What Money Really Means | United States Dollar | Money

What Money

Really Means
G
Thomas Kostigen
For My Mother
© 2003 Thomas Kostigen
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Published by Allworth Press
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Page composition/typography was done by Integra
ISBN: 1-58115-259-0
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
Kostigen, Thomas. Waht money really means/Thomas Kostigen. p. cm
Includes index. ISBN 1-58115-259-0 1. Money. I. Title.
HG221 .K743 2003 332.4–dc21 2002004403
Printed in Canada
—  —
Contents
Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .vii
Section 1:The Physical Manifestation of Money and Attachment:
What Money is
1 The History of Money . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
2 The Mechanices of Money . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
3 The Evolution of Money to Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
4 The Exchange of Money Value . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
5 The Storage of Money Value . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33
6 The Global Monetary Value System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39
7 The Future of Money as a Credit-Based System . . . . . . . . . . . . .49
Section 2:The Psychological Attachment of Money:
What Money Means
8 Toward Self-Realization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61
9 The Disconnect of Money from Quality of Life . . . . . . . . . . . . .65
10 The Empirical Study of Hedonic and Eudaimonic
Well-Being . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
11 The Childhood Development of Value . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77
12 Suffering and Money . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .83
13 The Poorest People in the World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .91
14 The Basic Determinants of Needs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103
15 Self-Worth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .111
16 Conditioning Values . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .119
17 Money as a Catalyst for Change . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125
18 Monetary Desire in the Context of Universal Common Law . . . .133
19 Old Money and Achievement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143
20 Ego and the Needs for Success . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .149
21 The Search for Meaning in a Money World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157
Section 3: The Spiritual Attachment of Money:
What Money Should Mean
22 The Search for Bliss . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .165
23 Money in the Muslim World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .169
24 Money in the Jewish World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .177
25 Money in the Christian World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .185
26 Money in the Buddhist World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .197
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .203
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .211
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .xxx
—  —
Preface
There is a “mini me” inside me; He’s in my head. He’s thinking other thoughts
when I’m listening to someone speak. He’s contemplating my next move
when I’m playing a game. He’s the one always trying to change me. He’s who
I’ll be when . . . He’s full of proposition, while I’m this somewhat stagnant
being. He will become the person I hope to be: full, complete.
What He needs is the means to do all the things He wants. If He had this
amount of money, He could do that. If He had that amount of money, He
could do this.Then, of course, once He gets this or that, He—I—will change.
We’ll be perceived differently. We’ll be different. We’ll be that person He always
thought of, that person we ought to be, if only . . .
There are a lot of “if onlys” these days.There’s a New Economy, $100 mil-
lion lottery winners, an even a widely watched television show that asks,Who
Wants to be a Millionaire? I think I do. I know He does. In fact, I wonder
why I’m not like the thousands of millionaires branded last year. Or like the
seven million millionaires out there in the world today.What do they have that
I don’t (besides the money, that is)?
If we had that much money would it really change us? Would we really
think differently, act differently, develop new friends and relationships? Would
it make us happy—He and I—one, fulfilled?
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Okay, so these aren’t easy questions. We’ll have to find people who might
provide some insight on what it’s like to have always had money, to just get
money, to get money and lose it, or to never have money at all.
He is, of course, already imagining some of these people. From the Dalai
Lama to dot.com billionaires, from the Rockefellers to indigents. He is at once
envisioning incense and robes, beads and introspection, and at the same time
picturing Ferraris and champagne, mansions and private jets. A back alley.
People picking out of a garbage can.
The dichotomies He imagines are extreme. But that’s what He is there for.
I, on the other hand, have to live in the here and now. So, it sure would be
nice if we could get together, He and I.
This inquisition is, perhaps, more about that than what money means. For
money holds the freedom of the self; it allows us to act out our imaginations,
be whom we’ve always dreamed of being. But what happens to the imagina-
tion then? Where does He go once His visions are realized? And what will
happen to the self—me, that is? Would I just become what He has imagined?
Would I live my life in snippets of the style displayed in magazine ads, films,
television commercials? All these things that money could buy. A new life? A
new lifestyle? Would those “if only” feelings of inferiority just pass? What new
feelings would arise?
I’ll turn to some people for insight. He’ll envision what they mean. And
maybe—just maybe—between us we’ll create some understanding.
G
S E C T I O N 1
The Physical Manifestation of
Money and Attachment:
What Money is
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  —
C H A P T E R 1
The History of Money
1 EUR = 0.9463 USD, 1 USD = 105.39 JPY, 1 CHF = 0.06466 EUR,
1 GBP = 1.506 USD, 1 CAD = 0.7145 EUR, 1 JPY = 0.01 EUR,
1 CAD = 0.6758 USD
W
e’ve all seen this equation,
posted at banks, airports, on
the Internet. This currency
equation is a deeply meaningful barometer of value. It defines costs, and tells
you that if you spent a dollar on a cup of coffee in the United States, you’re
going to have to spend one hundred and five yen for a cup of coffee in Japan.
But price is a far thing from worth. And worth may be a far thing from value.
To understand what money means we have to understand worth and value:
those things money is supposed to represent.
My Imagination sees a man crawling onto an oasis from the desert—sun-
burned, exhausted, his clothes tattered.Would he pay more for a glass of water
than someone not suffering from thirst? Of course he would. Hence, the value.
Hence, what it’s worth. But what would he pay with? If it’s money, then
money means survival. It means the ability to live. Once the man’s thirst is
quenched, the worth of water to him would decline. It would get poured into
a nominal value system. That’s when things get complicated. The value of
money has to be assessed. For in and of itself, money is nothing more than
paper and coins. Without value, a jingle jangle, origami is about all money
would be good for.
So, what exactly is money and where did it come from? Adam valued fruit,
but he didn’t have to pay for it (with money that is). In the beginning, there
wasn’t any money. And that should tell us something. Like all inventions, time
included, money is defined by the people who made it up, concocted the idea.
Money is a conception. From it, a whole value system has been created. And
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
that’s not just economics.That value system often defines our social status, our
professional lives, our leisure abilities, our relationships, and most of all our
purchasing power. In other words, it defines us in a way.
So, what great ape set these definitions? Who defined money?
The word “money” stems from the Latin. It derives from the Roman god-
dess Moneta. Moneta is another name for Juno, the Roman goddess of heaven.
She, the wife of Jupiter, is also the goddess of light, birth, women and
marriage—some of those things that give meaning to life, that mint us to one
another.
The Romans played an integral part in devising money and its value.
However, the actual conceivers of money were the people of Lydia, an ancient
city in Asia Minor, or modern day Turkey. Money was first minted there in
seventh century B.C.
Lydia began to mint coins made of electrum, which is a mixture of gold
and silver. The government issued these bean-shaped ingots and marked them
with their weight and value in lieu of pieces of gold and silver, which had
been the standard barter material because of their scarcity.
Lydia was part of the thriving society of Asia Minor at the time. There,
where the first trade centers of the world evolved, discoverers and inventors
created an attractive marketplace. Commerce soon exploded—and the gov-
ernment of Lydia minted money to control the way in which things were
bought and sold. With government-minted money, they could control price
and value: worth.
Governments, ever seeking control, could now exercise their influence on
commerce. Needless to say, the “money” idea caught on.And before long, most
of the governments of the world were issuing some semblance of coinage. But,
’round about the first century A.D., the Roman government overindulged and
minted too many coins. It had needed the money to build and finance its
military. Inflation occurred—and the value of money became an issue.To make
up for the loss in value of one coin, people obviously had to carry more coins.
Hauling around buckets of coins wasn’t particularly convenient for the
horseback, mule-riding, pedestrian society of the Middle Ages. So money-
lenders and merchants began to issue promissory notes in lieu of coins. Ah,
huh, another breakthrough in the creation of money. Someone was on to
something, and credit currency began to be widely used as a system for buying
and selling. Indeed, even today if you look at a dollar bill, you’ll see that it’s a
promissory note “For All Debts Public And Private” issued by the government.
My Imagination is at it again, trying to conceive of things we haven’t
experienced. He tries to envision life without money, life in situational barters.
How would it change? How would it differ? We would still have to utilize
—  —
The Hi s t or y of Money
skill—whatever skill we had—merely to subsist or obtain objects of value to
pay for our subsistence. What would we do for trade? I don’t think there
would have been a market for writers, mostly because there were no books. I
would have had some very simple choices: craftsman, consul, farmer, butcher.
My place in society would then have been set. I could trade on that value.
With that value, I could acquire the things or barter the things I would need
to survive, like shelter. My Imagination sees: a horse, a cow, a pelt, a good spear.
Those bartering objects that have utilitarian value. What a jump it is to rep-
resentative value. All those barrels full of coins. The use of gold and silver as
the basis for value because they were scarce in supply, creating a relatively sta-
ble value system, until that day in Rome when perhaps on a hot summer
morning a man in toga and sandals pushing a wheelbarrow full of coins stops
to wipe his brow in front of, say, the Colosseum and gets an idea for paper
money. “A bit lighter on the back and feet,” he might have thought, looking
up at Palatine Hill.
Paper money was used by private lenders and merchants for centuries until
France, in the eighteenth century, formally standardized the use of government
issued notes, or “paper money.”
This was quite a controversy at the time. Paper money meant governments
no longer had to use gold or silver in the minting process. They could create
value with a printing press, albeit they had to physically back the paper with
reserves of gold.
The United States and money became indelibly entwined when the dol-
lar took on the indicia of the United States: $. In fact, worldwide the standard
base currency became the U.S. dollar after World War II. Still, though, its value
was tied to gold.
In the early 1970s, almost a hundred years since its inception, the United
States was in economic turmoil. The value of the dollar had plummeted, and
inflation was doing what it infers: going up. That made the dollar worth less
gold. And Fort Knox would have been barren if dollars had been traded for
bullion; there wasn’t enough gold reserve to cover the “value” of U.S. currency.
A lot of people were focused on what money meant in the 1960s and
1970s. Money meant capitalism, it meant world influence, or hegemony. And
it became the philosophical schism of the for the Cold War—between a nation
state devoted to communism, where all people would ideally share in each
other’s riches, and a nation state whose basis was steeped in capitalism.
Money’s influence to embark on the Vietnam War, to quell the philosophy
of the anti-money movement of the time, sent the world into disarray. Oil
prices and other commodity prices surged. Money became less valuable. Its
relative worth to gold was plummeting.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
While all this was going on in the world, the banking industry was work-
ing on a concept that would forever change the monetary value system and
its tie to any physical denomination.
In 1958, Bank of America issued sixty thousand credit cards to the resi-
dents of Fresno, California. These credit cards represented value—but not in
the form of paper or coin. Plastic was introduced into the repertoire of phys-
ical representatives of money. This was further elaborated upon when Dee
Hock, the founder of VISA, developed a system where value would become
“data” in the form of electronic particles able to move around the world at
the speed of light. Money had become an idea represented in digits. It was
slowly losing its link to gold and physical or tangible value.
In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon cut the link. He abolished the gold
standard. A new system of global exchange rates was established—and paper
money around the world lost its link to a tangible asset. No more gold. No
more silver. Currency would represent nothing more than devised value. Its
power would be in its potential.
Now, people were in control of the value of money. By setting lending rates
and gauging the growth or slow down of productivity of a nation, people
could increase or decrease the value of money around the world. Indeed, by
1976 the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund had been
amended to legitimize the practice of letting currencies fluctuate. Until then,
fixed rates had been agreed on between nations (shortly after World War II at
the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944).
With “people” now deciding what things are worth, money has become a
disembodied principle of value, of worth, of purchasing power. These people
who decide how much purchasing power it’s going to take to buy that cup of
coffee, who set rates of exchange, who determine “value,” are economists,
money managers, traders, and financial analysts.
Unlike their predecessors, the new breed of money manager doesn’t deal with
paper or coin.The new breed of money manager deals with digits, numerals on
a computer screen. Money is a series of representations.We read or are told what
these representations mean.And, voilà, that is money, that is what money is worth.
Even paper and coins are being replaced more and more by the represen-
tative plastic card. The credit currency of the past is the credit card of today.
There is less attachment to the physical “money” used to buy, sell, or value
material goods. Indeed, I have gone days without using any physical money.
With a debit card or a credit card, I can purchase just about anything I need.
My bank account is automatically debited money for goods and services;
nothing changes hands. It’s all a blip on a screen. Those blips, those digits, are
what money managers oversee, analyze—and try to make sense of.
—  —
The Hi s t or y of Money
The idea of money is what has become all important. It’s the idea of hav-
ing it, not particularly seeing it, that drives my Imagination, for example. He
doesn’t need to see it to conceive of utilizing its purchasing power. Money, to
Him, doesn’t need to be fetched, transported, and exchanged for goods or
services; the purchasing power of money is communicated.
The evolution of money has transgressed the physical and has found itself
anew in a global compositional equation. Money provides the ability to do
certain things. It holds that proposition. It is full of “if onlys.”
Money to the Lydians meant control. It meant creating a basic system of
value. It meant creating some type of comparability among goods and serv-
ices. By doing that, the Lydians spun the world away from utilitarianism and
toward an interpretational matrix of worth.
Money to the Romans meant power and influence. It meant imperialism
through a well-financed military. Money could buy power. It could buy con-
trol. It was the capture of power and control—through disparate ideologies—
that decidedly split the world into two superpowers. It was the exorbitant
financing of a military that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union and its
communist economy.
President Nixon’s lifting of the gold standard meant that money could
stand on its own. Dee Hock’s disorderly abstract placement of value on goods
and services meant money, in its tangible form, could disappear.To him, to fin-
anciers, and other professional money managers, money means a system for
the exchange of value. This system, made up of blips of electronic digits, has
created more wealth over the last ten years than in the course of history.
The value proposition money holds has been exploited to the tune of some
seven million millionaires, five hundred billionaires, and a generally expanding
world economic environment. The value of money is strong. It’s a New
Economy. Just as those electron digits travel at the speed of light, so too is
wealth created and lost today.The digits that represent our “value,” our “worth,”
are housed by an account, identified by a number.The digits are influenced by
the monetary system—and their value, our value, is thus determined.
My Imagination can’t see money anymore. He sees a blurry, gray computer
screen displaying digits. But it doesn’t mean much to Him. Dollars, however,
bring a flash of excitement. He sees the green and white notes—the $1 bill
with the face of George Washington; the $5 bill with the face of Abraham
Lincoln; the $10 bill with the face of Alexander Hamilton; the $20 bill with
the face of Andrew Jackson; the $50 bill with the face of Ulysses S. Grant;
and the $100 bill with the face of Benjamin Franklin. Those dollars mean
something to my Imagination. They service the spirit. They hold the poten-
tial of being fulfilled.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
My Imagination sees a teenage Lydian boy tossing a coin high in the air
and catching it as he strolls. He sees the young Lydian in knee-high sandals, a
simple tunic, curly brown hair. It’s a summer’s day. The boy smiles as he looks
at the ingot; he is going to use it to buy a gift for his girlfriend, or so my
Imagination decides.The Lydian will buy a locket and present it as they lie by
the side of a river. She will be twirling a golden flower—perhaps a chrysan-
themum—and drop it after he has given her the locket. They will kiss, rise,
hold hands, and skip off down the riverbank.The plucked chrysanthemum will
remain in the grass where they lay. It will lie tilted, its stem angled toward the
ground. She had meant to present the young Lydian with the flower. She had
wanted to present it to him as a sign of her love. She hadn’t purchased it; she
had simply plucked it from the garden behind her house just before he had
come to greet her.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“So that’s the story of money.”
“The history.”
“And where does that leave us?”
“Past the beginning.”
“True. But to be honest, I’ve already imagined what money is. I want to
imagine what it’s like to have it.”
“And do what?”
“Anything. That’s the terrific thing. We’ll be free to do what we want.”
“So you’re imagining that once you get enough money, you can do what
you want? I think that’s naïve.”
“Enlighten me.”
“I hope to. But first, I think we have a few gaps in our foundation.”
“I’m picturing a house.”
“Not that. Our story. Money is—what? We know how it came about. But
we have yet to hear what money really is.”
“Bills, coins?”
“That’s currency.”
“Give me something to work with.”
“I can’t. That’s what’s missing. We haven’t explored worth. We haven’t
explored value. We’ve only uncovered how a simple coin came to rep-
resent these things.”
—  —
The Hi s t or y of Money
“And how do you propose to explain that? Value and worth aren’t imag-
inable to me. The coin is. I can’t see abstract concepts. I can’t equate
symbols to those things. I need things, things that can represent other
things. But I need things nonetheless.”
“How about instead of things, I give you someone.”
“I’ll take what I can get.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  — —  —
C H A P T E R 2
The Mechanics of Money
I
t’s fall in Connecticut.The leaves are
changing. Students are strolling the
streets of New Haven, their back-
packs filled with books. I can see my breath in the air.
I’ve pulled up to a rambling, old New England mansion in a mild state of
disrepair—broken shutters, peeling paint.The grass needs cutting. I pay the taxi
driver and walk to the front door, where I’m greeted by a maid. She tells me
to wait in the breezeway while she goes to see if the professor is ready to
see me.
I’m here in New Haven to interview Martin Shubik, the Seymour Knox
Professor of Mathematical Economics at Yale University. Professor Shubik is
widely considered an expert on money, its history, and what it means.
I meet Professor Shubik in his study in the rear of his house. It’s book filled,
of course. The wood floors need refinishing. His desk runs in an L-shape
to give him room for a computer (the only discernible modern item in
the room). The desk is essentially two large pieces of wood propped on a
sawhorse.
Professor Shubik himself is the human embodiment of his house. He even
does a few quick fix-its as we speak—cleans his ears, his teeth.
National Public Radio is broadcast (loudly) from an old hi-fi. I’m fearful
I’ll be recording an account of the plight of the Nambalese gorilla (yes, I made
that up) instead of Professor Shubik’s insights on money. But thankfully my
recorder comes through. I’ll say that again—thankfully my recorder comes
through—because Professor Shubik goes into quantum physics to describe
money and what it means. And I’m not kidding.
Professor Shubik says that money is based on two things: trust and infor-
mation. These concepts aren’t static. Therefore, traditional theories explaining
money like the “equilibrium theory” are wrong. Rather, it’s quantum theory
that holds true.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Stick with me here. I know it may get a little “thick,” but it all makes sense
in the end.
“In classical equilibrium theory in economics, agents submit their demand-
versus-price functions to a ‘central agent’ who then determines the relative
prices of goods and their allocation to individual agents. The absolute prices
are not fixed, so the process does not determine the value of money, which
merely enters as a fictitious quantity that facilitates the calculation of equilib-
rium.Thus, traditional equilibrium theory does not offer a fundamental expla-
nation of money, perhaps the most essential quantity in a modern economy.”
My Imagination is stifled. My mind is unwinding the words, equating
meaning, processing. There isn’t room for images, never mind a story or tan-
gent on which to affix. Professor Shubik, I think, senses when the left side of
the brain needs a little help from the right side. It must have been all those
years of teaching. So he tells me a story about sardines:
“This story really contains the essence of what money is about.
“An importer imports a whole bunch of sardines. He sells them to a
distributor.The distributor sells them to some wholesalers.The wholesalers sell
them to some retailers. The retailers sell them to customers. The customers
complain bitterly that they’ve been poisoned, and this feeds all the way up the
chain and reaches the importer. And the following conversation takes place
between the importer and the main distributor:
“‘I’ve called up to complain about the sardines.’
“‘What was wrong with the sardines? Didn’t you sell them to the other
distributors?’
“‘Yes, I sold them to the distributors.’
“‘Did you get your 30 percent?’
“‘Yes, I got my 30 percent.’
“‘So what are you complaining about? What did the distributors do?’
“‘The distributors sold them to the retailers?’
“‘Did they get their usual markup?’
“‘Yes, they got their usual markup.’
“‘And what did they do?’
“‘The retailers sold them to customers.’
“‘Did they get their usual markup?’
“‘Yes.’
“‘So what are you complaining about?’
“‘But, the customers came back and wanted to kill the retailers because
they claim they were buying tainted sardines.’
“There was a silence on the phone. And finally the importer comes back
on the line and says, ‘We are trading sardines, not eating sardines.’”
—  —
The Mec hani c s of Money
I get the sense that this is intellectual humor, so I chuckle. I’m not exactly
sure of where Professor Shubik is taking me with all this. Thankfully he
explains the story:
“That’s the original premise in which the formal existence of money came
into being—that they were trading sardines.Therefore, the original means of pay-
ment were barley or silver or gold. It could have been anything. Then things
became a little more sophisticated and coinage came into being.The coinage was
a just a manufacturing process, but a manufacturing process taken over by the
government. And the customary something off the top was about 3 percent. But
what did they give you for the 3 percent? They gave you a guarantee of quality,
a guarantee of standardization, and a legal system. Now trade took off and what
you had was the general acceptance of the legal system, coinage and what have
you. But then underneath it, slowly it dawned that as long as sardines are accepted
in trade and as long as no one tries to eat them—the boxes could be empty.”
