Money isn’t EVERYTHING

Money isn’t EVERYTHING

Money isn’t EVERYTHING

Of the multitude of ridiculous sayings that emerged as a reason for Brexit ‘having our cake and eating it (too)’ must be top. The fact that it was so swiftly accepted in Britain is not surprising. The British have been having their cake and eating it (too) for a long time, presumably thus proving that it is possible. The chickens – to mix the metaphor – are coming home to roost. And perhaps not only for Britain but for Europe as a whole. It is hard to strike a balance between Goldman Sachs’ approach to finance and the failed Finnish experiment of paying for no work at all.

When someone tells you money isn’t everything, beware. The patently obvious statement hides an attitude that often says ‘money doesn’t matter’. Well, it does, as those with very little know only too well. What we are not taught, is the role of money in our lives and the lives of those for whom we are responsible. We think of our responsibilities as family. They certainly have a ‘prior charge’ but for how much and when? For what reasons would others have ‘prior charges’?

Most of us hardly ever think of the importance of spending to sustain an economy and yet that is a prime function of money. Bill Clinton made the remark “It’s the economy, stupid”. Apart from being unacceptably vulgar as a Presidential comment, greed is a poor reflection of voters’ reasons to elect politicians. As for saving, the creation of welfare states – noble concepts, tricky practices – has more or less eliminated the idea in some countries. And yet, prudent personal finances presage good community economics. That was why money was invented.

We talk about reinventing capitalism without knowing what we want the new version for. Is it to provide everyone with a basic sustenance of life for no work on their part? Even if the answer is ‘yes’ the definition of sustenance is difficult. Does it include a computer? Without one, we might claim basic deprivation today. No prisoner is deprived of television but it is often used solely for entertainment, not for education. Is sustenance a crust of bread or a juicy lamb chop?

Popular demand is for inherited money to be taxed heavily, or taxed away altogether. But what are the rights of someone who has a crippled child or a demented mother? Providing for them would seem to be highly responsible while leaving money to a layabout playboy would be the opposite. My company once bought a business from a man who told me that he had given a big donation to his church. It was only when he added “It’s deductible” that I realised he had purchased personal glory – maybe in his own view, salvation – for a tax discount.

We think a lot about money, have we got it, can we get it, how can buy a bargain, where shall we invest it. Our thinking is almost, but not wholly, selfish. Nobly, we want to protect our nearest and dearest. Generously, we want to give a reasonable amount to the poor, but how much, and to who, is more complicated than a charitable thought. We learnt little in our youth about using money well. The only courses I have seen to educate about money have been for the innumerate.

Before we try to reconstruct capitalism, and I certainly agree that it needs reconstructing, we should try to learn about money. “A symbol of goods and services” is an excellent starting place. Every complication you add to that definition tends to cheat someone. Let us rethink money to avoid the plight of bankruptcy so imminently faced by many countries. Let us create economics that behave as both the best of prudent and the best of risk-enterprise.

The world has a new purpose, to save the planet. It will be achieved by prudent living. Learning how to handle money would be an excellent start to it.

It will also redefine capitalism or whatever the new economic order will be called.

It will be a truly exciting adventure.