Opinion by Helge Nome
I have been reading some interesting European early history recently. About the various Germanic tribes in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. roaming back and forth across the northern boundaries of the Roman Empire, and even laying siege to Rome itself at one point. They ravaged the countryside and towns and took what gold and silver they could lay their hands on wherever they went.
However, the enemy that beat them and invariably brought them to the Roman negotiating table was a lack of food. All the gold and silver in world was of no use to the starving barbarians after they had emptied the granaries of their victims.
There is an important lesson here for us, so called “modern” people. Like the barbarians, we tend to forget that gold and silver, or their modern equivalent called “money”, is only one side of real wealth, which includes an ample supply of food. In fact, money as we know it is given value solely by what it can legally give access to, like food, lodging, transportation, etc. The volcanic eruption in Iceland brings this point home at the present time: Money will not buy you a flight across the Atlantic as at the time of writing this article.
Far too many of us have lost track of the fact that money is not real wealth. It is simply a claim on real wealth when it is available. That’s what the barbarians found out the hard way when their stomachs began to ache from hunger. And that is what we are finding out when unfettered speculation, polluting our money supply, begins to play havoc with our productive system which is what creates real wealth.
The quality and quantity of our money supply is closely linked to the health of our productive system in a modern economy and if we allow private greed to wreck this delicately balanced system, we could easily be faced with the same dilemma our barbarian ancestors had to deal with: Lots of money and no food.