Is Money Evil?

Is Money Evil?

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B: We’ve all heard the old adage “money can’t buy happiness.”  But apparently none, or very few, of us believe it.  This is evident from the numberless varieties of methods contrived to get money, some of them outright criminal, and many, if not most, made with feverish desperation.  This may have been the kind of observation that led, at least in part, to another adage about money, that of “the love of money is the root of all evil.”  (Please note: the saying is, properly, that the love of money is the problem, not money itself.)

The obtaining of money in this world seems to be almost universally frowned upon, for some odd reason.  Why should it be?  We all need money.  Almost none of us can survive without it – those few who do lead extremely unusual lives; should we emulate them?  Why is it such a big deal that people try to make an extra buck here or there?

The problem seems to arise when there are people who struggle to get as much money as they would like and others who have more than the general public thinks they need.  I’m not sure why anyone would think they can accurately judge how much money another person “needs,” but I suppose it’s ultimately because of this reason that many countries levy graded taxes, which basically penalizes certain people for having too much money.  If the government is imposing a penalty on someone, it seems it should be because that someone has committed a crime.  Looking at it this way, someone who has or earns too much money has apparently committed a crime.

The people who are in favor of the graded tax don’t, however, seem to be so worried about the wealthier being unfairly penalized as they are about the poor – that is, those people who have such a small amount of earnings that they receive the benefit of not being taxed as much.  In this sense, being poor appears to be a virtue that the government endorses.  Many feel that the rich, who “obviously don’t need” all that excess money they have, should be required to give to the poor.

I’m guessing that it is this same kind of thinking that leads to the contemporary idea that even turning a profit is somewhat frowned upon, and that the government gives tax breaks to people who offer to run “non-profit” businesses.  This means government favors people who are charitable by taxing them less, which is, in essence, paying them more.  Therefore, people are giving charity, and they get some money for it.  (Is it really charity, then?)

When an entity emphasizes that it is “non-profit,” are they in actuality sending a subliminal, previously understood message with which they reassure people that they’re not yet another one of those supposedly disreputable companies trying to make extra money, i.e., a profit, or more than what they “need?”  Because of the label “non-profit,” such a company need not feel as responsible for turning out as high quality of a product as their “for-profit” counterparts; they may as well add the label “low-quality” to their products.

This is not intended as a bashing of non-profits.  Most of the non-profits I have been acquainted with appear to be good-hearted ventures, and I believe that most of those who are a part of these, and those aspiring to be part, are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts.  For instance, everyone who contributes to his church is assisting a non-profit venture, as long as his church isn’t just “in it for the money.”

But what about those institutions that are just “in it for the money?”  Is it really such a bad thing that they turn a profit?  Consider the myriad of good things that can be done with money.  Why do you think politicians are always after money?  So they can use it to enable whatever supposedly good cause they’re promoting.  But one doesn’t need a politician, or the government, to use money to do good things.  Schools, medical clinics, laboratories, printing presses, etc., have been constructed privately by individuals or groups of concerned people who had money to do so.  Humanitarian efforts have been funded, and large contributions for disaster relief have been donated by people acting independent of any government.  Innovations have been made – and countless of them – merely motivated by the profit – er – motive.  In fact, many would argue that it is because of the profit motive that private companies are able to be more efficient than their governmental or non-profit counterparts.  Just think how much more good they could do if they were allowed to keep more of their money.  Not only that, the rest of us would be able to keep more of our own wealth, because we would neither have to pay taxes for the government’s version of the service, nor would we have to pay for the extra necessary to make up for the government’s inefficiency!

Gaining money from a service or product enables the provider to expand his operations and improve the service/product and the accessibility thereto, which is likely a desirable thing since people were willing to pay for the service in the first place.  It may even be that he wants to use his extra profits to serve people in ways that others (esp. government) do less efficiently or not at all.

A: Are you saying it’s never wrong to charge money for something?

B: No, I admit that there may be some situations in which it’s inappropriate to charge money.  But who are we to decide whether it’s right or wrong to do so?  Think also about what we’re assuming when we are appalled that people charge money for providing a certain product/service.  Aren’t we being presumptuous ourselves for thinking they should give us the product/service without any sacrifice on our part?  Recall that these transactions are trades, and money is simply the trading medium.  Both parties are giving something up.  Why should we think that they should be the only ones sacrificing something?

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