Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Money: a Darwinian Perspective

It is well known that “power corrupts”, yet when it comes to MONEY, which is the most ubiquitous and important, because most versatile, form of power, we tend to ignore this fact – perhaps because everything and everyone are so depend on it, being woven into the very fabric of society and civilisation.

Money is so fundamental to our existence that we dare not even question its role. Effectively, we are as dependent on money as we are on air and water, without which we would quickly die. If we are not in a position to acquire money for ourselves, the state steps in and provides it for us (or the essential things it buys). And if the state fails, the “international community” will provide it (in the form of food aid).
It’s not money itself we depend on, which is an abstract entity (power), but what it buys. We all know this and take it for granted, but our understanding of it is extremely superficial.
From a deeper, Darwinian, perspective the importance of money (power) is clear: it has the potential to greatly enhance the individual’s chances of survival and reproductive success, in the artificial environment of human society, especially if they are male. Classically, powerful men have lots of wives (or mistresses) and children.
Money corrupts because it facilitates man’s exploitation of his fellow man in his pursuit of power; something which democratic states and free-market capitalism between them have made a fine art of. And because so many of us believe ourselves to be doing so well out of it, we don’t want to question it.
We won’t even admit to ourselves that the system we depend on is self-exploitative. We see exploiters, but only in OTHERS, not in ourselves. The political right sees the liberal left as out to exploit their hard work, savings, talents and entrepreneurism (for the benefit of themselves and their less hard-working, less talented and less entrepreneurial clientèle), while the liberal left see the political right and capital out to exploit ordinary workers, while shirking their responsibility for the poor and disadvantaged.
Above the temple in Delphi was written a very wise saying: “Know thy self”. It is, I suggest, even more pertinent for society as a whole than for the individual.

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