Exchange Value like a Dollar Does

Arrived in Egypt. My hosts told me not to change money at home or the airport. A quick Google search reveals the Egyptian Pound exchanging officially at 8.8 to the dollar. In reality, if you know the right people you can trade USD for 12:1. This stretches my dollars enough that the first street food I bought, a bbq chicken schwarma with yogurt to dip, cost 25 pounds or just a fuzz over $2. At 8.8, the same schwarma is a lot closer to $3. That difference over an eight-day stay is going to be huge, yoooge, in my favor.

For all of Americans’ own concern over their own political process right now, a concern the rest of the world no doubt shares, that dollar is still viewed as a stabilizer, so much so that people who are creating value here in Egypt (and therefore have a profitable enterprise of some sort) are willing to pay a premium to get these dollars and stash them.

It reminds me of conversations I’ve had with Americans who get into buying silver as an investment; they too are hoping to have something stable in reserve if the other collapses.

There are a couple principles we can draw from this. One of them is that there’s always going to be something people perceive as “more stable” than what they have. But there’s an even more important principle driving the whole thing: you’ve got to be able to produce something valuable, and as long as you are able to do that, you can be profitable.

Looking to any sort of currency for long term stability is spiritually risky. I’m not saying that a savings plan is wrong. The danger zone seems to be in the area where we rely on what we’ve saved more than on what we can make, and on what we can make more than on faith.

When you’re afraid, somebody is going to benefit from that to your detriment, just the way I’m now benefiting from a 12:1 ratio.

In our work, we need to focus on creating value in the moment. Even if the dollar collapses, our ability to create value will live on. In our rest, however, we have to focus on faith. If we focus in our rest on what we’ve saved aside, hoping in our stockpile… we won’t really be resting. You can’t rest in the future, only in the present.

(artwork: weaving done with Egyptian materials by Anneke Price, Chiang Mai, Thailand)