Sunday, September 24, 2006

Spiritual Economics Part 1

What is it that people mean when they say that Money is the root of all evil?
What is it that people are intentionally attacking with that statement? It seems to be used as a way of saying that Envy is all that people are capable of in regards to money... as if they implicitly, and arrogantly, believe that money is something that can only be taken from others or that you must keep others from taking from you.

What does this say about people, their beliefs about Value, and ultimately Truth and Spirituality? People often say that what you value, affects your heart and soul. Fine and true enough, but how often do you hear that what you don’t value, can also have a significant affect on you heart and soul?

The normally thoughtful Deep Thought is promoting "Distributionism", apparently the Catholic Church’s approved economic plan - other than his posts on it I admittedly know nothing of Distributionism, but it seems that his posts reveal much. He lists a number of well meaning points that it promotes, “You should seek to avoid middlemen, credit unions are to be preferred over banks, Avoid Usury" and sums up the error of Capitalism as “…thinking that the goal is to maximize profits with the goal of accumulating the greatest possible capital”, but in my opinion all of these points sum up to "This is what we have determined to be the best way for you to behave", rather than "Refrain from committing crime, and live your life as you see fit, knowing that you are responsible for your actions." . As far as accumulating ‘too much’ capital being a mistaken goal – the purpose of Individual Rights (the cornerstone requirement for laissez-faire Capitalism) is not to achieve Happiness, but to ensure that people are free to do so if they are capable. It is the goal of Philosophy, not economics or politics, to achieve Happiness. As advice, some may see some value in this, but as Economic Policy? However holy the intent, I can’t see any ultimate destination for these good intentions, other than a new Utopian hell on earth.

And at root here, the viewpoint that Money is the root of all evil reveals to us much about those who hold it. It is this viewpoint that valuables’ (and Values!), wealth and luxuries are just things already “out there" which are pursued only by Brutes, whose lives are focused on all that glitters, and to seek or deal in Money, is to covet that which another has. This is not just a leftist viewpoint; most conservatives hold it as well. While conservatives are wary of Governmental regulation of the economy, they too think that there is little good in either money or the economy, but are instead necessary evils, made still worse by governmental interference and power.

Money is nothing but a tool to help make your time, effort and possessions conveniently portable, and preservable. It does it by measuring out something that nearly everyone agrees is of value to them, or because it is to most others feel certain that it can be traded for what is valuable to them, something that won’t rot on the shelf but will be valuable today, tomorrow 50 years from now, and which you can be fairly certain will be as valuable today and 50 years from now, come what may. Gold, Silver, Diamonds are the most common materials that fit these parameters. The dollar that the Founding Fathers fixed as our measure of currency was 100th of an ounce of Gold.

When you, say, agree to build a table for $50, you agreed that the time, effort and materials you’d put into building that table, were pretty much equivalent to the time, effort and materials that you’d trade for ½ an ounce of gold. That common understanding simplified the lives and calculations of everyone in the civilized world. With that common agreement, you were now able to set a few dollars aside each week until you had enough to support yourself for a week, and then with just those dollars in your pocket, you could travel to another city, exchange those dollars for food and shelter instead of trying to cart perishable food and clumsy materials with you, or hoping you would be able to find someone who would want your services when you got there, before you or your family got hungry. That’s it. Yes, government’s try to muddy the waters with some smoke ‘n mirrors such as paper money, but it still doesn’t change the fact that that is all there is to it. All of finance, stocks, bonds, money lending, are nothing but more and more sophisticated ways of enabling people to trade or store their skills using a common yardstick of measurement.

N-o-t-h-i-n-g M-o-r-e.
So what is it about this marvelous tool which enables these abilities and freedoms, that people (you?) like to posture so righteously about condemning?

And don’t give me any BS about some people having too much of it, there is nothing in its nature that is degraded by quantity – the principle and reality of it is unchanged by quantity. Also, please don’t bother with any BS about Actors and Athletes’ being paid more than ‘valuable’ people like school teachers, etc. If my Son goes to college next year, I’ll be paying $15,000 to $40,000 for him to sit with 5 or 6 teachers, and some support staff, for 9 months.

