Why People Believe Money is the Root of all Evil

#1 False Belief: Money is the root of all evil
First – I know this is not the actual quote. But I believed the misquote and internalized it. I am not alone. The words people choose indicate they have internalized a similar belief. The phrase I hear the most is ‘filthy rich’. Politicians use language that leads me to believe they understand millions of people have internalized this belief too. When a politician says that she is going to “fight for you the working family that has no voice”, I cringe. I’ve been there and lived working class life. It’s irresponsible to exploit people’s envy and misguided belief that they are powerless and dependent. We are all powerful and independent! Everyone of us! I wish a politician would say this instead – You are powerful; every one of you. Stop looking outside of yourself for money and power. Stop waiting for something or someone to come along by chance and bestow money and power upon you. You already have money and power; it is inside of you. You just need to release it into the world. Don’t look to me to do that. I can’t do it for you. Only you can do it for yourself. – I’d vote for that politician.

To give you an understanding of how I acquired the belief that money was evil, I need to give you some context. I spent my teenage years in Bloomington MN, the largest suburb of the Twin Cities. It was and still is an economically diverse city.

Today I reject most social labels, but for the sake of illustration and history, I will use these generalized social classes:

  • Poor
  • Working Class
  • Middle Class
  • Rich

In my formative years, I viewed the world through this social lens. I didn’t understand it at the time. But looking back, I can clearly understand my myopic view.

Poor people lived in welfare projects like this:
The Projects
Or apartments like this:

Working class people lived in houses like this:

Middle class people lived in houses like this:

Rich people lived in houses like this:

I know all of this is relative, and we were all rich by worldwide standards. All my ‘poor’ friends had three TVs, cable television, and a fridge full of Mountain Dew and Budweiser. But that’s not my point. My point is the above social construct was embedded in my sub-conscious and I perceived clear boundaries and differences.

I was working class. My family may argue that we were middle class, but based on where and how we lived, I’d say we were working class and I identified with other working class kids. My wife said I could have titled the last post (10 Things I Wish I had Never Believed) – The 10 Great Working Class Lies. But I thought the beliefs transcended basic class constructs. But essentially, she was right.

Many adults and kids in my life used terms like these:

  • He’s filthy rich
  • That house is a waste of space, can you imagine the heat bill
  • He’s got money coming out his ass
  • Whadda ya think money grows on trees
  • He’s got money to burn
  • It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get to heaven (I know… I know… It’s misquoted…chill out)
  • How much money does a person need?
  • He could use twenty dollar bills for toilet paper
  • Republicans are for the rich
  • Democrats look out for the workin’ man
  • What a bunch of Fat Cats
  • F***ing cake-eaters
  • There so rich they think their S**t don’t stink

My favorite was, “I wouldn’t say they’re rich, I’d say they’re comfortable.” You could use this one to acknowledge someone was doing well financialy without applying the pejorative term – rich.

I could probably think of a lot more, but I’ll spare you. In working class culture, if you didn’t work hard for your money, people implied something was wrong with you. If you had great wealth, you were either a spoiled brat or a crook. It would have been shameful, embarrassing, and insulting to be called rich. Right now as I write this, I can feel the shame associated with the idea of being rich.

Another thing adults told us – America’s going downhill, you are going to be the first generation that didn’t have it better than your parents. How depressing is that? That’s like saying – you don’t have a chance so don’t be too disappointed when you fail. I heard this repeated at school, on TV, at church, and at home.

Now imagine it’s 1982. Half your friend’s dads are unemployed (national unemployment is at 10% and interest rates are 16%). The country is at the end of the first wave of mass de-industrialization. Your family is pinching every penny, and it’s the first quarter of 8th grade…

Setting – 1980s public school science classroom…

They paired us up in science class alphabetically by last name, so my science partner was Amy Olson. After a month, I noticed that Amy hadn’t worn the same clothes twice. So I asked her, “What’s up Amy? You haven’t worn the same clothes all year. How big’s your wardrobe?”

Amy said, “Oh, I don’t have a wardrobe, I get new clothes everyday.”

In disbelief I said, “What!? You get new clothes everyday? Who the hell buys all your clothes?”

Amy replied, “My mom’s personal shopper.”

I said, “You gotta be freaking kidding me. A personal shopper!? What do you do with your clothes once you’ve worn them once?”

Amy said, “We give ‘em to charity.”

