Sunday, April 26, 2009

Fiat Lux

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The Jacksonville University motto is Fiat Lux, which is Latin for "Let there be light." It appears on the university seal across the pages of an open book, accompanied by a lit lamp and a globe. The symbolism is that Jacksonville University uses the lamp of knowledge to enlighten its students and dispel the darkness of ignorance throughout the world.

When something is done by fiat, it is done by declaration or decree. Fiat lux is a declaration of light. But the word, fiat, has other applications. Fiat money is something that is accepted to serve as money because it has been declared to be so, usually by the government. For example, in the United States, paper money has no intrinsic value. We accept pieces of paper in exchange for valuable goods and services because as a society we have agreed to do so. Federal Reserve Notes (the official name of our paper money) are not of much use other than as money. They are imprinted with the sentence "This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private" as an assurance of the social agreement that they will be an acceptable form of money.

Unlike fiat money, commodity money has intrinsic value. Metal coins, especially ones made of gold and silver, can be melted down and the used for other things, such as jewelry. Thus coins are typically commodity money.

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