Money. We all use it, want it, dream about it, worry about it, spend it, save it, and trade portions of our life for it. We judge our place in society on how much we have, and rank our country based on how much each member possesses.
But how often do we actually think about what it is for, and why it is so important in our lives? What is the purpose of money?
Related questions: How are money and value related? How should we compare each other? Why are we greedy?
4 thoughts on “What Is The Purpose Of Money?”
It’s amazing how money can take on many meanings. When your ability to earn it (and therefore gain all the things it can be traded for) is uncertain, it comes to represent security. However, when your ability to earn it seems assured (and meeting not only all your needs but even all your wants appears to be a given), then it comes to represent status. When it becomes a marker for status, it becomes a short hand for how worthy a person you are; whether you are measuring your worth in a for-profit way (your own material accumulation), or a non-profit way (the scale of the program you’ve develop to serve other people). George Lakoff in Moral Politics has a great discussion of how we think in metaphors, develop moral judgments using metaphors, and apply the metaphor of “moral accounting” to our moral judgments (i.e. I’m in your debt, I owe you one, I balanced the scales, how can I ever repay you, that decision really cost me, etc.). Over time, the language of money has become inextricably linked to the language of morality. I’m sure we could develop a different metaphorical language for morality, but it’s pretty deeply embedded right now.
Money is a tool, used to create value for goods and services. Paper and metal coins are familiar, as is digital currency. Yet, money can have different forms. In some places, livestock is exchanged for goods and services. In the past, shells, dyes and even stones were used as currency.
I have heard people say “Money is the root of all evil”. That, though, is a scriptural misquote of 1 Timothy 6:10 which says, “For the love of money is the root of all evil;”- KJV.
Unfortunately, this love of money, has caused many to strive for the status symbol of being “rich”, when really, the purpose of money is to trade for the things we need to live healthy, happy lives. The trick, of course, is separating needs from “wants”, which vary between individuals.
Thank you so much for this reply. I love your examples of money / items exchanged for goods and services. That is all.
I struggle with how much money is enough to provide for retirement which, for me, is quickly approaching. Most people do not have enough saved (even in the U.S), and a medical emergency can quickly wipe out a lifetime of saving.
I don’t consider myself rich in money, but compared to most people in the world, I have much more than they do. So I find myself trying to find a balance between taking care of myself and my family, and giving generously to those who need a helping hand.
I invite your comments/suggestions.