Money gets a really bad rap. The root of all evil? I thought that was overly religious Republicans… or the crazy Muslims who thinks Jihad is a good idea. There is no shortage of crazy, evil ideas – and people with access to guns or explosives – in the 21st century. So money – be it in the form of cold, hard paper currency or even colder and harder gold – seems benign by comparison.
And money has done at least as much good for the world as modern medicine or the enlightenment. So says Niall Ferguson in “The Ascent of Money”. Nothing makes my heart beat faster than a smart guy who combines great articulation with a reverence for facts. Both sadly too easily fluffed over in the 21st century where anything over 200 characters is deemed too hard. What happened to the idea that we have BIG brains, not small ones?
And those who exercise their brains in the same way Olympic athletes with great abs do will appreciate that money is not inherently evil. It really is the stuff that makes the world go round and is a greater force for potential good than almost anything else.
But it is also the currency of the Antichrist… so you gotta think about how you are accumulating and spending those dollars, whatever their format.
I am a big proponent of the concept of money as a force for good. And even more important than money is markets. And jobs. But none of them exist without money.
Money. Risk. Markets. They drive our daily life. But most people yawn when they hear any of those words. People in the developed world yawn. But people in the developing world may not be able to articulate the words, especially in English, but they have a much more personal feeling about what they mean.
One of the travel experiences I know I will never forget happened last year in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. It is one of the most spectacular geological formations on earth and chock-a-block with the closest thing to tame wild animals. You still shouldn’t pet the lions – but the animals will mostly not run away.
Just being there would have been enough but since I was travelling alone I had spent the previous evening having dinner with our ranger Alex so we were chatting when we stopped for lunch amid all the other tourist vehicles. He had been reconnecting with friends and it was a familiar scene in an unusual setting. Because we had become more friends than ranger/tourist by that point, he introduced me to his friends and noted how happy everyone was and how fun it was to catch up… because they had jobs.
There has been lots of talk about unemployment in the developed world over the past few years – and I have been there so I know how it feels. But unemployment when you have been born into the privileged part of the world and unemployment when you have been born into a part of the world where having a good job is like winning the lottery are totally different things.
When I was in Tanzania, I travelled with &Beyond and I would encourage everyone to do a trip with them. I have never encountered an organization that gave capitalism such a great name. They make a profit. They are well organized. Their employees love them. They give back to the community via a foundation that does everything right.
Money is not evil. Only people are. So use your money to make the world a better place. Think when you spend. Help to create markets that make the world a better place. Read Niall’s book. He is a fantastic writer. The book is subtitled “A Financial History of the World.”
A bit ambitious? Without question. The message that I took away was how important finance has been to human development. Just ask a gorilla to break a twenty dollar bill 🙂 But what I think we all need to embrace is how we as individuals can create jobs, markets and world prosperity every time we leave the house – or go on-line to buy something.
Money can make the world a better place. Finance matters. Money can be evil. Money can buy guns, slaves and votes. But money can be used for microfinance loans, for medicine and for education. In the developed world we are all rich people by world standards – what kind of rich person do you want to be? Let your spending reflect your conscience.