is my favorite hungarian book and #2 on my all-time favorite books list ever. It was writen in 1932, translated to english in 1941, and here you can read the whole translated novel for free
A brief synopsis of the book
: It tells the story of a doctor who serves on a ship in England, who winds up on a mysterious island, where he finds a society which is far beyond the technical level of the civilization of that day (the novel was written in 1932). The people of the island have no money, no art, no history, but somehow have a working society. I won't spoil it any further though [smile]
I have known this book for almost a decade now (I first read it when I was 15 or 16), and I love it ever since. Recent events in global economy prompted me to share an interesting quote from the book with you, that I have always found fascinating and very true:
I related in full detail that money is issued by a central bank in various denominations, from which everybody receives according to his merits, and which is at the same time a licence enabling its owner to take his due share of the fruits of common work. I spoke about the advantages of money; that it can be exchanged for anything, thus ensuring a free choice of goods; that through money it is possible to convert the countervalue of the articles we sell, at any time in a lump sum or in instalments, to other articles, and so on.
He expressed the view that exchange was possibly not easier if we doubled the work by involving the exchange of money, but, as he said, it was not important either. He preferred to know in what way money furthered production.
I explained that it made it possible for many people with small resources to join forces and establish a factory by purchasing shares.
"What are they?" he asked.
"Another wonderful invention of the human mind. Another type of paper, which is given in exchange for money."
"And if the work of exchange is treble what is the factor which facilitates?"
"That these papers enable work to start."
He looked at me in suspicion.
"What would you say," he asked, "if I told you that I can get up from this seat only after handing over a page of my notebook to you? It has nothing to do with reality, it is a non-existing thing, isn't it?"
I was astonished by this naivety but tried to stifle my laughter. However, I explained in vain how money sets work in motion. He stubbornly replied that he understood this, but it seemed that we did not understand at all, as according to anyone with any sense, the starting of work had only one prerequisite, the starting of work itself, and not the exchanging of papers, which did not even exist in reality, and which it was a pity to invent.
I asserted that money did exist and an eloquent proof of how true it was had been the world crisis which almost blocked production.
"And why?" he asked.
"Because there was no money."
At which he asked again why we invented such a thing that did not exist.
If you liked/agreed with this quote and/or are curious of how the story advances to this point and how the conversation continues, follow the link at the beginning of the post and read the book! I recommend it very much, it's a great philosophical book on the subject of society is illogical if you examine it. And so is economy.
I also find it a nice touch that (referring of course to the 1929 economical crisis) the main character tries to explain the concept of money by citing recession as proof that money exists. Absurd, isn't it?
What do you think about the quote? Do money and economics exist at all...?