I want a pork-belly-backed currency, before it’s too late!

It annoys me that it’s taken me this long to start figuring out, I think, why and how money works.

I started writing a long rambling post here on the subject, but it’s too much of a mess so I’ll just skip to the punchline.

Our modern currencies are so-called “fiat currencies”. It used to be that, for example, “a dollar” actually represented and could be traded for a specific amount of refined metallic gold. Now, it’s not really redeemable for any pre-specified amount of anything. I don’t really see this as a huge problem unlike some people, but there is a lot of noise lately about how we need to go back to “the gold standard” (i.e. back to the time when a “dollar” was directly redeemable for some fixed amount of gold). My problem with this is that gold is mostly useless, really. If there were really some sort of horrible society-destroying catastrophe, about the only thing you’d be able to use the gold for is as a bludgeon to club people with (gold is quite heavy, at least), or maybe as radiation shielding if you’ve got enough of it stacked around your basement. If we’ve got to go back to an “asset-backed” currency, I think it ought to be pork-bellies. Or wheat. Or maybe heads of lettuce.

Better still, make it a “basket” of all three, so that fluctuations in the value of one of those three things doesn’t screw up the value of the currency. Plus, then you could redeem 3 $1US bills for a BLT sandwich.

What prompted me to start typing, though, was the thougts of how badly at the mercy of economic parasites we are in the modern world though – I’m thinking here mainly of abusers of “intellectual property” monopolies like broad idea patents and eternal copyrights, who demand tribute before you’re allowed to participate in just about any modern activity using the internet or other digital medium. And then the shocking, horrifying thought came to me: “mp3-download-backed currency”.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be over there in the corner, curled up in fetal position, rocking back and forth, and whimpering occasionally.

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The Author is (currently) an autodidactic student of Industrial and Environmental microbiology, who is sick of people assuming all microbiology should be medical in nature, and who would really like to be allowed to go to graduate school one of these days now that he's finished his BS in Microbiology (with a bonus AS in Chemistry). He also enjoys exploring the Big Room (the one with the really high blue ceiling and big light that tracks from one side to the other every day) and looking at its contents from unusual mental angles.

4 thoughts on “I want a pork-belly-backed currency, before it’s too late!”

  1. I just happened upon your blog while wondering about expired Jello, and was delighted to find another science enthusiast. I’m very intrigued by the culturing and experiments you conduct at home! Where can I learn more about doing this and buying materials? Because at the moment I have no clue as to where I could buy Erythritol and other obscure things…
    I really hope you keep blogging because the post i’m commenting on was written about 6 months ago… don’t abandon such a lovely blog!

  2. A lot of things can be picked up at the type of store that I can’t stop myself from referring to as the “Purina® Hippie-Chow Store”, i.e. “Health food”/”Natural Food”/Vitamin Supplement places.
    Erythritol is finally starting to show up in a lot of them. I still haven’t found any that have been able/willing to stock trehalose or isomaltulose yet, though.

    (I still need to get around to doing a quick write-up of my experiment with trehalose-sweetened ice cream one of these days.
    For that matter, isomaltulose and trehalose probably deserve their own entries anyway.)

    Some of the stuff can be found online from Amazon.com as well, though I always prefer to get stuff locally when I can.

    I’ll try to update this blog more often, since there are apparently still people occasionally reading it! I also need to finish some audio projects that I’ve been working on. Once I get my next (nearly a year overdue) “Hacker Public Radio submission done (Real Soon Now), I also need to get back to finishing the next (over a year-and-a-half overdue!) “Stir-Fried Stochasticity” science audio episode (up to 11 different scientific papers, assembled to explain the esoteric mysteries of the “Gram Stain”…)

    Thanks for letting me know someone is still watching this blog!

  3. Gold’s incredibly useful, and also rare, which is why it was once a great currency backer. Do you know of any other trivially refinable substances with such superb conductivity and immunity to corrosion? It’s not wise to scoff at the combination of those three characteristics, really.

    Unfortunately gold ended up being too physically rare to deal with the needs of colonial America – I recommend you read the excellent book “A Counterfeiter’s Paradise” if you’d like to learn how we got where we are now (instead of guessing).

  4. I’d argue about the “incredibly” part of “incredibly useful”, especially before the industrial era, but it is true that it does have some useful features. The corrosion-resistance is one, and I’m pretty sure the evaporated-mercury-amalgam method of gold-plating metals was available well before electroplating was invented so it’s got plausible uses for protecting more reactive metals. Just about everything else I can think of, though, are “uses” involving pure vanity (jewelry, gold-leafing of foodstuffs, leather, etc., gold wire for clothing, etc.).

    To be fair, the same seems to be true of silver to the extent that I know about it (in terms of its uses being mainly for “vanity” pre-industrially).

    Neither, of course, for currency-backing purposes, are nearly as funny as pork-bellies would be, however.

    (If I get a chance, I may look up that book, however, it sounds interesting.)

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