"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Why do we need money?

The Greek Philosopher and scientist Aristotle explained in his Politics in c 330BC why money had been invented. The art of acquisition, he said, for which a currency was required, arose out of the simpler barter of goods, and he saw this as quite natural and healthy. But when ‘The supply of men’s needs came to depend on more foreign sources, as men began to import for themselves what they lacked, and to export what they had in superabundance: …in this way the use of a money currency was inevitably instituted,’he wrote.
But Aristotle made the distinction, between essential and therefore laudable expenditure for the daily needs of food, shelter and clothing, and the acquisition of money for acquisition’s sake by profit associated with retail trade. The latter he censured,

"because the gain in which it results is not naturally made, but is made at the expense of other men. The trade of the petty usurer is hated with most reason: it makes a profit from currency itself, instead of making it from the process which currency was meant to serve. Currency came into existence merely as a means of exchange; usury tries to make it increase."

Aristotle did not trust money because he could see that it could feed an insatiable desire way beyond what was necessary for our needs and he saw this as unethical.

In addition to life’s basic survival necessities of warmth, clean air, medicine, clean water, food and housing, all human beings worldwide have a need and a human right to be free, to be respected as equals, able to choose their own destiny and to fulfill their full emotional, intellectual and spiritual potential. We are all entitled to the five basic human justices, of monetary and social justice, economic and environmental justice and of the right to peace.

I believe that to really achieve such justice in our world we need to allow the healing qualities of compassion and vulnerability and spirituality to infuse our lives and our actions in our financial housekeeping.

In later posts I shall reflect further on this and on where and why our present economy is flawed. Meanwhile Rediscovering Values, by Jim Wallis, is a good place to start reading. (also mentioned in a previous blog).

© 2010 Eleanor Stoneham

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