On the drive back from Omaha, Nebraska I was listening to the Skeptically Speaking podcast episode #163 “Newton and the Counterfeiter“. The discussion turned at one point toward the purpose and meaning of money, and what money is supposed to do for us and for a society. I came up with a thought. Okay, a couple of thoughts. I’m not sure that I agree with them, but I had ‘em:
The purpose of money is to keep human greed in check –>
Humans often seem to want more than what we have (exceptions: those who eschew money – vows of poverty, e.g.). Money is a way to balance what we want with what we can have.
If everybody wants everything but there’s nothing to create at least an illusion of fairness about who gets what, we have problems.
I will define fairness in this case as meaning that people get things proportional to what they earn. I will go further to suggest that one can only earn fairly if the contributions somehow – however indirectly – benefit the larger society.
I swear upon Sagan that I wasn’t high or drunk when I was thinking about this.
It’s probably obvious that I haven’t studied economics or financial systems; I have a feeling the questions I’m toying with are very basic concepts. And I understand that because I’m a prosocial person, that colors my thoughts about ideas of fairness, equality and equity.
So I thought I’d ask you folks if you’ve given this topic of the purpose of money any thought. Let’s hash it out, puzzle out how greed, money, motivation all fits together, and then get our asses off this rock and out amongst the stars.* Which reminds me – how did they do away with money in Star Trek? What drives innovation and motivation in that universe?
*Or you could leave me babbling to myself in the corner here. That happens sometimes. Don’t pity me. I’m awesome. You don’t know me!