A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on Marx. Several readers contacted me directly about this post with worries about whether or not I support communism. Sorry to disappoint your curiosity, but the post itself was not written as a piece for or against communism. Rather it was first an exercise in understanding Marx’s philosophical foundation for his attitude towards capitalism, and second an attempt to make Marx’s philosophy useful, relatable and memorable to lay-philosophers – many of whom naturally have little patience for abstract theories, irrelevant in the modern economic world.
If you didn’t read the post, the TL:DR of Marx’s “Estranged Labor” is that Marx thought – for philosophical reasons – that the labor market as an exchange of work for pay is inherently exploitative and inhumane. In case you were confused by that post, I’ll reassure you that’s not what I think, and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. Perhaps, after reading Marx, money has left a sour taste in your mouth. Fear not: this week, let’s re-think money in a positive light!
This post is for people who don’t want to think, touch, or participate in the purported money “sham”. Perhaps you’ve got philosophical reasons why you’re against the concept of money. Perhaps you’re emotional relationship with money is damaged by upbringing or tragic events. There are a lot of reasons why you might avoid money matters or even hate to think about it. Here’s a list of a few of those reasons:
- You’re doing ok. The deficiency need is met, so it doesn’t seem like a necessity. You’re getting by without thinking about money and like it that way.
- Thinking about money makes you feel inadequate. No matter how much money you have, society tells you that you don’t have enough. It hurts to compare yourself to others and to see that they have more. There are always more goods to buy, better places to live, and more fantastic experiences that you can buy if you have more money. In order to avoid feeling bad, you choose not to think about money.
- You’re avoiding valuing yourself by the number in the bank. Since a bank balance is a clear measure of you against someone else – it’s easy to compare your number and his/hers – it’s a truth that hits hard.
- Money is (by some theories) inherently exploitative. It’s true that money makes people do things they normally wouldn’t do. Earning, spending, and owing money makes people trapped, enslaved, and sad, even depressed and suicidal. Perhaps it makes you sad to witness that a majority of people are working in jobs they hate because of a need for money. Personally, I can’t help but empathize and sometimes feel as though Marx was right about the effect of capitalism on the human spirit.
- Money is the root of much human evil: a biblical belief passed down to children in Western cultures.
Money Makes The World Go ‘Round
Even if all those terrible things about money and its effects are true, that doesn’t make self-delusion better. Trying to boycott the economic facts is self-delusion – you’re buying into the system whether you admit it or not! The facts about your work and purchases speak for themselves.
Self-delusion is painful and makes life harder than it needs to be. It’s a fantasy to think that money will handle itself. Either we handle money or it handles us. You can ask yourself whether your relationship with money is impacting your emotional and physical well-being in a negative way. Finally, trying to boycott the economic facts is making you blind to the fact that you could do a lot of good with more money. Scoffing at billionaires wasting money on ostentatious consumer goods doesn’t help anyone; how about aiming to make some money and do some good?
If this post speaks to you so far, it’s time to rethink your attitude towards money. Here are some new beliefs to work on and some physical actions to take.
- Accept the reality of money and the dominant economic system of capitalism. You can’t stop the system (even if you disagree and you’re angry), but you can monitor and control your participation in order to contribute to greater justice for yourself and others. If you’re in it, be in it to win it. See the following advice.
- Stop deluding yourself that you have enough. Well, chances are you do have enough, but would earning more allow you to have an easier life and help more people live with ease, too? Would financial control help you find (and create) more peace?
- Admit that, given the reality of money, avoiding thinking about money is holding you back and making you uneasy in life.
- Vow to make purchases that don’t make you feel exploited for your time/effort. Look for high return on purchases. By high return, I mean keep this in mind: when you sell your labor, you’re trading something intrinsically valuable (time & life energy that you can’t get back) in exchange for something instrumentally valuable (something of impermanent and diminishing value). Therefore, you can only get equal value if you’re exchanging your money for something intrinsically valuable (saving time or creating ease in your life). Make purchases that bring true joy and fill life with ease.
- Vow to save some money from every pay cheque for yourself and donate to charity.
Money and capitalism aren’t all bad, despite Marx’s philosophy that attempts to convince otherwise. As cliché as it sounds, the advice stands: Make money work for you!
Critical Thinking Questions:
What’s your attitude towards money? Try bringing up these questions for discussions with friends, coworkers, your partner, or teenage children!
- Is money morally good or bad, or is it amoral (moral judgments don’t apply to it)?
- Does money fall into the category of an intrinsic or an instrumental good? Explain.
- Is being rich a “sin”?
- Would you rather be poor but happy, or rich and depressed?
- Is labor a fair trade-off? When you trade your time and effort for money, are they gone forever or can you buy them back?
- What kind of intrinsically valuable things can you buy (if any), and how?
- What did your upbringing tell you about the moral implication of money?
I hope this simple and straightforward post helped you by simplifying your relationship with money. If you found it useful and liked the ideas, please comment or like. I appreciate the support (that’s what we’re on Earth to do for each other, right?) and use your feedback to plan further posts. Thank you!