The point, you see, of Professor Shubik’s story is “the boxes could be
empty.” Money itself, he says, has three basic qualities: storage of value, means
of payment, and numeraire. These add up to the constructs of money.
“Numeraire has to do with measure. It’s the measuring sticks, the measure-
ment system you use. You use money to measure value. But the numeraire
property is such that it doesn’t mean that there’s got to be a physical existence
of the actual item. Means of payment merely says well, I will accept the stuff.
Well, why will I accept the stuff ? That’s the tricky thing,” says Professor Shubik.
Why will someone value something at X rather than Y? Here is where
trust, information and quantum physics all merge.
“The Nambalese gorilla is an indigenous herbivore of the Northern African
plains where English hunters sought to exploit their rare pelts for trade . . . ”
My Imagination corners a gorilla peeling back the skin of a banana. He is
seated at a desk in a classroom. He takes a bite of the banana and cocks his
head to one side as he reads the chalkboard.
Professor Shubik is standing in front of the chalkboard holding a pointer.
He’s explaining that it’s the variables, like conditions and time, that determine
value and give money its meaning.
“The correct way to approach the understanding of money and financial
institutions is pure physics,” he says.
I snap out of it. I no longer see him in front of the gorilla, nor in a classroom.
Professor Shubik leans forward at his desk in his study and reproaches me
for not knowing the determinant values of money. He chastises me for not
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—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
knowing the philosophy of David Ricardo. But I bear him out and wait for
him to settle into the rest of his discussion. I figure he must have caught me
daydreaming.
Value. Professor Shubik is stuck on the point of value in our discussion. It’s
the value that is conditional. And that, at the end of the day, is all that money
is. Money itself is an amoeba; it can take on many forms to equate value to
goods or services. It’s conditional, and its only construct is the faith and trust
and belief in it.
Professor Shubik explains that originally money had an equitable value, in
the form of gold, silver, or some other replacement item. But, as governments
“got into the act,” as he says, replacement value became mythical.
Gold coinage or silver coinage is one thing, but as soon as the world moved
into paper currency, the concept of money took a new direction.
“The way you hook the public into something like that is you have a myth
which says that they [notes] are redeemable in gold. Therefore there is a
mysterious place like the vaults of the Bank of England or Fort Knox which
has enough gold to pay every one off in real value. But that gold is trading
sardines. There is nothing,” Professor Shubik says.
Okay, okay, I too get the point. Professor Shubik is saying that in an orderly
society, you don’t need the gold, or the commodity. It’s the trust of a govern-
ment’s backing that is the thing.You could use paper, cigarettes, a pair of socks.
The thing you use to represent value doesn’t matter, as long as the govern-
ment backs it. The problem is who to trust: gold or a politician? That’s
Ricardo’s line.
Back to the session. We go through money’s history, some trivia. Finally, I
can tell that the professor is winding up his dissertation. He stands and walks
about the room. He gets some heat going in his body, which is wrapped in a
sweater and scarf. He tells me that he has been sick and almost died twice over
the past two weeks. Professor Shubik is very old.
His last points he makes carefully.That there is a subtle distinction between
credit and money, as money has lost its tie to anything “physical.”That the off-
set for money—as guaranteed by governments—is pain or death.
This gets my interest. I reel in my Imagination, who is starting to wonder
about the professor’s condition. Instead, I give my full attention to this finan-
cial scholar
“Essentially what the state produced was: ‘We guarantee that this is
what this coin is made of and if it turns out that somebody has mucked
around with it, we’ll kill him,’ which was the standard penalty for counter-
feiting,” says Professor Shubik. The guarantee is guaranteed by that penalty,
death.
—  —
The Mec hani c s of Money
Today, it’s different but not dissimilar. It’s not death that is threatened, it’s
bankruptcy.
Now instead of gold or coins, we have an abstract symbol. “And we invent
a measurement and the measurement is called the dollar. Now, do we have an
intrinsic value for the dollar? Now strange as it may seem, implicit in the eco-
nomic system there really is a utilitarian intrinsic value for the dollar, but it’s
negative. What I mean by that is the value for the dollar is somewhat deter-
mined by the default in bankruptcy laws in society. How unpleasant does it
get for you when you go broke for an imaginary buck? So that gives it a value.
It’s a negative value, and it ties it into the credit system. The dollar is a myth-
ical commodity invented by the government. You and I can’t get away with
that, but the government can,” posits Professor Shubik.
He is getting tired, I notice. It takes him longer to get out a sentence.There
are long pauses between words.
“Money,” he says, “is information, reputation and trust.”
His final explanation is of networks.
“Trust and information is what a governmental monetary system is about.
At a more complex level the whole financial system and banking system is the
transformation of small networks where the players are unknown into bigger
networks that are known and the words are known and trusted and respected,”
he says. “For example, I, Martin Shubik, cannot get a stranger to take my IOU
note. So, how do I get a stranger to sell me something? I go to a god damn
bank who’s got a prime name because they’re known by a few million peo-
ple and have got a reputation. I exchange my IOU note for the bank’s note
and I pay the individual with the bank’s IOU note. And the individual may
take the bank’s IOU note and convert it into so-called cash money, which is
the United States’ IOU note: dollar bills. But the IOU notes are such for the
United States that they never have to pay them.
“Government money is a purely dynamic concept. The purely dynamic
concept is this: that you can get a system of exchange going where everybody
knows that the paper is of no value in terms of eating. But as long as every-
one believes that everyone else is willing to accept it, then everyone will accept
it. Hence, it’s pure information.”
Speaking of information, I’m on overload. So, we quickly wrap things up.
Besides, the professor is tired.
I exit the same way I came.
“ . . . and the Nambalese gorilla is nearly extinct . . . ”
The taxi retrieves me from in front of Professor Shubik’s home. When I
pay the driver, I think of what those bills mean—a magnificent signifier of
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
trust. I board the train and exchange another set of bills for a ticket. The con-
ductor wakes the man I sit next to and asks him for a ticket.The man explains
that he has already paid; he can’t find his receipt. No matter, the conductor
knows him. He trusts what the man says and moves on down the aisle, punch-
ing little holes in small pieces of paper marking where we’ve been and where
we’re going.
I wonder if I were to relay the same information as the man did, would
the conductor believe me? Would he trust what I had to say?
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“So money relies on me at the end of the day.”
“Seems so.”
“Trust and information. You have to imagine those things. You can’t hold
them in your hands.”
“But you can’t picture them either. You have to impose reason. So, it’s a
paradox.”
“I can’t imagine something, and you can’t physically value something
without imagining it.”
“Even if you could it wouldn’t mean anything. It’s what we believe to be
true, what we put trust and faith in that creates value, makes some-
thing worth something, or worth something else.”
“Paper and coins.”
“Or nothing.”
“I can’t imagine that.”
“Sure you can. Paper and coins are old hat. Debit cards. Credit cards.
That’s currency.”
“I can imagine those things.”
“You may just be imagining the cards themselves, not what they repre-
sent. That’s data.”
“Money as data? You’re right. I can’t imagine that. But I can imagine that
chips could store data—whatever that looks like—and those chips
could be worth something.”
“But we’re not talking about a physical symbol here. Data are made of
electrons and photons. Energy.”
“Help! Please help! It’s fine for you to process this, but I can’t imagine any-
thing but the uses of this data. On their own, data are information.
They can be packaged in any number of different ways.”
—  —
The Mec hani c s of Money
“And that information is conditional. And that information changes. It
varies.”
“So how do values stay constant? Where do data bridge the gap?”
“It does seem rather mind-bending. In fact, the person who created
money out of data is an interesting enough fellow. Perhaps we should
ask him.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  —
C H A P T E R 3
The Evolution of Money to Data
I
had geared up for the challenge. I’d
read his book, combed through his
articles. Most recently, I had tried to
attend a conference his organization was hosting—to no avail. I finally got
through, however. I finally booked my time with Dee Hock, the founder of
VISA. What was to be a scheduled ten-minute discussion turned out to be an
hour’s talk about everything from the biosphere to biomechanics. All of this,
I should note, was in the context of money—what it means, how everything
relates to everything else in the planet, on this one and the next, and then
next, until the whole universe can be accounted for, right here, right now, in
this space, in this time we are spending together.
Dee Hock, somehow I need to call him Mr. Hock, founded VISA in the
1960s. He took a simple concept of a bank-issuing credit card company and
took it global. The concept, I came to find out, was not so simple. In fact, it
changed the way that money is handled. Mr. Hock made money of 1s and
0s. He decimalized value and made it part of a string of electrons in a
computer.
To give you some idea of the weight of our discussion, let me explain how
VISA was begun. Better yet, let me allow Mr. Hock to explain how VISA was
begun.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.”
“But it’s your book.”
“Yes, yes, that’s true. But VISA was your concept. Go on. Really. I’d rather.”
“Okay, if you say so . . . Can you hear me in the back? Good.”
My Imagination wants Mr. Hock and me to trade places in this discussion.
Mostly because he doesn’t trust me, my Imagination. He likes Mr. Hock’s
words, his thoughts and ideas better than my scribbling, my raconteur. So be
it. I, the physical self, will give way to my Imagination and Mr. Hock.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“It was necessary to reconceive, in the most fundamental sense, the con-
cepts of bank money and credit card, and to understand how those elements
might evolve in a micro-electronic environment.”
If I scan a dollar bill on to a computer screen, is it still a dollar bill?
“What is it that we want to accomplish? How will we organize it?”
A Palm Pilot.
“Money had become nothing but alphanumeric data recorded on value-
less paper and metal. It would become data in the form of arranged electrons
and photons that would move around the world at the speed of light, at minus-
cule cost, by infinitely diverse paths, throughout the entire electromagnetic
spectrum. The concept of ‘credit card’ was inadequate. Credit cards had to be
reconceived as a device for the exchange of monetary value in the form of
arranged electronic particles. Demand for that exchange would be lifelong and
global, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, wherever the customer
happened to be. Perceptions swiftly changed.”
There’s a light show at the Museum of Science in Cambridge,
Massachusetts. In a dark, circular room, people stand. Blue lights, red lights,
green lights flash in sequences to music. Fast then slow. Slow then fast. They
walk outside the room. The show continues. They’re left in wonder. How can
they keep hold of that magnificent sensory world?
“Embedded in what had seemed a hopeless problem was an incredible
opportunity. Any organization that could globally guarantee and clear monetary
information in the form of arranged electronic particles in every monetary value
in the world would have the market—every exchange of monetary value in the
world—that staggered the imagination. But a major problem remained.”
Could they box the light show, keep it in their left pocket?
“No bank could do it. No stock corporation could do it. No nation-state
could do it. In fact, no existing form of organization could do it. It would
require a transcendental organization linking together in wholly new ways an
unimaginable complex of diverse financial institutions, individual customers,
merchants, communication companies, suppliers, and government entities. It
was beyond the power of reason or the reach of the imagination to design
such an organization or to anticipate the problems and opportunities it would
face.
“Evolution routinely creates complex organizational patterns—rain forests,
marine systems, body, brain, immune systems. If anything imaginable were pos-
sible, if there were no constraints whatever, what would be the nature of an
ideal organization based on biological organizing principles to create the
world’s premiere system for the exchange of monetary value? VISA was born
of that idea.”
—  —
The Evol ut i on of Money t o Dat a
If the light show was in my left pocket—
Okay, okay. I, the real self, am taking back control from my Imagination.
My research finds that VISA is a nonstock, for-profit membership corpo-
ration. It is an inside-out holding company in that it doesn’t hold but is held
by its functioning parts.The institutions that create its products are, at the same
time, its owners, its members, its customers, its subjects and its superiors. And
it isn’t subject to any regulatory authority in the world. It transcends language,
custom, politics, and culture and connects more than twenty-one thousand
financial institutions, sixteen million merchants and eight hundred million
people in three hundred countries. Its annual volume exceeds $1.5 trillion per
year. And its only has a staff of three thousand.
The importance of the VISA story in my discussion with Mr. Hock is that
its evolution, essentially, mirrors the concept of money. Indeed, it is the con-
cept of money. All the principles that hold true for money hold true for VISA.
“Money is information,” Mr. Hock says. “But then there is the question of
value. At the heart of VISA was an understanding.”
It was the understanding among banks that VISA would be honored that
created value.
“Money had really become nothing but alphanumeric information,”
Mr. Hock says. “There had to be the belief that someone would accept it.”
The idea that banks were behind VISA provided the concept with value.
That concept became money. It became a belief system that empowered
people to trade value without the need for physical numeraire. Storage of
value and means of exchange were all that would be needed to allow value to
escape into the world, sneak out without its clothes on, and be invisible to the
human eye.
“It’s a range of electrons and photons that move at the speed of light and
bounce around the universe,” says Mr. Hock.
What is the value of that concept? VISA, if converted to a stock company,
would have an astronomical value. But it cannot be bought, sold, or traded, as
ownership is in the form of nontransferable rights of participation.
Value is a concept that Mr. Hock feels strongly about. If money is infor-
mation, then what is the value of that information?
“We haven’t a clue,” he posits.
For example, what is intellectual value versus commercial value? What then
is natural capital? What are the values that make companies perform? What do
we measure in the capital markets, in the financial world, on a balance sheet?
Commercial value. Aren’t we missing something?
“The balance sheets are all false.They are only a way to aggregate monetary
capital,” says Mr. Hock. “There is natural capital, intellectual capital,
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
commercial capital, and infrastructure capital,” as well as scarcity of capital.
None of this is accounted for when we value things—whether they be
organizations, commodities or currency, says Mr. Hock. “Our whole system
socializes costs and capitalizes gains,” he says. “What is it that really concerns
the public? Is it the price of the stock market? Nonsense.”
He takes a long pause. He knows where all this is headed. Information, you
see, has heretofore been bound, locked, kept out of reach. That, as we know,
has changed. Access is a mouse click away. That accessibility changes value. It
changes most everything—governance, power, and therefore value.
“Information is destroying its boundary asset. Before, there was a difference
between public and private information. But all those boundaries have liter-
ally dissolved. And evolution isn’t going to stop,” Mr. Hock says.
There are wild birds overhead. Blue skies. The forests are lush. The air is
clean. Water is pure and plentiful. My Imagination sees these things. An Eden.
Then the story gets told. Details are left out. Like a rose petal. Like a bee
who gets sent off course in the breeze. You can’t account for and capture
everything. Reality is too detailed.
Value, without form, is boundless. The limitless information our mind can
absorb is the money, the thing we will comprehend in time, Mr. Hock says.
Until then, we are left with data, the storage of the light, the energy that
comprises the world.
Only a word can define it. Energy can’t be seen. It takes on different rep-
resentations: the sun, steam heat rising from a sidewalk, electric towers, gas
pumps. We see those things and associate energy.
We imagine it, just like money.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“I’m flattered. But aren’t we talking about the representation of value?
Isn’t that what money is?”
“For an imagination, you’re rather literal.”
“I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“In fact, you’re on to something. Money is what we use to represent
value—in its most widely used form. But it doesn’t have to be any-
thing. It can just be a word.”
“You’re putting me to work again, aren’t you?”
“Damn straight. I need a picture to move things along. Maybe even a story
if you have the time.”
“Here goes. But promise me later that you’ll watch television, a video,
—  —
The Evol ut i on of Money t o Dat a
widow
“You got it.”
“All right then. You pull up to a nice suburban house. White picket fence,
all that. You walk to the front door and knock. A preppy guy holding
on to his Great Dane answers. You tell him that he has won a million
dollars. The neighbors come out from their houses. A crowd gathers.
They are all informed that this guy is now worth a million bucks.
“A house across the street is for sale. The preppy guy says, ‘I’ll buy that
house for $500,000.’ His word is all that is transmitted. People believe
him because they were just told that he is worth a million dollars. That
worth has now been transmitted. The owner of the house takes his
word. She can then use that to go purchase other things—or even
invest. As long as people believe that she has that worth, she can
spend on her word too. And so, on, and so on, as more and more
people take the value of her word and store it or pass it on and use
it themselves in whatever increments she has determined.”
“But words have no boundaries. A person could overspend.”
“A ledger with that information would have to be kept.”
“Exactly! It’s the storage of information, the data, that represents the
value. What we use to transact has been erased.”
“Can I go to sleep now?”
“Not yet. The ledger is really an exchange, right? That’s where one word
is exchanged for another, or one thing is exchanged for another. The
values are calculated. That value represents money.”
“Sounds like Wall Street.”
“It is Wall Street.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
— :¡ — — :¡ —
C H A P T E R 4
The Exchange of Money Value
I
’m at the place where more money
changes hands in one day than any
other place in the world. I’m on Wall
Street in lower Manhattan.
It’s a bright summer day, one of those late summer days when it’s com-
fortable to wear a blazer—not too hot. I walk the 650 steps of Wall Street,
from Trinity Church to the East River. I pass by Federal Hall, where George
Washington took the first oath as the president of the United States on April
30, 1789. I pass by the New York Stock Exchange, with its Roman columns,
its many entrances plagued by Wall Street traders in their blue, gray, and brown
smocks. Most who are outside are sneaking a cigarette. Others are just getting
fresh air; the floor of the New York Stock Exchange doesn’t have any win-
dows to open.
The exchange trading floor is a huge basement filled with computer
screens and people shouting at tiny digits that scroll by on a ticker display.
Meanwhile, outside, Japanese tourists click off rolls of film. Workers at a
company going public that day hold out signs to advertise and rally traders:
AmBev.
I have walked up and down Wall Street hundreds of times. I just now
notice, though, the expression on most everybody’s face: serious, mission crit-
ical. If I see a smile, it’s not from someone in a suit and tie marching next to
someone else in a suit in tie as they scamper along the street or the sidewalk.
(The first block of Wall Street is closed to through traffic.)
I notice the expressions on the smocked traders: They all look tired. I sit
next to a trader on the steps of Federal Hall, just next to the statue of George
Washington. I tell the man I sit next to that I am a writer and I want to know
what money really means to him—as a critical part of the money machine,
someone who makes, loses, holds, decides on the fate of lots of money
throughout the day.
— :o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
He has just finished rubbing his eyes. He puts his glasses back on and looks
at me. The intrigue, the impulse to speak is stopped just before any words
come out of his mouth to answer my question. He swallows what he was
going to say. He takes another breath and then informs me that he can’t speak
to the media. “We can’t. They won’t let us,” he says.
The “they” he is talking about are the firms that control the flow of money
in and out of the NYSE. These firms, whose members literally own seats
allowing them sit in on the action as billions of dollars of companies’ shares
trade through verbal commands and electronic confirmation orders, regulate
how much a company’s stock will go up or how much it will go down.These
“specialists” buy shares from me and sell them to you through “floor brokers.”
There is never a direct connection between the yous and the mes, though, as
investors. Specialists, like referees, step in to make sure my floor broker isn’t
asking too much and your floor broker isn’t offering to pay too little. So with
these deep pockets,Wall Street ticks. Companies’ share prices rise and fall. And
companies are deemed worth more or less at the end of a trading day. Traders
like the one I sat next to can’t say a word about it all; that could start people
talking. And people could lose money.
I remember once when I was writing a story about the media industry. It
centered around Telecommunications Inc., fondly known in the business as
TCI. TCI had received some positive news about something or other—and its
stock shot up. Stupidly, I typed in the symbol TCI to get a price;TCI, I noticed,
wasn’t Telecommunications Inc.’s ticker symbol—that’s TCOMA. But as I
looked at my screen, I saw that I wasn’t alone.TCI,Transcontinental Realty, was
up big on even bigger volume. People were getting it wrong. They were
hearing that TCI was a buy, and literally buying TCI, the wrong company.
Hence, stock traders have to watch what they say.Their power is enormous
when it comes to the value of money. A word, a misspelled acronym, means
millions of dollars, never mind the usual battle traders have to face in verbally
matching orders to prices.
At the end of the trading day on October 19, 1987 (Black Monday), for
example, more than a trillion dollars had been wiped out. Poof, like that.
Companies had been devalued that much—stock traders had sold. All that
potential money—gone.
The guys in the smocks, the ones who can’t speak, they are the ones
responsible for all that money disappearing; they are the messengers.
Finally, I get some one who works on the NYSE floor to talk. His name
is Robert McCooey, Jr., and his family owns seven seats on the New York
Stock Exchange through their firm, Griswold Company. Considering the
average seat on the NYSE goes for about $2.5 million, the McCooeys have
— :; —
The Exc hage of Money Val ue
shelled out a lot of money to make a lot of money—for themselves and their
clients. Well-smocked and well-endowed, let’s call them.
I asked Bob, Jr. what money means. “I can’t think that way,” he says.
I figured this was coming, that Bob would give me a nonanswer. I figured
that smocked traders on the floor of an exchange didn’t really think too much
about the meaning behind money. But that’s not it. Bob is actually very
thoughtful about the matter. He has done reports for television, spoken at
length about the value of this company and the value of that company. And,
he says, the amount of money he represents on a moment-to-moment basis is
too awesome for him to think of it in terms of dollars.