At that point, I hated her with a deep gut felt hatred. I remember the moment in HD and 5.1 surround. I can feel twinges of hate and disgust as I write this and it scares me. I asked the teacher to move me and I never spoke to Amy again. So Amy, if you ever read this, I’m sorry I hated you and I no longer hate you. Please forgive me.

That same year a kid said quite innocently, “I’m going to the Caribbean for my spring trip. Where are you going for your spring trip?”
I responded, “Go F yourself – freak.”

A few years later another kid got a new Porsche 911 for his 16th birthday. Working class students ran keys down the sides of the car in the high school parking lot until he quit driving it to school.

You’re probably thinking – what were kids that rich doing in public school? In Minnesota, twenty-five years ago, most of the local private schools had the reputation for taking the public school rejects. If public school expelled you, you’d land in Catholic School. It’s the opposite today.

This was life for me twenty-five years ago. I can only imagine what it is like for kids today.

Like many of those around me, I suffered from Zero-Sum thinking. The more money one person has the less someone else has. Zero-Sum thinking creates a hostile social environment and a feeling of helplessness. Zero-Sum may be true in a Kleptocracy but it isn’t true in a free-market. In a free-market, your creations grow the economic pie and everyone benefits.

Over the years, this internalized belief has manifested different ways. I found it impossible to be happy for someone else when he succeeded in making money. I always thought he sold-out, did something crooked, or just got lucky. But the worst part was, I believed other peoples successes were at my expense. The belief stopped me from doing anything creative. Why be creative? It might lead to wealth, which is evil. So I sat around miserable, driving a delivery truck, and wondering why the world kept changing and I was still the same.

My awakening was slow. It took years of work to drop the belief. Sometimes I still feel the anger, hate, and insecurity when I see someone else succeed. But today, I usually recognize those feelings, acknowledge them, and consciously tell myself that someone else’s success is an opportunity to share in their joy and learn how they did it.

Today I frequently see the belief manifested in this question:

How much money does a person need anyway?

It’s a fallacious question. In Minnesota, you don’t personally need any money. I could quit my job, leave my family, and stay at the Dorothy Day Center in downtown St. Paul. The charity would feed and clothe me and give me shelter at night. If they didn’t do it, the government would. Since you don’t need any money, what is a better question to ask yourself?

How about this…

What do I want to accomplish with my life and how much money will it take?

Aim, think, and plan for that number, even if it’s a billion dollars.

Believing money was evil led me to act horrible and feel terrible. I believe millions of people still hold this belief today and it binds them in the chains of servitude and criminality. The envy this belief creates results in hatred, anger, crime, and a host of financial and social problems.

By hating the wealthy, I thought I was fighting evil, but I wasn’t – I became evil.

Steve Pavlia has a great post about why making money is not immoral.

Read the 10 part series on the 10 things I wish I had never believed:

#1 Why People Believe Money is the Root of All Evil
#2 Why Getting a Good Job isn’t the Best Way to Earn Money
#3 The Secret Great Leaders Know About Emotions
#4 Success is 99% Failure
#5 10 Tips to Secure a Management Position without a College Degree
#6 Always Question Your Doctor – Three Stories Why
#7 How the Public School System Crushes Souls
#9 Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Make you a Better Decision Maker

58 thoughts on “Why People Believe Money is the Root of all Evil”

  1. I think it is a great discussion!

    Thanks for publishing your considerations about this issue.

    The point is that it really seems that there is an evil thing strongly influencing our society (which most believe is money or greed), and I think we should persist discussing this subject, in order to identify the real roots of our normal state of social unrest.

    Here there is a document that will explore other aspects of this misterious “evil” that slows down human progress. It is the third work of the Zeitigeist Movement, called “Moving Forward”. You will find a link for watching the movie on this website: http://www.zeitgeistmovingforward.com

    I hope to hear from you about those new issues.

    Thank you,
    Marcelo ( marceloures@gmail.com )

    p.s.: sorry for my poor english, it is not my first language

  2. I believe that money is in fact the root of all evil, the driving factor of a society should be the betterment of it’s people, the principal ideology of the founding father’s of the U.S. is also a good rule of life.

    And so true when the Quote by originally, John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton that. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”.

    Is because what of those rewards are given to those that are great men, most intelligent garner power of their spoken words, their influence over others is inspired and driven by their rewards, but unfortunately their are very few who are inspired solely for the betterment of man.

