Sunday, October 28, 2007

Money for Nothing

Recently, while aimlessly flipping through cable TV, I happened upon a special on the History Channel that was discussing one of the ancient Roman emperors. (I'm sorry to say I'm not 100% sure which emperor it was. Nero?) I only stopped for a moment, but the narrator was in the midst of describing how the ancient Roman leader spared no expenses when it came to his personal sailing vessel. The ship was as luxurious as perhaps even his palace, and it had all the amenities that a person living in that day and age could possibly desire. For some reason it astonished me that even thousands of years ago, some people could live so lavishly. I couldn't prevent the naive thought from flashing through my mind, "But to be rich back then didn't mean anything like being rich today. It's amazing how good the emperor had it, considering it was the age of antiquity."

I then had what might be considered a mini-epiphany. This may strike others as obvious, but I've found it endlessly fascinating to realize that absolutely nothing in this world--literally nothing, from space shuttles and satellites to iPhones and surround sound--really requires money. In theory, we could have all the technological and scientific toys and gadgets of our day without one cent being spent. In theory. Money is just the motivator, but if the right people were willing to put forth the effort, we could have all of this stuff for nothing.

Okay, I can see a lot of people thinking this post is relatively pointless. I guess it is. But I couldn't help finding it an amazing thought that money isn't really necessary, no matter how luxurious or scientifically advanced the world may become. It's so easy to associate the almighty dollar with technology that it's almost shocking to realize that, financially speaking, the fanciest Ferrari or most posh of Manhattan penthouses inherently cost no more than a paper plate. We say time is money, but in reality, money is time, and only because we value it as such. In reality, money is a fabrication. Its worth is imaginary, and yet we covet it, kill for it, rage against it, lament it, debase ourselves for it, and so on.

Things that make you go "hmmmm....."


  1. I've been having these same sort of thoughts lately. They're kind of freeing don't you think?

  2. It's a funny thing to contemplate. All of us have heard the old saying, "Money makes the world go round.." and such, but could it really work without. It's a bit idealistic but if you could get everyone on board it just might.

    Being a programmer I am always fascinated by the amount of freeware(free software) that is distributed on the internet. Sometimes even the smallest application takes a lot of hard work to develop and here people are , just giving it away. I'm all for it and for donating to those that do it, but sometimes it just blows my mind.

  3. I think this is a great post. I've come back to read it a couple times, trying to get my thoughts around it. Personally, I hate money. I even (almost) feel like I do better with less. If I don't have it, I just can't have stuff so I don't bother wanting it and find better things to do with my time. The more I try to buy stuff and pay for stuff and even just want stuff, the more stressed out I get. I still am yet to read Walden's Pond. I should be a hippie. "The best things in life are free."

  4. I don't think it's pointless; rather a good point. I always think about this. For some reason I always think about it in relation to gold and diamonds (I don't like gold or diamonds). They are worth so much yet what makes them any different than a plain old river rock? In the same way all money really and truly physically is, is paper. It's mind numbing to consider. All this weight and importance laid on inanimate things. Where's the sense in that? Good post.

  5. How very philosophical of you! I guess the world you are proposing with the "free" space shuttle is essentially communism. Communism would actually be a great idea if everyone was sinless. Everyone would put it their share of work (like building space shuttles), for free, and in return everyone would be provided what they need (food, medical care, shelter, etc). People are sinful though, and that's why it didn't work. Capitalism, interestingly, is fueled by sin. Which works very well, because we all have lots of that. Alternatively one could have a barter system... I guess that's somewhere in between. You use, say, a laying hen as money. Which does have intrinsic value in and of itself, as opposed to paper or even coin money, which has value only if everyone agrees that it does. There are volumes of books about all this of course. Fascinating stuff.