DEMOCRACY IS SELF-GOVERNMENT
Harold W. Percival
MONEY, OR THE IDOLATRY OF THE DOLLAR
If I only had money! Money!! Money!!! Countless people have made this outcry and appeal with fervid and intense yearning, and they have gone beyond their immediate desires to the contemplation of what they would have and do, and would be, with money—Almighty Money.
And what in fact is money! Money in this modern age is any coin or paper or other instrument marked as the given sum to be negotiated or used as the medium of exchange in payment for value received, or received as payment for value given. And possessions or wealth of whatever kind are valued and estimated in terms of money.
Cold matter-of-fact money as a product of industry does not seem to be anything to get excited about. But see the Bulls and the Bears at the rising or falling of the stock market! Or let it be known where gold may be had for the taking. Then, otherwise kind and good natured people are likely to tear each other to pieces, in order to get possession of it.
Why do people feel and act that way about money? People feel and act that way because during the gradual development of industry and business, they have been steadily growing into the belief that success and the good things of life are to be estimated in terms of money; that without money they amount to nothing, and can do nothing; and that with money they can have what they want, and may do as they please. This belief has affected people with money-madness, and has blinded them to the better things in life. To such money-mad people, money is the Almighty, the Money God.
The money God is not of recent origin. He is not a mere figure of speech; he is a psychic entity, created by the thought of man in ancient times. Through the ages he has lost or gained in power in proportion to his estimation by the people, and the homage paid him by his priests and vassals. In modern times the money God has been increasingly inflated by the feeling and desire and thinking of the money lovers and money worshippers, and he is now near the limit of inflation. There is a common bond of fellowship among the worshippers of the money God. It is a jealous and revengeful God. It demands precedence over all other gods, and favors those most who worship it with all their feeling and their desire and their thinking.
Those whose purpose in life has been the amassing of money have learned, if they have learned nothing more, that money has been the means of providing them with much of what they thought they wanted, but that at the same time it has prevented them from the thorough appreciation of even the things they have acquired; that their money could not do for them what they believed it would; that their devotion to the getting of money disqualified them from having the pleasures and the graces which even the needy could enjoy; that the duties entailed by the accumulations of money make it an exciting and relentless master; and that when one does discover himself to be its slave, it is then too late to extricate himself from its clutches. Of course, it will be difficult for one who has not thought enough about it to understand the facts; and, the money-chasers will not believe it. But it may be well to consider the following truisms concerning money.
More money than one can reasonably use for all his needs and his immediate benefactions is an encumbrance, a liability; its increase and maturing care may become an overwhelming burden.
Money with all its purchasing power cannot buy love, or friendship, or conscience, or happiness. All those who seek money for itself are poor in character. Money is without morals. Money has no conscience.
The making of money at the expense of suffering and poverty or corruption of others, is at the same time making a mental hell for one’s future.
A man can make money, but money cannot make a man. Money is a test of character, but it cannot make character; it cannot add to or take anything from character.
The great power that money has, is given to it by man; money has no power of its own. Money has no value other than the value given it by those who use it or traffic in it. Gold has not the intrinsic value of iron.
A loaf of bread and a jug of water are worth more than a million dollars to a man starving on a desert.
Money can be made a blessing or a curse—by the way it is used.
People will believe almost anything and do almost anything for money.
Some people are money-magicians; they get money from other people by telling them how to get money.
Those to whom money comes easily seldom know how to value it. Those who best know how to value money are those who have learned how to make it, not by speculation or gambling but by thinking and by hard work.
Money makes money for those who know how to use it, but it often brings ruin and disgrace to the idle rich.
An understanding of such truisms will help one to give an approximately just value to money.
The money worshipper in his materialism has tried to make money the Almighty. His efforts have lowered the standards and lessened the trustworthiness of business men. In modern business a man’s word is not “just as good as his bond,” and therefore both are often doubted.
Money is no longer kept under a stone in the cellar, or between boards in the attic, or buried in an iron pot in the garden under a stone wall, for safe-keeping. Money as coin or paper is not kept. It is “invested” in stocks or bonds or buildings or in a business, where it increases and grows to sums too large to be counted and kept in the cellar or in the attic or in an iron pot. But however large the sum amassed, one can never be sure of it; a panic or a war might reduce the value to be no more than can be hidden in a hole in the wall of a cellar.
It would be foolhardy to try to belittle the value of money or to lose sight of the innumerable good purposes for which money can be used. But money has been made to so occupy the thought of the people that almost everything must be valued in terms of money. Nearly everybody is ridden and driven by the money God. He is riding them and driving them to desperation. He has driven people to distraction, and he will drive them to destruction if he is not overthrown, demoted to the position of honorable servant and so put in his proper place.
As reservoirs are kept for the storage and distribution of water, so money centers or banks are established as repositories for money, and for the issuance of money in any form and for whatever consideration. The money centers are settings or temples of the throne, but the actual throne is in the hearts and brains of those who have created the money God, and in the hearts and brains of those who support him by their worship. He is there enthroned, while his priests and the operators of the money symbols of exchange pay him homage, and his suppliants through the world appeal to him and are willing to obey the commands of his priests.