There are NO Actors or Athlete’s who we pay nearly as much money to, as we do to a school teacher or college professor. NONE! You want to argue about that? Been to a movie lately? How much did you pay to see it? $8? $12? Of that ticket cost, how many Actors were involved in the movie? How about crew? Related services & special effects people, etc? Over what period of time did it take to make that movie? 3 months? 12 months? If you could slice a pie into that many pieces, what portion would go to the “Star’ of the movie? A Penny? Oh, they’re a superstar? Well, well then, maybe $1? Lets get extravagant and say they get $4 of that ticket price – so you’re saying that you were willing to pay mister or miz bigshot glamour person $4 for 3 to 12 months of work, so you’d be entertained for 90 minutes – my oh my, aren’t you the big spender.

Do the math for the Athlete, it’s the same deal. The only way they collect such large amounts of money a year, is because hundreds of thousands of people are willing to pay them a fraction of a penny for an hours worth of amusement. They make FAR LESS than any school teacher or college professor. And you can bet, that once someone figures out how to make a decent school teacher or college professor able to provide their services over the internet for millions of people to see – they won’t say another word about earning obscene profits.

The view that wealth is Bad and a guilty pleasure to have (and to hold), is astounding and I contend that it is entirely unsupportable. The idea that through the redistributionist (thieving) policies of 'those who know better', that they feel that they are redeemed in their own eyes, and in the eyes of their fellow citizens, and even deserve thanks from both those who 'benefit' from their criminal efforts, and even from those whom they redistribute (steal) from, is incomprehensible. In these actions there occurs no creation, no development of self responsibility for anyone’s actions, no engagement of inner and outer worlds in the creation of wealth (the only way for wealth to be created or to do any good), for anyone they ‘help’, or even within themselves.

And don’t say that it’s not the people who actually earn a living that you condemn, only those who take profits for pushing papers around that you condemn. More ignorant BS. Lets take a look at the ultimate archetype of this idea, the moneylender. A money lender doesn’t make money for pushing paper, he risks ALL the money he lends (ever hear of a bank or savings & Loan collapse? The risk is real, and it takes real skill and judgment to avoid disaster and turn the risk into profit for all) He doesn’t lend suck money out of a transaction, he makes it possible for you to live in your house years before you’ve earned enough to build it. For the loan of using his money NOW he charges… what, $0.05 cents on the dollar? 6? Maybe 7? He makes your world possible and in return he receives your spin. Fortunately he doesn’t need the little sense you may have, only your cents. As soon as you hear someone deride moneylenders (middlemen too) you can assume 2 things:

  1. Either they know nothing about money, and spend little time among abstract thoughts, or
  2. They assume you don’t know nothing about money and hope to swindle money, authority and/or power from your ignorance.
The assertion that money is Evil, or in any way unworthy, is itself Evil, it is sick, and I think that it’s high time that people stand up and say so. I believe that, contrary to claims made by Rousseau, Marx & others, Money and Private Property actually ennobles an individual, and their society.

To have the opposite of Private Property, property that is claimed by all of the public, then it will be seen as something that is just there and its use will be claimed by all, but the responsibility for care and maintenance of it felt by none, to be treated as something of an afterthought. No one will have any sustained interest in its care or improvement, or a sense of responsibility for it.

Yours, Mine And Nobody's
When property is said to be "mine", not merely in possession of, but owned by a rational person, it gains an aura of worthiness in that persons eyes; psychologically, the person transfers a little piece of their self to the property, like God imbuing life into the clay of Adam – and that is not far off, it is made possible because of some portion of your time and effort – your LIFE being spent on it. Property that is private property is cared for, is improved, and also serves to establish value and regard amongst (rational) individuals in a society. Respect for your own property, requires a reciprocal respect for others property, else how could anyone manage to keep property private, unless all agreed to respect another’s claim to their own property? A society whose economy is based on money requires a society that understands and respects the rule of law – without that, it’s back to trading (and raiding) cows.

Those of a savage nature, who are violently grasping of "THEIRS!", but are covetous of that which is claimed by others; not only do they not yet have an understanding of what Private Property is and means - but I suspect that they do not have a properly developed sense of their own soul and self worth, or of how reason operates in their lives and of how their soul interacts with the world through the actions they take (or don’t take) to develop their lives. As a result, I suspect that you'll find that the development of their private selves, their conceptual, spiritual selves, their souls integration with their own mind, body and world, will be much less developed and full of contradictory desires, urges and behaviors as well.

