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Way back in ancient times, "value" was something quite different than it is today. The idea was to have something useful, rare and difficult to find, and that would be something people would trade their goods for. Over time, noble metals like platinum, gold, silver and bronze became valuable because they met this profile.
Even a raw diamond or ruby rock would be worthless unless lapidated. Entire processes were invented and refined over generations to perfect that process, to produce reshaped precious gems that have value - not only because good quality gems are difficult to find and extract, but also because of the refined process of cutting them into shape.
It's easy to understand why such metals and gems have value. Metals are used in all sorts of things, like weapons, armor, silverware, and often combined with gems to become jewelry. Those things had high value when exchanged for other goods. But it's also easy to understand that some of those goods were difficult to carry around, for some are larger and/or heavy, or may get damaged when transported.
From that came the idea of making coins out of noble metals, so they become easier to measure quantities and respective value, and ultimately become easier to carry around. With that came the cheaters, who would file out the coin edges to steal small amounts of metal dust over time. People counteracted that by making tiny marks all around the coin edges that would be erased if people tried to file them out. Those markings exist in most modern coins nowadays, even if only for decoration purposes.
But if rare metal coins have uncontroversial value compared to paper tender, why did we stop using them? In the US there were a series of historical events that forced gold to be removed from circulation. The first, and most controversial one was the "Federal Reserve Act" in 1913 by President Woodrow Wilson. The Federal Reserve was meant to regulate the US economy to prevent financial panics as seen in 1907, but nonetheless there are claims that it has instead caused the "Great Depression" later in the 1930s. There were also claims that it has given banking cartels enough power to control the US economy to the best of their own personal agendas. The bottom line is that they have replaced gold coins by "Federal Reserve Notes", now known as the US Dollar.
But people could still keep their gold if they wanted to, until 1933, when President Roosevelt came up with Executive Order 6102, requiring gold coins, gold Bullions, and even gold certificates to be delivered to the government. That has basically made it illegal for citizens to own gold, forcing them to exchange all of it for paper tender, with relative value controlled by the Federal Reserve (private banking). As if not enough, in 1971 President Richard Nixon (yes, the crook) cancelled the Bretton Woods system, which made it impossible to convert the US Dollar directly to its value in gold.
So not only US citizens could not use gold as currency, but it has become a crime to even own gold, and conversion between tender money and gold was terminated by the force of federal law. Fortunately, Roosevelt's Executive Order 6102 was removed more recently during the 1980s, giving back to citizens the right to own gold. But let's not forget that the Federal Reserve Act of 1933 allowed private bankers to take full control over US currency, the money supply, and even mandate citizens to only use the paper money they print as legal tender.
For the last 40-50 years, the Federal Reserve has been over-printing money to cover for poor administration of public money and financial institutions. The more money they print, the more currency is poured into circulation without actual gold to back its actual value. Nowadays the US Dollar has basically no value in gold (explained below), so it's just paper. As a consequence, for the first time in history even the Japanese Yen and the Australian Dollar are worth more than the US Dollar.
In light of the above, it comes to no surprise that Russia and China have refused to accept the US Dollar in their bilateral trades. China's Premier Wen Jiabao and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin announced their decision to use their own currencies during trades back in late 2010, in a display of no confidence in the value of the US Dollar and also to strengthen relations between the two countries.
The idea behind the Federal Reserve Notes (US Dollar) was rather simple: you give me your gold, and I give you the equivalent value in tender notes (paper). This means every bill was covered by its value in gold. After a while there wasn't enough gold to back the Dollar bills, and the Federal Reserve simply started to counterfeit currency by printing more Dollar bills with no backing in gold. Yes, I said "counterfeiting" since Dollars with no backing in gold have absolutely no value, and are therefore false money.
After decades of printing counterfeited money, we now see the US economy going down the drain. One president after the other overspends the national budget while more false money is being printed to "pay" for it, but never actually doing it since it has no value. As this snowball rolls down the hill, it becomes larger every year, generating unemployment and inflation. Citizens become poorer and money tends to buy less over time.
We can see symptoms of this when some of the largest and most successful US fast food franchisings have reduced portions, removed items from popular combos, and/or are charging extra for things like a slice of cheese or a cup of beverage, which used to be traditionally included for no extra charge. More people seek for lower prices at Walmart, which strengthens Chinese exports, sponsors their slave worker policies, and also the low wages of Walmart employees.
This was all accomplished by simply replacing gold coins with paper money, while giving private bankers the power to control its value and amount available. The result is the US government being held hostage by banking cartels, who not only control the economy, but also finance who gets into power in Washington. Does this happen only in the US? Not at all - globalist schemes such as the Euro has taken the entire European continent hostage by international banking cartels, by simply replacing individual countries currencies by a single money bill controlled by them. This makes it easier for them to control and manipulate the destinies of several country's economies at once. Needless to say, several of those European countries have already fallen victims of it, where perhaps Italy and Greece have taken the biggest hit so far. Who's next?
Money is indeed a curious thing.