Money is undoubtedly one of the most important cornerstones of modern civilization. For millennia, it has served as a kind of language for value, facilitating trade between individuals, and allowing them to store the product of their labor.
Broadly speaking, the definition of money is something that’s widely accepted as payment for goods and services. Societies around the globe have spawned many different kinds of money – so many, that it’s difficult to neatly categorize them all.
In this article, we’ll distinguish between commodity money, representative money, and fiat money.
Before money: barter
Barter refers to the act of exchanging goods or services for other goods or services. Interestingly, this can also be observed in other contexts of life. Species in the plant and animal kingdoms enter unspoken agreements – symbiotic relationships – wherein both benefit from each others’ actions. For instance, Bullhorn acacia trees provide food and shelter for ants in exchange for protection from parasites. Zebras and rhinos rid themselves of ticks by allowing oxpecker birds to feed on those that latch onto their skin...