Xyzabcrst is confused by the concept of money.

In February of 2023, an unidentified flying object was shot down over Lake Huron and retrieved by the US military. Its sole occupant, an extraterrestrial biological entity named Xyzabcrst, was taken to an undisclosed military facility codenamed “The Grotto” and interviewed by base personnel. The transcripts of these interviews have been provided by an AJnet Organization operative working inside a three letter agency.

The following is a transcript of an interview with Xyzabcrst regarding money.

Major: The time is 1302 hours on March 21, 2023. I am here at the Grotto with Lieutenant [NAME REDACTED] and the extraterrestrial biological entity Xyzabcrst. Xyzabcrst has requested a meeting with us regarding the concept of currency. What would you like to know about money, Xyzabcrst?

Xyzabcrst: What is it?

Major: What is money? Money is what humans use to exchange for goods and services.

Xyzabcrst: I see. So it is used for trade?

Major: Yes.

Xyzabcrst: During my time here, I have come to note that most of your money is made of an organic material you call “paper”. This “paper” is manufactured from trees, a common genus found on your planet.

Major: That’s correct, yes.

Xyzabcrst: Why is paper valued so highly amongst your species?

Major: Because there’s a limited amount of it in existence.

Xyzabcrst: That is not true. Your species has so much paper that you are using it to clean the orifices which you excrete waste from.

Lieutenant: That’s a different kind of paper though.

Xyzabcrst: What makes one paper different from another?

Lieutenant: For starters, our money is printed on a special kind of paper with a specific kind of ink. The paper they print money on is actually made of cotton and linen, not wood.

Xyzabcrst: So it is manufactured from the same organic material as your clothing? Then why do you not exchange clothing for goods and services?

Major: Because it’s not exactly the same as the paper that we use for money. It’s-

Xyzabcrst: If cotton and linen are rare materials on your planet, then why do you not use a different material for clothing? Then you could manufacture more of this money.

Major: Cotton and linen aren’t rare, we can grow those.

Xyzabcrst: I do not understand. If cotton and linen can be grown, then why do you use them for trade?

Major: Because they have value in our society.

Xyzabcrst: Why does your society place such immense value in something that can be easily manufactured?

Lieutenant: How does trade work where you come from, Xyzabcrst?

Xyzabcrst: On most worlds, goods and services are exchanged for others depending on scarcity and need.

Major: We have that here too, we call it a “barter economy”.

Xyzabcrst: And yet you still exchange pieces of paper made of cotton and linen? Why?

Major: I don’t know, I didn’t come up with the system, but it’s what we have.

Xyzabcrst: I see. So what determines the value of this paper money?

Major: Many things, such as supply and demand, how the economy is performing, the stability of the government, and other factors.

Xyzabcrst: Those are largely determined by money though, are they not?

Major: Yes, but-

Xyzabcrst: So the value of money is determined by itself?

Major: No, it’s not that simple.

Xyzabcrst: You just told me that the value of money is determined by supply and demand, as well as the condition of the economy and the stability of the government. You then agreed with me that those are largely determined by the value of money. The concept of money seems to utilize circular logic. It makes no sense. By all appearances, the value of money is completely arbitrary.

Major: It doesn’t work like… That’s not-

Lieutenant: At some point in our history, we all agreed that it was easier to carry around pieces of paper and trade those instead of metal or meat.

Xyzabcrst: So the system is arbitrary and pointless, as I said?

Major sighs. Lieutenant laughs.

Lieutenant: Don’t tell him about credit cards and cryptocurrency.

Xyzabcrst: What are those?

The tape abruptly ends.

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By Xyzabcrst Files

In 2023 the US Air Force shot down an unidentified flying object over Lake Huron. The object was retrieved and the ship's sole occupant, an alien from the Zeta Reticuli system named Xyzabcrst, was captured alive. The Xyzabcrst Files are transcripts of interviews done by US military personnel with Xyzabcrst, provided to AJnet by an unnamed AJnet operative currently employed at a three-letter agency.