When I ask myself whether money is good or bad, or is related to happiness, I come up with the following reflection:
- Money is neither good or bad, it is a simple tool.
- Money is not related to happiness. What it buys is.
In other words, let us see why we need and use money in the first place. I can’t speak about other civilizations, but in the Western culture, money is the only guarantee of access to goods. Why do we need goods? Because we have certain material and biological needs that must be satisfied. We also have certain psychological needs that cannot be satisfied without money. Again: all of this is true only in the Western culture.
If we look behind money, we shall find that what we need is not money (paper and metal) but what it buys to us (stability and predictability). We need to realize that human happiness does not depend on money, but on stability and predictability. Every human life is safe, happy, and healthy if it has stability and predictability, and every human life is miserable, sick, and seriously injured if it lacks stability and predictability. But we also need to remember that stability and predictability – in our culture – cannot be obtained without money. Thus, money is – indirectly – indispensable for happiness. Even though it is a simple tool, it is being the guarantee of psychological and physiological human integrity.
Money, therefore, is not bad. Not in and of itself. What is bad is its selfish use.
Let us imagine a world without money. Let us imagine that in every town and village and city, there would be centers of goods where all sorts of products would be exhibited, and everything would be free to take home. Would that world work better than ours? Wouldn’t there be people who would take more than what they need, maybe even people who would take every single item home without leaving anything in the center for others?
Our current money-based system is really just another form of this same hypothetical world: some grab more than what they need without considering if they leave goods and services and products for the others.
Actually, should we come up with any type of world system, human selfishness would compromise and corrode every single possible solution, because it is not one system or the other that is good or bad or work better or worse, but it is human selfishness that either uses properly or corrupts any possible system.
Sharing is the key word. Are we willing to share? It seems that we are not. Why is that?
Well, because we cannot. Not closed into matter and tied to a material world. Matter is not sharable. The very nature of matter is against the idea of sharing, altruism, and selflessness.
When we live, we do so because we have possessions. To live, we must have unsharable possessions. To live, I have a body. I have it. It’s mine. No one can have access to it or possess it. It is a limited space which is mine. A space in which myself exist. I am inside this body that takes some space form the world’s available space and owns it. No one else can use the space that my body takes up, and no one else can eat or drink what I need to eat or drink in order to maintain my body. The very foundation of life is based on the idea of unsharable individual possessions.
Furthermore, I have to protect my possessions. I must protect my body, its interests, my share of food, drink, and goods and services. I have to protect my “rights.” I am materially responsible for the protection of my body, my life, my health, my biological possessions. My possessions, therefore, create interests, and since others’ possessions also create interests in others, the world becomes a battlefield of conflicts of interests.
Even though this sounds too abstract, it is still true. You can now translate all of this to a less abstract, and more everyday context; and you will find that every single aspect of life is based on and commanded by the idea of unsharable possession and the resulting conflicts of interests.
He who piles up and hoards everything both needed and unnecessary without thinking about the others is simply protecting his interests that necessarily conflict with those of others. If you have, I cannot have. If I have, you cannot have. It’s an “either or” situation, because the amount of available matter is limited. Even though matter and goods are not limited so that we run out of air, sunshine, bread, or water, the very nature of matter and material goods is limited, and – mostly subconsciously – we know it. In our subconscious mind, we are aware of the fact that matter is limited, and therefore must be mercilessly hoarded and monopolized.
The very idea and nature of a material world is inherently selfish and competing, and for this reason, no perfect moral philosophy can ever be carried out in this world.
The only perfect moral philosophy is that of absolute selflessness, but as its name indicates, that is impossible in a world based on the idea of self-possession.
Selfishness is a result of matter, and matter is a result of selfishness. That is, this world is only possible because there is selfishness, and selfishness is only possible because there is this world, a perfect arena where selfishness can thrive.
Now, we can realize that, for all the above, the idea of perfect happiness, that is, perfect stability and predictability, is seriously compromised in a world based on matter, synonym of scarcity, inequality, selfishness, uncertainty, limitedness, finiteness.
This world has to be evil and will always be evil because it is the nature of matter. If this world – suddenly – became a place of 100% altruism and selflessness, it couldn’t be material but merely matterless (spiritual). But, as long as this world is made of matter, it must be and will be an evil place by nature. And as long as man is made of matter (body), he must be evil and selfish. He can fight against it, but he will never get rid of it, and the world will remain an immoral, evil battlefield of billions of conflicting interests.