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    Grandpa George on Money

    June 20, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    I must admit that Johnny Depp’s Michael Jacksonesque appearance while playing Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a bit frightening. But if one can get past it, it is still a mostly delightful little film, and an even better book, if truth be told! If nothing else, there is one little gem nestled within the story that I think, in light of yesterday’s posting on economics, is worth repeating.

    Let me first set the stage. Charlie has just discovered the last Golden Ticket. His family is very poor, his father has lost his job, and people have been offering him money in exchange for the ticket. First fifty dollars, then five hundred…By the time Charlie gets home, he has resolved that the best he can do for his family is to sell the ticket in order to help with the finances.

    Here is Grandpa George’s reply to Charlie’s announcement that he will be selling:


    There’s plenty of money out there. They print more of it every day! But that ticket? There are only five of them in the world, and that’s all there’s ever going to be. Only a dummy would give this up for something as common as money. Are you a dummy?


    Now, it is debatable whether, in real life, keeping a golden ticket would really be more profitable than selling it. But what I thought interesting was Grandpa’s assessment that money is ubiquitous, and therefore of less value than something {the golden ticket in this instance} of which there are only five in the world.

    Si and I have spent time in the past discussing true value, and one issue that inevitably arises is the idea that paper money only has value because we have all agreed to say that it has value. Otherwise, it is just a fancy piece of paper, and not at all rare. I am reminded of Proverbs 31, where the virtuous woman is said to have value above rubies. The idea is that she is scarce, and scarcity gives something its value.

    These days, a lot of skills are scarce, and I can’t help but think that helping our children develop real skills will be more “profitable” than training them for some sort of speciality job, which is the more common route. Many families {ours included} today have lost skills that used to be common: the ability to fix things and build things, the ability to cook and sew, the knowledge of how to grow food or raise chickens.

    Printed money only has value as long as citizens continue to agree that there is a purpose in allowing it to be exchanged for real goods and services. Paper money, unlike gold, has no real value. In the event of a major recession, the people who are capable of producing real goods and services {both for themselves and for others} will be the people who do not suffer {at least not as much}, regardless of their previous financial status. They will also be the people with the greatest ability to be generous.

    For Charlie, passing up the easy money meant winning a vast inheritance and the ability to gain knowledge of a trade from the Master Craftsman himself. I doubt anything so dramatic will ever happen in my own life, but I do think I am learning that passing up the easy money can, and often does, mean freedom.


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