“So you think that money is the root of all evil… Have you ever asked what is the root of money?”–Ayn Rand
This entry on money may come as a shock, given your blog’s tribute to Fred Mertz. You ask your readers to be patient with your contradictions. You can’t help it; you’re a Gemini.
Ever since you were a very young, it has been apparent that you have issues–maybe an unhealthy relationship–with money. Michael, (Big Dan’s dad) took you and Dan out to the Burger King and the movies one night when you were eight years old, or so. When he tried to buy your value meal, you insisted on paying for yourself, feeling guilty that someone else’s hard-earned money was leaking out of his wallet to feed a kid that wasn’t his.
You intimated that you felt too uncomfortable watching him dispense money. He thought, “My God! She’s eight! She’s only eight. What’s wrong with this kid?”
Yeah… what’s wrong with you?
The theme of the year is, “Maria, you sell yourself short. You need to feel comfortable asking people for money when you’ve earned it.”
But you hate money. Observers might think that because you pinch pennies so tightly that in fact you love it–that maybe you’re obsessed with it. Your sister Lorelei grills you all the time: “What are you going to do with your life? Are you going to be a… fitness trainer forever?” Everyone’s waiting for you to wake up, shake the nickles and dimes out of your ears, and start–earning a living–that’s what they call it.
You have to earn your living. You don’t see why “money” is implied in that sentence.
You have to build a life. “Build.” Out of what? Money? Says who?
That’s just how things work. Oh yeah? Why?
…Okay, Maria, slow down. You sound naive. Immature. Of course you know that eventually you’ll have to play their game. But go back in time for a second.
Money did not always exist (money, as in currency). Money, in fact, is a concept. An evolving thing. The closest thing it had to real value was universal appreciation for gold. But the Gold Standard is long gone. Most money in this globalized world is nothing more than a concept, “existing” as “promises” to “pay” something that will remain intangible unless “cashed in.” Even then, your cash derives its value from factors largely out of your control.
So what do you have? Nothing. You have faith in a concept. You have to “build your life” on a concept.
You’re a control freak. Why would you want to anchor your fate in something as immaterial as money?
You were not born in a time before the “existence” of money. You can’t help that, just as you cannot help that you were born on American soil, and therefore a citizen of the United States of America, fettered by immaterial rules, taxes, mores, and–you’re favorite–associative duties. There was a set of rules in place for a game you have no control over entering. Ah yes, but you do have control over exiting that game… but seriously, life’s not a bad deal, even if it comes with fake rules. In true Hobbesian spirit, you agree to the Social Contract because it is generally advantageous to do so.
Use of money is a rule with which you’ve had to agree because a means of life without money has become obsolete and virtually impossible, as there are not enough people willing to play this game without it.
Specialization, mechanization, and increases in technology have distanced the individual from that world. One hundred years ago, when something broke, you knew why it broke and how to fix it. Not these days. Not anymore. Call in the specialist. Pay the specialist money, to fix your problems and make them go away.
Now you are dependent on money, truly.
Why else do you hate money?
Capitalism, or love of money, which values money in and of itself, is very powerful I’ll give Ayn Rand some credit, because incentive is what makes people move the world, and money is a great incentive.
But when money is the value in and of itself, your whole moral structure shifts. People stop doing things for each other. They do things for money. If the job doesn’t pay enough, it’s not worth the time. Lawsuits only happen when money can be obtained! Store-bought gifts say, “I love you ‘this many dollars worth.'” —The Office Sad that the only feasible way mankind will change its exploitative relationship with the environment is if there is a market incentive.
The burning question: if you could sufficiently secure all your primary goods (food, shelter, medical care, education, etc.) honestly, ethically, and without the use of money, would you do it?
Think about it. No money. Yeah, it’s hard. No all-powering and corrupting incentive. It’s hard to imagine technology without money. It’s equally hard to imagine egregious social stratification without money. It’s hard to imagine drug trafficking. It’s hard to imagine exploitation.
Hell, maybe you’re wrong. Maybe people were just as evil before the advent of money as they are now. But from your travels and interactions with people–and you’ve rubbed elbows with some very rich people, and some very poor people–you have deduced that when basic primary needs are sufficiently met, people’s nature polarizes toward the good.
There’s nothing you can do about that existence of money. You keep your needs simple and low cost. You have to make some money to navigate through this modern world; money is a means to an end. For your fear of a love of money, you just try to make sure that the end is not a means toward more money.
“An honest man is one who knows he can’t consume more than he has produced.” -Ayn Rand