Not having a complete & accurate experience & understanding of living their lives, is similar to a balance being removed from, or added to, a spinning wheel. Slowly but surely the wheel begins to not only spin and occasionally bounce, but to wobble from side to side, and not be able to correct itself back to true center. Soon the wobbling is pronounced and devastating to not only the wheel itself, but its bearings, axle and eventually the entire car will shake, and if not pulled to a stop, will crash to one.

And so even the oldest economic bogeyman of money lending, and what may be the well intentioned regulation of Welfare Statism, of Compassionate Conservatism, of Distributionism and "Usury is to be avoided", means that those with money to lend, who might be willing to risk a gain for a large enough return - will not, and those who might have benefited & prospered & elevated the situations of themselves and others - will not - and much wealth and potential wealth will be lost and destroyed.

Think of what must result from any policy concerning something as all pervasive to your life as Economics, which limits your freedoms and is to be enforced by the Government; which attempts to take it upon itself to force your choices into what it approves & disapproves of, is destructive to the Spirit, and removes self responsibility from it's citizens, forcing "choice" on those who, if free, would choose otherwise. I think that it must be a guarantee that eventually the citizenry will be reduced to savagery and a totalitarian state - that place where the path of good intentions so often leads.

To denigrate money and private property is to denigrate and devalue your own soul – and I think that there are many more of us out here who know that – and who know what you really are, those of you who think such rot - than you might think.

(For an excellent excavation of the “Money is the root of all evil” silliness, see Francisco's Money Speech excerpted from Atlas Shrugged, at CapMag.)


Anonymous said...

Please see my most recent post

Van Harvey said...

(Deep Thought posted a reply reply regarding this series of posts - I will review his posts again and see if I jumped to wrong conclusions, or better clarify my position on his posts. I'd suggest you all do the same, and see where we all come out. If nothing else, the further consideration will benefit us all)

Dear Deep Thought,

I’m emailing you because I don’t think my comment got through on your site, I’ll post this in my comments as well.

In light of your comments, at the very least, I can say that I obviously didn’t make myself clear in separating my criticism of Distributionism as a private social policy, from the implications I think would inevitably develop if it were made into a Governmental policy.

And of course I do agree that avoiding high interest rates and middle men makes perfect sense in most business situations where the higher cost of interest or the services of the middle men aren’t offset by any savings in time and effort they might provide for you.

I did feel that your posts had at root a sense that “Money is at the root of all evil”, though holding that Gov’t should stay out of regulating it. The focus of my post was that even a mostly benign policy such as Distributionism, if developed as a Governmental policy, would eventually extend into the tyranny it rejects; it was those wider implications that my comments were focused on.

I will re-read your series this week, and either give myself a comeuppance for missing key points from your posts, or explain better what my disagreements with your posts on Distributionism are.

For the record, I thoroughly enjoy and value your site, and gain much from your posts.

Van - Blogodidact

freespeak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
freespeak said...

Does it say somewhere in here about the words usually left out are "the LOVE of money" is the root of all evil?
Surely the trend with the Left on regulation, property, etc. is a Chinese model?

Van Harvey said...

H.C. said "Does it say somewhere in here about the words usually left out are "the LOVE of money" is the root of all evil?"

In a roundabout way, yes... getting to it in part 2 and more so in part 3.
If you want the 'in your face' refutation of 'the love of money' being the root of all evil, try "Francisco's Money Speech", updated link here:

"Francisco's Money Speech" (I'll update the post's link later).

But the if you'd prefer less of a slap in the face than the speech will give you, I'll say that there are two ways of approaching that:

One is the way which is typically only superficially considered, and which gets the face slap in the above speech; that the true conceptual meaning of Money, what it truly represents and enables, is extremely worthy of being loved, and in much the same way someone might love their Doctor (and the emergency appendectomy which saved your life) or the Gardener (and the gardener you enjoy on a summer's eve) or your Cook (and the delicious meal which nourished your body and soul). It is right and good to extend a measure of love towards those who extend services and things of true value to you, as well as the real material values which their skills enabled your life to be enhanced by, as does the true Banker/Financier and the Money they may loan/Invest in you (Keeping in mind the numerous frauds and hucksters flooding the fields of finance today, mostly courtesy you friendly neighborhood govt regulator).

