Seeing money in new light

Robin Wigglesworth, an editor at Financial Times, shared the following excerpt on Twitter from a book recently. I’m sharing it here because it’s a small way to see the value of money, and its uses, in a new light.

For thousands of years, philosophers, thinkers and prophets have besmirched money and called it the root of all evil. Be that as it may, money is also the apogee of human tolerance. Money is more open-minded than language, state laws, cultural codes, religious beliefs and social habits. Money is the only trust system created by humans that can bridge almost any cultural gap, and that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race, age or sexual orientation. Thanks to money, even people who don’t know each other and don’t trust each other can nevertheless cooperate effectively.

This is provocative and feels true, but it can also be taken way too far. Isn’t money, in practice, just as friendly or hostile to the common good as those who wield it? I think it’s true to say that money is a “trust system,” but it doesn’t stand alone in serving as a bridge for “almost any cultural gap.” Plenty of other things do that, including religion. In scripture, it’s love of money that is condemned as “the root of all evil.” Not money in and of itself. In other words, what’s called out as wrong is a dysfunctional love. What’s called wrong is a worship of a secondary thing as if it were a first-order good. It’s called wrong for the effect that any sort of warped love will have on the human heart.

And while money in and of itself doesn’t discriminate in its uses, it certainly takes on a value the moment it becomes an instrument of human will rather than an abstraction.