Far Too Many Definitions of Money

“Everyone, except an economist, knows what ‘money’ means.” —Alison Hingston Quiggin. No-one knows what money is anymore. The number of definitions signals deep confusion and conflict at the core of the global currency order.

Header Illustration: Man from Monopoly board  game throwing money
Monopoly money

“Everyone, except an economist, knows what ‘money’ means.” —Alison Hingston Quiggin

Every time I see or hear a definition of money, I put it here. You can find attributions for most via google. Here's the list:


  1. Money is debt.
  2. Money is power.
  3. Money is energy.
  4. Money is credit.
  5. Money is speech.
  6. Money is an IOU.
  7. Money is not real.
  8. Money is imaginary.
  9. Money is a process.
  10. Money is a network.
  11. Money is not wealth.
  12. Money is ‘meta-energy’.
  13. Money is an intangible.
  14. Money is not a ‘thing’.
  15. Money isn’t everything.
  16. Money is a public good.
  17. Money is social credits.
  18. Money is trust inscribed.
  19. Money is a promise to pay.
  20. Money is fungible freedom.
  21. Money is uncertainty insurance.
  22. Money is gold, and nothing else.
  23. Money is a claim on real wealth.
  24. Money is how we transfer wealth.
  25. Money is a system of liabilities.
  26. Money is whatever we agree it is.
  27. Money is a token of territoriality.
  28. Money is the root of most progress.
  29. Money is a purely mental phenomenon.
  30. Money is the bubble that never pops.
  31. Money is a special form of commodity.
  32. Money is essentially government debt.
  33. Money is whatever the state says it is.
  34. Money is a neutral medium for exchange.
  35. Money is a universal medium of exchange.
  36. Money is a commoditized debt obligation.
  37. Money is how we transfer time and wealth.
  38. Money is a form of frozen, tradable time.
  39. Money is a shifting network of agreements.
  40. Money is whatever the government says it is.
  41. Money is whatever you have to pay taxes with.
  42. Money is not payment, it is a promise to pay.
  43. Money is merely a credit that offsets a debt.
  44. Money is a measure of status in the community.
  45. Money is a permanent record of past production.
  46. Money is the most liquid good in a trade network.
  47. Money is a concept, rather than a physical thing.
  48. Money is a mental association of values in trade.
  49. Money is a symptom of having an abundance mindset.
  50. Money is the most successful religion of all time.
  51. Money is the highest expression of the free market.
  52. Money is numbers and numbers never end – Bob Marley.
  53. Money is a source of collective and individual memory.
  54. Money is a generally-accepted medium for short selling.
  55. Money is the highest form of energy humans can channel.
  56. Money is the most important tool we use in modern life.
  57. Money is an emergent property of interpersonal exchange.
  58. Money is currency (banknotes, coins, or digital tokens).
  59. Money is the means by which we collectively manage value.
  60. Money is simply a tool for moving value across spacetime.
  61. Money is whatever the free market demands to serve as money.
  62. Money is an inter-subjective fiction sitting alongside reality.
  63. Money is an agreement that facilitates the exchange of wealth.
  64. Money is an unreal things used to manage the flow of real things.
  65. Money is a legal document showing trade imbalances among citizens.
  66. Money in its purest form is a mental association of values in trade.
  67. Money is society’s most important technology and psychological concept.
  68. Money is a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account.
  69. Money is a matter of functions four, a medium, a measure, a standard, a store.
  70. Money is the presently-intangible representation of current and future production.
  71. Money is a language for expressing the relative value of things other than money.
  72. Money is the thing which serves as the generally accepted and commonly used medium of exchange.
  73. Money is a neutral medium, through which people interact in order to maximise their own utility.
  74. Money is simply the signal which most closely mirrors the state of energy surplus or prosperity.
  75. Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.
  76. Money represents stored wealth that can be exchanged for goods and services as permitted by the state.
  77. Money is a scarce commodity or security of inelastic volume which is overvalued due to reservation demand.
  78. Money is stupid. It doesn't do anything. Money is smart when you add expertise, partnerships and execution.
  79. Money is a social convention where one party accepts it as payment in the expectation that others will do so too.
  80. Money is our shared use of some thing as a reference point for expressing the relative value of all other things.
  81. Money is the most marketable good which people acquire because they want to offer it in later acts of interpersonal exchange.
  82. Money is actually a set of heterogeneous databases with vast amounts of legacy code still using COBOL on mainframes in batch mode.
  83. Money is an information-bearing instrument that communicates to market actors who worked and what resultant property claims accrued.
  84. Money is a distribution system for the natural surplus reflecting the natural economic activity by humans who are also part of nature.
  85. Money is anything that people are willing to use in order to represent systematically the value of other things for the purpose of exchanging goods and services.
  86. Money is any item or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a particular country or socio-economic context.
  87. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation.
  88. Money is desired not for its own sake, but precisely because it already functions as money, so that everyone is confident that the money commodity will be readily accepted by any and all in exchange.
  89. Money is not money: it is proof of goodness. It is the cause of evil. It is a victory over a rival. It is the path to love. It is guarantor of sexual pleasure. It is poison. It is the death of childhood.

No wonder the world is confused.

88 definitions of money is far too many. They tell me that we do not have a workable, useful definition of money.

Why it matters

The bursting of the Western debt Superbubble is forcing the world to think hard about its monetary system … And the nature of money itself. The end of a period of monetary stability means, that for the first time in our lives, we face an era of monetary chaos that was once very unfamiliar.

But does this matter? Do we need a workable definition? I'd say not really . Most of the time we don't people . the sytem works fine … until suddenly when currency systmes collapse. and the shit hits the fan. Superbubble is based on the idea that these eveni is areay well underway.

Does that matter? Does anyone need a rock solid definition of money? The economy seems to work fine without one.

What does money *do*?

Instead of worrying about what money is, it is more useful to think of money in terms of what it does.

68. Money is a medium of exchange, a store of value, and a unit of account.

  • Unit of account: a way to measure the value of products and services.
  • Means of exchange: a way of payment when buying or selling products
    and services.
  • Store of value: a way to transfer wealth through time and space. For this
    to function, money must have a stable value over time.

Money can be said to be any 'thing' that fulfills the three functions stated here.


2022-04-03Doomberg recently provided a new and disturbing definition of money in response to increasingly totalitarian actions by the Canadian government in response to protests:

76. Money represents stored wealth that can be exchanged for goods and services as permitted by the state.

2022-03-07 — Blogpost: The current global monetary system overvalues Western currencies and undervalues the rest of the world's real stuff. In response, the BRICS nations are ganging up on the dollar. And the world is splitting into two warring blocs — divided by those who want to keep western debt as the world's money and others who prefer something more real.

2023-01-16 — Nice definition of money (digital currency really) from Elon Musk:

82. Money is actually a set of heterogeneous databases with vast amounts of legacy code still using COBOL on mainframes in batch mode.

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