A wild card, often called a joker, is a playing card that has no value of its own but can be used to represent any other card, thus assuming the value of that card. We might think of money, most of which is nothing but a number on a piece of paper or a computer hard drive, as the economy’s wild card.

It has no intrinsic value but, by the rules of modern economic life, we agree to accept these numbers for things of real value, like land and labor, and assume they are the ultimate storehouse of value. Thus, those who control money’s creation and distribution win nearly every hand in the competition of the global marketplace.

We normally assume that for official currencies, control resides with the government we hold accountable for preventing money’s counterfeiting and inflation. That assumption is mostly false. Under current practice private players create money and manipulate markets to profit from financial bubbles, confident that government will step in to bail them out when the bubble bursts, as it did in 2008.

Note that exchanges among nature’s other living beings involve no equivalent of money. Money is solely a creation of the human mind and has no value outside the human mind. It has value because we agree as members of a community to accept it in exchange for things of real value, many of which are essential to our living. Most real value is the product of the useful labor of people and nature. Yet the existing economic system awards the vast bulk of the returns from labor not to those who provide it, but to those who create and hold society’s financial wild cards and rent their use to others for interest.

We have come to act as if the official currencies now in circulation are created by governments in our service. And we dignify it by calling it capital, which communicates a sense of substance. We refer to paper currency as “cold hard cash.”

Most money creation is now controlled by private interests for personal benefit. It is created by private bankers when they issue a loan. Most current lending to individuals drives up the consumer, student, and medical debt that drives the borrower into ever deeper servitude to those better off. The greater portion of the lending funds speculation in financial bubbles.

Many of the bubbles are created around derivatives and crypto currencies, which are essentially forms of legalized counterfeiting. The Federal Reserve also creates money, but though it presents itself as a federal agency, it is mostly controlled by private bankers to serve their private interests. These private players resist any government involvement as an infringement of their rights. But once  the financial bubble bursts, they immediately turn to the government to bail them out to prevent total financial collapse.

To repeat, money has value solely because we agree as a community to accept it in return for things of real value. The primary benefits of money should go to the people who give it value by agreeing to accept it—not to those granted a license to create it in the community’s name. And the benefits certainly should not go to those who create cryptocurrencies and derivatives while producing absolutely nothing of any value in return.

In a just and functioning society, money creation must be a transparent, publicly accountable process in service to community needs.