What Happens When I Burn Money?

Burning money for the first time marks a material change in an individual’s relation to it. Literally so. This is NOT insignificant.

I used to say that when I burned £20 economic theory predicted that I was giving it to everyone else. But increasingly people are questioning that claim. They say I’m simply gifting my £20 back to the Bank of England and there’s no redistribution of the value represented by the note.

I don’t necessarily have a firm intellectual commitment to any particular economic narrative. I remain to be convinced that any single map can precisely chart the territory of money. And in truth, when £20 is burned what happens to the piece of paper is less important to me than what happens to the person who burns it. But equally, as a High Priest of the Church of Burn I have a duty not to mislead people and I must reflect substantive claims about ‘what happens when I burn money’ in my conversations with would-be burners.

I think burning a banknote challenges the detached and contradictory discourse that dominates our conception of money and instead instigates an intimate and playful conversation between an individual and their economic cosmology.

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