“We just did a two-million-share trade for a block of Wal-Mart,” says Bob, Jr.
“If I thought about how much that is, in terms of dollars, I couldn’t do my job
effectively. I’d freeze.”In fact, in terms of dollars, that was $80 million. In one shot,
in one instant—$80 million. If Bob, Jr. gets a slightly better price for that block,
say an eighth, that’s $100,000. Considering Bob, Jr.’s firm trades about eight mil-
lion shares a day at an average price of $40, his eighths add up. Reason to freeze.
I’m there on the stock exchange floor a day after the Dow Jones Industrial
Average sinks almost four hundred points. The slide follows a flat year for
stocks. So the decline puts the value of most money invested in the market
below what it was at the year’s beginning. The number of people trading—
trying to salvage the value of their money invested—increased dramatically the
day before.Volume was huge, well into the millions.Traders, barraged with sell
orders, were looking tired and haggard. Days when the market is down are
days when people lose money.That’s not good for a business whose sole func-
tion relies on capital.
In any case, the day’s losses make big news—around the world. People
wonder whether things are overvalued, whether they’ve paid too much money
for stocks that aren’t worth as much as they were once told, whether a “crash”
will occur where the value of everybody’s money invested in stocks will sink
low, low, low.
A German television crew accosts Bob, Jr. for a comment as I’m inter-
viewing him. He gives them the pat answer I received from the smocks on
the street: “We can’t talk . . . ”
There’s a bit of an irony to this, as he is speaking with me when he says
this to them. But they, after all, deserve such an answer. They haven’t followed
the rules of setting up a proper interview and clearing it with exchange offi-
cials, as I had.
After the Germans are shooed away, I look at Bob, Jr. He eyes the crew as
they are escorted away. Another reporter catches Bob, Jr.’s eye. He waves and
smiles. There are media all over here. Money is big news all of a sudden.
— :: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“Sorry,” Bob, Jr. says. “Where were we?”
Actually, I was just at the part where I was trying to get a personal philos-
ophy from Bob, Jr. about the meaning of money.
He tells me, “Money is the scorecard on Wall Street.” But at the same time
he says that money really isn’t thought about in its traditional sense. Money is
the safety and security and the value within the confines of an infrastructure.
The infrastructure is the snapshot from when a trader gets an order to buy or
sell to when he executes that order and either makes or loses money for the
customer.
You’d never know so much money was being represented on the floor of
the NYSE by an objective look at it. People aren’t dressed in fancy garb. (They
wear smocks, after all.) No fine art is displayed. The decorum is utilitarian:
computers, big fiber-optic cables strewn about. There isn’t even a carpet on
the floor. Money is distilled here to its representation. It’s a basic formula of,
more or less, supply and demand. When a stock trades at nine and a half or
five and a quarter no dollar sign is posted in front. A value system outside the
world of money has been created. Money, it seems, is for use in the outside
world, not this windowless world of finance.
Thinking in decimals and digits is easier than thinking in dollars or
currency.
The exchange floor environment is frenetic. People race from phones to
stations that represent companies. This is where the specialists sit. They take
the buy and sell orders from the floor brokers. They take this information
verbally, so there is a lot of yelling, a lot of urgency, a lot of rapid-fire orders.
Needless to say, it’s loud. A constant roar rises from the exchange floor. If you
didn’t know otherwise, you’d think a grand cocktail party was underway.
As Bob, Jr. continues to talk about “finding value” by getting better
prices, my Imagination goes with the German television crew. They wind
around past a couple of other traders like Bob, Jr. They run into a senior
citizens’ tour group. The German correspondent tries to figure an angle in
here, but relents. His cameraman continues to shoot footage. The senior
citizens just look on, in wonder of the madness that an exchange
environment promotes.
The German television crew decides to call it quits. They step into an
elevator and make it to the building lobby.There, they pass the team of security
guards and metal detectors everyone who enters must meet. The crew steps
out on to Broad Street. The tourists have gathered. (Anyone with a television
camera draws a crowd.) They begin to shoot footage outside the NYSE.They
interview a couple of tourists about the precarious situation the stock market
is in. Will it lead to inflation, a depression?
— :, —
The Exc hage of Money Val ue
My Imagination latches on to that. He envisions men in suits, stockbro-
kers, jumping from skyscraper windows as they supposedly did in 1929, when
the Great Depression began in America.
A man lands on a car.Then another, and another. It’s like the frog scene in
the film Magnolia, except now it’s raining stockbrokers and briefcases, not frogs.
The German television crew gets it all on film. They walk up Broad
Street—shooting as they go—to Wall Street.There, on the footsteps of Federal
Hall is the smocked trader who couldn’t talk to me.
As it’s raining stockbrokers and briefcases, and as the German television
crew holds steady on the smocked trader for a close-up, we pull in tighter and
tighter on the man’s face; it’s unfazed. He takes his glasses off, lifts them in the
air to see if he can spot any dirt or smears, then places them back on his face
and looks back out on to Wall Street—expressionless.
The German television reporter asks the trader a question: “Are we safe?”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average represents just forty stocks. Whether
those stocks go up or down doesn’t specifically matter to the economy at large.
Whether the NYSE or any other exchange sees a rise or a fall doesn’t much
matter either. What affects the economy at large is the perception of what
those stocks represent. If a company’s stock falls it means it’s not performing
well. If a lot of companies’ stocks fall in price, it means a lot of companies
aren’t doing so well. That disease could spread. People then tend to take their
money out of stocks.That sends prices down further.That money out of com-
panies’ coffers means companies have to borrow to produce goods. They’ll
have to pay higher rates of interest to do that. That sends the prices of goods
or services they provide up. That means people have to pay more money for
say, a pair of shoes, a cup of coffee. But that is far removed from the NYSE
and Wall Street. Still, it has to start somewhere. And it could all start with a
trader uttering one wrong word.
A German tourist I once met told me that the tall buildings on Wall Street
didn’t indicate to her signs of success or achievement. They were signs, she
said, of loneliness and despair.
Money on Wall Street is the sound of a dishwasher, the noise of a plane
engine: it’s there, but after awhile you don’t pay attention to it. It just keeps
running unnoticed, like white noise.
— ¡o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“Money there is noise? I don’t get it.”
“Get off the traffic, the foghorns. I can’t stand those sounds in my head.”
“Oh, sorry. Quiet time. There you go.”
“Thanks. Money is noise because it’s in the background all the time. It’s
trust and information exchanged millions of times a day—on mere
words alone. The shouted order. The accepted exchange. It’s money—
raw.”
“The words, that noise, must represent something. Symbols, I imagine.”
“More than that. There are equations, analyses, and facts that put words
into context. ‘Buy’ takes on an implied connotation. Same thing with
‘sell.’ On Wall Street, information is implied. You have to know, well,
imagine, what the results are, what the situation is.”
“Like if I imagined Microsoft trading at $10 per share.”
“Right. You’d then imagine the possibilities of it going up. You’d imagine
a whole assortment of things about Microsoft. But you’d just use the
word ‘buy.’”
“And that word unravels a world, a sequence of events. Left unsaid, left
for me to imagine.”
“Right. McCooey says he just looks someone in the eye when he accepts
an offer or when someone accepts his—no papers are passed, noth-
ing is signed. It’s just done.”
“On his word.”
“The trust that goes along with that information, yes.”
“And then it’s recorded.”
“Exactly. The exchange between two people is stored. It’s represented as
a number—the symbols you keep going back to.”
“I get it. It’s simple. Valuing something on supply and demand is conveyed
via money. It’s then exchanged and recorded. New values are set.
Money breaks into new digits. It bears new symbols.”
“Almost like us or any organism that reproduces, in a way.”
“I have that image again.”
“Please––let’s be adults. The point is, values, or money, cannot be static.”
“Professor Shubik told us that. Give me some new ground. Another thing
for me to piece together.”
“I’ve already got that.”
“Do tell.”
“You gave me the idea, actually.”
— ¡+ —
The Exc hage of Money Val ue
“That’s what I’m here for—to give you new ideas. What did I say?”
“It’s what you couldn’t say. There are objects, right? We can value those,
they represent money, let’s say. And there are the makers of the
objects, a Microsoft, let’s say. We can value those too. We can then
trade on that—“
“—like Wall Street.”
“Right. But what about the value itself, which in turn represents all the
objects and the makers of objects?”
“Valuing a value?”
“Isn’t that what money is now? The representative value of a value versus
another value?”
“Since money doesn’t represent gold or silver anymore?”
“Exactly.”
“So how do you value a value like money?”
“One currency versus another. The economy of one nation versus
another.”
“Too complicated. I can only imagine a map of the world.”
“Well, instead of a map, imagine an atlas. Then, pull some cartoon
imagery together and put a man’s finger on the world’s axis.”
“Like a basketball player spinning a basketball on his fingertip.”
“Exactly.”
“Who is it that who has the world spinning on his finger as such? I need
that image.”
“Try Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of
Governors.”
“Show me why.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  —
C H A P T E R 5
The Storage of Money Value
T
he Federal Reserve Board is
responsible for defining the
value of money. In other words,
they value the value of the U.S. currency, the dollar.
This isn’t done by putting a number value on the dollar. After all, a dollar
is a dollar anywhere in the United States. A dollar’s equivalent value within
the confines of the U.S. government is goods or services. It’s the Fed’s job to
make sure that a dollar can buy relatively the same amount of goods or services
for the same price, leaving room for growth (what companies can charge) and
abating inflation (the oversupply of money in circulation).
How this gets done is an extremely complicated series of analyses.
First of all, the Fed, as it’s so fondly known, doesn’t look at money as we
look at money. The Fed says there are actually three types of money—and it
tracks all three to determine an overall value for the U.S. dollar. The total of
all three is our nation’s money supply.
Money, to the Fed, is hard currency—coins and bills. It’s checking
deposits, or what they call demand deposits—the money that can be easily
withdrawn from your bank account, under $100,000. And money is also
check-like deposits, or savings accounts, certificates of deposit (CD) accounts,
and so on, over $100,000.
For the record, the Fed calls these three types money M1, M2, and M3. M
on its own is used to represent the total.
“Wasn’t M James Bond’s boss, the head of the British secret service?” my
Imagination asks.
“Please, we’ll never get through this if you keep popping up.”
“You called me. I was pleasantly snoring away.”
“Sorry, you’ll have to go back to sleep for a while. I truly won’t need to
imagine anything for some time. I promise I’ll wake you when the
explanations are over.”
—  —
“Then what?”
“No, no. Blackout time. Off you go.”
Where were we? Oh yes, M. Money supply is deceiving because it’s not
stagnant. We are constantly spending money. So, the Fed has to track how
much we spend in order to keep the ledger in order. Otherwise, as we know,
things get out of control—inflation.
Velocity is how the Fed determines how much we spend.V, or velocity, is
the number of times per year each dollar is spent. MV, therefore, is our total
spending in a year—money multiplied by the number of time it’s spent. Total
spending is our gross domestic product, or GDP.
“There sure are a lot of acronyms flying around.”
“I thought you were asleep.”
“I was. But you have to imagine some of this stuff . . . I just can’t shut down
like that, like reason, for example.”
“We’ll get back to that later. In fact, I need reason now.”
GDP. GDP also comprises all the goods and services sold in a country
per year. Another way to look at it is the average price all goods and
services multiplied times the total quantity of goods and services sold in
a year.
GDP is looked at both ways because MV, money and how many times it’s
spent has to always equal out. Makes sense right? We have to buy all the goods
and services we buy with money.
That, at least, is how the Fed tracks money. It says that money turns over
about nine times throughout the year. So each dollar will end up at about nine
different places every twelve months. At each one of these stops, that dollar
should be worth the same amount; it should be able to purchase the same
amount of goods or services.
See, the iced tea arrives. When we go to pay the bill, it comes to $11.81.
That’s for two glasses. Granted, we’re sitting in the lounge of a fancy hotel
looking out at the California beach, but $5 for a glass of iced tea is a lot.
“It wasn’t that expensive last time I was here,” says Joel Dickson, a former
staff economist at the Fed, who now works for the Vanguard Group, one of
the largest investment companies in the world.
Joel informs me: Money is the arbiter.
“I ask for something I want, the iced tea, and I get it. What goes on in
between is money in this world.”
“I’ve already got the simple stuff down,” I say. “But—”
“—It is simple,” he says.
“Not really,” I note. “It only sounds simple.”
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
—  —
The St orage of Money Val ue
The reason I’m talking to Joel in California is because the Fed, in
Washington, D.C., isn’t talking. Can’t get in the door. No way. No how.
Nothing goes on record.
“You have to realize that what we do is sensitive. Any one word can send
the markets spinning,” says David Skidmore, the only person, it seems, at the
Fed who is allowed to speak. Skidmore is the Fed’s spokesman.
What’s so sensitive? “It’s the economy, stupid.”
As I’m sitting with Joel, the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked a few
hundred points after Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan
announced that interest rates would be slashed half a percent.
So, a hint over what the Fed might do when it exercises its power
literally changes the markets, accounting for billions of dollars in trading
movements.
The Fed composes money. It says that it uses a “broad range of indicators”
to determine the value of money. In its own lingo, the Fed uses the term
“monetary policy” to describe money. It sufficiently obfuscates what money is
and how the value of money is determined. Indeed, after dealing with the Fed
and reading through all of its publicly disseminated information, one gets the
sense that the Fed is either very confused itself about its mission, or it doesn’t
know what its mission is.
Example: money supply. All that talk about M1, M2, and M3. All those
formulas the Fed devised and calculated to battle inflation—well, they
threw money supply out the window just recently, stating that it’s
antiquated. What does the Fed use now to determine its policy and put it
into effect?
Good question.Vague answers. But good question.
“Money is determined by what we spend,” says Dickson.
If we didn’t spend any money, we wouldn’t need any money. However, if
we overspend—in other words, there is too much money in circulation—the
prices of goods and services will increase too.”
That increase is called inflation. And that’s what the Fed hopes to avoid.
Of course, in order for things to prosper, things must grow.And that’s the trick.
How to grow without creating inflation.
To do that the Fed institutes its measures: interest rate changes, reserve
requirements, buying back debt, issuing more bonds.
Most recently, the Fed’s control over the money supply lies in its power to
control interest rates. Lower interest rates increase the money supply. Higher
interest rates decrease the money supply.
The actual event of raising and lowering interest rates, while it catches the
news, isn’t really what happens. The Fed manipulates interest rates through its
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
discount rate. This is what banks can borrow against from the U.S. govern-
ment. It also buys or sells U.S. Treasury securities, or its own bonds. These
bonds are our national debt. And who are we as a nation mostly in debt to?
Banks.
When the Fed buys back its own debt, it effectively lowers interest rates,
and increases the money supply.To buy back its debt, the Fed will write checks
to the banks who own its bonds. The banks deposit the money in their
reserves. This creates an excess in their reserves, so the banks will then lend
out that money—to people like you and me—and put it into circulation.Voilà.
Mo’ money on the planet. When it wants to decrease the money supply, the
Fed will sell securities, taking the money from buyers, those same banks, and,
well, burning it.
This is the most efficacious way the Fed controls money and money sup-
ply. It also can raise or lower the discount rate it allows banks to borrow on.
Banks borrow money from the Federal government, the Fed gives them a pre-
ferred rate or interest, or discount, and then the banks re-lend that money out
to us. Raising or lowering the discount rate raises and lowers the amount of
money banks have to keep on reserve to meet our cash requirements, those
nine times each dollar gets spent.
That’s the gist of monetary policy. The U.S. Mint prints and mints dollars
and coins to match our spending habits, the more or less than the nine times
each dollar turns over in a year. (It prints $22.5 million per day worth of
currency in notes between $1 and $100.) On top of that, the Treasury destroys
about $7.5 billion per year in different denominations.The average $1 stays in
circulation eighteen months; the $5 bill, two years; the $10 bill, three years; the
$20 bill, four years; the $50 and $100 bill, nine years.
Of course we’ve just covered money in toto, and how it rises and falls or
gets destroyed. We haven’t discussed how this affects the value of money.
Dickson explains: “Remember I said it is simple? It is. When money rises
and falls, values rise and fall.That’s money.The amount really doesn’t matter.
It’s the prices. So next time you see those economic indicators, like CPI
[Consumer Price Index] or PPI [Producer Price Index], and if they rise or,
fall, they indicate inflation. Inflation means prices rise. Money is incidental
to that.”
Certainly, in the United States, the value of money is determined by the
prices of goods and services. Whatever we use to buy those things—let’s say
money—is one side of the equation. But what really matters is how much
will it cost us to borrow against from the government to buy those things
(interest rates) and how much are those things anyway—consumer prices,
producer prices. Moreover, will I have a job and be able to afford those
—  —
The St orage of Money Val uey
things or produce enough of those things to go around? The answer to
that question is called an employment level. Pretty much those few things
determine how much money should be printed or released to lap up
demand.
Maybe it is simple, after all.
Dickson, by the way, paid with a credit card.
“ . . . and I’m awake.”
“Good.”
“Just in time I see to picture the waves crashing to shore. A couple hold-
ing hands walking along the boardwalk.The wind change directions and send
the breeze elsewhere. Ripples chopping the sea, sending it in what seems like
an unnatural direction. Flags waft.
“Which way will the breeze blow? What affect will it have on the tides,
the waves, the clouds and the rain? It changes really everything, that wind. And
at the end of the day, it’s nothing but air . . . ”
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“A breeze?”
“I was just waking up.”
“How could you have slept through all of that? It was complicated.”
“No, it was boring. Imagining a nude woman from a single line drawn by
Picasso is complicated.”
“We’re thinking in opposite directions.”
“My point.”
“Aren’t you getting it, what money is, what money means?”
“Nope. In fact, I’m stifled. Perhaps this is why accountants don’t paint. I
get lost when you steep so far into dry facts. Where does that leave
me? What can I do with a term like ‘velocity’? That ‘V’ thing you yam-
mered on about. Velocity to me is a rocket ship’s bright flare, a fast-
ball, a tennis serve, the RPM dial on a Porsche. I attach different
meanings to what you conjure in your day-to-day discovery.”
“What you’re saying is that we’re growing farther apart.”
“In a sense. I mean I get the reality of money; you’ve said it to death.”
“Then what is it?”
“Whatever I want to make it. That’s money.”
“But it isn’t.”
“In your world. In mine, it’s what I can buy with it.”
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“You really must have been asleep in the last chapter. That’s what we
found out.”
“So why go through the exercise? I could have told you that.”
“Could you have imagined that, despite your best work, $1 in 1950 is
worth $7.39 today?”
“I suppose not.”
“Some things you can’t imagine. You don’t have the ammunition. That’s
what I’m trying to provide.”
“But it feels like I’m losing something.”
“Isn’t that the terrible thing about knowledge?”
“What?”
“The more you know, the less you have to imagine.”
“And that’s why I hate reason; he’s out to get me.”
“I hardly think so.”
“So is that the mission? Am I to die off here? Is that where we’re headed?’
“There’s a chance of that, part of that anyway. Once we determine what
money can be and should be, in all its forms: the bad—greed, power,
ego, manipulation, gluttony—and the good—charity, equality, phi-
lanthropy, generosity, support. Then and only then will we see
whether there’s anything for you to turn to in times of silent thought.”
“I don’t want to die.”
“No one is saying that yet.”
“Then what have we left?”
“In terms of what money is, we need to identify ourselves. Let’s get a
world view, see what money is on the foreign exchange market. Then
that should just about do it.”
“Where to?”
“Ah, the world—New York.”
— ¡, —
C H A P T E R 6
The Global Monetary Value
System
I
nside. It makes perfect sense. It’s
entombed.
All its parts are sufficiently connected. It runs despite how big or little,
despite things affected by time.
Indeed, only time is the thing that affects it, makes it grow. It has no choice.
Not too fast. Not too slow. In an almost perfect balance. Because who knows
or cares what the outside world thinks, or better yet, even is. All that is needed
is within the confines of these borders, these walls.
But life cannot be lived in a vacuum. Influences arise. And then we are
born into the world. And then we are no longer isolated in our womb.We are
part of the inextricable weave of society, the world at large. It’s to that which
we are compared. It’s to that in which we must fit in.
In 1944 fixed rates of exchange were determined by the world’s major
industrial nations. International trade had forced the hand of governments
who could no longer worry about the stability of just their own currencies.
The growth of imports and exports meant nations had to rely on one another,
whether they liked it or not. World War II, of course, being strong testament
to the “not.”
In any case, the mission of worldwide price stability, ergo currency balance,
was left to forty-four governments whose representatives met in Bretton
Woods, New Hampshire, that year to hammer out exactly how this could be
done. When the representatives left three weeks later, fixed rates of currency
exchange had been established and the International Monetary Fund had been
created.
— ¡o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
In 1973, two years after the United States abandoned the gold standard,
the world’s major currencies were allowed to float; fixed rates were no longer
imposed.
Forty years allowed the world to get a little closer.A global village had been
built through the proliferation of communication and technology. Monetary
control was transferred from the governments to the capital markets.
