The concept of money is as pervasive as the air we breathe. It governs every aspect of our lives: where we work, where we live, how we live, how long we live. It consumes our thoughts, focuses our ambitions, colors our dreams, sparks our disputes, and stokes our anxieties. It’s here, there and everywhere. No wonder it is viewed with the same degree of inevitability and blind acceptance as a force of nature. Such as gravity.
Money, however, is not a force of nature. It is a concept, an idea, a figment of the human imagination. And it is real only to the extent that we allow it to rule our lives and our relationships with one another.
Money, which has been around at least as long as recorded history, is most commonly and simply defined as a “medium of exchange.” And its utility is often illustrated by such examples as the ease with which it permits a shoemaker to exchange his labor for bread without having to search for a baker in need of shoes. On this simplistic level, the concept of money undoubtedly did serve some useful purpose in times past.
Today, however, money serves a far different and insidious purpose. Today, money is no longer a medium of exchange, if it ever was. The word “exchange” implies equality in the transaction, as in the dictionary definition: “To part with, give, or transfer in consideration of something received as an equivalent.” The parties engaged in a transaction involving money are not in a mutual search for equivalency. In transactions between buyers and sellers, employers and employees, each side is seeking to advantage itself at the expense of the other. The seller wants to charge as much as possible; the buyer wants to pay as little as possible. The worker wants to earn as much as possible; the employer wants to pay as little as possible.
Therefore, money is more accurately defined as a “medium of competition.” By its ability to digitize and dehumanize every economic transaction, money has become both the facilitator and the score-keeping mechanism in the Mother of All Monopoly Games called capitalism, a game in which we are all required to participate, whether we like it or not. Thus, making money the most lethal idea ever coughed up by the human imagination.
A voice from the depression, here’s Ronnie Tielenberg singing “Are You Making Any Money?”