£ s d
2 9 6
4 8 7
+ 5 6 4
£12 4s 5d
Memory escapes slightly but I think that’s the way we used to do it.
Back in the pre-metric days of my primary school, 12 pennies made a shilling and 20 shillings made a pound.
By the time I reached my final year of primary school 100 pennies made a pound. And I became au fait with the decimal point.
The new metric coins were introduced and, gradually, through time the old coins were put to rest. It took years, with certain of the old coins of particular interest being traded, by those in the know, as having more worth than their face value depending on when it had been minted and whose face adorned the other side of tails.
An aunt of mine had a little book, listing those of worth in general circulation, and kept her eyes peeled, hoping to be lucky enough to come across one of the rarities.
Adults at that time, particularly the more aged, were forever heard to be arguing with shopkeepers, believing they were being diddled in their change.
And who could blame them?
One day they had been handing over a pound note to pay for goods costing a shilling and received nineteen shillings, or 228 pennies, in change. The next day, they handed over a pound and received, in change, with an apparently huge shortfall, 95 pence.
Even I felt diddled handing over my thrupenny bit for sweets
A local shop kept two trays of sweets under the counter, one holding sweets costing a penny and the other for goodies valued at a hal’penny.
For my thrupenny bit I could purchase three penny sweets or six hal’penny sweets or any combination amounting to the same. And I could work it out.
Then, one day, those self-same trays allowed me to take one sweet from the penny tray and one from the halfpenny tray or three from the latter. I argued like an old woman despite being about 11. Something was far wrong.
Or so it seemed.
The transition between old money and new felt like we were all being diddled. God bless the shopkeepers. They must have had their work cut out too, trying to pacify irate customers while working out the conversion with the handy list sellotaped near the till and, at the same time, ensure they weren’t going to be pulled up at the end of the day, by their employer, for fiddling.
I’m no expert on economics. Far from it, in fact. When my brother was studying economics as part of his university course in Business Admin, I recollect a conversation we had as he tried to explain the finer points of supply and demand, inflation and deflation and the different schools of thought on the subject. He lost me.
Back then, and even now, I find it difficult to comprehend that price, value and worth are not necessarily synonymous. Perhaps, rarely so.
The value of water is priceless.
The value of a superstar, priceless also, apparently.
The respective worth of each, leagues apart, in life stakes.
The price? I pay very little attention to the cost to clubs when footballers change hands and contracts are negotiated, except perhaps to note the ridiculous sums paid to kick a ball about in the hopes of improving team chances of winning some trophy. I listen, in disbelief, when sums quoted translate to millions in any currency.
I do realise that my lack of interest in football colours my judgement. But, I also wonder at the economics of such transactions when clubs find themselves going to the wall, pass on the cost to supporters and are forever on the lookout for rich investors to save the day and creative accountants to cook the books.
Those interested in football will follow these transactions closely, pay the subsidy at the gates if they can afford to and consider the player worth the cost if a trophy of indeterminate intrinsic worth is brought home to be displayed with pride in a room few will have access to.
Their choice. Doesn’t affect me at all.
When the perceived worth of something or someone is based on only one factor, there’s something wrong in the state of play.
Yesterday I read a post outlining what the government of Puerto Rico should be obliged to do in order to meet their debts.
In essence, deprive the nation of easy access to water. Among other austerity measures that will hurt the populace.
Comparisons were made to the situation in Greece.
Got debt, must pay.
Somehow, must pay.
You owe, must pay.
Mismanaged economy, must pay.
It strikes me that people don’t change the currency. People don’t create monetary policy. People don’t even understand how economics works. People are guided by those who profess to know and trust that those in the know, those governing on their behalf, are actually doing just that.
People deal with smaller sums. People take what they’re given for their apparent worth and hope that they can balance their own books. Surely, we can trust the financial institutions and associated government bodies and financiers to do their jobs. They’re paid enough to do so.
I listen to figures being bandied about, trillions for Trident, billions for welfare, gazillions lost in tax default.
I understand money management on a household scale although often wonder where it all goes. Then I look at the books and note what I’m paying for this and that, remark on the changes in price of milk and bread and the rising cost of insurance. And try to balance the books without diddling anyone.
It seems that some of the economists don’t understand how economics works.
Someone, some many someones, somewhere, scribble some figures on the back of an envelope, flash the possibilities and gamble with the health and wealth of a nation. Different schools of economic thought are used to play risk. Priorities are weighed by different parties. Unrealistic goals and targets are outlined and bankrupted.
And still we allow them to mis/manage our countries. It is the trust of people that has been bankrupted while those who play the game also run the shop and set the prices. We don’t determine the currency and fiddle the exchange rate, although we are guilty of allowing value to be set by others. We are culpable in a system that dehumanises suffering based on accounts and capitalises on effort while penalising poverty.
The people, meanwhile, take their thruppeny bit to the store and can’t figure out why they’re being penalised, why what was affordable and available yesterday has become a luxury item.
Luxury is relative.
Water is not a luxury.
Ordinary people do have value.
The price they are being expected to pay is not worth it.
I can count in old money, I can count in new. Imperial, decimal. It all amounts to the same thing if someone else determines the exchange rate and sets intrinsic worth.
That handy conversion table at the till now lists the price of life against the coin.
Perhaps it always has and those who have counted the cost have been unheard except through revolution or appeals made to the charity of those relatively better off. Who can resist such appeals, even while knowing that sometimes the cause of dire circumstances is not natural disaster but the corruption or mismanagement of a country by those who want their own trophy at any cost?
One thing economists/governments don’t appear to take account of, where maybe they did in the past, is that people will put up with a lot, a really huge amount, an enormous quantity of being diddled, of suffering hardship, of paying the toll at the gate of the game others control, so long as basic requirements are met.
At the most basic, is water and the air we breathe. How much longer before oxygen tanks are issued with a price tag?
Penny for your thoughts?