To be sure it was a struggle. The early 1970s posed a disaggregative envi-
ronment:The Vietnam War raged, oil prices skyrocketed, inflation fears neared.
The world was tumultuous, the strain on governments too much. The free
market took over.
Here, traders, dealers, brokers, and agents set the price of a nation’s cur-
rency. They decided how much a dollar would be worth on the worldwide
market. They decided how much a currency is worth compared to other cur-
rencies. They still do.
It’s not a matter of pure supply and demand. Within the confines of any
country, money is valued by the goods or services it can acquire. Outside a
country’s borders, money is viewed much differently. Currency takes on a new
meaning. In this context, currency is no longer the material or the “numeraire”
utilized as fiat money—paper, coins, whatever, as the exchange value for goods
and services. Money represents what a country is worth when compared to
other countries.
The dollar, we so often hear, is worth X number of yen, or euros or
deutsche mark marks, or British pounds. What does that mean?
Well, in order to calculate the value of goods and services in one country
versus the goods and services in another country, a “foreign exchange rate”
still has to be established. But this rate is determined on a second by second
basis by currency traders. It’s these floating rates of exchange that value all
money today. Not gold. Not silver. It’s trust and faith in governments and their
ability to perform. Sort of.
Government performance, in this case, means stabilization, the stabilization
of their economies. Interest rates are the most widely used and indicative
barometer of economic stability. That’s why the Federal Reserve Board is so
powerful. By setting interest rates, it’s basically determining the strength of the
U.S. government: how desperate it is (higher interest rates), or disinterested
(lower interest rates) in attracting capital.
Foreign exchange markets value these considerations in the Forex spot
markets. Here, a dollar may increase or decrease in value. Of course in coun-
tries of origin, currency remains constant. A dollar can only be redeemed for
another dollar. Its purchasing power may increase or decrease—$1.51 for a
muffin, or $1.55 for a muffin.
— ¡+ —
The Gl obal Monet ar y Val ue Sys t em
“Muffin?”
“Okay, doughnut.”
“Too colloquial.”
“Croissant.”
“Same thing, different country.”
“Loaf of bread?”
“There you go.”
Lots of things may influence the value of that loaf of bread: labor, manu-
facturing, cost of ingredients. But no matter what, that dollar and change used
to buy that bread are constant—it’s the bread’s price that has changed, not the
dollar’s or coins. One could argue that they are the same thing. But to do that,
you have to move outside the stolid environment of the exchange of money
for goods or services. You have to enter the world of exchanging money for
money.
Moneychangers have a special place in the world.You see them frequently
at airports, in banks, or in a kiosk near some tourist area. These exchange
places are but a dimple on the real place where money exchanges hands—
trading desks at the world’s major banks.
I hear that it’s frenetic. Phones ringing. Orders accepted, shouted, recorded.
Trades executed. All in the name of money. All in the name of currency.
To peek inside this world, my Imagination and I enter the JPMorgan Chase
Bank building on Park Avenue in New York City. JPMorgan Chase is known
as one of the largest, if not the largest, currency trader in the world.
A security desk greets you where you must sign in. Office workers are
scurrying around. It’s Friday, lunchtime, so every one is dressed casually—
painfully so. A man wearing khaki Dockers and a rugby shirt looks so uncom-
fortable. His hair is perfectly groomed. His tassel loafers are polished. Even the
rugby shirt he is wearing is pressed.You can tell he’d rather be in the suit and
tie uniform. But this isn’t the age for that.This is the New Millennium, where
old world meets new.
On the sixth floor, where JPMorgan Chase Bank’s giant trading room lies,
is another reception area. Here, tacked to a mahogany paneled wall, is a digi-
tal ticker display.
It says a lot.
Interest rates, currency rates, and stock quotes are brightly illuminated in
neon green.
My Imagination sees it and immediately creates a scoreboard, like one
found in any sports stadium. The numbers blink. They somehow arrange into
a face. The zeros for eyes, seven for a nose, ones for a mouth. Nines fit nicely
as ears.
— ¡: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
It’s the face of the future. The mahogany paneled walls are anachronistic.
Inside, on the trading floor, in rows of eight, perhaps fifty aisles long, sit the
dressed-down, casual-Friday traders.
They sit on their Herman Miller chairs screaming orders through the
telephone headsets. Their eyes are glued to jet-black computer screens
fanned out in front of them. Each workstation looks like a cockpit. Six,
eight, ten computer screens. Numbers flashing. Numbers scrolling. Numbers
changing. Second by second. Minute by minute. This is how and where
value ticks. From the old world and into the new world, around the world,
it’s here. And people want you to know about it.They shout their existence:
“Ten at eighty!”They shout to let the world know what has just happened,
to confirm it in high decibel, somehow to validate the fact that they just
changed the value of an entire currency, deciding the worth of an entire
nation. In an order, a shouted order, all the faith, trust, and belief in a gov-
ernment, in how strong its system for trade is—is determined. All in that
shout, by a frustrated guy in a rugby shirt who’d rather be in a suit because
it conforms.
Not every one does.
I see a burst of orange. I can’t decide whether it’s my Imagination or me,
the logical self who sees this.
Turns out that it’s me, the logical self. Claudia Jury, JPMorgan Chase’s chief
currency dealer, is wearing an orange sweater. I try to imagine the significance
of this, but He is asleep again, the cacophony, the eavesdropping on workers I
pass by (“I’ll try and make it home early . . . ”“Yeah, they have a new salad at
the deli . . . ”) drown him out, put my Imagination to sleep.
And Claudia Jury is in a rush. She is the only trader monitoring the
yen/dollar trading for the day. So I have to make my visit swift. I have to shake
hands and pace back to her desk with her. Our grip last a few steps; she is that
manic.
I want to find out how decisions about value are made. How does she
determine the price of a currency? And whom does she trade with anyway?
Why do we need people like her on the planet?
“If you’re a company in the U.S. and you want to buy a company in Japan,
you need to buy yen. So you go to the bank and say I need this much yen.
That’s where I come in,” says Jury.
Jury’s job is to get yen at the lowest price for her customers. She has to bet
that the value of the yen won’t rise, elsewise she loses money for her customers.
And her customers want a lot of yen. Billions, in fact.
“We don’t think in terms of millions.We trade billions.When we trade, we
even lop off the million. So if I say ten, it’s $10 million,” says Jury.
— ¡¡ —
The Gl obal Monet ar y Val ue Sys t em
What Jury is fishing for are the after-digits of the rate. For example, if the
dollar is trading at 137.301 yen, she’s trading the 301, looking for a change up
or down.
How is that determined?
First, “there are about five hundred implications,” says Jury.
By this, she means the market swings, interest rates, political events, wars,
weather, consumption, production, employment, and other indicators. The
foreign exchange, or Forex market, as the currency market is called, moves on
news and rumor, innuendo and momentum.
If the dollar value starts to tick down, she can buy fewer yen. That hurts
customers. And that hurts business.
When Jury trades, she may trade $500 million in one tranche. But that
$500 million won’t ever actually move—physically, that is. Despite the fact that
there is more U.S.-denominated money outside of the United States than
inside U.S. borders, U.S. currency doesn’t actually move that much, in terms
of bills or coins, outside the country.
“Technically, we’re not wheeling in barrels of dollars,” says Jury. “We create
an account at a branch in a different country.That is called our Nostro account.
There is enough currency in that account to conduct the physical transaction
made to credit someone else’s account [in U.S. dollars],” she says. In other
words, “dollars” are on demand deposit at that foreign bank.
Nostro, from the Latin, or Italian, means “ours.”
When the Nostro account is tapped, dollars are transferred. What comes
into the account in return? Yen. But not really.
“We aren’t trading values, we are transacting” says Jury.
That means the value is decimalized in the ledger; physical dollars don’t move.
“It’s a trading situation.” says Jury. “I don’t think about it as dollars.”
What thinking goes into it, in that split second when she is shouting over
the phone to confirm an order? The digits. It’s not inflation, macro picture,
will we survive or enter a recession? It’s digits. They beat the drum. They play
the tune. The big song, that’s for others.
An announcement comes in. The Fed lowers rates. Shouldn’t the dollar
weaken? It doesn’t. The market decides. The economy in the United States is
strong. The market decides. So the market doesn’t react.
A weak dollar means it’s not worth as much. Interest rates will rise. Inflation
occurs. Prices rise. Recession sets in. Bets are made on that scenario all day
long, whether it will happen or not. In gradations.
It’s all one big comparison—to a recession, to prosperity. And it’s all
compared to the dollar. Only New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, and the
euro currency don’t compare themselves in dollar terms. The rest of the
— ¡¡ —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
world does. Those four currencies compare themselves against all world
currencies. But other governments prefer a steady price fix. They get that
price fix from the U.S. dollar. It’s like the gold today. It’s the thing to
speculate against.
Here’s what Jury would typically say: “A customer will call and say I want
$100 million of euros against the dollar. A hundred at twenty-eight. So I look
at my supply to see if I have it or want it. I know the range is twenty-five to
twenty-eight. And if I know they’re desperate, I know I can go twenty-seven
to thirty. So, either I’ll take the trade based on everything I know about the
market, or not.”
The trade Jury speaks of would have meant trading $100 million worth
of euros at .8828 to the dollar. Her trading range would have been .8825
to .8830
Jury says that the factors that determine a trade are: inventory, market
momentum, political stability, economic stability, news events, and personal
prowess. Data and information, on a second by second basis, of course, are key
to gaining an edge when trading one currency against another.
The speculative market, or spot market, is what comprises most of the
currency trading today. It’s not companies looking to get currency to buy
other companies or goods or services. It’s not tourists or banks looking to lap
up their inventories.The currency markets today rise and fall on speculation—
people trading money to make money.
The currency markets far and away eclipse the dollar amount traded
through any stock market. About $2 trillion per day of currencies is traded
around the world. Every country’s currency changes hands, is equated to new
terms, is, in fact, born again.
But if I gave Claudia a dollar, she’d give me a dollar back. Nothing would
change day to day. That’s the irony. Out there, in the world, things are differ-
ent. Inside here, these walls, a dollar can only be traded for another dollar. It’s
worth that much, or that little, depending how you look at it—what you
perceive a dollar to mean.
“At the end of the day, it’s all perception,” says Jury.“If I perceive a currency
to be going down in value, based on all the factors I just told you, then I’d sell
it. If I perceived that value to be increasing, then I’d buy it.”
In Paulo Coehlo’s novel The Alchemist
1
, a young man goes out into the
world to find someone who can make gold. He has the ingredients. He has
the alchemy. The point of the book is that it’s the young man’s experience of
going out into the world that is the true alchemy. Out there, life is all one big
foreign exchange.
— ¡¡ —
The Gl obal Monet ar y Val ue Sys t em
It’s what he perceives to be valuable that counts.
Claudia Jury is pregnant when we first speak. A few months later, when
we meet in New York, she isn’t. Claudia had a boy.
When babies are born, there is no concept of money. They lack the
perception. That is something that is shaped and determined by society, by
culture.
Ultimately, it’s the values of society that determine the value of a currency.
Ultimately, it’s societal values that shape us.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“zzzzzzz . . . hhh . . . zzzzzz . . . ”
“Wake up.”
“I thought I was dead.”
“Hardly.”
“You don’t need me.”
“I do. You see, for all the logic that explains what comprises money, what
makes a dollar a dollar, and how it can be manipulated up or down,
there is conundrum of how this fits into the day-to-day workings of
our culture. You don’t imagine, particularly, where the last dollar you
are holding in your hand came from? You don’t look at the date and
imagine where that dollar’s been?”
“Sometimes I do.”
“But not always. It’s taken for granted. The dollars and coins become inci-
dental emblems of value to us. You come in when those emblems are
connoted propositions.”
“What I imagine you can do with that money.”
“Right.”
“But I’m having less and less to work with. You barely use dollar bills any-
more. I see your credit cards, and I have to take a couple of leaps to
get to a shopping spree at Barneys, a vacation in the Mediterranean.
Money in the abstract is much harder for me to relate to.”
“It seems that we’re dealing with perceptions again. What we perceive
money to mean. What we perceive money to stand for.”
“I’m struggling with what stands for money these days. I have to imagine
a great deal of that. I work very hard, you know.”
“Yes, yes. I’ve heard this complaint before.”
— ¡o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“Cybercash, what is that? A euro note, what is that? Platinum cards. Gold
cards. Debit cards. Credit cards. And then there are the instances
when you just type in a number of some sort or say that number over
the phone. Voilà, you get stuff. You realize how many steps and what
I have to envision to get reason to wake up and take notice?”
“Okay, okay. I get it.”
“If I had a better sense of what these things are, it would be much eas-
ier for you to put me to good use. As it stands, I’m left trying to imag-
ine things that aren’t here, aren’t there, aren’t anywhere.”
“They are perceived.”
“You don’t have to explain that to me; perception is where reason and I
meet all the time. It’s like our café on the corner. Some ideas are
kicked around and before you know it, logic steps in.”
“So what are you angling for? It sounds as if you are angling for some-
thing.”
“I want a little tether to these abstract symbols of cash you are trading
with these days. Maybe even a little help with what I’ll have to deal
with in the future, if that’s not asking too much.”
“I thought you wanted to move on to the attachments of money. You
know, the personal stories of what it’s like to have money, what it’s
like not to have money. All that.”
“Sure, that’d be great. But if you’re telling me, and I think that you are
telling me, that money, or the perception of money anyway, is chang-
ing, then I’d like to at least get a grip on that before we march on.”
“You do realize that by doing this, you’re giving reason more power.”
“Not the way I see it. If I keep imagining things, reason and logic will
always overtake me; they’ll be what you deem is right, and then I’m
left out in the cold: ‘Oh, that’s just Imagination again, you know him.’
But if I can get a few prongs around the future of money, then I can
fly, fly away and take you with me. Reason will be sitting there on
some old pile of cash, and you and I will be in cyberspace where only
I rule.”
“Uh, hum.”
“We rule.”
“Thank you. So what would you like to know?”
“I’d like to know about credit. I’d like to know how value is created. I’d
like to know how value is transferred. And I’d like to know what the
face of money will look like in the future.
— ¡; —
The Gl obal Monet ar y Val ue Sys t em
“Can you take me off the face of the dollar bill that is emblazoned in my
head now?”
“Well, you asked.”
“But that was a little frightening.”
“So, let’s wipe away all these misgivings and get on with it.”
“Okay, to the future of money, then.”
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— ¡, — — ¡, —
C H A P T E R 7
The Future of Money as a
Credit-Based System
C
redit, says Nobel Prize–winner
Joseph Stiglitz, is the currency
of the future. It is what we’ll
trade with. Indeed, it is what we trade with and on.
Stiglitz’s point of view, to some, is deemed rather radical. For some, his
views are easy targets of criticism because of the job Stiglitz formerly held:
chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Whenever you are in or associated with the political realm, criticism is eas-
ily launched. Saying that credit will be the currency, or is the currency, we
trade on doesn’t exactly help matters, either. Because that’s where Stiglitz’s
views get controversial.
“You can be in Malaysia, and someone can determine your creditworthi-
ness instantly,” says Stiglitz. “That’s what money has become.”
The immediacy of information available through advances in technology
makes determining creditworthiness easy and accessible—worldwide. So, who
needs a dollar to represent that amount of credit? Who, indeed, needs even a
credit card like a VISA, or any other form of representative value? Used to be
that anonymity forged the necessity of currency, credit cards, checks, or any
other form of numeraire—even data.
Now, of course, that has changed.
“You have a credit report,” says Stiglitz. “That shows people who you are
and what your purchasing power is.”
A credit reports indicates your pattern of behavior when it comes to, essen-
tially, trading. How good is your word? The more successful you are, the more
money you make, the more purchasing power you obtain. This is all based on
behavior and patterns.
Someday—arguably today—your word may in fact be good for it, whatever
“it” is. And your word may be all that you need. Your word can be checked
— ¡o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
and verified, utilizing the information technology at our fingertips today.Your
words can then be gauged for trust.Trust and information, the two ingredients
of money, available without the necessity of anything tangible. If not today,
then most likely the future. And we’ll have more on that later. For now, the
future of money is shaping up as a graphic representation on your computer
screen. Beenz, flooz, cybercash in some form, are facilitating trade over the
Internet—
“Hold it. Hold it right there, ” My Imagination demands.
“Beenz, flooz?”
“You got it. I can’t imagine what those things are? What the hell is a beenz
or a flooz?”
“If, pray tell, you’d let me finish, perhaps you’d have a better idea.”
“Ideas are about all I have to work with. Do go on.”
—to the tune of some $3.5 billion per month, and growing. Expectations
are that more than $1 trillion will be spent per year over the Internet in 2010.
Even today, half of all Americans make purchases via the Web.
New moneymakers say their service is needed. You can’t exactly cram a
dollar bill into your computer. Credit card– and bank deposit–backed trading
is expensive, and there are still questions about security. So, why not forget
adapting currencies designed for this world and design a currency for the
cyberworld?
People are trying.
BusinessWeek, in an article on the future of money, says it may soon look
like this: “It’s payday, and a week’s salary has been directly deposited in your
bank account. So you log onto your bank’s Web site, pay your rent and
your credit-card balance, plus the phone and cable-TV bills.You realize your
nephew’s birthday is coming up, so you e-mail him some Flooz online
currency that could be spent at more than seventy online stores. Now your
paycheck is spent, and you never even touched a single greenback, nor signed
a single check.”
2
That future BW wrote about is now.
“In a network society, there will be lots of different electronic currencies,”
says Robert Levitan, who founded Flooz.
Flooz is a “gift currency.”You buy flooz and send it to people over the
Internet, sort of like a gift certificate.
“You can move across countries, and it’s not a credit card.There is no bank
or country loyalty. It transcends all that,” says Levitan.
Right, but it still is backed by traditional forms of payment. Even though
it’s called flooz, the Arabic word for money and French slang for cash, it
really isn’t.
— ¡+ —
The Fut ur e of Money as a Cr edi t - Bas ed Sys t em
Beenz, on the other hand, are currency. Beenz are money. Electronic, can-
only-spend-‘em-on-the-Web, not hard, very hot, cash.
“Enough. I have to interrupt.” It’s my Imagination again.
“Pour quoi?”
“See, even you’ve fallen into it. I see French teenagers on corners of the
Champs Élysées, smoking cigarettes, wearing tight jeans, mocking tourists,
counting flooz, asking for flooz. I see an Arabic man in white robe and tur-
ban in the desert. His camel is in the background. He buys something from a
desert merchant on an oasis. Flooz.”
“What about beenz?”
“They’re . . . they’re . . . well, go on then.”
“Consumers can earn beenz for performing ‘e-work’ online activities, like
visiting a Web site, interacting with online business, shopping, or accessing the
Internet through a service provider,” Beenz, the company, says. “Consumers
can spend their beenz at participating Web sites on hundred and thousands of
products and services.”
“I’m still coming up blank,” says my Imagination.
So I had better clarify.
Beenz can be likened to an online frequent flyer award point. Frequent
flyer points, membership awards from spending on certain credit cards, and
even loyalty points accumulated through long distance telephone use, are cash.
They are money.Your action is valued, and you are rewarded with a “thing.”
That thing has value, which in turn can be used to obtain other things—like
upgrades or car rentals. American Express even allows you to redeem award
points for merchandise. I can get everything from a set of golf clubs to free
investment consulting, merely by trading in the points I received by using my
Amex card to purchase goods. I could even trade in points for cash money.
E-cash developers say the cyberworld will eventually make cash money
obsolete. What will be the need to exchange something tangible, when com-
puters already track data and inventory? Computers keep ledgers of what is
bought and sold. Data are all that is needed to conduct commerce. E-cash is
a way to package information, data, and account for its whereabouts.
“I think I get it now. But it takes some work on my end. And I’m imag-
ining that if I’m having problems—being Imagination after all—then most
people will have problems with this cybercash.”
“You imagine correctly.”
Cybercash, in fact, failed.The company that invented the initial online cur-
rency went bankrupt—ran out of money, if you will. Interesting if you think
about it, sort of like a counterfeiter who goes broke.You’d have to figure he or
she wasn’t much good. It wasn’t that Cybercash wasn’t good; it just wasn’t being
— ¡: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
accepted. And that is the dominant factor in the use of money. How widely
accepted is whatever it is that is being called money—dollars, yen, rubles.
Green stamps were a popular method of payment in the United States in
the 1950s. But green stamps couldn’t be taken to another country and traded
for anything. They were worthless. Why? The network of acceptance wasn’t
large enough. People in foreign countries didn’t understand what green stamps
were. They didn’t have enough information, ergo they couldn’t trust that a
green stamp was valuable.
The Internet is poised to change the way trust and information are trans-
mitted.
Since trust and information, we have established, are the foundations of
money, then in today’s world that trust and information is available at the speed
of sound.
Governments tell us that a dollar is a dollar, a yen is a yen, a peso is a peso.
Merchants decide what this will buy. Consumers say what they will pay.
