Monday, April 21, 2014

It's Only Money

It seems like a good time to examine the nature of money. Money is nothing more than a societal construct to facilitate the exchange of value. It isn’t good. It isn’t evil. It is a tool. Think about it. If money was evil why would the leadership of our churches spend so much time and energy collecting it from the faithful? Money isn’t even physical! Its value only exists in the hearts and minds of you and your neighbors. Anything can be money if a society agrees that it is money. Gold, strips of paper, or even Yap stones have all served as money in one culture or another.

In our society, money is a piece of paper or electronic blips on a computer. It is backed up by nothing but a promise. The American dollar is debt. The reality is probably more complex than can be contained in a 500 page book but here is the essence. The American government creates money by creating debt when the Treasury Department issues a bond. This bond is sold through the Federal Reserve Bank to “primary dealers” who must make bids on this debt through an auction process. Who are these guys? “For example, Daiwa Securities and Mizuho Securities distribute the debt to Japanese buyers. BNP Paribas, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and RBS Greenwich Capital (a division of the Royal Bank of Scotland) distribute the debt to European buyers. Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup account for many American buyers. Nevertheless, most of these firms compete internationally and in all major financial centers.” (From Wikipedia)

Then through the magic of fractional reserve banking, a dollar of debt becomes the basis of a loan that creates more debt. There are mathematical formulas that predict the outcome of such activities based on the amount of money the regulators require the banks to hold. A 10% reserve turns one dollar into nine dollars. If this was being done by someone other than the government it would constitute fraud.

That debt can be exchanged for food, gasoline, a new BMW, or even medical care because every member of society believes they can then take that debt and exchange it for something else of value.

Here is a different way to think about money from the rabbinical tradition. Money is the proof that you have performed some service of value for your fellow man. If you are not a thief, a con artist, or someone who is using political power to create an artificial shortage of some desirable commodity the money in your pocket is proof that you have faithfully served your neighbor. Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests that you should not ask God for more money. Instead ask God how you can be of service to a greater number of your fellow men or how you can provide a more valuable service to your neighbors.

Then you will have more money.

In Psalm 73 the author asks God why the wicked prosper. He recounts all their evil deeds asking God why he should even try to walk in righteousness when these people are healthy, happy, and free from the burdens common to man. Then he understands. God will judge the wicked. Their destruction will be certain and complete. Let’s forget eternity for a moment. Even in the short term, it is unlikely that a thief or a con artist will continue to prosper for a very long time. Sooner or later law enforcement will learn the name of the thief. Then backed by the considerable resources of the state, the police will bring the thief to justice. The more notable the thief’s accomplishments, the more hours will be spent investigating their crimes. The more outrageous the con artist the more certain their destruction; infomercial king, Kevin Trudeau was just sentenced to 10 years in a Federal penitentiary for his frauds. Leave the fate of the wicked in God’s hands. Just focus on being of value to your fellow man.

Just do your best. Let God take care of the rest.

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