What Jessie J taught us about money

In 2011, Jessie J waited patiently for Coconut Man, Moonhead and Pea to be ready before she bravely imparted some wisdom onto the world.

Money is brilliant and fascinating. Two years after Price Tag came out I remember standing mesmerised in the bathroom, opening the Barclays mobile banking app and seeing my current account balance was above £1000 for the first time in my life because I finally had a salaried job.

For a while after this I started obsessing about what money actually is, and the more I learned the more interesting it all became.

I realised that money is both insanely simple and insanely complicated. I discovered that private banks make new money all the time, from the promises of borrowers to repay it, and the only thing stopping the rest of us from doing this is that we can’t get a banking license.

I realised that when I took out my first big loan of £9500 to buy a car, that money wasn’t being transferred from a kind of reserve fund set aside for people who want car loans, but was magic’d into existence through my promise to repay it with interest and a clever bit of double-entry book-keeping.

Leon’s new, much higher current account balance became HSBC’s liability, but Leon’s obligation to pay it back one day was HSBC’s asset. Meaning HSBC could balance both sides of the equation today and enjoy 4.6% interest over the next 55 months.

So every time money is borrowed, money erupts into the economy and gets spent on 2012 Vauxhall Adams. Every time its paid back – it vanishes from whence it came. I still find all this weirdly unintuitive, but many people shrug it off as obvious.

Back to Miss J – she makes 2 interesting assertions in her song: ‘It’s not about the money’ and ‘money can’t buy us happiness’.

Is it about the money?

If Jessie had written a song called: ‘its not about potatoes’ – this would be true and unhelpful

If she’d written a song called: ‘you don’t need to breathe oxygen’ – this would be false and unhelpful

If she’d written a song called: ‘It’s not about any one thing in particular’ – this would be very true and very unhelpful

So ‘its not about the money’ has more meaning

Each way of looking at things is a gross oversimplification which maps onto the world better or worse in different situations and therefore is more or less helpful.

Each way of looking at things is a model of the world, and each model informs us what to say and do.


I need to finish writing this.






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