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Why does money have value?

Money answers for the E-mailers

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Q: Why does money have value?

A: Money doesn't have any inherent value. It is simply pieces of paper or numbers in a ledger. A car has value because it can help you get where you need to go. Water has a value because it has a use; if you don’t drink enough of it you will die. Unless you enjoy looking at pictures of deceased national heroes, money has no more use than any other piece of paper.

It didn't always work this way. In the past money was in the form of coins, generally composed of precious metals such as gold and silver. The value of the coins was roughly based on the value of the metals they contained, because you could always melt the coins down and use the metal for other purposes. Until a few decades ago paper money in different countries was based on the gold standard or silver standard or some combination of the two. This meant that you could take some paper money to the government, who would exchange it for some gold or some silver based on an exchange rate set by the government. The gold standard lasted until 1971 when President Nixon announced that the United States would no longer exchange dollars for gold. This ended the Bretton Woods system, which will be the focus of a future article. Now the United States is on a system of fiat money, which is not tied to any other commodity. So these pieces of paper in your pocket are nothing but pieces of paper.

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