Judging by your bank account and the world around you, it might not seem like you are rich. But, you are probably wealthier than you think. I am not talking about a richness, in your heart, like your mother would describe as she slides a plate of Spam across the table. Family is incredibly valuable, but you can’t realistically, hand your little brother in for a Maserati, as much as you might want to. What I am talking about is a very real form of wealth that we just tend to over look. If you look at the folks at Bitcoin, who basically decided to invent their own money, it becomes easier to realize that wealth and currency can take different shapes besides credit cards and physical cash.
The barter system is amazing in that it fully preserves the integrity of exchange. It becomes clear that how we value things is based on what we need and how important it is to us uniquely. That is to say, a very fast convertible coupe wouldn’t be of much value to a mother with 6 kids. For this mom, a convertible does not best fulfill her transportation needs and so is less valuable than an a vehicle with higher seating capacity and safety rating. In the end, value is based on the relevance of properties held by a service or item. This is why some people will pay crazy amounts for things others consider trivial like baseball cards or old stamps. These items have incredible significance to them because of their personal history, taste, or circumstance and are more valuable because of it.
Bartering is pure trade but can be cumbersome. You always have to source what will be of significant value to the person who has what you want. Currency helps the trade process by representing the value of actual goods and services so that we can transfer our value in a more efficient way. It seems that in today’s times, we have forgotten that currency has no value itself, less its attributed value based on a common agreement and trust in that agreement. The only purpose of currency is to provide a medium for exchange, which is how Bitcoin was able to create their own currency. We are literally carrying around symbols of value that are completely valueless themselves. This is where it pays to be creative.
Many have said, “necessity is the mother of invention” and I would add that, necessity dictates value. The more people need something, the more valuable it is. Using this logic, basic human needs like food and shelter should be the most valuable things in our society. From this perspective we immediately begin to see flaws in our societies current value system. Creativity however, is incredibly valuable in that it is the ability to “make something out of nothing” or to derive greater value from objects that were otherwise useless because of the context, or configuration they are placed in. This is the core idea behind creative capital.
If you want to hear music, you have the option of trying to make an exchange for someone to play for you, or getting a device that allows you to hear pre-recorded music. The third option, is to create music for yourself alone or with others. Abu The Flutemaker, in Baltimore has gained a relative amount of fame for making his own instruments out of common items. Abu, has proven to society that he has no need for their commercially produced musical instruments, or songs, and in doing so has proven his own value as a creative, and people routinely pay him for his ability.
Abu shows us where the value really is. It’s in our ability to satisfy our own needs and the needs of our community. Abu continuously reestablishes his value through his ability to create. This also clearly demonstrates the limits of currency. Since money is only a medium for exchanging value, it is only as useful as the amount of creation that is happening on either ends of the exchange.
In this way we see that we are as rich as we are creative. It is our choice to exchange that wealth through national currency, digital currency, trade, or even our own personal agreements like IOUs based on the items and services we are trying to get as a result of that exchange.
Since money is not the only way we can make these exchanges, it is not the only way we can measure our capital, and if we look to creative ways of transferring that capital we become even better at preserving the integrity of our exchange. If you are feeling a little broke, create something that someone else needs, and then just take it to them. It is epitome of true wealth generation and is possible anytime, wherever you are.