Is Money the Answer or the Problem? Part I

In the last post we made the point that we often use money as though it is a significant part of a solution.  We throw money at everything from education, to various forms of welfare, to the war on drugs, to developing alternative energy sources.  However, many times it seems that money is more closely related to the problem.  It is spent and there is either no effect or a problem often worsens.  Why?  Take social justice.  The whole idea underlying social justice is the notion that problems will be solved simply by a ‘fairer’ distribution of wealth – accomplished by the transfer of wealth from those who have to those who do not, with the determination of who has and who needs left to the discretion of a ruling elite.  The underlying belief is that it is morally wrong to accumulate wealth for the sake of wealth itself, and there is truth in this notion.  However, money is just a tool.  It is fungible, meaning that it can be used for many things.  It can be used well, or it can be used badly. 


While there is truth in the outcome which social justice aims to achieve, there are several faulty notions which underlie it.  These include:  (1) it is the ends alone that matter, (2) it is government’s role to achieve this balance through redistribution, and (3) people will naturally do the right things with the redistributed wealth that they receive.


No one can reasonably argue that the ends of social justice are immoral.  How can one argue that a fair distribution of resources is immoral when that is what we are called to do?  That is at the heart of the writings of those such as Clement, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas in regards to our purpose – as both individuals and a people.  This sharing must be done at the individual level, from a family’s possessions.  It cannot be done by the State; a State’s attempt to usurp the authority that has been given to individuals is a form of theft.  What collectivists get wrong is that the means associated with the ends do not matter – for they matter as much as the end itself.  Their underlying assumption is that people will not make good choices on their own, so we who know better must make those choices for them.  Underlying this belief is a certain level of elitism and arrogance, and the deceiving of oneself.  One person’s morality ceases to be moral when it is imposed upon someone else. 


Milton Friedman wrote, ‘Unfortunately, the relation between the ends and the means remains widely misunderstood.  Many of those who profess the most individualistic objectives support collectivist means without recognizing the contradiction.  It is tempting to believe that social evils arise from the activities of evil men and that if only good men (like ourselves, naturally) wielded power, all would be well.  That view requires only emotion and self-praise – easy to come by and satisfying as well.  To understand why it is that ‘good’ men in positions of power will produce evil, while the ordinary man without power but able to engage in voluntary cooperation with his neighbors will produce good, requires analysis and thought, subordinating the emotions to the rational faculty.  Surely that is one answer to the perennial mystery of why collectivism, with its demonstrated record of producing tyranny and misery, is so widely regarded as superior to individualism, with its demonstrated record of producing freedom and plenty.  The argument for collectivism is simple, if false; it is an immediate emotional argument.  The argument for individualism is subtle and sophisticated; it is an indirect rational argument.  And the emotional faculties are more highly developed in most men than the rational, paradoxically or especially even in those who regard themselves as intellectuals.’


To develop man’s rational faculties requires education, an education in both reason and faith in order for him to possess the virtue and discernment necessary to achieve his purpose of loving both his Creator and his fellow man - simply because of who they are.  This is agape.  This is our purpose.  We simply each fulfill this purpose in different ways as we’ve been gifted with different skills, abilities, and talents – a beautiful tapestry.


I will continue with the last two points in the next post.  Peace and Blessings to you.

Posted in: Stewardship


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About Dan Wolf

Dan WolfMy goal is that my writing will help you to get started on your own journey of discovery, or help you along the way on a journey you may have already begun. Our Founders considered education, religion, morality, and virtue to be the cornerstones for any successful society. Being successful requires understanding both the languages of reason and faith; reason alone is insufficient.