I watched the documentary “Pig Tusks & Paper Money” and I made many key observations. In Papua New Guinea, many small villages rely heavily on “shells” as a form of currency. Henry Tokubak wants to start a bank that relies on the shell currency. To many of the residents of Papua New Guinea this is a better, more convenient form of currency because it does not depreciate as quickly and is widespread making it easy to make transactions among the residents. Tokubak says it can be used for many things such as food, goods, services, even for buying land. The economy in Papua New Guinea is very traditional, and people stick to a system that they understand and are comfortable with. He does face a lot of opposition from people saying that the current banking system will become more popular, over-taking the shell money system, but Tokubak is confident people will continue to use shell money. He stands by the claim, that people in Papua New Guinea are modest and they maintain simple lives, most of the time they eat food from the farms cultivated in the villages, and they only need money for very basic things like repairs, electricity bills, etc. I thought that this was a very interesting perspective on currency and it really opened my eyes. In the controversial article, “Poverty at Work: Office Employment and the Crack Alternative” by Philippe Bourgois, Bourgois, explains how Latino immigrants are sometimes better off selling cocaine and other drugs on the street rather than working in menial labor, minimum wage jobs. He tells us, that factories employed many of these Puerto Rican immigrants back from the 1960s to the 1980s, but soon after they began to diminish leaving immigrants to fend for themselves. Bourgois explains that many of the drug peddlers used to have legal jobs, and once they were unemployed became destitute. He gives us the example of Primo, who used to work in a garment factory, but after losing his job begins work selling drugs. Bourgois documents that within the area known as “El Barrio” or Spanish Harlem, you can buy many different drugs at different prices, showing the competitive nature of the drug trade.The lectures highlight 5 different types of existence. The first is Hunter and Gatherer society, in which work is split equally among the different tribes/people. This is a very primitive existence. The next is Horticulturist, which is a primarily agrarian existence. These are your farmers, people harvesting crops, etc. They are capable of producing their own food and goods, and then can sell produce or goods to make a living. The next is Pastoralist existence, which is very similar to Horticulturists, but they are often more nomadic and of the herding variety. They live off their livestock and they use it to make a living, like a sheep herder might barter their livestock or sell wool. The last is the Industrialist existence, which is the most commonplace and modern, which is what we in the US use. It is a market built on production of goods, with a vast division of labor and supply and demand for commodities. System of Exchange consists of two things: Production and Distribution. It also consists of the distribution of goods and services. The first method of distribution is redistribution. So the goods/services are provided to the person/people and it is then paid for in a different form than the original method of distribution. Another method is market exchange. In this scenario, goods and services are provided according to the rules of supply and demand. So the people decide a fair price to pay for a commodity. The last method is reciprocity. In this case, people exchange goods and services directly. Labor is known as “the rules that govern the assignment of jobs to people and for determining units of production” according to (Lecture 5.1.) There are many divisions of labor and they are commensurate with the complexity of each society.
Do you think “shell money” or another form of currency would be successful outside of an economy like Papua New Guinea?, why or why not?
Do you agree or disagree with Bourgois view on immigrants and drugs? Explain your reasoning.