The simple way of deposing the money God and of the gradual disposal of his priests and princes is for the people to understand clearly that money is only coin or paper; that it is childish and ridiculous to try to make of money a psychic or a mental god of metal or of paper; that at best, money is only a useful servant, which never should be made a master. Now this seems simple enough, but when the truth of it really is understood and felt, the money God will have lost his throne.
But what of the money brokers, operators and manipulators! Where do they fit in? They do not fit in. That is the trouble. In trying to fit in, money crowds business and government out of place, and causes disorder. The money manipulator or money man should not suffer from a change of occupation; he is usually a resourceful man of ability, and will find a more useful and honorable position, perhaps in government. It is not right that money should be made to be a business. Business should use money in the doing of its business (a business of money, or money business) but no business need or should allow money to rule or operate its business. What is the difference? The difference is the difference between character and money. Money has become the basis and the weakness of business.
Character should be the basis and the strength of business. Business can never be sound and trustworthy if it is based on money instead of on character. Money is the menace of the business world. When business is based on character instead of on money there will be confidence throughout the business world, because character is founded on honesty and truthfulness. Character is stronger and more trustworthy than any bank. As business transactions depend largely on credit, credit should depend on character as responsibility, not on money.
There is a simple way of doing business without the disorders between government and business, which are brought about by the money manipulators, the priests of the money God. The right business relation between government and the people is that the government should be the guaranty of the people and that the people should be the guarantors of the government. Concerning money, this can be done by the private individual or the business man, whose character is based on honesty and truthfulness and the keeping of his contracts, which means responsibility. Such men will be known to the government or will be vouched for by others who are known. Each such individual will deposit his money with the government and the acceptance of his money and his holding of a passbook will be a government guaranty of credit. Money transactions would then be carried on through a department of the government. The financial condition of the individual or of a business would be on record with the government. Even a would-be dishonest man would not dare to be dishonest. One who failed in his pledges or gave false statements of accounts would certainly be discovered and punished, would not be trusted by any business concern, and there would be no money houses from which to borrow. But with character and ability and a clean record, plus responsibility, he could borrow from the government for any legitimate business.
What would be the advantage of turning the government into a bank, and for business to carry on its financial operations through the government, instead of through the regular banking institutions, as at present? There would be many advantages, and the government would not become a bank. One department of government would be the money department, and it would have offices wherever needed. Crime of nearly every kind turns around money and is based on money, and large criminal operations are carried on with money. Respectable and responsible banking houses do not lend money directly to criminals. But go-betweens can borrow money on collateral to finance criminal operations of great magnitude. Without banks such criminal operations would have to stop. The go-betweens could not borrow from the money department of government for illegitimate business. Then there would be fewer precarious business ventures, and bankruptcies would steadily decrease. At present, money and banks separate business from government. With these out of the way, business and the government would be drawn together and would have a common interest. With a money department, money would be put in its proper place; there would be confidence in business, and government and business would be reconciled. Money would gradually lose the power now given to it and people would become less fearful of the future by having the proper reliance and confidence in themselves. Among the many advantages of having business carry on its financial operations through a money department of the government is, that all depositors and business would become interested in and conscious of their responsibility for the integrity of government, just as they now are for the conduct of their own business. Now, instead of understanding that it is responsible for the sanctity and strength of government, business strives to get special advantage from government. Each such attempt is to defeat democracy; it weakens and tends to demoralize government by the people.
Looking back from that future, when people will see things and conditions more truly as they are, the politics of today will seem incredible. Then it will be seen that the men of today, as men, were really good at heart; but that the same men, as party politicians, acted more like wolves and foxes than they did like normal human beings. In the present political situation—while each political party is using every conceivable means and device to discredit the others and to get the favor of the people in order to get their votes and to get possession of the government—it would be madness to institute a money department of government. That would perhaps be the worst mistake that could be added to the many continuing mistakes of government. Then the money hounds and money geniuses and money Napoleons would besiege that money department. No! Nothing of the sort can be attempted until statesmen and clear sighted business men see the advantages of it and the necessity for it. The advantages will be seen by thinking over the problem of money and its legitimate uses and of putting money in its proper place.
Eventually there will be an institution, such as a money department of government, when the people determine to have a real democracy. This can be brought about by the self-government of the individual. As each one becomes self-governed, there will be the self-government of the people, by the people for all the people. But this is a dream! Yes, it is a dream; but as a dream it is a fact. And every addition to the making of civilization what it is had to be a dream-fact before it could become the concrete fact which it is. Steam engine, telegraph, telephone, electricity, aeroplane, radio, were all dreams not so long ago; each such dream was discredited, maligned, and opposed; but now they are practical facts. So also, the dream of the right use of money in its relation to business and the government can and will in time become a fact. And character must and will be valued above money.
A Real Democracy must become a fact in the United States if civilization is to continue.
Copyright 1980 by The Word Foundation, Inc.