Currency traders shout the value of money and determine a currency’s wor-
thiness. Stock traders buy and sell millions of dollars of stock on the faith of
a verbal agreement. Words, information. Credit, trust. For the currency of the
future, this is all that is needed.
“You really don’t need hard money.You need something to communicate
with. A dollar is just a note, after all. Why can’t that note be written in soft-
ware code and transmitted as data?” asks Charles Cohen, founder of Beenz.
Cybercash, beenz, flooz. There are a lot of names that can be added to the
list of e-cash brands. It doesn’t matter what the currency of the future is called.
It’ll be traded on the trust of that brand. The next logical question is which
brand will survive, or whether there will be myriad brands. After VISA and
Bank Americard, today’s Mastercard, were successful, a slew of cards have hit
the market, each pitching a unique twist with their brand name. There are
bank cards like Discover, Optima, GM, and Ford, which act like VISA and
Mastercard, offering preset bank spending limits. There are charge cards like
Diner’s Club and Amex, which base your credit limit on your spending pat-
terns. There are retail store cards that are only accepted at specific companies
or outlets.And there are debit cards, which act like checks, making withdrawals
from checking or savings accounts.
Today’s smart cards are hybrids of these. They take credit cards and debit
cards a step further, because they reduce the need for the card itself.
A smart card has a microprocessor or memory chip embedded in it. This
chip stores electronic data, such as bank account information, credit informa-
tion, and the like. So, when the card is used—let’s say, when driving through
a toll booth—the microprocessor, or minicomputer, fully equipped with a tiny
— ¡¡ —
The Fut ur e of Money as a Cr edi t - Bas ed Sys t em
antenna, signals the toll booth’s microprocessor, or reader. The two computers
talk and debit your bank account or credit account—however you have the
microprocessor programmed—the amount of the toll. This is done as you
drive through, no stopping, in a split second.
All that is to say that a smart card is a credit or debit card that can trans-
mit wireless data.
“I’m panting,” notes my Imagination.
“Yes, the vision of us driving through a toll booth on Interstate 95 in
Connecticut triggered some fond memories. I also see you’ve got us careen-
ing through various drive-thru windows at fast food restaurants. And now,
you’re trying to put together an image of me at the grocery store checkout
stand. Something has to do with my lapel.”
“I’m trying to imagine if they can attach a smart card anywhere.”
“Let me save you the trouble.”
Luxembourg-based Gemplus, the biggest manufacturer of smart cards, says,
“The important thing about smart cards is that they are everyday objects that
people can carry in their pockets, yet they have the capacity to retain and pro-
tect critical information stored in electronic form.
“The smartness of smart cards comes from the integrated circuit embed-
ded in the plastic card. The same electronic function could be performed by
embedding similar circuits in other everyday objects, such as key rings,
watches, glasses, rings, or earrings. Smart keys are already being used for pay-
TV subscriptions.
“The development of contactless card technology was the catalyst for what
is known as tags.Tags function like contactless smart cards but are in the form
of a ring or even a baggage label. They are generally attached to objects such
as gas bottles, cars, or animals and can hold and protect information concern-
ing that object. This allows the object to be managed by an information sys-
tem without any manual data handling.”
“See, I’m being squelched,” says my Imagination.
“How so?”
“Whenever I imagine something that comes true, it moves on over to
become part of logic. And logic falls under reason’s domain.”
“But you are still working now. I see that you think you’re being very cre-
ative and cute by designing a cyborg.”
“Well, I had to take all this somewhere.”
“Sorry, Charlie.”
“ . . . no.”
“Yes, I’m afraid there’s a computer scientist in England who’s already
embedding himself with microchips.”
— ¡¡ —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“If other people did the same. Pretty soon language would become
obsolete; the chips would interact with your brain and speak for you. I’m
imagining a scene from Star Trek.”
“Right. You can have a lot of fun with the cyborg thing. But, back to
money, Gemplus says already the sound of your voice, the blink of your eye,
may be enough.”
The company says, “The use of Biometrics will soon mean that a person
can be reliably identified by his or her hand, fingerprints, retina of the eye, or
sound of the voice. Soon it will be possible to authorize the use of electronic
information in smart cards using a spoken word or the touch of a hand.
“Smart cards are a relatively new technology that already affects the every-
day lives of millions of people. This is just the beginning and will ultimately
influence the way that we shop, see the doctor, use the telephone, and enjoy
leisure.
“Modern society needs an enormous amount of information. Computers
give us the means to process this information. Smart cards give us a way of
individualizing the handling and control of this information.
“The use of smart card technology will benefit the individual and increase
the quality of life.”
Increasing the quality of life may be an aggrandizement. But the idea of
money becoming an indelible part of the human nature—body, mind, and
spirit—seems inevitable. This plays into Stiglitz’s thesis of credit, because, as
you’ve read over and over, money is trust and information; it’s all credit any-
way.Technology may enable people to have the facilities to gauge trust because
of the nanosecond ability to access information. We may all, in fact, become a
part of the Information Superhighway. That said, trust can be gauged without
the need for a tangible conduit.
Technology may enable people to unsheathe the hold governments have
on trust, as currency itself is being brought closer to the individual, made part
of the individual.
Bernard Lietaer, a money scholar who was named the top currency trader
in the world, posits that one day, governments themselves may be obsolete as
corporations take over the functions of government utilities and services.
(Federal Express instead of the United States Postal Service? For-profit schools
instead of public ones?) Who, then, will trust fall to? What will happen to
money then?
It may, as former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker suggests,
unify. “I have come to the conviction that the full implication of a truly global
system of trade and finance will ultimately be a common currency encom-
passing most of the world,”Volcker says.
— ¡¡ —
The Fut ur e of Money as a Cr edi t - Bas ed Sys t em
This is how, of course, it was at the beginning. Gold knew no nation or
state boundaries, nor did silver, or any other commodity used as a signifier of
money. One’s word was most frequently used, memorialized by a signature or
document of trust.
“Can you be trusted?” may be the only barrier to trade in the future.Who
are you, as an individual, as a person, to impute that trust?
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“Satisfied?”
“About the future? Yes. It’s as I suspected. I’m a goner.”
“You think?”
“No, I imagine, remember. Thinking is your gig. I imagine that truth will
prevail. I will be stilted as will all of the other imaginations out there
if the future of money is as you detect.”
“Not so. What you are imagining is that the creative process will be hin-
dered by the logic necessitated by computer processing. In this case,
microprocessing. In this case, us. If we become the microprocessor,
and interact with other microprocessors, only logic will prevail.
Imagination, creativity, right brain activity will be reduced. Why put all
that nonsense into the program, right?”
“Exactly, there wouldn’t be room for, or reason for, me. The concept of
‘wouldn’t it be nice . . . ’ will be completely erased. Why? Because it’s
superfluous to any situation. It is, or it isn’t. That will be the future.
Black. White. Ones. Zeros. I’ll be put out to pasture with your dreams,
hopes, wants, desires. There’ll be some giant wasteland of us creative
types splashing around somewhere, frolicking, blowing bubbles.”
“You may be pushing it some, you know. I remember in Kurt Vonnegut’s
book Timequake,
3
he talks about the demise of, well, you. Not so
directly. But it’s his point at the end of the book.”
Vonnegut writes that we may be able to discover it all, everything in the
universe, if we just factor in one new thing: awareness.
Exemplifying, he characterizes, the observation of stars.
“Pick two twinkling points of obsolete light in the sky above us,” he asks.
“ . . . Whatever heavenly bodies those two glints represent, it is cer-
tain that the Universe has become so rarefied that for light to go from
one to the other would take thousands or millions of years.”
But, he goes on, we can see them in a mere second!
“Even if you’d taken an hour . . . something would have passed between
— ¡o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
where those two heavenly bodies used to be, at, conservatively speak-
ing, a million times the speed of light.”
That something, Vonnegut writes, is human awareness.
“That sounds nice.”
“He’s a good writer. And he said something about nice, too. He said
appreciation is the motivator. That’s perhaps the endgame. In his
words, ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’ should be the tag line.”
“If what isn’t nice?”
“There, that’s your domain. Whatever you imagine. Whenever you and I
come together. When what you imagine gibes with what is real, what
is the truth, just what is. There, then, that’s what’s truly bankable. So,
you see, you big ninny, you’re not on death row just yet. Appreciation
is under your command. And we as humans need that.”
“Now you’re guessing because I don’t always come up with everything
you appreciate. I just put it out there, and you catch up. Once in
awhile I hit the mark and you appreciate me; other times, well, it’s not
so pleasant an experience.”
“Your ticklers on money, for example.”
“Yes. I imagined that new car you bought would make us happy; it didn’t.
The watch I imagined would make us stand out didn’t do the trick.
Those fancy clothes I imagined would attract all the girls were useless.
I could go on, you know.”
“I know. But maybe that’s just us. Maybe what we want just isn’t going
to lead us to happiness, fulfillment, dare I say, self-realization.”
“Reality? I’m out of here.”
“How do you expect us to go on like this? We have to investigate that—
awareness, remember.”
“I imagined we would just check out money, what it is, how it evolved,
all that. Then we’d talk to a few smart people about what it means.
Then maybe we’d finish up with a little discourse from some religious
types about what money ought to mean. Nothing too fancy here, just
wanted to get a little fuel for what I should be on the look out for as
we get closer and closer to asking those big questions you’re always
on: Who are we? Why are we here? Too much for me, truth be
known.”
“No one has been able to answer those riddles.”
“See? My point exactly. Why bother? Let’s stick with money. Why should
we go down the path of what makes us who we are when we are
on the discourse of money?”
— ¡; —
The Fut ur e of Money as a Cr edi t - Bas ed Sys t em
“Must I really spoon feed you everything?”
“I’m just a child at heart, you know.”
“Funny you should put it that way.”
“Because?”
“Because I think we’ll have to go back there, to childhood. It’s where we
are shaped, formed, and where our values are put upon us.”
“And again the tie in with money is . . . ”
“Look, if we are going to determine what money means, we have to take
what money is—a way for us to get what we want—we have to
understand what drives us to what we want, n’est ce pas?”
“Enough with the queer French. I get where you are going. But I’m
uncomfortable with all this. Shrinks—and I imagine you are going to
speak with some shrinks—always try to mess with me: ‘The image or
imagination we have of a person or situation and the reality of a per-
son or a situation. The truth versus the idea.’ God, I hate that.”
“Because they chip away at you.”
“Of course. They rein me in, keep you on the straight and narrow. That
therapy stuff is a killer—mine.”
“Yeah, yeah. Stop being so paranoid. We are only going to investigate the
nature of the self from the standpoint of psychology. We are not
going to get into anything particularly personal.”
“You choose your words carefully.”
“Well, you never know what’s going to come up.”
“So, let me get this straight. We are going to get into the determinants
of what makes us our self?”
“Exact-a-mundo.”
“I’m asking because I imagine this ties back into the last line of the last
chapter: ‘Who are you, as an individual, as a person, to impute that
trust?’”
“Right. We apply what money is to the self.”
“Humanize it.”
“Oui.”
“Enough!”
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S E C T I O N 2
The Psychological Attachment of
Money:What Money Means
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—  —
C H A P T E R 8
Toward Self-Realization
T
o humanize the constructs of
money, I have turned to a theo-
rem by an old fellow who has
been both hailed and chastised. Proven right. Proven wrong. Some still agree
with his thesis (like me), and some don’t (ask around).
The person whom I’m speaking of is Abraham Maslow, the psychologist
who designed our (read: human) hierarchy of needs.The thesis is rather simple:
We fulfill our basic needs on a bottom-up basis. We need food first, then
shelter, then a sense of belonging, a degree of esteem. After all those needs are
met, we can aim for self-actualization. Self-actualization, or self-realization, is
“[the] moments of greatest maturity, individuation, fulfillment,” writes Maslow
in Toward A Psychology of Being.
4
Maslow’s critics say you don’t need to be hungry before you need to be
successful. I disagree. The more evolved our needs become, the more we try
to satiate those desires. And you do need to be hungry before you can evolve
toward a more sophisticated palate.
The idea that money can lead us down this path of satiation is even more
compelling, because money is the promulgator; it’s what allows needs to be
filled most rapidly. Hungry? Buy a burger. Cold? Shut the door and turn on
the heat. Want to belong? Join a country club.
The basic needs that Maslow promotes are easily attainable through
monetary measures. But this only goes about halfway up what some call the
“pyramid” that Maslow defined. Love and belonging are right smack in the
middle of Maslow’s hierarchy, and it’s here where money begins to sputter.
Myriad motivations kick in for self-fulfillment. Someone may write to get
published—for the recognition, rather than for the money. Writing, for the
money-grubber, may not lead to self-fulfillment of the ego, or any other emo-
tional quality. Instead, writing may be a curse if, say, dancing is the true desire.
“I’m imagining you—”
“Don’t even go there.”
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Carl Rogers, another psychologist and a contemporary of Maslow, put
forth a theory that we all have the drive to develop to our fullest potential.
He said that human beings have an “actualizing” tendency that works through
everything. Some of us don’t reach that goal, which interferes with our
accomplishments, sense of self and ego, and, ultimately, our self-realization or
actualization.
Here, the real self gets split from the ideal self. In Maslow’s theory, love and
belonging separate the two.
“I imagine you are speaking of the difference between me and you now?”
asks my Imagination.
“I was leaving that to the reader.”
“Sorry to wreck such subtlety, but if you are going to say that the difference
between me and you is love and belonging, then I think you have more
problems than even I imagined.”
“Why is that?”
“Because if I am based on expectations, then those expectations had to
come from somewhere. If they came from somewhere else, they aren’t yours
or mine. I can only imagine the things that separate us are the things that have
influenced us both.”
“Sigmund Freud believed that we are influenced by our childhood obses-
sions, our needs from that time.Those influences shape us, he said, they provide
the expectations and, dare I say it, form you. But your point is well taken.”
If the ideal self can be separated from the self, then the question becomes,
Can it ever be put back again? Fulfillment is completeness, feeling whole. We
can’t be whole if one side of us is imagining that life would be better another
way.We can’t be whole if one side of us imagines that there is something more.
That puts the real self in jeopardy. The real self becomes pained and suffers,
knowing that life could indeed be better somewhere else, somehow.
Victor Frankl, a student of Freud’s, tried to make sense out of all this. He
said that in order to find meaning in life, we have to understand our pain, or
what makes us unhappy.The rationale: to become happy you must understand
unhappiness.
Once the understanding of pain and suffering prevails, we understand
what’s important to our lives. Once we understand what’s important, we can
pursue those things. And once we are empowered with those values, we can
assign meaning to our lives. That’s the endgame, the pursuit of meaning.
As I further examine the humanistic approach to psychology, it becomes
readily apparent that something is missing: the human.
Sure, all the theories are nice and well put. They define pain. They define
suffering. They even give the solutions to ending pain and suffering. But all
—  —
Toward Sel f - Real i zat i on
this is based on empirical data, facts derived from test groups and certain kinds
of people. Who are these people?
The people I’m interested in are the ones who can help me and my
Imagination figure out if our expectations of money are true.
What could we expect if we had a million dollars? What would life be like?
What would it mean?
What could we expect if we, well, couldn’t even imagine a million dollars?
What would it mean, how would we be?
My Imagination, of course, is the one being tested. We have uncovered
what money really is. We have defined the constructs of money, talked to the
scholars, read the books, and now understand the defining principles of money
and what money may become.
Defining what money means is an awfully personal endeavor.What money
means to me is different than what money means to every other person on
this planet. Or is it? Are there some commonalities that we can explore and
investigate to get to the bottom of the situational meaning of money?
Today, the world is the most prosperous it has ever been. Despite any
economic slips, the average family today has more money to spend. Period.
Fact. And the cultural focus, in the United States anyway, is more and more
about money. Entire television networks are dedicated to following money’s
path on a minute-by-minute basis.Talking heads on the floor of the New York
Stock Exchange blab about the value of this and the value of that. Analysts
uncover new value. They dispute existing value. They change the way people
feel about their money, about themselves.
“Money makes people feel richer,” Maria Bartiromo tells me. Maria is
fondly known as “The Money Honey.” She is a television news anchor for the
all-business, all-the-time news station CNBC and the first woman to report
from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. “People are better equipped
with information. They are more money-savvy.”
What Maria is really saying is that people are more empowered by money
and knowledge.The stock market is a different story.“People think an investment
in the stock market is money; it’s not. It’s paperless. It’s an illusion,” Maria says.
Even though it’s not cash in hand, highs and lows in the stock market
change how people feel. The feeling of empowerment. The feeling of success,
winning. “It’s the wealth effect,” Maria tells me.
She’s about to talk. The stock market has gyrated back and forth, up and
down, every which way it can. Ebullient investors counting their stock mar-
ket winnings are concerned. Some are upset. Many are suffering losses.
Money’s tie to feeling good or feeling bad has to do with how much or
how little of it you have. But is that really the case? Are we setting ourselves
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
up for a gigantic fall if we expect that the more money we have, the better
we will feel?
The following chapters sketch a portrait of feelings and expectations
discerned by the concept of money. Drawn from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,
my Imagination and I will explore what today’s leading psychologists have to
say about money. Then we will satisfy the human element, garnering
interpretations from some of the poorest people in the world as well as from
some of the richest, with some comments from those in between. Through it
all money will play the central role. It will become a feeling. Like any other
feeling, it is subject, and apt, to change, to be misunderstood, to be yearned
for, to be overwhelming, to be ignored, and to be relished.
Money, like the thoughts rummaging around in our heads, needs to be
defined by experience. Hopefully, we can find those experiences that will shed
the most light and catch meaning by surprise.
—  —
C H A P T E R 9
The Disconnect of Money from
Quality of Live
I
’m waiting to see my shrink, Dr. Joel
Bergman. I’m in the cluttered
waiting room just outside Joel’s
office. He makes you sit on deck chairs, stare at a broken, old coffee
maker, scan books on marriage counseling, listen to the city traffic through
an open window, wonder about the video monitor that is hooked to a camera
in his office. Joel never sees you right away. There are these tormented
minutes. I think it’s part of strategy to give you time to reflect on why you’re
there.
I can never stand to sit and stare and wonder. I pick up the books, read,
rummage through what I can. Some days I’ll even take out a magazine of my
own and get through an article before I “hit the couch.”
Today—it’s not, but let’s call it today—I peruse the clippings, Post-Its, and
comics that Joel has tacked and taped to the front door (just below the cow
bell). A photocopy of an article that ran in the op-ed section of the New York
Times catches my eye. I read. It catches my attention. I read on. It fully intrigues
me, so much so that I rip it off the door and ask Joel to photocopy it again
for me.
The article is called “The Pursuit of Affluence, At a High Price.”
5
It talks
about psychological research that shows money doesn’t indeed buy happiness.
“Not only does having more things prove to be unfulfilling, but people for
whom affluence is a priority in life tend to experience an unusual degree of
anxiety and depression as well as a lower overall level of well-being,” the
article, written by Alfie Kohn, says. He says two psychologists have done
groundbreaking work in the area of self-determination, studying different
groups of people around the world and in different income brackets. Seems it
doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you have or make. The
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
same conclusion is made through all the studies that these psychologists have
conducted: The more we seek satisfaction in material goods, the less satisfied
we become.
I’m excited. I tell Joel of what a find this is. How much these guys can
help me, if they will, with my book.
Joel doesn’t know what the hell I’m talking about. He’d forgotten what the
article said. “I put that up for my yuppie clients,” Joel says.
But first let me back up a step. I have to explain Joel.
Dr. Joel Bergman is a well-known psychologist, a practitioner who has
taught and lectured around the world. His specialty: pain and suffering, that
which stems from relationships. He focuses on marriage counseling. It’s his
specialty that got us together. I was going through a divorce, and turned to
Joel for help. He helped me, in that New York way: Identify the pain and deal
with it.
Joel is a native New Yorker. His office is in the Village. He says,“You’re act-
ing crazy.” (An upsetting sentence coming from your shrink.) He doesn’t say,
“Tell me”; he tells me. When my ex-wife did something particularly painful,
which I couched and forgave, he says, “Fuck her. What are you, a pussy?”
So when I speak with Joel about the meaning of money, which we got on
to immediately after he copied the New York Times article for me, I expected
another “What-the-fuck-are-you-talking-about?” response. It wasn’t like that.
Rather, Joel, who prefers old leather chairs to couches in his office, who keeps
Hershey kisses in a jar, who is a bit slouched, who has thick skin and thinning
gray hair, who looks like a bird and dresses in drab shirts and slacks like a
liberal arts college professor, doesn’t answer me right away. He is quiet. “Let
me think about that,” Joel says.
I know Joel.When Joel thinks about something, he really thinks about it—
and he ain’t stupid. Joel catches me on my oft-pretentious recitations of
Goethe, of Dante, of Wittgenstein and Freud. “What are you, some type of
throwback?” he says. “We live here . . . now.” He points to the floor. “You’re
the King of the Nile.” But he pronounces the “the” as a “d” so it comes out
“denial.” Then he catches himself and laughs. Joel always laughs at his own
witticisms, even if they’re not that funny.
