Archive for September 2006

The Inventor of the ‘Virtual Economy’ (a Modern Day Pleonasm)

WikiPedia contributors suggest that the Virtual Economy started with virtual realities such as the popular  massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of WarCraft. However, one could argue that Richard Nixon invented the Virtual Economy in 1971.

First off, for those readers that did not study linguisics: pleonasm is defined as ‘the use of more words than those necessary to denote mere sense’ (i.e. ‘green gras’). And for those that skipped business class: economy is defined as ‘the orderly arrangement and management of the internal affairs of a state or of any establishment kept up by production and consumption’.

The critical term here is ‘orderly’. Since the day the first note barrer handed in his raw material to receive a promissary note for his goods and went on to use this note in exchange for a different good, there had been a strong relationship between production and consumption. Then around 650 AD, the emperor of China began to issue paper “value tokens” for general use. As Marco Polo reported enthusiastically in 1275, “I tell you that people are glad to take these tokens, because wherever they go in the empire of the great Khan, they can use them to buy and sell as if they were pure gold”.

But these notes were tied to and could be exchanged against a specific piece of metal. However, the United States abandoned gold as the foundation of its monetary system when President Franklin Roosevelt ended Americans right to surrender paper dollars for gold and even to own gold bullion and finally when President Richard Nixon closed the gold window and denied foreign governments the right to turn in paper dollars for gold. The year was 1971. And this was the year the United States accepted a de facto Virtual Economy.