The 2nd approach however, would be that of identifying the nugget of truth usually overlooked in the statement of "The love of money is the root of all evil", and that is the lust ('love' is just the fig leaf for it) for taking, through some use of force, directly as with a mugger, or indirectly as with some degree of swindle, to improperly get what you have not produced and do not deserve. In this sense 'love' means a rotted lust for unearned gratification, the desire to pleasure yourself with the fruits, possessions and values which other's have created, and which you have no right to, other than somehow having acquired them - 'legally' perhaps, but not legitimately.

In that sense, yes, that is evil, the desire to have what you haven't earned and don't deserve, to magically possess what you should not.

But that is the very thing which Money, in its proper sense, is not, and is not about, and to the degree that there are people who seek or even manage to acquire or seize quantities of money and satisfy their desires with it - that isn't the fault of Money, but of Men who have never considered either it's true meaning, or their own.

"Surely the trend with the Left on regulation, property, etc. is a Chinese model?"

I'm afraid I'm not sure how you mean that 'Chinese model'... can you clarify it a bit more?

Van Harvey said...

Is that you Trubolotta? Maybe not, but if what you meant by the 'Chinese model', is what was meant elsewhere with this,

"China has managed to "create" some very wealthy people and well-off politicians in partnerships based on "offers you cannot refuse"."

, then yes, that is what is behind our system of regulatory 'laws'.

But that is not any sort of wealth creation or love of money in the proper sense I noted above, but instead is the act of thugs surripticiously redistributing the wealth of others via the power of the govt, into their own and their comrades pockets.

Thuggery, nothing more... and in many ways, sooomuch less. A random thief is a least seeking to steal and enjoy a real value from his victim, but the regulacrat is seeking to gain power and influence and personal $, at the cost of destroying far more wealth than they will ever be able to ‘enjoy’.

freespeak said...

By Chinese (now note, my recollection of this is vague because of, way back in high school I researched several books like "Roots of Revolution" and "Solzhenitzen","Gulag Archipelago" and various others), I mean the a person's worth is based on the collective or the greater good. You have no personal property, much less a mind of your own,it is all regulated and controlled by the "government", who decides what you need, when you need it and how. they are also your judge and jury (like sharia).
While at the same time their gluttonous lives are a, complete contradiction. They hoard and display wealth which equals power while telling the people they are selfish.
Much like Obama.
There is so much more, but I do not type well !
And no,I am not that other person, I am another person, LOL!

Van Harvey said...

H.C. said "By Chinese... I mean the a person's worth is based on the collective or the greater good. You have no personal property, much less a mind of your own,it is all regulated and controlled by the "government", who decides what you need, when you need it and how. they are also your judge and jury (like sharia)."

I'm not sure how fair it is to the Chinese to label them with it (spot on with Sharia though), but rhetorically it works really well with the whole 'East vs. West' theme. The origin of the West is found in the idea of self governance, and it's also the focus of the assault upon the West, undermining the concept of self governance and all it relies upon - concepts of the Good, the Beautiful and the True - and imposing an all powerful external rule by force over us.

While the Chinese have traditionally (and it's been a few years since I've been through their history too) been a collective based culture, they came to it more through their fondness for roles, processes and 'real politik' of ancestor worship and political traditionalism, than the flat out opposition to the individual which marked Red China - I don't think that they had the ideological bent against the individual and against Morality, Truth & Beauty, until the totalitarian state burst upon them through Mao... who got much of it from the same western anti-Western sources that we and Obamao get it from today, going back through Marx, Hegel, Kant & Rousseau.

And yes, what you describe is dead set against the West and the individual, the rule of law and anything else which requires individual thought and choices being made apart from the collective all controlling State.

All of our rights as individuals, rest upon the Western understanding of Natural Law (which Cicero called Reason in it's purest form) and it's political anchor in property rights, and through it all, the idea of self governance, which, sorry to get all linky on you, but which I've been going through begining with Homer, here Back To The Basics: Where Is Justice To Be Found?, and the playwrites like Aeschyles here What does Athens have to do with Justice? and out of the hands of poets and into the hands of politicians with Athens and America: The Bog Of The Gaps.

"And no,I am not that other person, I am another person, LOL!"