Everyone thinks about money. Few, however, stop to think about how money originated and then evolved into a mechanism of power that institutions and any common person can wield to exert great good or bad.

Money’s original purpose was to serve as a convenient medium to replace barter. It represented hard work on a one-to-one basis. The blacksmith toiled for a day shoeing horses and got five dollars. The farmer harvested for a day and got five dollars. Each of them could then take their five dollars and go buy whatever they needed, understanding that what they bought would represent fairly the fruit of their day’s labor. Back when money was only hard currency that could be held in hand, it was an accurate reflection of the useful work that had been performed. But money could only accrue in a very limited way since a person could only work so much.

Over time, money has transformed from coins and bills providing functions of exchange, into abstract units of account. Money can now take on a life of its own through clever buying, selling, and financial schemes of multiplication. This was particularly enabled when the dollar was taken off the gold standard in 1972 and the financial world became interlinked with computers. The dollar trading pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange was opened and from that point the value of money was determined by a few thousand speculators sitting at their computers around the world betting moment to moment on how the value of the dollar would change relative to other currencies. There are 1.3 trillion speculative dollars exchanged every day, thirty two times that which is spent on work and production. That is a bubble that one day must burst.

Arguably, it is unfair to accumulate money disproportionate to the work used to create it. However, instead of marching in lockstep with work, money has careened off on its own to create a monetary world that behaves like a gigantic casino. Luck, inheritance, lawsuits, working financial markets, fraud, and graft can create huge amounts of wealth. It is now possible to amass enough money totally apart from work, that one never has to do useful work at all. Those who are successful at this sleight-of-hand are envied and considered clever heroes of capitalism.

Cash in hand has become obsolete. Money has transformed into cyber digits in a banking computer program. This tends to separate money from the value of work it is supposed to represent. One could potentially become fabulously wealthy in an instant by an error that simply moves the decimal point to the right in a bank’s computer. When hard money was the only unit of exchange, such a thing would not be possible without a lot of work figuring out how to rob the bank and enough manpower to wheelbarrow the loot away.

The point being, once money changed to mere numbers on a ledger and then to electronics, it became more easily manipulated and construed as something other than a representation of work. People can now rob banks sitting alone in the living room with a computer accessing credit cards that are not theirs. If they are clever and lucky enough they can legitimately become wealthy trading stocks, bonds, and futures, playing on-line poker, or by any number of other means using nothing but a keyboard.
Such undeserved largesse may seem innocent enough at first glance, but money has become the prime mover, the power that shapes the world. Money is the medium of essentially all interactions. It affects roads, schools, utilities, environmental protection, social aid, medical care, defense, industry, religion, and even close personal and family relationships. The leading cause of divorce, for example, is money. The flow of dollars directs and shapes society and every individual’s life.

Since any individual can fall into wealth and the power it wields, any harebrained idea can take center stage in society. Barbaric ideologies can threaten the world just because those holding them happened to have pitched their tents on sand that boiled up black gold, or conquered a land rich in agricultural fertility, minerals, or gems. Money is like the sword in the stone of King Arthur legend. Once it is pulled out, special powers come to its holder. It’s also a Golden Rule—whoever has the gold rules.

Institutions that have gained ascendancy because of money can be particularly dangerous because of their reach into society. If an idea is profitable for enough people, regardless of how it may eventually harm, it remains. The gasoline-powered automobile is a good example. Although born out of the need for better transportation and the ideal of improving society, it remains in spite of much better ideas. Efforts to use more recyclable materials, stop obsolescence from cosmetic model changes, and create nonpolluting and more efficient engines are stymied because those who reap money from the system hold the reins of power.

Modern medicine is another example. The medical system began with the ideal of healing. But now, with over one and a half trillion dollars annually circulating through it in the U.S. alone, its way of conducting patient care remains. This is not because of merit but because of the sheer weight of the many dollars holding it in place. For example, drugs that are known to kill persist in the market until the cost of litigating deaths exceeds profits from sales. In the meantime, the FDA, not wanting to disturb billion dollar industries, may do little more than require re-labeling—like requiring stronger warnings that the drug may cause serious harm or death. There are far better approaches to healthcare than naming diseases and treating symptoms. But such ideas remain on the fringes and are not afforded the opportunity to establish legitimacy because they threaten status (money) quo. In the meantime, millions die and suffer from preventable and reversible diseases. Even epidemic death and suffering caused by the medical monster itself has not forced rational clarity.

It is tragic that the only way things usually change is when crises force us to rethink our position. Our motto seems to be: Money first and solve no crisis before its time. For example, if oil ran out or enough people were suffocating from pollution we would have a new form of automobile engine. But until then (even though pollution is a problem and oil reserves are clearly finite), economic forces will keep things as they are even if things as they are clearly take us down a slippery slope.
The course of history follows the money trail. The corruption and demise of every developed civilization stems from powers with the financial reins to keep bad ideas in place. The situation is far more critical today because human problems are global, not local.

Once we come to understand that many of the ideas and institutions in our world are in place because of money, we can begin to see things as they are. It becomes clear why nonsense can seem to be ruling our world. Money can make bad ideas look good, and good ideas appear evil. The burden is therefore on each of us to measure the merit of any idea with thinking, not by a popularity that can come from nothing other than the power of money.

We, the people, can also use money rationally by supporting those individuals and institutions that set ethics and principles before profit. Money must not be used in a moral vacuum. It is within our reach to use reason and principle to create utopia or spend our way into environmental, social, political, or military oblivion. Industrial, political, medical, and other institutions are not destroying our health and world—we are by giving them our money. Purchasing power is the most influential power ordinary citizens hold. All we need to do is exert it as if thinking matters.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Wysong is author of thirteen books on health, nutrition, self improvement, philosophy, and the origin of life. He is a pioneer in the natural health and nutrition movement, and is the first to put the creation-evolution debate on rational footings. His blog, books, updates, mind-stimulating content, interactive forums, and FREE thinking matters video-rich newsletter can be found at AsIfThinkingMatters.com. To contact Dr. Wysong, email: wysong@asifthinkingmatters.com.

Additional Resources on Life Lessons can be found at:

Website Directory for Life Lessons
Articles on Life Lessons
Products for Life Lessons
Discussion Board
Randy Wysong, The Official Guide to Life Lessons