So I decide to ask Joel about what money means to him. More silence
ensues. I figure at my next session he’ll have an answer, some type of response.
We move on in our discussion to other matters.
It’s a day later—okay, it isn’t a day later, but let’s call it a day later—and Joel
sends me an e-mail. It’s an analogy. It’s only a couple of paragraphs long, but
it answers my question about what money means to him in full. It gives me
insight, makes me think. And I remember why Joel is so good at what he does:
—  —
The Di s c onnec t of Money f r om Qual i t y of Li f e
He’s sneaky. In his sneaky way, he teaches me about myself. I imagine he does
the same for others too. He catches me off guard with the e-mail. And he fur-
ther surprises me with the depth and simplicity of his response.
Joel writes me this story of a fisherman in a Mexican village who goes out
every day on his boat to catch fish. The fisherman goes out for three or four
hours, catching a small load of fish and returning home. Every day he does
this, without fail. One week, an investment banker from New York is vaca-
tioning in this Mexican village. Every day he sees this young fisherman go out,
catch fish, come back, go out, catch fish, come back. So, after a few days, the
investment banker approaches the fisherman. He asks the fisherman if he
catches fish like that all the time.
“I do,” says the young Mexican, who is about thirty years old.
“How long have you been fishing?” asks the investment banker.
“All my life,” says the Mexican. “Since I was a boy.”
“And you catch fish like that every time?” He looks at the sizable fish in
the catch.
“Yes,” says the Mexican. “There are always fish.”
“But you only go out a few hours a day. If you catch fish like that, why
don’t you go out longer—catch more fish?”
The young Mexican thinks a minute and looks down at his feet. He looks
back up at the investment banker. “Well, I like to spend time with my family
and play cards with my friends.”
The investment banker nods, he steps closer to the Mexican. “Look,” he
says, “if you double the amount of time you fish, you’ll make double the
amount of money you make now.”
“Why would I want to do that?” asks the Mexican.
“Because then you can buy another boat and hire more fishermen.”
“Why would I want to do that?” asks the Mexican again.
“Because then you’ll quadruple your earnings and pretty soon you can
have your own fleet.”
“And why would I want to do that?”
“Well, once you have your own fleet, you’ll have enough fish to cut out
the middle men and go directly to the distributor. You do well enough with
him, you can buy his company.Then, we do an IPO, take the whole operation
public.You’ll cash in.You’ll be rich.”
“And then what?”
“Then,” says the investment banker, “you can spend time with your family,
and play cards with your friends . . . ”
I read over Joel’s e-mail several times. It’s in a tiny box on the corner
of my computer screen. My Imagination pictures the Mexican village, on
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
a small bay dotted with boats. He sees the red Spanish tile roofs of the
homes that wind along the tiny roads. He sees a shirtless young, bronzed
Mexican fisherman wearing pale, yellowed linen pants, espadrilles, and a
straw hat. He sees this young man standing on a dock, speaking with a man
almost twice his age. The older man—this investment banker—is dressed
in Docker shorts, Nike sneakers, and a polo shirt.The man is wearing large,
black sunglasses. The Mexican is squinting. My Imagination pictures their
body language. The investment banker: chest forward, shoulders high, his
chin creeping more and more past his toes as his neck stretches, empha-
sizing his speech. The young Mexican: resting back on his heels, arms
folded over his chest, his sternum pulling farther and farther away from the
investment banker.
My Imagination wonders whether the investment banker gets it, whether he
understands how ridiculously circular his plan is—his life is. He sees the
frustration in the investment banker. He figures the investment banker chalks up
the lack of enthusiasm to laziness, to stupidity. My Imagination has the banker
storming away, maybe lighting a cigar halfway around the U-shaped bay. He sees
the Mexican just staring at the banker as he lights the cigar and, perhaps, even
talks on a mobile phone. My Imagination sees a young Mexican boy run over
to the fisherman and take his hand. The fisherman and the boy head in the
opposite direction of the banker, who is now walking toward the other end of
the U.The boy and the fisherman don’t look over at the banker, and he doesn’t
look back at them. They seem to have forgotten about each other, as if their
conversation never existed.They just couldn’t understand what money meant to
the other.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“We seem to have taken a turn.”
“Be brief, I want to move on with things.”
“It’s more about you now, isn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m more empowered by this knowledge, these stories, these experi-
ences. It’s you who’s being diminished.”
“In what way?”
“The more you experience what I imagine, the less hope there seems to
be for any other life than the one you are leading.”
“Yes, escapism doesn’t seem to work so well.”
—  —
The Di s c onnec t of Money f r om Qual i t y of Li f e
“I can keep imagining new places, new things, new wants, hopes, dreams,
desires. But if you know them to be false, I’ll have wasted my time
and effort. You’ll get depressed.”
“The pursuit of affluence, you’re saying, will squelch me more than you.”
“From what little you’ve read, I imagine that to be the case.
“Let’s see.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  —
C H A P T E R 1 0
The Empirical Study of Hedonic
and Eudaimonic Well-Being
I
magination aside, it’s this lack
of understanding between wealth-
seekers and peace-seekers that has
me on the hunt for Dr. Richard Ryan and Dr. Tim Kasser. They are the two
psychologists who look at “the dark side of the American dream.” They say
that chasing money makes people mentally ill. They say materialism breeds
depression, not happiness—and they have case studies to prove it.
I track down Ryan at the University of Rochester in New York, and he
agrees to an interview. This and the research papers, articles, and other discus-
sions about “self determination” theory give me a pretty good idea of what
Ryan and Kasser have discovered about the pursuit of affluence. And while it’s
difficult to say that it’s dark, it is, at least, a gray area.
“When we started out, we were looking at people’s value systems and their
emphasis on relationships, commitment, and personal growth,” says Ryan.“When
we put the relative importance value on money, it had strong mental effects.”
Unhappiness.
Indeed, it wasn’t the intent of the studies to show that the pursuit of afflu-
ence created unhappiness, it just turned out that way, according to Dr. Richard
Ryan, professor in the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in
Psychology at the University of Rochester.
I drop the “doctor” after a few moments with Ryan. He is a casual, more
accessible fellow than such a title affixes. He speaks informally, as well; no eso-
teric psychology jargon was put to me.
Things are “happy,” or “sad.”
That was surprising, considering some of the titles of Ryan’s work: “A
Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic
Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation,”
6
“On Happiness and Human Potentials: A
Review of Research on Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being,”
7
and so on.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REAL LY MEANS
Ryan steered our interview away from esoteric methodology toward real-
life, touchy-feely questions and answers.
“We all think there is satisfaction in shopping, right? But when people
make purchases, there is actually an upswing in negative effect,” says Ryan.
“When my wife comes up and gives me a hug, there is nothing dissatisfying
in that.”
Simple pleasures mean the most.
Ryan’s work, and thesis, basically say that most people are barking
up the wrong tree. “People who had financial success also had discontent
with their family relationships and their caring relationships. If I wake
up and all I think about is the next consulting job or the next seminar
and my kid is asking me a question about something important to him
but I’m too preoccupied to pay attention, there is a problem—for the child
and for me.”
Money, says Ryan, doesn’t help, nor does it seem to hurt personal well-being.
“Because it’s about being rich. The other part is fine. When your personal
well-being is attached to the attainment of goals, and the attainment of those
goals doesn’t produce happiness, look out,” says Ryan.
. . . And then, depression sets in.
“Our intrinsic values have to be satisfying in their own right,” says Ryan.
“If they happen to have an extrinsic benefit, that’s happenstance.”
Play the game because you love it.
“After the 1960s and now, after two periods of affluence, people are ask-
ing ‘What now?’ more and more.When we get things, we realize that we aren’t
all that satisfied by them,” says Ryan.
Philanthropy is up more than 1,000 percent over the last five years.
The material, or extrinsic, things that Ryan speaks of can never replace the
internal, or intrinsic, needs that Ryan speaks of. Try as we might.
Rosebud.
In his findings, Ryan studied a group of eighteen-year-olds, about three
hundred of them from Russia and the United States. Among most of the indi-
viduals who wanted material trappings, the majority had mothers who were
cold or distant to them as children.
“They want material trappings because they have promises of what comes
with them, which is intimacy and a sense of security and love. It doesn’t hap-
pen. If someone loves you because of your car, it means that they don’t love
you. So you can’t win,” Ryan says.
I drive a Porsche and date a model.
This happens with couples too.“When you are with someone because they
look good, and their looks somehow, you think, will reflect upon you, that’s
—  —
The Empi r i c al St udy of Hedoni c and Eudai moni c Wel l - Bei ng
not a start to a healthy relationship.You have to find a spiritual partner, some-
one you can relate to on a deeper level,” says Ryan.
The soul.
How do we get there? How do we escape from these “surface trappings,”
as Ryan calls them, and go deep?
“Those people who are higher in mindfulness and are attuned to what’s
going on around them are also attuned to their intrinsic values.”
Consciousness.
“Those who contribute, who are caring toward others and for the earth,
can find intrinsic satisfaction even though happiness wasn’t the goal.”
The formal thesis:
Self-determination theory (SDT) is another perspective that has both
embraced the concept of eudaimonia, or self-realization, as a central
definitional aspect of well-being and attempted to specify both what it means
to actualize the self and how that can be accomplished. Specifically, SDT
posits three basic psychological needs—autonomy, competence, and relat-
edness—and theorizes that fulfillment of these needs is essential for psy-
chological growth (e.g. intrinsic motivation), integrity (e.g. internalization and
assimilation of cultural practices), and well-being (e.g. life satisfaction and
psychological health), as well as the experiences of vitality and self-congruence.
Need fulfillment is thus viewed as a natural aim of human life that delineates
many of the meanings and purposes underlying human actions.
My Imagination wants a word or two: A long, stretch of a road cutting
through the desert. Heat blurs the road about a foot above the tar. The
yellow line, broken by dashes, skidmarks, and weather, looks as if it dips and
rises in curves leading to a large slice between the towering, jagged red rock
hills ahead.The sky is white, patched with blue. Nothing is in sight. Nothing
appears. Nothing is there to indicate that anything will, in fact, move—ever.
Just the sand. Maybe a scrappy plant’s dead leaf. Nothing much will move,
that is unless I stroll by and stir things up. But I don’t notice my
surroundings. I walk on.
How to satisfy a sense of love and belonging? How to satisfy a sense of
competence and autonomy? These values and the fulfillment of them begin
at mindfulness. “Usually it begins with mindfulness: how attuned are you to
people and what’s going on around you,” says Ryan.
Once that consciousness approaches, the path to fulfillment is an individ-
ual journey.That can take many routes. But the road to riches doesn’t seem to
be the one to take.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REAL LY MEANS
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“You’re killing me here.”
“Why? You had your little bit about the desert.”
“Not that. If all those things I equate with having money—mansions, jets,
cars, pretty girls—are bollix, and you, armed with this new informa-
tion you’ve gotten, begin to presuppose that they, in fact, are, I’ll get
gypped out of even more things I associate with happiness.”
“More things?”
“Yes. I imagined all sorts of things were gonna make us happy. There was
that Big Wheel.”
“I rode it down the stairs, flipped onto the sidewalk, and sprained a
wrist.”
“The mini-bike.”
“The throttle stuck and I tumbled over some shrubs.”
“Skis.”
“Broke my nose.”
“Silk shirts.”
“I attracted guys, not girls.”
“Earring.”
“Ditto.”
“Marriage.”
‘That’s different.”
“It wasn’t what I imagined.”
“Okay, okay. I get your point. But there still is room for you to produce
happiness. You’re just focused on the wrong things.”
“I got news for you, bubba, I only work with what I have. These inputs
are what make me: memories and present happenings. That’s all I got.
Your experiences, contacts, and associations in this world.”
“Those are shaped by family, friends, society, and culture.”
“I can imagine that at some point, however, I won’t need any of them
anymore.”
“Perhaps. But I’m not sure about that. Before we decide where and when
money becomes an apparent force in the world, we have to investi-
gate what we base that force upon. And how that fits into our hier-
archy of needs.”
“I can tell you for sure that I wasn’t imagining squat about money before
the age of five.”
“When . . . ”
—  —
The Empi r i c al St udy of Hedoni c and Eudai moni c Wel l - Bei ng
“When your first tooth fell out and we woke up with a dollar bill under
our pillow. I started to imagine what we could do with that money.”
“It became a concept. From there, all sorts of things began to happen.
We could participate in society.”
“And I didn’t imagine it would all turn out like this, that we would have
to think of ways to earn more. I just imagined we’d continue to get
it—somehow. I never did put much thought into how until later.”
“By then it was too late. We had already become a consumer.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  —
C H A P T E R 1 1
The Childhood Development of
Value
P
eople, posits psychoanalyst Theodore
Kurtz, are focused on the wrong
things to make themselves happy.
“We have built a society around the concept of consume, consume,
consume. It’s commercialism. It’s advertising. It’s what we are told will
make us happy. Buy things. But that is exactly the opposite of the case,”
he says.
Kurtz is a Freudian. He follows the thesis that our childhood shapes
much of our personality. It’s during that period that our psychological pain
and happiness live. To alleviate the pain, to uncover the happiness, we must
confront our childhood memories.
Kurtz isn’t your every day psychoanalyst either. He specializes in financial
issues. He writes a column for financial advisers in a trade magazine called
Registered Representative. He focuses his skills on helping individuals cope
with money issues and advisers cope with people who have to confront
money issues. He lives and works on Long Island’s North Shore, where old
money resides and where new money encroaches.
It’s a telling geographical intersection—people who’ve had lots of money
for lots of generations and people who’ve just made lots of money for the first
time. Both can learn lessons of appreciation from the other.
“‘How much is enough?’ is an issue I deal with all the time,” says Kurtz.
“The problem is there is usually no amount of money that feels right. It keeps
going up.”
Kurtz says that Freud examined the issue of money and happiness.
“He examined whether money could provide happiness. And what he
came up with was that happiness would be the fulfillment of early childhood
wishes. Money was never a childhood wish,” Kurtz says. Ergo, no amount of
money can buy happiness.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
That could have been the end of the discussion between Kurtz and me.
But I decide to try and delve deeper into the matter.
My Imagination sees a man holding a check.The man is seated in an office.
The door is closed. The man, in his fifties, is wearing a shirt and tie. A blue
blazer is hung on a hanger on the back of his office door. There are a few
books arranged on shelves across from where he is seated.There are some pic-
tures on the wall. Some awards, some memorabilia. On his desk is a bronze
statuette of a baseball. On its base a small plaque reads I PLAY HARDBALL.
The man takes off his glasses and continues to stare at the check. It reads
$3 million. It’s dated February 1, 2001. The man smiles. He leans back in his
chair.
“The pursuit of money becomes an addiction. If you cross the finish line,
you no longer have the pursuit. And it’s the chase that gets them high,” Kurtz
says.
Another check is being held by the same man that my Imagination pic-
tured before. The man is seated in the same office, in the same position. This
time, the check reads $3 million, too, but it’s dated February 1, 2002.The man
angrily slams the check down on his desk and shakes his head. He stands up
and leaves, storming out of the office.
The same as last year isn’t more this year. In this man’s mind, he failed to
beat his own expectations.
Kurtz says,“What many people attach to money is a statement about them-
selves. They think people judge them by it. For women, their pocketbook is
the opening sign in terms of status, or their shoes.This is acceptance. It’s a code
to indicate ‘You’re okay.’”
The “you’re okay” part Kurtz is discussing falls into Maslow’s hierarchy in
the categorical need for love and belonging. Country clubs, he points out, are
indicators of this need. “A group is defined,” says Kurtz. “Who is accepted and
who isn’t. It’s us versus them. And the ‘us’ gives a sense of security.”
Safety and security are also important psychological issues that many peo-
ple try to mask through such things as gated communities. They believe that
safety can be obtained by adding more and more locks. This will make them
feel more and more safe, Kurtz says. “But the thing is, this only increases the
anxiety,” he says.
It’s the same with money, according to Kurtz.“You can’t get safety through
money. And you can’t get security through a mentality of ‘us’ and ‘them.’”
Why?
“This undermines closeness and contact. You continue to feel more and
more isolated. More and more gates are put up. And you have to worry more
about the money that you need to validate who you are,” Kurtz says.
—  —
The Chi l dhood Devel opment of Val ue
My Imagination sees a bearded Howard Hughes driving an old, red pickup
truck down a desert highway.
Kurtz and I discuss the paranoia money can promulgate. We discuss how
the “more” factor become like dogs chasing a rabbit on a track.“And once the
dogs realize it’s fake, they cease to chase the rabbit,” says Kurtz.
Realization: that’s the tough part. Some dogs die without ever realizing the
rabbit was fake. Some dogs retire early; they stop running.
People get around to realization in different ways. I mention to Kurtz that
a number of the rich people that I’d interviewed on the subject of money and
fulfillment had suffered some type of loss. They either had been sick, or some
other tragedy had occurred to arouse a sense of consciousness about money
and its power. Money, it seemed, in large amounts bred dispiritedness and even
illness.
“The problem with money is that it’s used to seed a side of consumerism
as opposed to production,” says Kurtz. “When consumerism doesn’t make you
happy, your whole value system becomes false. You fall into a funk. You can
get depressed. Sure, you can become ill.
“Money for consumerism is tantamount to junk food—there’s not a lot
of nourishment, so you need to keep consuming.You have to balance con-
sumption with productivity. It’s that nutrition that provides the real
growth.”
In other words, do something—don’t just buy something. How much
more of a sense of accomplishment is derived from doing something yourself
than buying something from someone else?
“When I work with children of wealthy parents, the first thing I have them
do is produce something—whether it’s playing an instrument or making
something with their hands. It creates goals,” says Kurtz.
The goals for money come in two parts.
“Money is a commodity and a useful commodity. It can be used to buy
things. And then once you have enough of that commodity, then you can use
money for freedom,” says Kurtz.
That is the normal thinking. That is the goal. But that is false.
“Money doesn’t create freedom. It’s a prison, because it controls you,” says
Kurtz. “The one commodity you can’t get back in life is time.”
He says the focus of life should be on how we spend our time. In the most
productive manner. In the most meaningful way.
“Am I doing what I want to do with the time I have?” should be the ques-
tion, says Kurtz. “That activates the decisions and the values that make us
happy.”
But there are forces against us.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“As far as we’ve gone as a society, we haven’t gone very far with money.
At all levels of our culture, it’s misused. The wrong values are reinforced. The
government reinforces this. The tax code reinforces this. Ultimately, we as a
people have to decide what we want to encourage or discourage. And as far
as messages, they are all toward consumerism. Advertising is geared toward
consumers, not producers,” says Kurtz.
Of course this is the case.We are inundated with calls, commercials, provo-
cation to buy, buy, buy. What, at the end of the day, are we buying, however?
“It’s all a sense of belonging and being hip,” says Kurtz. This, he says, goes
back in society to idolatry. You worship something because of what it seems
to provide.“You want the idol to give you something,” says Kurtz.“If you wor-
ship the idol, you make a contract. If you worship, this is what you’ll get in
return. And, most often, that was safety.”
Today, it’s much the same. “You’ll be wanted, desirable, looked upon,” says
Kurtz. Inherent in this, however, is existential anxiety.“We are a culture of peo-
ple who belong. In the Amish culture, punishment is to be shunned. In jail,
solitary confinement is the worst punishment,” says Kurtz.
We do what we have to do not be alone.
“Money insulates us from aloneness,” says Kurtz.
The ultimate aloneness is death.This is the fear we are constantly fighting,
whether we acknowledge it or not.
There are those that choose not to acknowledge this.They shun money.They
make the “anti” statement. “They say, ‘We are not going to be like you,’” says
Kurtz.“What they are trying to prevent is the problem. In shunning money, they
are also being controlled by it. It’s just the other side of the same coin.”
Control is the goal. People who overspend are trying to recapture their
youth. They are reverting to their childhood. They don’t want to grow up.
Growing up is getting old, it’s closer to death. It’s closer to being alone. If you
always use up your money, you can never get ahead. And never getting ahead
means that you aren’t conforming. It, too, is a rebellion.
Money is looking for a need of gratification. In what way am I trying to
fulfill that need? If I can get a handle on that need, I can control it, and not
have it control me.
Money, says Kurtz, needs to be controlled. Otherwise, people are consumed
by it.
My Imagination sees the man in the office with the $3 million check. He
puts down the check, now dated 2003. He runs his hands through his hair. He
leans back in his chair and looks at a calendar, which sits upright facing him.
The date is circled: February 1. It says FATHER-SON BASKETBALL GAME.The
man looks at his watch. He curses. He stands, taking his wallet from his back
—  —
The Chi l dhood Devel opment of Val ue
pocket. He takes the check from his desk and when he opens his wallet to
place the check in it, a dollar bill leaps out and gobbles him whole.
The $3 million check floats, like any other piece of paper, to the ground.
The man’s chair swings round and round. The wallet is on the floor, leafed
open. Next to it, a single dollar bill lies by itself.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“Death, that’s happy.”
