D. Liu- Week 5- Systems of Exchange

The interactions and systems of exchanges in different societies, such as the people of Papua New Guinea react to modern money differently from their traditional shell money, banana leaf bundles and pig tusks. An interesting look at the local economy of Papua New Guinea seen from lecture 5.1 video “Pig Tusk and Paper Money”, we learn about the clash between these two different currencies. In Papua New Guinea, they build their own houses and farm their own land and buy materials with shell money, so any extra modern money is not absolutely essential to their survival. It is mainly only used for bus fare, taxes, and school fees. The food, water, and housing are easily available and can be made from their environment, and much different from the modern world of worrying about paying for rent, electricity, and food. The people of New Guinea are happier without the constraint and shackles of paper money and every day struggles of always needing more money to live. Most of the community feel that shell money should be valued the same as modern money, and believe that there should be legislation of shell money in the banking system for exchange for regulated modern money. The use of modern money may eventually push out shell money as the main form of currency, and traditions of using shell money may eventually be lost. Shell money is easily traded and circulated among one another, but modern money does not redistribute as easily within the population. The people do not produce this modern money like they do with traditional money. The introduction of modern money conflicts with the indigenous population’s shell money, so efforts to find a way to exchange these two were proposed. There must be a way for these two to be of use to the indigenous population. With this type of traditional bank, people can find an easier method to acquire shell money in exchange for modern money, and possibly vice versa without walking village to village to get shell money. The people use shell money to barter and exchange for other products and services much like modern money. It is not too different from what we have today in the U.S., except their money is not limited to just paper. In many churches, they still do not accept this shell money, which is still used as a medium of exchange in New Guinea. It is difficult for the people of New Guinea to have two currencies, where their mainly used shell money is not treated the same as modern money. Banana leaves show wealth and status among some people, and bring more happiness then concerning with modern money. With traditional money, the people can continue to produce it and it is easily redistributed back and forth through trade and services. They produce these banana leaves from their environment and dry them, and this is treated as currency. When a person dies, their wealth is distributed to their families and also to the community. Social relationships in the clan or community are strengthened, since it is not a very large community. In some communities in New Guinea, without banana leaves, families will look down on them. There is a strong sense to have traditional money over modern money, as banana money is treated with more esteem. The idea of regulated exchange of traditional and modern money would greatly help the people of Papua New Guinea live even happier lives, as the use of modern money is not their main source of income.

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