Do We Even Need Money?
I wrote about hating money this week. A few new commenters chimed in with their feelings about the control access to money has over our lives. Randy Sorensen shared the following:
This article really resonated with me. It is so sad that people are unable to develop talents or pursue interests simply because they must follow a path they hope will provide enough money for them to live on. I often wonder how amazing the world would be if each person had the chance to explore and develop their many talents. Instead, we live in a world that encourages us to work harder, find a side hustle, and do whatever it takes to make money.
I think about this a lot too, sometimes to the point that I have trouble sleeping. I think of all the people we’ve oppressed out of making amazing contributions to the world because our societies primacy money over pretty much everything. I think about the diseases that haven’t been cured, because the minds that can achieve it are languishing in squalor somewhere. I think of all the beautiful art sitting trapped inside creative people who are being suffocated by jobs that barely give them time to take bathroom breaks. There is a way to create a world where people can become the best of themselves. The first step is breaking the mindset that being the best means amassing the most wealth. It’s a toxic way to organize a society. It’s uncivilized and inherently oppressive. I see a lot of young people coming around to this point of view. It gives me hope for the future.
Gerard Mclean shared this:
I hate the feeling I spent three minutes reading your essay and the guilt I feel that it didn’t make me any money. I hate that everything we do is measured against some ROI, that we are crafting reasoning around justifying everything we do as either productive “hustle and grind” or massively unproductive.
How will I explain the three minutes I spent reading and the four minutes I spent writing a response… in case someone asks me how I spent my day, anxious about the resultant approval or disapproval based on my answer?
This perfectly mirrors my experience writing. I try to hold on to the pure enjoyment of it, and sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t, though. I get caught up in analyzing my stats and trying to hack a “formula” that will produce the most claps. There really isn’t one. I can’t figure out which pieces will take off and which ones won’t. Maybe if I looked harder, I could parse it all out, but I don’t think I really want to. I want to write about what matters to me, because it matters to me. I also want to serve my readers, but what other people want can’t be what’s driving me. It’s taken a lot of work for me to get past thinking of myself as mainly a unit of productivity. I’m only just past that line, and I struggle to hold on to the revelation.
Chuma Chike-Obi, MD wrote:
I don’t think it’s useful to ‘hate’ money, any more than it’s useful to hate ‘electricity’ or ‘the wheel’
I was expecting this pushback. It’s one of the reasons I went with such a strong rhetorical device. I think the whole conversation we have about money — about economics, really — has to change. In my opinion, we have to start addressing deep, core issues in an aggressively confrontational manner.
Access to wheels and electricity do affect the quality of my life. The thing that allows me access to them or prevents me having access to them is money. We need to talk more about how money is put between us and everything we need. We have to start having more honest conversations about the way it’s been weaponized. It is not neutral. We have to start considering that maybe this isn’t the best we can do in terms of organizing our societies.
I believe there is such a thing as economic crimes against humanity. I think it’s a crime against humanity when health care is essentially hoarded and rationed out only to people who can pay. I think it’s a crime against humanity when economic mismanagement leads to hyperinflation, and the money everyone was “rewarded” with for working themselves to the bone becomes useless. There are countless other examples.
I understand the argument that what I’m really talking about is greed and how people use money. But I think it’s deeper than that. I think we have to start thinking about the thing itself and its place in society. Is money even necessary? I don’t know the answer to that question. Saying it’s self-evident that we need money might be a failure of imagination. I’m starting to believe that any political philosophy that makes money and our labor in relationship to it its foundation is a scam. The economics always seem to end up benefiting a handful and oppressing the masses.
When it comes to money, a lot of people, particularly those who’ve risen into the professional classes, are letting their little jobs fool them. They’re conflating wealth with income. The money they’re making lawyering or doctoring or accounting or engineering might give them more breathing room than someone working multiple minimum wage jobs and living pay check to pay check, but if things really turn, are they really that much better off? There’s a huge heist happening. Don’t let the fact that you’re getting more of the crumbs fool you into thinking you’re actually sitting at the table divvying up the loot with the robbers.
One of the reasons I’m on this kick is the rise of cryptocurrencies. We’re watching the disaster of Facebook, et al. having all our data unfold. I don’t understand what people think is going to happen if we let those libertarian dudebros get control over the money too. The problems of access will be even further compounded by people needing access to the technology they need to access the money they need to buy the technology they need to access their money. It’s already happening to some extent with traditional banking. A lot is changing very quickly. Standing flat-footed is not the move. Human civilization is being reorganized. Money is being centered in the rearrangement. Should it?
That’s it for this week! Thanks for reading!