Law in Contemporary Society

What's Money Got To Do With It?

-- By CarlJohnson - 16 May 2012

Of Means and Ends

From KippMuellerSecondPaperSpring2012? , "Worker Bees":

"I, like all of us, am a slave to money. I am well aware that no matter how much money I make, I will want more. That is how the system works; there is no satisfaction. If I were ever to become satisfied, I would be dispensable in our capitalist society. It is my perverted sense of fulfillment via wealth accumulation that makes me useful to the system."

Kipp, is this really how you feel? Even if it's true that in a capitalist system, a person who is always driven to accumulate more and more wealth is more valuable than one who accumulates some wealth but becomes satisfied, is that paradigm the reason you desire more and more money? Do you pursue money because you want to be more useful to the system? That doesn't sound like you. I would have thought your perspective to be more like mine, viewing the accumulation of wealth as a means to an end, but an end quite different than mere usefulness in the system.

I want to make money so that I can spend it on things that will make me happy. I want a house that is big enough for each of my kids to have their own bedroom. Is that necessary? No, but I grew up with my own bedroom for most of my life, and it was nice to have some private space of my own, so I want to provide that for my kids. I want high-quality kitchen supplies because I love to cook, and cooking with quality supplies is more enjoyable. Similarly, I want a nice sound system because I love music, and listening to music on a quality system is more enjoyable. I want to put my kids through college because I know that a college education will help them live happy, successful lives. I want the ability to fly across the country on short notice to attend my friend's wedding or to be with my sick mother. All these things cost money. That's just the way it is.

"Cash Rules Everything Around Me, CREAM! Get the money. Dolla dolla bill y'all." The Wu-Tang Clan

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems?

In sum, I want to make money so that I can do the things that make me happy, which include cooking, listening to music, and supporting my family and friends. Do I need an endless amount of money to achieve that end? Absolutely not. So, sure, I'll pursue money just like the next guy, but an endless pursuit and an unquenchable thirst for more? Highly doubtful. I'm pretty confident that I can make enough money to sustain the aforementioned ends and then be satisfied. Will that satisfaction make me less valuable to the system of capitalism? Probably, but who cares?

I don't think money itself is the problem. Money just is. Money is how we pay for things. Before money it was gold; before gold it was silk and other rare, high-value goods. There's no reason to hate money, per se. What's despicable is the morally bankrupt things people do in the name of money, and the type of person you become when all you love is money for money's sake. I think that that's a more precise statement of what you don't like, Kipp, the shallow, materialistic vacuum that people create for themselves when all they see and all they care about is money. That's what bothers me most about certain careers in finance. Admittedly, I know very little about how the finance world actually works, but my novice impression is that it's all about making money from money. You make money and you use it to make more money, then you use that money to make even more money. If that's accurate, which it may not be, I don't see the point in it besides satisfying insatiable greed. If you're using that money to start a business, great, you're providing jobs, goods, and services. If you're using it to buy and Xbox, great, you're increasing your happiness and supporting the economy as a consumer. If you're using it to put your kids through college, great, you're helping your kids lead successful lives. Now maybe the accumulation of money as an end in itself does make some people truly happy . . . but I just can't imagine being that person. I wouldn't want to be that person. Seems like a pretty empty existence.

"I heard somebody say money is the root of all evil. Don't believe that, man. It's the love of money, the pursuit of money, that's the root of all kinds of evil." Talib Kweli Greene

The Roman proverb said "Cupiditas radix malorum est." That means, the love of money is the root of all evil. So whoever Talib Kweli Greene is, the comment is less literate, and more imitative, than one would hope for in oneself, I think.

The draft seems to me to be pretty much all on one note, and that note pretty obvious. Kipp was going someplace less obvious. Your way of reading him turned him into a straw man, as he objects for himself. But in any event, I've never heard anyone who didn't know how much was enough talk about money in terms different from those you use here. Ostensibly, no one wants more money than it takes to be happy. Most of the big money piled up in the world is "fuck you" money, and pretty much no one wants to discuss that motive, most of the time. So everyone's just piling up enough to be happy, and maybe enough to leave a good fortune to the kids.

But that's not the problem. It's easy to say. What's harder is knowing how to shape a life in which you don't need more than enough, and don't go chasing that more. Nothing you have written here explains how you mean to deal with that. A revision might.

Eben, I'd like to revise this at least once or twice over the summer. Thank you. --Carl


Thanks for the commentary! I should clarify my post in this regard: I did not mean to say that I desired wealth because I wanted to be in the system's grip. My reasons for wanting money change all the time, but it's certainly never because of any desire to perpetuate the system. It's usually because I want the new iPhone or a cool apartment.

But the desire, itself, is omnipotent. And it's the omnipotence of that desire that I am trying to voice my fear of in my post.

I also did not mean to say that the desire to make any money is evil per se. What I am trying to say in my post is that money is too important to us. At some point we are no longer the consumers but rather the consumed. And it happens at the expense of living a meaningful life. It also happens at the expense of allowing others to live a meaningful life. I do not like this.



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r4 - 22 Jan 2013 - 20:09:50 - IanSullivan
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