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Money has long been the dominant factor in much of our lives on an individual level and on up to global geopolitical events. So much effort is devoted to either maintaining a certain level of wealth or trying to increase this level. It should not be forgotten, however, that, in the words of Henry Ward Beacher, “Riches are not an end of life, but an instrument of life.”
The rich have been spoken of portrayed many times as corrupt or evil, and poverty given a form of glory or honour as a purer state of existence. That said, offer a rich man and a poor man the chance to exchange places, even temporarily, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find any takers on behalf of the rich or refusals on the part of the poor. The simple explanation for this is that money provides more options and opportunities in life. In a way it can be seen as a key to one of our most sought after ‘commodities’: freedom. Knowing that the basics- food, warmth, security for yourself and your family- are taken care of allows the thoughts to turn to grander things, like the problems of society at large, self-development, creativity, travel etc.
A person who see money as an end in itself, working 18 hours a day to earn twice as much as others with no specific aim to put this income toward, is not really living in the way we normally think of the word ‘living’. That person may continue in this way for years, until eventually retiring with n exceedingly healthy bank account and nothing more- an empty existence behind them. He or she will have effectively sold their time, their life. It won’t have really appeared this way to them as it was happening, but essentially that is the exchange they will have made. Not one that any sane person would make, or even think about for a fraction of a second- “Want to instantly age 20 years in exchange for a million quid?”, “No, thanks”.
Money only makes sense as a means to other things- remember that notes and coins have no intrinsic value, their worth comes only from the possibility they provide to exchange them fro other things- it should never be seen as the ultimate goal. Generally speaking, I feel that most people are aware of this, if only subconsciously in some cases. Lincoln may have said “That some should be rich, shows that others may become rich and, hence, is just encouragement to industry and enterprise”, and I agree with the sentiment expressed but, for most, the motivation is not simply to become rich. The inspiration or encouragement is to be able to live the life that the rich have, to be able to enjoy the privileges and possibilities resulting from wealth, not to just have money.
The misinterpretation by some of money as bad or corrupt is best illustrated by the difference between the phrase ‘love of money is the root of all evil’ and the commonly used abbreviation ‘money is the root of all evil’. Rich countries and large, successful companies are often presented as immoral, or even amoral, in such a way that people are left with the impression that money and wealth are the problem,whereas in fact the problem, as fascinatingly illustrated in Joel Bakan’s “The Corporation”, is the pursuit of money above all other priorities.