“It’s what you and I are fighting against most of the time.”
“I try not to imagine what it would be like to be dead.”
“I don’t suppose you could even imagine it if you tried. Hence, our devo-
tion to certain religion and faiths.”
“They do my job for me.”
“And when it comes to money and what it means, death certainly puts it
in perspective.”
“That’s why I’m so useful when you think about money; it’s for the here
and now.”
“You certainly can’t take it with you.”
“You could die trying, I imagine.”
“Lots of people have. There’s that story of the sinking ship and the man
who tied a bag of gold around his waist so he wouldn’t die broke.
There’s the story of Midas, of course, whose every touch turned things
to gold, but who forgot to exclude food, water, and people, ostra-
cizing him from society. Money, enough of it anyway, may be the next
closest thing to immortality, but it comes with its consequences.”
“I imagine the pursuit is really for all that power—knowing that you could
buy everything and anything. See, what fun.”
“Of course that’s the illusion. It’s false. Money can’t buy time—as Kurtz
just explained.”
“But it can certainly make the time we have a little more fun—allows me
to get creative anyway.”
“Until, of course . . . ”
“Don’t say ‘the end.’ I can’t imagine an end. In my world, everything goes
on and on. Even after we die, I imagine a continuum.”
“That’s why, I suppose, it’s so important to understand what money means
in the here and now.”
“I thought that was part of the concept of self-realization we were get-
ting to.”
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“It is. But it seems to me that before we move up the Maslowian pyra-
mid, we have to define some of these constructs so you’ll have some-
place to go in case things don’t work out.”
“You mean if I die?”
“I mean if your use is no longer needed in the context of putting me to
use—in applying creativity to a futile notion.”
“Death. Futility. Pain. Suffering. This doesn’t sound like happy talk, or my
type of place. I’m usually best at imagining things can get better. Of
course once in awhile I get into a funk and all I can imagine is bad
stuff.”
“Trust me, I know. I suffer the consequences.”
“So how do you propose we resolve this conflict for good?”
“The usual, talk with somebody who’s explored these things before.”
—  —
C H A P T E R 1 2
Suffering and Money
O
n my search for money’s place
in the world, how it attaches
to pain, suffering, emotional
displacement, I speak with lots of people. I interview lots of people. I inquire
about attitudes, sentiments, and general beliefs in what money means, whether
it’s a positive or negative force in life, and how this all weaves together to cre-
ate this wondrous fabric of humanity.
Along the way, I meet people who know people whom I’ve met before. I
meet people who’ve met people who know people who know me, and so on.
The world, in that rationale of six degrees of separation, sometimes feels quite
small.
George Kinder is one of those people who, through other people, has
landed on my interview list. I find out at once that there is more than one
George Kinder, however. There is George Kinder the financial adviser.
There is George Kinder the poet. There is George Kinder the Buddhist
teacher.There’s even a George Kinder who works in Massachusetts and one
who works in Maui, Hawaii. Guess what? They’re all the same George
Kinder.
He’s an intriguing one, this George.
George is part of a new vein of financial adviser who bridges the gap
between psychology and finance. They call themselves different things—
behaviorists, advisers, planners, analysts—but the central thesis behind this
group of counselors is that there is more to money than investing
There is a psychological attachment to money that most financial planners
leave behind with a savings plan on the kitchen table. There is a goal, not a
number, that people want to achieve. There is a reason for this goal in their
lives. When these new financial advisers hear from their clients, “I want to
retire at age sixty-five,” they strive to understand why a person wants to retire
at age sixty-five, how they see their lives, and what they imagine their lives to
be like.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
George Kinder has fashioned a lecture series and workshop on this type of
goal-setting. From it, a book spawned: The Seven Stages of Money Maturity.
8
George, in all of this, explores what money means.“You should really speak
with him,” was what I was told. So, I do.
I call George on the telephone and schedule an interview with him.
Meanwhile, he suggests that I read his book. All authors suggest you read their
books.
In George’s book, he talks about innocence, pain, knowledge, understanding,
vigor, vision, and aloha. These are the seven stages to resolving those inner con-
flicts around money, as he calls it. It’s about becoming at ease with money, real-
izing that money isn’t how much, but “What does it have to do with who I am?”
George’s seven stages portend to get people to that point of discovery.
As a Buddhist, of course, George infuses some of his spiritual lingo into his
financial philosophy. He’ll talk about chakras—those sections of the body that
represent certain emotions, like pain, suffering, love, and fear. He’ll talk about
samsara, and the cycle of life. He’ll cite passages from the Bodhicaryavatara, a
Tibetan Buddhist poem. As a Buddhist, he comes from a perspective that we’re
all suffering. The essential question is how to stop the pain.
George devised his seven stages to help people stop the pain associated
with money.
Stage one: Innocence.This represents the beliefs, thoughts, stories, attitudes,
and assumptions about money that we hold on to. Stage two: Pain.This has to
do with the conflict, guilt and, shame that surround money. Stage three:
Knowledge.This is the practical side of money, such as saving, investing, finan-
cial planning. Step four: Understanding. This is patience and realizing that
things don’t always work out at first as we wish. Stage five: Vigor. This is the
enthusiasm to find what constitutes freedom in the world of money. Stage six:
Vision. This is focus and directs our sense of life purpose. Stage seven: Aloha.
This is connecting with the world, wholly, deeply, and truthfully.
The seven stages speak for themselves. They are a process by which one
can embark toward self-discovery. But I’m more interested in having George
tell me what money means to him.
So, I show up at George’s office in Harvard Square, I climb the two flights
of stairs required to reach his office, and I ask him the question: What does
money really mean—to him? A simple answer I don’t get. And, given how I’ve
described George’s various interests and manifestations, that shouldn’t come as
any big surprise.
First, he tells me about Nasrudin.
Nasrudin was a mullah, the equivalent of a prophet, who lived sometime
between the eighth and eleventh centuries A.D.
—  —
Suf f er i ng and Money
“People not only don’t know when he lived, but they don’t know where
he lived,” George says. “He is claimed by Morocco, by Lebanon, by Egypt, by
Turkey—I think there are eight different countries that claim him. But he was
a Sufist. And in the Sufi tradition there are always these stories, and Nasrudin
stories are the kind you’d see on the bottom of Bazooka bubble gum—the lit-
tle jokes. So, the one that I always introduce is the one where he goes into
what is the equivalent of a bank in the Middle Ages, and he asks ‘Can I trans-
act some business? ’And the teller says ‘Well, sure you can, but can you iden-
tify yourself first?’ And he says, ‘Well, yeah.’ So he reaches into his satchel and
he takes out a mirror and he gazes into it and he turns back to her and says,
‘Yeah, that’s me all right.’”
George laughs heartily at the story, his joke, as if he has told it for the first
time. In fact, I find out he has told this same story in hundreds of speeches to
individuals, associations, and other financial planners. It’s George’s way of set-
ting you up. He then gets serious.
George is seated at a large, round table in his office. I can hear the traffic
noise from below. As he changes gears, the energy shifts. His body movements
still. He looks at me more directly. I hear the sound of traffic. And then I
don’t—George fills the void.
“Nasrudin’s stories are filled with money. Lots of money stories. But they
also have this undercurrent, not only as humor, as paradox, but a deeper mean-
ing.The Sufis are always looking for a deeper meaning. And the deeper mean-
ing ascribed to that particular story is that money is about us. It’s not about a
set of numbers or net worth, it’s about who we are. So, Nasrudin was sort of
puncturing that myth, that balloon.”
The balloon punctures and gold coins fall out. They spread onto the
hardwood floors of George’s office.They spread out into the anteroom, where
his assistant sits.The level of the coins gets higher and higher, filling the room,
covering us. I think that we are going to drown in coins, suffocate, get buried.
As the coins surround my neck and shoulders and creep up past my chin, I
start to panic. The rest of my body is immobile. The heavy coins have me
trapped and paralyzed from the neck down. As the first coin reaches my
nostrils, I take a deep breath in and relax. I close my eyes.When I open them,
George is there, just as before. He hasn’t missed a beat. Neither has my
recorder, as my Imagination runs wild.
“What are the deeper clues of who we are? Part of it has to do with our
aspirations and our ideals, and part of involves subtle issues of integrity.
Betrayals. All these darknesses. Being taken advantage of, losing money in the
stock market, not being able to retire, wanting to live more of a creative life
but having to make a living. Something means more than money. So, this curse
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
of having to work for a living and not finding the work that you love: that
could be a clue. That could be it. Who are we really?” asks George.
George gets to the bottom of self-discovery through a series of questions
and answers. He doesn’t hit people with it at first. But soon into the financial
planning process, George will ask three questions to get an idea of the person
he is working with.
The first question that I ask is very much a money question: ‘If you had
all the money that you needed, what would your life look like?’
“Almost always the client will answer that question. ‘Well, this is what I’d
like, and this is what I’d like, and this is what I’d like.’ And it’s kind of all mate-
rial, because you’ve got all the money. So, they dream about the houses and the
vacations and what their work life would look like, or maybe they wouldn’t
work at all, and they tell you these things. Which is great. So, they’ve begun to
open up and share their dreams and aspirations, and if you’re a good listener,
and you’ve been there for them, they’re ready for the second question, which
is this:
“If you went to the doctor this afternoon, and the doctor said ‘I know you
came in feeling perfectly healthy and everything, but here’s the fact:You have
a rare disease and the thing is that you’ll never feel bad, but the bad news is
that sometime between five and ten years from now you’re just going to keel
over dead.’ And so the question that I have for you now is, ‘How would that
change your life? What would you do?’
“Suddenly, what happens in the room is that there is more of a hush. The
person has already started to look at what they really want out of life. Now,
this goes deeper, and there’s a whole layer from that first question that just gets
stripped away, that’s superficial. But they still have their travel, and they have
the home, and they still have their certain set of things that they’d still have.
But it’s stripped down, and it’s gotten much more meaningful.
“Then there’s the third question, and you’ve set them up so they’ve gone
deeper now. So, you go to the doctor and the doctor says you have a very rare
disease again, and I’m sorry to say you will be dead within twenty-four hours.
So the question is, ‘What did you miss?’ ‘What did you not get to do?’ ‘Who
did you not get to see?’ And there: really poignant stuff comes up. And there
you might get the ‘security’ answer or the ‘happiness’ answer—‘I never found
happiness.’ Different things come out.”
I find myself, of course, running through the questions. What grandeur
would I immediately flock to if money were no object? What do I really want
to accomplish? What would I regret?
It’s only the answers to the second and third questions that really matter,
George says. “The other stuff is peripheral.”
—  —
Suf f er i ng and Money
George’s work is on connecting with the soul. He has found lots of
other kindred spirits in the financial planning community. They have gotten
together under the banner of Nazrudin (sic). And they have a Web site:
www.nazrudin.org.
The mission that George and his cohorts are on is a big one.
“It was sex in the Sixties, and death in the Seventies, and now it’s money.
It’s not easy, but it’s meant to be something that teaches us and something that
we recognize as part of our soul’s journey.”
Part of our soul’s journey. Our soul’s journey. It echoes. How often do we
think of the soul?
“If people don’t answer those things, they are going to die with regrets.We
can come back to ‘what does happiness mean?’ and ‘what does security mean
in your life?’ And we can attack it and put a dollar sign around it. And that’s
where we can help.
“So, you go down deep inside the soul and then you come back out and
you try and make them connected. And the horrible thing is that we’ve split
the thing in two. We’ve split the soul of the world in two. So that so many
people will say that my spiritual life is great and my family life is wonderful,
but it’s my money life that sucks. And I know that when someone says that
they have problems with their soul it’s because money is meant to be an
avenue, a pathway in which we express ourselves in the world. It’s not always
easy—in fact it’s the toughest one of all.”
The dark and fiery images that George sketches in his description of the
soul aren’t all that obtuse. He drills in a beat from Dante’s Inferno, a reference
to Milton. Somehow, it all fits into the context of money.“Dante’s Inferno was
full of money images,” he notes.
But it’s not the images. It’s not the analysis. It’s the suffering. I imagine that
George has thought of this: that we can attach suffering to pretty much every-
thing we do.
“This structure of suffering itself—how suffering gets hooked by the grasp-
ing self. How to unlock that suffering of ‘I,’ ‘me,’ ‘my’ stories and relationships
that get hooked to suffering.We can get trapped in a relationship with money
that goes forever.”
Divorcing from our programmed self is the impossible feat. But it’s a jour-
ney, to be sure.
“I tend to think that where we’re headed is toward more meaning . . . and
more and more toward letting go of structures of suffering so we can find
more meaning.
“As long as we’re sort of obsessed about money, and we’re just there for the
pursuit of it, there is a lack of a deeper meaning and a lack of understanding
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
of who we are and of peace. And when we do those three questions, we come
to those types of responses as opposed to the grasping of more money.”
Those types of responses are grounded in awareness.
“There are three areas of awareness,” George says. Clearly, he does like
numbers.
“One: aspirations and ideals. The most powerful way to stimulate vigor is
to help a client keep their eyes on the prize. What is the prize?
“Two: integrity. One of the main challenges money throws at us is the
challenge to be aware of the violation of integrity around money, and what
that will cost internally.To the extent that we violate ourselves around money,
the more tendency to see the world as corrupt. Then, our intimate relation-
ships are hardened. So, when you get very deep into your practice and you’re
on the verge of a big awakening, all your demons come up. So, if you have
places that are really not understood by you where you’ve taken advantage, it’s
going to block your capacity for real awakening.
“Three: emotional responses. To observe emotions around money, interac-
tions. Do they get hooked to these moments of guilt, shame, and humiliation
of greed? And what’s the ‘I,’ ‘me,’ and ‘my’? What kind of messages come out?
What are the ‘I,’ ‘me,’ and ‘my’ messages? What’s the feeling that is uncom-
fortable?”
Finding peace is where George is leading. Peace takes a great deal of com-
passion for the self, that lonely person within who has no one to talk to but
you.
What is he saying that he really wants? What is he saying that he would
really regret?
Money may not be his only means of escape.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“So I assume your were writing about me there?”
“It slipped out.”
“I don’t just manifest myself with money images, you know. There are
other things I attach myself to. And certainly all this talk of suffering
is lost on me.”
“George skipped past the imagined self and hit chords more akin to the
logical, reasoned self. So perhaps his points weren’t so much directed
at you but at the true self.”
“You mean you.”
—  —
Suf f er i ng and Money
“Yes, me. I, here, now, in the present, suffer much more than you imagine
we suffer. It’s I who has to deal with the hard facts, the hard lessons. I
have to sign my name on checks to pay bills every month. I have to show
up to work every day. I have to read and research and grow smarter. I
have to try and actually do more. I can’t always use your means of
escape to create happiness in those moments, which I know—because
I’m experiencing them—aren’t happy moments. You’re part of my world
of fantasy. But the real world is full of pain and suffering.”
“You have to admit that I make it better.”
“Yes, you make it better when things aren’t as good as they can be in the
moment. Of course I turn to you, my faculty of imagination, to impute
some sense of hope. Otherwise, I’d be living in despair. If I thought
things were as good as it gets today, I wouldn’t be happy.”
“I never imagined.”
“You must have imagined some reason for existence for yourself.”
“Actually, no. I’ve only imagined various existences for you. I never even
began to imagine the impetus for me to imagine those scenarios.”
“I’m not saying that it’s all bad all the time. But life is tough. It would be
unbearable without you.”
“Unless you had all the things you needed.”
“But that’s the point. We never can have all the things we need, because
you end up designing more and more needs.”
“Oh, so now you’re going to blame all this pain and suffering on me, eh?”
“No blames. It’s a fact. Desire falls under your domain. And we can never
satiate all our desires.”
“Who says? Can’t we try? Isn’t that what life is all about? If we have no
desire, we have no reason to live.”
“I think you may be confusing desire with hope.”
“Hope, to me, seems very removed. It’s like there is very little chance you’ll
ever get what you hope for. But desire—well, desire I can see getting.”
“Of course you can because those things are past our needs. When we’re
blinded by needs, hope and desire seem very far removed, as you put
it.”
“So, you’re saying that I don’t exist on the very primitive level of need?”
“I, for one, can’t remember you being around when I was just a child.”
“That may be just a result of poor memory, because I certainly was there.
You may not have used me very much, but I was there with big ears
on until you decided to put me to good use.”
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“So, you’re saying that imagination sleeps in the young and the needy,
ready and waiting—for what?”
“For that day when hope enters the picture. Somehow, someway, hope
enters. Then I recall all those desires—I imagine them and ways to get
them. That’s hope.”
— ,+ —
C H A P T E R 1 3
The Poorest People In the World
H
ope is hidden here. Hope is
wrapped in the most basic of
desires: food and shelter. Hope
here is simply living.
I’m here in Ethiopia to investigate what money means to people in the
poorest country in the world. And Ethiopia is the poorest country in the
world, with the average person making just $100 per year.
I’m riding on a bus. Outside, I see fields bordered by shacks, bordered
by buildings in disrepair. Everywhere, people are walking. They aren’t
orderly, rather they walk through the fields, across the roads, scattering like
ants. It’s as though an alarm has sounded, and every one is scurrying to
get back inside their homes. They walk in a self-determined manner.
“There is a place to get to and I’m going to get there,” they might be
thinking.
Old women carry stacks of firewood on their backs. Boys and girls taunt
and chase each other, knocking into older people who seem to be heading to
the office, the store, or the market. Cars careen through crowds. Pedestrians
gingerly step out of the way just before, it seems, they are going to be run
over. Autos don’t take direction too well here. It’s the person on foot who
musters caution. Even on the long roads, where the buses go by at perilous
speeds, people step—just so—out of the way. Even on the long roads past the
city to the desert, people are walking.
This is the movement of Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia, “there are so many problems,” says Surjit Singh, an economist
and lead operations officer at the World Bank office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s
capital city. Political: border clashes with neighboring countries, Eritrea and
Somalia. A new government slowly disjoining from its Communist past.
Agricultural: droughts, lack of reserves, poor transportation, cumbersome
harvesting techniques. Economic: Prohibitive tariffs, massive debts, lack of a
formalized and functioning infrastructure. Societal: Life expectancy of just
— ,: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
forty-two years; 7.5 percent AIDS rate, projected to explode to upwards of 50
percent; intertribal warfare.
“Where do we begin?” Singh asks.
Singh is seated in a conference room in a modern-enough office building.
Next to it, a family lives on the street. Across the road, young beggars play.
Singh sighs. He and his staff sound almost defeated when speaking of Ethiopia’s
troubles—they’re more than money can fix.
Money in Ethiopia isn’t the same as money in most other places; it’s the
difference between life and death, having basic needs fulfilled—or not. Still,
people don’t kill for it. It’s not a dangerous country.
Singh explains: “Rich live next to poor. There is no class system. In Kenya,
for example, it’s very dangerous, because there is a very distinct line—there are
rich sections and there are poor sections. Here, everyone lives next to each
other.”
Everyone lives next to each other in the city. In the desert and the valleys
where famine strikes, there are no neighbors to turn to. Everyone is affected
in the same way. Most serious is the weather.
Droughts bring famine. Millions of people are displaced. It happens over
and over. Herds die, crops fail. In the mid 1980s, Live Aid brought with it pic-
tures of starving Ethiopian children in the desert. The song “We Are The
World” was played over film footage of famine victims. Provocative displays of
relief camps, masses of people lined up to receive food. Food drops from
airplanes.
But this isn’t how Ethiopia looks.
Addis Ababa is like a small town, except it’s home to some 5 million peo-
ple.There are office buildings and hotels, but imagine these are rundown—by
Western standards, anyway. The worst section of any city conjures handily.
Then, take it down a notch. Shanties, fashioned by strips of aluminum siding
patched together by mud, line many of the roads.
Mostly, the main roads aren’t paved. Street urchins mill amongst the con-
stant flow of pedestrians. To be sure, some people are dressed in suits and ties,
women in skirts. But the backdrop of religion exemplifies itself in most of the
outfits that pass by: turbans, veils, the odd burnous, scarves, headdresses.
Ethiopia is half Islamic and half Christian, though ask any of either and
they’ll tell you they are the majority.
Cars are soiled, dented, ride on bald tires.Vans used as minibuses are jam-
packed with riders.
And then there are the children. They swarm you. They carry things,
anything—a newspaper, tissue, the odd trinket. These they try to sell you.
Those that carry nothing just beg. They gesticulate the opposite of a kiss
— ,¡ —
The Poor es t Peopl e I n t he Wor l d
blown in the air. They hold out their hands and then close their fingers tight,
together, as they bring them to their mouths.“Food,” they are saying with their
sad eyes. “I am hungry.”
This is how Ethiopia looks.
The chants of the Coptic prayers wake me. They also put me to sleep. In
the mornings, I hear these chants, like a Muslim’s call to prayer, along with the
sounds of runners’ feet hitting the road. Before daybreak, I can see from my
hotel room balcony the blur of colors flash by at dawn. Ethiopians are world-
class runners, and students train and train for competition.They run in groups,
one after the other, in the dark. Later, their footsteps will be traced over by
the pedestrians on their way to work. Then, it is light outside.
