Money and numbers

Published April 15, 2021

By Joe Mavretic

There is this new thing called Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) that economists are talking about and it prompted me to think about my money…or, what I think is my money. 
My first money came from delivering the Daily Advance afternoon newspaper in Elizabeth City, NC. In exchange for my time, skills and reliability, I got paid with a piece of government paper for putting another kind of paper on a porch. 
When I got older my nine Social Security numbers allowed me to go to a bank and get a checking account number where I could store my paper money. I wrote checks to people I had not seen, for the goods, usage or services I wanted, and the numbers in my checking account just went up and down.
In high school, I realized that there were only four things I could do with the money for which I was trading my time (actually my life) at the A&P store. I could spend (consume) it; I could save (risk) it: I could give (charity) it away, or I could hide (idle) it in a can in my closet. 
A few years later, I had more money in my checking account than I needed so I got another number for a savings account. I could move my money between those two accounts just by changing numbers. Later my banker told me that I could get a card with sixteen numbers that was connected to my checking account numbers that could be used instead of writing checks. But…I still had to do something to earn the money numbers in my checking account. Those money numbers represented how much my time seemed to be worth to somebody but I never saw any paper money, just different numbers in my accounts. I’m just a money number with a bunch of other money numbers that are being credited and debited by other money numbers.
Like most Americans, I’ve wondered about how much my time (life) was worth in money numbers. I’ve exchanged my life for an hourly (wage) number, for a weekly number, a monthly, and an annual number…every money number going into my account numbers to be consumed, risked for a profit, given away or left to sit idle. My money numbers enable me to exchange my life for what I can afford. My money numbers also allow me to consume things now for which I have expected money numbers….it’s called borrowing. The catch here is that I am willing to trade my future life for something I want now. This gets a bit tricky but the idea is my expectation of doing something  worthwhile with my time in the future and using money now that someone else has put at risk.
All my money numbers are based upon the notion that I did something (work) that was worth something to someone else, and that everyone’s money numbers represent work that was valuable to someone. Some time isn’t worth much and some time is worth a lot. 
Seems to me that America’s economy used to be based upon pieces of government paper and coins that represented something someone had done with their life. 
Modern Monetary Theory appears to advance the notion that money numbers do not have to represent work that has been done. Instead, modern money numbers should represent work that is expected to be done. For example, you can be paid now for working next year and this is an easy money number transaction…your account is credited with next year’s expected earnings and someone’s (the Federal Government) account is debited. Nothing has been done and debt is created. MMT sounds to me like borrowing but on a national scale and the risk is to the nation….every single one of us.  This also is a bit tricky but, since I partially own the national debt, I’m borrowing from myself and, when that money is credited to someone else, I end up owing more than I borrowed. 
All I can do is hope this modern theory works out, but the truth is that I had a lot more confidence in my newspaper money.