Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: serialised in quotes XV: money binds us together more powerfully than anything else

Homo sapiens evolved to think of people as divided into “us” and “them.” “Us” was the group immediately around you, whoever you were, and “them” was everybody else.

Money, empires, and universal religions spread and laid the foundations of the united world of today. We begin with the story of the greatest conqueror in history, a conqueror possessed of extreme tolerance and adaptability, thereby turning people into ardent disciples. This conqueror is money.

Most societies found an easy way to connect large numbers of experts [farmers, physicians, jewellers, etc]—they developed money.

Money was created many times in many places. Its development required no technological breakthroughs—it was purely a mental revolution. It involved the creation of a new inter-subjective reality that exists solely in people’s shared imagination.

Money is not coins and banknotes. Money is anything that people are willing to use in order to represent systematically the value of other things for the purpose of exchanging goods and services.

Money existed long before the invention of coinage, and cultures have prospered using other things as currency, such as shells, cattle, skins, salt, grain, beads, cloth and promissory notes.

Everyone always wants money. This is perhaps its most basic quality. Everyone always wants money because everyone else wants money, which means you can exchange money for whatever you want or need.

Money is thus a universal medium of exchange that enables people to convert almost everything into everything else.

Ideal types of money enable people not merely to turn one thing into another, but to store wealth as well. Many valuables cannot be stored—such as time or beauty.

In order to use wealth it is not enough just to store it. It often needs to be transported from place to place.

Trust is the raw material from which all types of money are minted.

Money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised.


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