The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

Imagine a world without money

A few days ago, my friend and I were talking about money, and we realized that our lives are run by it. As two students with significant financial aid, we’re always worrying about how much student loan debt we’re gaining, how much we’re spending on gas and groceries and how much of it we have left.

Maybe we’re just becoming adults, but I think a deeper phenomenon is unfolding for us: we’re becoming devotees of the pursuit of money.

And really, we can’t afford not to. We – all of us – live our lives based on how much we have in our wallets or bank accounts. Money dictates where we can live, the food we can eat, the quality of healthcare we can receive and it even determines what we’ll spend our entire lives working for.

But why? Why is money so important to our lives on so many levels? The answer is that money is power.

Specifically, money is a tangible way of measuring one’s influence over other people. Certainly there are many other intangible measurements of power, such as social capital, which would include the value of one’s words or the perceived benefit from general social cooperation. But notice that when describing even non-monetary power, one finds the words “capital,” “value” and “benefit” everywhere.

In fact, currency – the different types of money – have no inherent value – they’re only valuable when governments say they are. Thus, they draw their tokens of influence directly from the most powerful members of any society.

So if money is only valuable because we say so, does that make it simply arbitrary?

Yes. Money, which, in the United States, is only pieces of paper or metal with pictures of dead presidents on it, has no inherent tie to the things necessary for life – water, food, shelter. But we make it necessary.

Thousands of years ago, people traded goods with each other individually on a want-by-want basis. As society progressed, people decided they wanted a standardized, neutral means of trading that didn’t involve daily goods. Hence, gold, which is shiny.

Eventually, with more and more people in the world trading more and more with each other, paper became even more standard, more neutral means of trade. The idea remains the same.

We, society, validated the system by giving our labor in exchange for money, which we hope to spend at our discretion to obtain the things we need to live. Nowadays, though, money seems to have surpassed food, water and shelter as the primary need in life, without which one is a social pariah.

As some leaders in our society say, it’s not the responsibility of those with money to provide for those without. Indeed, they say, it’s the responsibility of every person to provide for himself or herself, and no more.

Charity and popular equity, it seems, tend to run counter to the success of the system of money. In a sense, humanity is becoming less and less human trapped within the system.

Many religions tell us that the love of money is the root of all evil. To that, I say that in reality we have no other option. When you don’t have money, the value of your life is easily fungible.

Welch is a junior majoring in political science.

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