Money Talk

Big Money Grows —Our Languaging Should, Too

Let’s stop using dollars to measure people’s money

Geo Snelling
3 min readApr 28, 2021

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euro-banknote-with-measure-tape-on-white-background
“Euro banknote with measure tape on white background” by wuestenigel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A recent Forbes report illuminated yet more confirmation of the wealth gap. Not that there is a gap — that came about when the first person decided their seashell equated to wealth, committing their peers to instant poverty — but the acceleration of it. According to Forbes the number of billionaires went up ~30% this past year. Wow. And the rest of us thought 2020 was a tough year financially.

But we’re not here to rehash that. Let’s instead talk about how we talk about money. A billionaire is someone whose wealth is more than USD $1 billion. Celebrity businessmen Bezos and Musk are worth 100x even that. But can anyone understand what it means?

Being a medium of exchange, money’s very purpose is a means to offer a shared comparison. The shared concept of value hastens our transactions. Dollars and consensus.

Maybe now, as the height of today’s economic pyramids are based on a world nearing eight billion, we should update the tiny measuring stick of the US dollar, first employed when the world’s population was less than one.

Here’s the problem. We’ve exchanged paper ledgers for computers. Sufficient for particle physics, they will gladly store the comparatively meager ones and trailing zeros of finance from here on out. But that isn’t good enough. We should understand the financially pharonic power concentrated in a few.

When headlines assert that Marissa Mayer leaves Yahoo with a final $260M or Adam Neumann is cast out of WeWork for $1.7B no one can comprehend these numbers.

In the US the 2019 Median Household Income was roughly $65,000. More or less all monies coming in for a full year.

If I could count a dollar a second, I could almost count those in waking hours of a single day; to a millionaire’s worth in twelve. A billion raises brows (I’ll let you do the math). Seconds become demonstrably inadequate. Now we’re thinking, but for emotional resonance one may as well define parsecs.

The only yardstick we have more ubiquitous than the dollar is time. Take one’s lifetime, for instance. Setting aside inflation and side…

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Geo Snelling

Writing my thoughts with the goal of prompting yours, from a timezone consisting of only 5M people. I work at a confluence of art and software engineering.