing productive activity. A market society, on the other hand, is a place where everything is up for sale, in which money and market values begin to dominate every aspect of life. From family and personal relationships to health, education, civic life, and politics. We need to step back and ask some fundamental questions about what the role of money and markets should be.

Utilitarianism assumes that all good things in life can be translated into a single uniform currency or a measure of value, typically money.

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PayPal And SETI Are Working On An Off-Planet Currency

off-planet currencyEarthly problems are being spread to outer space. The International Business Times reports:

On Thursday, the online payment giant PayPal announced PayPal Galactic, a collaboration with the SETI Institute aimed at developing new payment systems for the final frontier. The frontier is here: Virgin Galactic is launching its first public flight this Christmas, and space hotels could be in orbit around Earth as early as 2016.

“As space tourism programs are opening space travel to ‘the rest of us,’ this drives questions about the commercialization of space,” PayPal President David Marcus said. “One thing is clear: We won’t be using cash in space.”

There are lots of questions about what form a space-friendly money system might take. Will spaceships and habitats have the communications technology needed to transfer money? How will banks manage accounts for people living off-planet? How will government financial regulations pertain to people in space (perhaps to curtail a new kind of “offshore banking”)?

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Study Suggests Thinking About Money Causes Immoral Behavior

thinking about moneyEven thinking about money causes immoral behavior? A reminder to keep your thoughts clean via MarketWatch:

People are more likely to lie or make immoral decisions after being exposed to money-related words, according to researchers from Harvard and the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business who published a report last month.

The findings show that “even if we are well intentioned, even if we think we know right from wrong, there may be factors influencing our decisions and behaviors that we’re not aware of.”

The study asked college students studying business to make sentences out of various word clusters before answering questions and playing several games. Some of the phrases contained a financial focus such as “She spends money liberally,” and others that were neutral, such as “She walked on grass.” Researchers found that people who were exposed to the financial phrases lied more often in subsequent activities.

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VICE Sells Out Music “Journalism” for Cash Money

Limp-Bizkit_haterOkay, now it should be stated that I love the website Vice. I do. The fact that a pop culture youth media site does better overseas journalism regarding things like the American war machine than actual media outlets these days is beyond mind blowing and creepy. Unfortunately, it is exactly because of their influence on the youth media market that their recent turn as PR men for aging, culturally irrelevant millionaire rock stars is so unbelievably disappointing. The gripe about so called hipster music coverage is that they only cover the bands that their writers or friends are fucking (usually pretty accurate), but you know, at least back in the day they were apparently fucking creative people with talent.

Not anymore, in the last month they’ve just started reporting on richie rich bands solely because of money. As mentioned, what’s even skeezier about this turn is that they’re doing it in an obviously calculated attempt to rebrand successful musicians perceived by the public as tragically uncool, and it makes perfect sense.… Read the rest

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Why The “Financial Literacy” Push Is A Sham

financial literacyApril was national financial literacy month, promoted heavily by major banks and other debt-producing institutions who want you to believe that poverty, the financial crisis, and mounting student debt are the result of ordinary people’s ignorant refusal to discipline themselves and budget properly. Via the Guardian, Helaine Olen writes:

Companies and colleges say that if we all understand our finances, financial crises won’t happen. This is simply untrue.

April is National Financial Capability Month. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke says: “Among the lessons of the recent financial crisis is the need for virtually everyone – both young and old – to acquire a basic knowledge of finance and economics.” Sounds great.

But it promotes the false equivalence that the victims of the financial shenanigans of the past several years are as responsible for the financial crisis as the financial services sector, the ultimate creator of all those financial products of mass destruction.

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Bitcoin Currency Tops $1 Billion In Total Value

Are we living in a video game? Quartz writes:

Digital currency bitcoin continues its remarkable and somewhat inexplicable run. It’s up 152% this month, and today the total value of all outstanding bitcoins topped $1 billion for the first time before settling back down.

That’s quite a milestone, considering bitcoin isn’t backed by any real asset or faith in any government. What makes bitcoin so maddening to explain—no, there’s no central bank; yes, it really is just a bunch of people creating money out of thin air—is precisely what makes it so powerful.

The estimated margin on “mining,” or creating, new bitcoins has already recovered from December, when the rate at which new bitcoins could be minted was cut in half, part of the currency’s intentionally deflationary design. Anyone, from hobbyists to bankers to thieves, can mine bitcoins, which requires raw computing power dedicated to solving cryptographic puzzles.

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