    It is a culture where in order to survive or give your self and family a better life requires money, so those that have money become the very influence over those that would be great men, the greater the toll offering the more influence is driven by those that seek only to better them selves and not that of our humanity.

    Crazy but that was truly one of the reasons that I really liked Star Trek (next Generation) poverty had been abolished, money was an abstract it was non existent, instead precious metals, herbs was used to better the technology to serve man and relative to that was that in meeting other cultures, they strive never to interfere.

    The driving factor in that fantasy was what I already stated earlier, for the betterment of all man kind, money has in fact dehumanised mank kind, we some one hurting laying on the street instead of helping or coming to aid, many of great fear resist because of what might happen to them selves if they are latter sued for intervening, and what is that fear the loss of money, you only fear to loose what you most love and that unfortunate is money.

    Be you religious, agnostic, atheist, makes no difference, religion makes the issues of money abundantly clear, love of money is that above the love of god, love of anything above God is evil, agnostic believe is in what is truth value on what can be proven or simply be unknowable, do not pretend conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable, the driving in all three of these be it negative or positive in it’s light is money.

    When the fear is the control over or the lack of control over money, society always and still will collapse on it self.

    Make no mistake if what drives you for better life is the betterment of man kind, the very essence of your driving influence means that you and your family does benefit directly from it, there is no need for a physical form of power (money), it is already inside you it’s your heart your love for each other, buying food no longer exists as food is free, homeless no longer exist as housing is free, not every one will be the same or have the same ever because we each have a unique sense of what we like.

    What is no longer a factor however is how you can’t have or get what you want because of a lack of money as it no longer an influence.

    The ideal as a whole I know is just fantasy and in many ways it would be looked upon as socialist but you know what the problem is with socialism as well as capitalism, when what controls the ism’s benefits above what they rule for others, as power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, there is one simple analogy here having the most money is greed and greed is absolute evil.

  3. I can’t believe reading this, with all the information, and knowledge available to us nowadays.

    Money isn’t a bad idea in it’s essence, but corruption and greed in people’s hearts makes us slaves.

    How can you believe that creating “wealth” by, for example, having a business in the States, doesn’t harm the world with the pollution from the by-products, and also the abuse of children in sweatshops, and on and on…

    As long as we will believe we can make profit out of thin air, this world of hate and destruction will prevail.

    There’s a balance in life, and we are in opposite of harmony with god’s creation.

    We should ba ashamed of ourselves because we are all responsible. Anybody who disagree on this is clearly blind.

    Free energy is what we should have.

  4. Money is the root to all evil, its not the people I hate that have the money at all, its the money itself, “Money” itself is the evil it influences people to do things such as murder, not saying all people but most people, another thing would be stealing, selfishness of people saving there own hides, Now for a breif sec imagine life without money, no buying anything, instead people caring about others or people going to a job not because they have to have money but because they care about helping those who cant help thereselves such as disabled people, im sure violence would drop alot, probably be less homeless people. I get your point, and yea thats how most people look at it but if u turn the other cheek n look at just the money itself!

  5. It’s not money that’s the root of all evil. The bible states that “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” When you love something or someone, you feel it is necessary to do anything to keep it or them. Take, for instance, the Republicans in congress. They love the money they have and will do anything to protect their investments and/or keep what they have, even at the expense of our seniors, elderly and children. The Love of Money brings out the worse in people. If you Love God, then you know what Love will make you do. Money is considered their gods and they love their god and it makes them do almost anything to show their love. Think about it.

  6. Money can be bad in many ways if you don’t know how to use it in the right ways. If you show off that you’re loaded with money other people may want to steal it off you, which can lead into worse problems.

  7. Hi.
    First of all I would like to say from Spain that I really liked your argument and agree with it.
    The question that money is the root of all evil for me is that money replaces human contact and cooperation.
    This is why a nice person in the USA can buy some sneakers with a lcear conscience made by child labour in Indonesia. Or McDonalds hamburger when the meat is raised on land which has been forceably taken from the people who have lived on it for hundreds of years and who as a result are in starvation. Or American farmers get paid by the federal government to send millions of tons of grain to Africa as aid, and as a result destroy the local farming economy.
    Money, and electronic money take away the real connection between buyer and seller. And humans have the tendency to not want to hear the bad news.
    This for me is why money may be evil.
    If we discount this, then mone is purely a neutral vehicle for the exchange of goods and services.

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