“Money is the root of all evil.” How many times have you heard this phrase from someone?
There’s a number of reasons why people might feel this way, but none of the arguments amount to anything more than a logical fallacy. But let’s examine the different truths and psychological aspects of this sentiment.
One reason for such a belief is from the idea of overt greed that is assumed to go with people who have money—one person, trying to collect it all, often at the expense of others. It’s a popular Hollywood storyline, but is it true?
It’s certainly consistent with dictators who take it all by force, but that’s usually one sociopath ruling over many victims. And I say they’re sociopaths, because they are often committing genocide, or at least routinely kill their ideological components.
But applying that sentiment to CEO’s and other rich people in a free country is usually just the product of jealousy and ignorance. Firstly, America’s richest make their money by providing a product the rest of us voluntarily buy—not compelled to buy, such as the services offered by a tyrant. But also, the rich have historically been quite charitable. And this makes perfect sense.
Humans have two qualities that are fairly consistent among all of us—competitiveness and empathy. Sociopaths lack empathy, but as near as I can tell, there is no word for people who lack a competitive spirit, but I suppose they could be called competipaths for the sake of our discussion. It is believed sociopaths make up a mere 4% of the population, but who knows about competipaths? No such research exists.
But nonetheless, I highly doubt they’re in greater numbers. Competition fuels adrenaline and provides a rush, leading us to strive to earn more. If you have ever competed in a sports activity and were upset about losing, or mad that a coworker earned more than you, you have a competitive spirit. But even if you’re very competitive, at some point empathy causes us to want to help those when we can.
Many of us want to win, but we don’t necessarily want others to lose. Ever watch two fighters in the UFC’s octagon beat each other to a pulp, then hug each other when the match is over? Then you’ve witnessed what I’m referring to.
While we have an innate self-preservation instinct that keeps most of us from being too giving, some people don’t even seem to have that; exhausting themselves and their resources trying to solve other people’s problems.
Rich people are not a different species, they just have more drive, luck, intellect, or any combination of the three. Some are sociopaths and will never be charitable, but the rich are no more likely to be sociopaths than the poor—they’re just more successful.
But moving from the psychology aspect to the facts, the truth is that money is nothing more than an instrument of trade. If we go back to a time without money, when the barter system would have been the norm, imagine you built wooden widgets from an oak tree you’ve chopped down out of the oak forest in your back yard. Your neighbor, however, builds stone gadgets carved out of rocks from a mountainside on his property.
Now imagine you find that you have a need for a gadget, and because you have an oak forest, you have an abundance of widgets you’ve made. So you go to your neighbor and offer him one of your widgets for one of his gadgets. If he has a need for a widget, transaction complete—all is well.
But what if you break your gadget? So you ask your neighbor if he’ll swap again, but you’re neighbor’s widget is still fully functional, and he has no need for another. Now you’re screwed if you have nothing else to offer him, and this is essentially how money was born.
Because your neighbor has no need for another widget, your widget has no value for him, but money is a universally accepted instrument of trade that has universal value to everyone.
In truth, money only has value because we all agree to it, which is an interesting thought in its own right. Some want us to return to the gold standard, but the fact is that gold only has value because we agree to it too. If I were to somehow stumble upon a lode of 50,000 tons of gold, or gold somehow otherwise became undesirable, gold’s value would plummet tremendously.
The reality is that the only things that will always have value are air, food, and water, because we need them for life.
But back to the subject of money. Now that we understand it’s an instrument of trade, let’s get back to the greed aspect.
I know that many in the religious community take issue with evolution, but I think most people understand the concept well enough, and accept the basic principle that animals have evolved. It’s not like we don’t have an abundance of proof. There are new species of animal discovered often, and a significantly great number of extinct species as well. Not to mention, DNA indicates we’re all descendents of what scientists call LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor).
The basic concept behind evolution is the advancement of our species, which means every life form that has ever existed, has instilled within its DNA a need to advance itself. So people think that greed is a uniquely human trait, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a completely natural trait in all living things, some more complex than others.
Certain trees grow taller than those around them so they can “steal” the sunlight from shorter plant life. My cats hiss at each other when one tries to eat the other’s food. Studies found that Capuchin monkeys would get mad when they felt they weren’t given their fair share. (See video above) But as long as they were given enough food to survive, why be greedy?
Many people want to believe that this monkey experiment showed a desire for fair share, effectively arguing the monkeys are socialist. But this is actually quite wrong. Yes they wanted a fair share, but the monkeys don’t want other monkeys who didn’t do anything to get free treats, and they certainly aren’t interested in giving the treats away to welfare monkeys. They want paid for the work they did and enjoy the fruits of their labor. Those monkeys are capitalists.
So money isn’t the root of all evil, it’s an instrument of trade for people who are willing to produce and be a productive part of society. It’s the statists who exhibit traits we would sometimes call evil, they want money for what they didn’t do. If anything is unfair, it’s that.