Finance in Fenspace
|“||Can you imagine the bragging rights? That's the real Fen currency, you know that.||”|
—Eric Zhu (owner of The Island), in Disturbing Implications of Land Rising Into the Sky
Bragging rights may be the real currency of Fenspace, but you can't (usually) buy a tank of fuel with them.
The Old Standbys
Quite a few places in the solar system, mostly places that have cut most or all their ties with Earth, operate according to the barter system. This tends to swapping handwavium strains, 'Danelaw IP (the latest mega-blockbuster to hit DVD, for example) or some other form of portable goods in exchange for berthing fees. Some stations in the Belt and outer system charge a life tax of organic materials to help keep things running, although this is a fairly new idea.
In general, the smaller and more isolated a station is, the more likely it's on the barter standard.
Money Money Money Makes The World Go Round
In the more civilized parts of Fenspace, barter doesn't cut it. There's too much trade and traffic to really support a barter economy. So once again, money enters the equation.
Fen money - no matter what the currency - tends to be electronic in nature. This is mostly a practical issue; paper money is worth more as compost, and metal coinage is bulky, difficult to store and frankly worth more rendered down into structural elements or electronic components. As a result, Fenspace is a mostly "cashless" society.
|Browncoat prospectors in the Jovian trojans whisper that they've seen a perfect copy of Scrooge McDuck's Money Bin floating among the rocks. However, this may be a tall tale or some Discordian's idea of a weird joke.|
The major currencies are still mostly 'Danelaw. The major currencies in use - in order of popularity, Australian dollars, US dollars, Euros, yen, pounds sterling and others - are mostly used by fendanes and fen who deal with Earth on a regular basis (such as Stellvia Corporation). Mundane currency has the advantage of being well-known and established exchange rates, but are disliked by fen who left Earth to get away from the 'Danelaw.
The Fenspace standard currency is the Solar Credit, issued by the Bank of Sol. The solar credit was devised as part of the articles of convention passed at Worldcon Flying Island in 2009, in order to emphasize to Earth that Fenspace was planning for the long haul. The credit was immediately accepted as the baseline currency by both the Trekkies and Warsies, and was pegged by the Bank to the AU$ (at the time, Australia being the only 'Danelaw nation friendly with Fenspace).
Other fen currencies exist, most officially pegged to the solar credit. In practice, some privately-issued currencies are more valued than others (much like in the American Old West):
- A-list currencies are backed by a strong material base and equally high goodwill amongst fen, and are issued by highly reputable groups. This limits them to the Mars and Venus terraforming projects, the Island and Hephaestus.
- B-list currencies are backed either by the issuing group's reputation or their physical assets. The yen issued by Hidden Asteroid are a good example of this.
- C-list currencies are backed more by reputation than anything else, and thus fluctuate as a group's rep goes up or down according to Fenspace opinion.
- D-list currencies have no backing at all, making them little more than novelty items outside the issuing group - the equivalent of the Old West's wooden nickels. (However, real wooden nickels are valuable in Fenspace as biomass, as The Jason has proven.) If Candy Apple Red's issued its own money, this is where it would be ranked.
Fenspace money is not only held to the Australian dollar, it is officially backed by physical assets. In historical monetary systems, that asset was a precious metal of some kind - gold, silver and platinum being traditional. However, the sheer glut of metals available in Fenspace and the relative ease of extracting those metals means that a precious metal standard won't work. Neither will a standard based on gemstones (easily synthesizable from Venusian carbon), water (available from the Belt and outer system), hydrogen (again the outer system), etc.
The asset used to back Fenspace currency is the one thing that can't be produced cheaply and quickly in the greater solar system - biomass. Seeds, genetic material, whole plants and animals, soil, even sewage. All of this material is required to sustain life on a permanent basis and is extremely scarce off-Earth.
On the biomass standard, the several hundred acres of American farmland boosted into orbit by the Grover's Corners gives the owners of record an intrinsic net worth slightly higher than the to-2012 profits of Rockhounds, Inc. (the at-the-time largest single corporate entity in Fenspace). A severe economic dislocation was avoided mostly because the Grover's Corners crew didn't quite understand what their launch had wrought and didn't exercise their newfound purchasing power. The distraction of Operation Great Justice also hit a few weeks later, and took everybody's minds off the sudden infusion of superrich people.
Since Fenspace is a mostly cashless society, institutions that issue their own currency issue credit and debit cards to handle that currency. Card styles vary greatly between issuers; the "Venus Express" card is considered valuable in its own right because of the Venusian diamond inlay, while the Hephaestan "Steel Credit" routinely sets off airport security alarms. Most cards tend to be indistinguishable from mundane credit cards, however.
The credit card has become Fenspace's de facto identification card, since everybody needs to have one in order to do business with anyone else without resorting to barter. Libertarian and anarchic factions tend to make it easy to obtain cards issued to "John Smith", "Jiro Yamada", or other cultures' equivalents; other factions tend to require, if not a real name, at least a false name that isn't blatantly obvious.
Balance transfers between Fenspace banks, or between Fenspace and the 'Danelaw, are handled by bonded AIs that were specially programmed and 'waved to be as incorruptible as possible.