At the Marcato, Africa’s largest market of fruits, clothes, vegetables, and lots
of other goods, an eerie quiet is brought forth from the bustle. Shoulder to
shoulder, elbow to elbow, trades are conducted. The bargainers’ singsong tune
takes on a melody that rises and falls in harmony, so much so that you don’t
notice the sounds at first. It becomes quiet, like background noise again.Then
the children break through. They chant: “Money! Money! Money!”
This is how Ethiopia sounds—quiet and melodic except for those words:
“Money! Money! Money!”The children beg, “Hey mister. Hey you! Money!
Money! Money!”
To be sure, Ethiopia is not what I imagined. It’s more desperate. It’s more
desperate because its problems are ongoing. Isolated relief efforts would prob-
ably be welcome. But people live in poverty and go hungry every day. Even
in the city. Even people with jobs. A college-educated woman who works at
a hotel in Addis says that most of the people she knows go without at least
one meal per day. Most.
Still, Ethiopia is changing. Relatively wet seasons have spawned better
crops. People can farm, raise cattle, eat. New irrigation systems make this
last.
I investigate the spots where food was air-dropped fifteen years ago to pre-
vent millions from starving. I go to the desert. I visit the nomads who inhabit
this part of Ethiopia. They admit that conditions are far better.
Relief workers say it’s because they are moving from giving direct aid to
development. Tamirat Yirgu, a worker at WorldVision, one of the largest relief
agencies operating in the country, says,“When we just gave them the food and
the assistance, there was no incentive for them to do anything else; they would
just lay back. Now we are creating schools, developing irrigation programs,
teaching them how to sustain their lives and maintain themselves.”
Hope is leading the change.
“Although it’s very difficult to have hope in this country,” says Tamirat.
— ,¡ —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Signs abound. Sheik Al-Almoudi, a billionaire on the Forbes 400 list, is
pouring huge amounts of money into the country. He has a brewery, a Pepsi
distributorship, mining operations, and has built a world-class, five-star hotel
in Addis Ababa.
My Imagination had a difficult time with this one. I’d even blurt: I can’t
imagine a hotel in such as place as this. But it’s there.
The Sheraton Addis is an enormous 328-room hotel. All marble (90 per-
cent Ethiopian) and gold (twenty-four-karat), it rivals any five star hotel I’ve
seen in the world. At least five restaurants, numerous fountains, gold-inlaid
columns and ceilings. It’s tasteful, like a souped-up Four Seasons, and grand,
like a Las Vegas hotel.
What’s spooky: Not many people were staying at the Sheraton Addis, at least
when I was there. A few African businessmen and Westerners roamed about,
had cocktails in the lounge. For the most part, the restaurants were empty.
And during a day tour, after leaving the city street, shaking off the children
who surrounded you with their chants, their attempts to get:“Money! Money!
Money!” you wonder, of course, why it’s there. Just being on the hotel’s metic-
ulously manicured grounds, you feel guilty.There is a vast dichotomy between
the world a few steps away and the world you are in.
“I can’t stay there,” said a woman from Vermont who works with local
Ethiopian adoption agencies to bring children to the United States. “I feel too
guilty.”
Indeed, that is one way to think of it. But ask an Ethiopian whether the
hotel is, well, too much, and they say, “No, it gives us hope.”
The Sheik, a Saudi Arabian whose mother was Ethiopian, is creating jobs.
The Sheraton Addis, for example, employs 650 people. His gold mines and
other business ventures are also local, bringing even more people into the
workforce.
“The Sheik,” says Hagos Araya, an Ethiopian who works at the World
Bank, “is a simple man. I see him at the “cafes”. He is nice, approachable. We
like what he is doing.”
There is a yellow Corvette convertible parked at the entrance of the
Sheraton Addis. It’s the Sheik’s. My Imagination envisions the Sheik, top
down, cruising the streets of Addis. Children run up to his car. He showers
them with money. He goes to the cafés, and people flock. He is smiling all the
way, past the muddied shanties, the dirtied and soiled mothers holding even
more dirtied and soiled children, curled up on the sidewalk, too weak to stand
and even beg.
He may even take one of the children for a ride in his car. The child may
put on a pair of sunglasses, be the envy of all of his friends. At the end of the
— ,¡ —
The Poor es t Peopl e I n t he Wor l d
ride, the Sheik may tell him to work hard and “one day, he too can have a car
like this.”
That is the message being displayed—capitalism at work in its most
embryonic of stages. People are embracing it.
The song “Survivor” by the group Destiny’s Child blares out the window
of this small minibus. A boy, literally, is spilling out the window. Twenty of us
cram into this sorry vehicle meant for twelve. Islamic symbols adorn the front
windshield: the symbol of Allah, with its backwards “P,” laminated verses from
the Koran, Fatiha.
It’s a blue and white VW, bus and it’s dented. The tires are bald. Muslim
dress mixes with Western outfits. We drive fast. Thumps on the door mean
stop.Thumps on the door mean go.We pass goat herders, woman walking with
piles of firewood on their backs, donkeys toting you name it.
The “Survivor” song gets louder as we drive through the center of Addis.
Lacking are billboards or posters or advertising. Sure there are a few, but not
many. No cell phones, no infusion of technology or pop culture that stand out.
This is basic. People walk. They talk in person. They don’t meet at cafés or
restaurants. They don’t go shopping at malls or spend evenings watching
television.
The luxuries that would support anything more aren’t there. Money for
that can’t be spent yet. Money has to be invested in infrastructure and pro-
grams to provide for the basic needs, then sweeteners will follow. Now it’s just
survival.
Ethiopia sits at the eastern most tip of Africa, referred to as the Horn. It
has a total population of 58 million. The country has never been colonized,
except for a brief period of Italian rule.
There is something more to it. The country’s history is as poignant as its
current conditions. It’s intriguing, maddening, compelling, curious.
Ethiopia is home to Lucy, the oldest-known human ancestor. It allegedly
houses the famed Ark of the Covenant, where the tablets on which the Ten
Commandments are written, are stored. It’s home to Queen Sheba, Emperor Haile
Selassie, or Ras Tafari. It traces histories back so far, it’s known as the Cradle of
Humanity. But the irony is evident is every sense of that meaning—humanity.
In the first millennium A.D., Ethiopia was among the most powerful
kingdoms in the world. Its center was Aksum, an ancient city in the northern
part of the country (where the Ark is still supposedly stored). Its influence
spread across the Red Sea to southern Arabia. It was rich, advanced; it minted
coinage in bronze, silver, and gold. It embraced Christianity (even inscribing
the cross on its coins, the first people in the world to do so). Then, followers
— ,o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
of Islam came to Ethiopia. The Arabs were growing in power and fortunes.
Aksum’s influence waned. Coins even ceased to be minted. It all curiously
went silent. Money evaporated. Barter came back into existence with salt, iron,
or cloth. And then the Muslim-Christian wars broke out. Churches were
burned, thousands killed. The country split into tribes. This lasted until the
nineteenth century, when Kassa Haylu, a virtual Robin Hood, began to steal
from the rich and give to the poor. He united the nation once again and was
named Emperor Tewodros.
Just when things got settled, the British invaded and robbed the country
of its treasures and left. Then the Italians stepped in under Mussolini’s famous
campaign to colonize the country. Bloody battles ensued. Italy lost more than
4,000 soldiers, Ethiopia 275,000 people.
Through it all, however, Ethiopia refused to be ruled.
The ruler of today’s Ethiopia is money. Its ideological past is being buried.
People like Sheik Almoudi are being joined by wealthy Westerners with a cause.
Philip Berber, who sold his company Cybercorp to Charles Schwab & Co. for
$500 million, has set up a $100 million foundation that strictly invests in Ethiopia.
Berber says, “This is an entrepreneurial, nonbureaucratic, cost-effective,
highly accountable approach to international aid.We have a $100 million fund,
and we redistribute the interest and funds arising from that to help relieve
some of the pain and suffering on the planet. And, because we are not spend-
ing the principal sum itself, we'll still have $100 million creating interest and
capital to invest in projects next year and for the next seven generations.”
Berber joins the mantra: help people who are helping themselves.The World
Bank is counting on such a system of self-governance and self-sustainability. It
has changed its monetary assistance to poverty-reduction programs.These new
initiatives tie debt relief to development programs in poor nations. So, instead
of retired debt going toward, say, military spending, the World Bank is requir-
ing those monies to be allocated to specific development programs. This
requires Ethiopia’s government to comply with World Bank initiatives. It
requires oversight, monitoring, and participation—things not so easily accom-
plished in a continent prone to political instability and corruption.
But trickle-down is the hope.
The rains in Ethiopia come between July and October. They come in
floods. And sometimes they don’t come back.Then, the dry land makes farm-
ing impossible. People begin to starve and die of thirst. They then herd
together. Relief camps are set up, and the world sometimes watches.
Word trickles out, people need help. Money is given. People live. It’s the
most direct impact and most powerful result money can provide.
— ,; —
The Poor es t Peopl e I n t he Wor l d
Standing on the ground where food was air-dropped fifteen years ago by
the Live Aid campaign is a young girl. She is nine. Shy to speak, she grabs the
hem of her dirty purple dress and looks down. Her family are semi-nomadic—
they wander where they can to find food. A new irrigation system, backed by
a $70,000 investment from World Vision may allow her to stay and attend
school; her family can tend crops.Through an interpreter, she’s asked her dream.
“To be a teacher,” she says, “or an investor.”
You can bet she doesn’t know what a stock or a bond is. She’s not talking
about investing, as we know it, for money. She's talking about investing as she
knows it—in herself, in her land, in her people.
Close by, a man, perhaps fifty years old, is standing in a field. He is rough-
skinned. He wears a loose white turban, but his clothes are Western—an open-
collared shirt, cotton chino pants. He is dirty, thin, and walks using a stick. He
says he used to shepherd goats, but now he is learning to farm.
He’s asked what money means to him. He says it will allow him to increase
the size of his field; he can grow more crops.
And what if he had all the money he could ever want?
It’s beyond him. He cannot think that way. He’s like a prisoner who only
focuses on getting through that day. Hopes and dreams and thoughts of an out-
side world, a better place, are prescriptions for going mad. Such thoughts breed
inexorable feelings of depression, despair—the lack of hope.
The man says simply,“I don’t have such grand visions. I am a simple farmer.
I just want to be able to feed my family. That is enough.”
Within view sits an abandoned palace. It’s high on a hill in the range that
overlooks this valley. It was built as an imperial palace retreat.
Wouldn’t you like to have that? Live up there in that palace?
“That,” he says “has its own requirements.”
A different life. A different set of values.
Rough terrain through unpaved roads. Dust flies in our wake. Round, straw
huts dot the path to the main road ahead. Women, whose faces are tattooed in
demarcations of beauty—a cross, the symbol of a female;
o
+
,—stand and watch
us pass by. Along their necks are stripes or polka dots. More symbols, more signs
tattooed on them.
A mother of three who lives in one of these one-room huts, twelve feet
by twelve feet in size, says she is happy. She wants nothing more.
“I have my husband, my children. I am taken care of,” she says, and smiles.
“What more could I want? I have all that I need.”
Her children are held in awe of our cameras. They want nothing but to
look inside our car.
— ,: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Appreciation takes many forms, from the simplest to the most complex.
I still imagine the children chanting, except for one. He was the boy who
rode in the yellow Corvette with the Sheik. He is working to relive that day,
that impossible, unimaginable day, when he drove through the streets like a
king and was given hope.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“I don’t know if I like where this is going.”
“Why is that?”
“Seems depressing. I mean, sure, people have hope there. We’ve estab-
lished that. Good news for the likes of me. It doesn’t mean that you
need money to be imaginative. But the reality is that they can’t put
me to as much use as you can.”
“Because they don’t have the exposure to new things or the luxury of
exploring and creating.”
“Right. When you’re rich, you can imagine more because you’re exposed
to more.”
“Ah, but there’s the rub. Then you might slacken, see. Once good, old
reality actually takes hold of you and makes what you’ve dreamed
up—a fact—you’re obsolete.”
“I hadn’t thought about it that way.”
“Indeed. On the very basic level of need, there is nowhere to go but up.”
“Hmm. The Sheik does seem to be having fun putting his imagination to
work in Ethiopia.”
“Right. And look at the richest country in the world. Know what it is?”
“You’re the brains, I’m the bullshit, remember?”
“ . . . well, you could imagine.”
“Switzerland? Monaco? Some tiny place with lots of rich people?”
“Some tiny place with lots of rich people is right. Luxembourg.”
“I imagined that was part of France.”
“Whatever. Luxembourg it is. And you know what? Imaginations don’t
seem to be running wild there.”
“Oh, yes—we’ve been . . . ”
“Staid, boring. Banking is its big claim to fame. Wake up. ”
“Yeah, yeah. Luxembourg. How exciting.”
“Hardly. You wouldn’t last long there—not that they’d want you.”
“Rich people don’t like change.”
“Well, just as poor people have nowhere to go but up, rich people . . . ”
— ,, —
The Poor es t Peopl e I n t he Wor l d
“Yes, yes, I get it.”
“You know, there is a slogan scrawled in quite a few places in
Luxembourg: Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin—‘We want to remain what
we are.’”
“That doesn’t sound too friendly.”
“Well, at least it’s not a solicitor of change.”
“So I imagine all the hope lies at the bottom.”
“There is a big dichotomy there. And the problems begin to arise in the
middle.”
“Why?”
“Because that’s when the rubber begins to hit the road. ‘This is what I
hoped for. This is how it’s supposed to be,’ and when it isn’t, look
out.”
“That reality, she’s a bitch.”
“No kidding. A lot of people are mad at her and they take action.”
“I’m imagining riots, rebellion, violence in general.”
“Deeper, really. When people have a chance and they don’t take it, or if
they think someone else is taking it from them, they become bitter—
sometimes, yes, violent. And you can replace chance with money or
money with chance.”
“I imagine that’s where all those right-wing groups get their fuel—from
missed opportunity.”
“Or lost opportunity. Strangely, it’s not just the right wing. It’s the left wing
too. Radical communists, as we write these words, are rioting in Genoa,
Italy, protesting rich nations’ policies. Someone, even, was just killed.”
“I’m picturing police in riot gear waving batons and shields. Protesters in
street clothes, thousands of them, throwing rocks, overturning cars,
smashing windows.”
“In this news piece, as I now read it, you’re exactly right. The battle
between rich and poor.”
“So it’s not right or left?”
“No. The money battle is waged on both sides—and even in the middle.
The average person voices his or her agreement or disagreement with
monetary policy by the way they vote.”
“I imagine that’s why a candidate, such as the one we just had, was able
to win the presidency. Tell people they’ll keep more of their money.
Tell people they’ll prosper. Ignite other imaginations like me out there.
Let them run wild with possibilities.”
— +oo —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“For the average person, you’re right—that’ll most likely win them over.
But get this fact, and here’s one that will keep you busy: Some super-
wealthy Americans actually want to pay more taxes—or have less
money, if you will.”
“I can’t imagine why.”
“Because, they say if they’re allowed to keep such hordes of capital, their
offspring will have a leg up on society. They don’t want that. They
want to keep America’s class and social system just the way it is. In
fact, they’re called United For a Fair Economy.”
“A stingy, old man, some Ebenezer Scrooge–type has found friends, like
himself, who would rather give money away to the government than
to their own children?”
“Seems so. But they’re not such odd characters as what you describe.
The father of the richest man in the world is part of the group:
Bill Gates, Sr.”
“Of course, what does his kid have to worry about—“
“Eh, let me finish. So is a list of Who’s Who billionaires: Warren Buffett,
George Soros, Ted Turner. And lots of centimillionaires. These guys
and gals represent the wealthiest 5 percent of the country. That’s a
pretty amazing display of support for leveling the economic game,
don’t you think?”
“Being built, as I am by you, I’m skeptical. I’d say there was a trick here.
And I’m thinking tax break.”
“No, no. This is a morality play. Plenty of people want to put hope back in
the game. Plenty of rich people give up what they have and help oth-
ers get a leg up in the world. They are the enlightened ones. They see
a bigger picture. They imagine the world a better place for everyone.”
“I take offense to that. I imagine the world a better place.”
“For us.”
“Well, mostly. We can’t afford to be charitable yet.”
“We’re to busy running around trying to impress god-knows-who with
what we have. We’re trying to fulfill some need of security.”
“And I imagine those who act so charitable, as you say, are also looking
to fulfill a need?”
“Good point. But their needs actually help the needs of others. People like
us, we’re just selfish and self-involved.”
“Show me someone who isn’t.”
“Some people can’t afford to be. And some people choose to make a
commitment to care.”
— +o+ —
The Poor es t Peopl e I n t he Wor l d
“Listen, I saw all those relief workers in Ethiopia. We didn’t get too spiri-
tual.”
“You mean they didn’t walk around with a sign on, as you imagined,
saying, ‘Hey, look at me, I’m doing a good thing here.’”
“You’re really starting to piss me off.”
“Because you can’t imagine how someone could be so needy, or because
you can’t imagine someone being so pure?”
“Both.”
“Watch and learn.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
— +o¡ —
C H A P T E R 1 4
The Basic Determinants of Needs
T
he road is long. Deserted fields
lay on each side. A farmhouse
looms in the distance. Snow
covers the fields. Patches of crusted ice and dirty snow are on the banks next
to which he trots. He wears just a windbreaker, sneakers, jeans, and a light shirt.
He has exactly $5 in his pocket. He has exactly $5, period.
It’s gray, no matter what the time of day. His hands are red, even though
most of the time he leaves them in his pockets as he walks. And he walks.
Through Kansas. Missouri is far away from where he began. St. Joseph is where
he lived. Joseph, the father of Jesus. Joseph, who is supposed to be the protec-
tor.Yes, that Joseph. A small town in Missouri has taken his name. But Joseph
was nowhere to be found that night—how many nights ago he can’t even
remember—when he left that place.
Only one truck has stopped to give him a lift. He fears sleeping on the
side of the road; it’s too cold and he might not wake. Better to walk on.
“George,”he tells me his name, proud as punch. He’s just removed his graduat-
ion gown and cap. He’s standing now in a suit and tie. “Just got my GRE.” Five
foot four or five, George shows the signs of a difficult life—tough skin, hard wrin-
kles, eyes that have long lost the ability to see hope in anything or anyone. Brown
hair cut, perfunctorily groomed. George is forty-two. He is homeless. He lives at
the Denver Rescue Mission, one of the oldest homeless shelters in the country.
George walked and hitched from Missouri to get here. Not that this was
the place he had intended; he was headed toward Modesto, California, to see
his brother. “But I called, and he told me I wasn’t much welcome,” says
George. “Thank God for that.”
The Denver Rescue Mission has been his home for close to nine months.
He’s sober now, earns his keep, is studying hard to go on to a college where
he can study computers. “If I could just get that algebra,” he says.
The balance of equations George studies now are of a different type.
Moving from the Northwest to the South with a woman he met. Trying to
— +o¡ —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
care for her two children. Hanging on to that security until that fateful night.
Until she couldn’t take it anymore. Until she couldn’t take George anymore.
So, maybe he had had a few too many. Maybe he had had too much anger.
“And I could see red,” he says. Maybe he had done what men had been taught
not to do. Maybe he had had enough of repressing the violence and the rage
of being abandoned as a child, separated from his natural brother, being raised
by stepparents who might not have cared so much. Maybe that all rose to the
surface one fateful night in Missouri when Saint Joseph lapsed in his role as
protector and George had his chance to lash out. Maybe.
Walking to California in the bitter cold with just $5 in his pocket must
surely have been better than living with the results of his actions, her actions,
their life.
My Imagination can see George on that long road in Kansas. He can see that
farmhouse, which is now close.A quick right turn into the driveway, and George
will be there. The wood is piled high on the side of the house. Smoke is
billowing out the chimney.Warmth. Comfort. A place to eat or spend the night.
“But I was afraid I’d scare someone and get into more trouble,”says George.
So he walks past the driveway.The gray sky won’t admit whether it’s morn-
ing or afternoon.The long road ahead doesn’t bend. It’s a straight path. George
doesn’t know where that will take him, but it’s a direction. He has no choice
but to take it. Finally, a car stops there and then leaves him here, right out
front. An omen. The people at the Denver Rescue Mission take him in. They
welcome him in. And it’s warm.
Brad Mueli is the director of the Denver Rescue Mission. He sees a lot of
men like George come and go. It isn’t money troubles that leave people like
George at the Mission’s door; it’s life troubles.
Brad can testify to money’s place in these people’s lives. As a former vice
president of a major bank, Wells Fargo, Brad has helped many people with
money issues. But here, it’s not like that.
“It impacts every part of my life. It impacts my entire being. It impacts
everything you do,” he says. “As a banker, there are only so many Mercedes
you can take from those home equity loans. Here, we’re giving people
something very different.”
Brad says he won’t tell me until the end of our discussion what that
something is. He wants me to spend the day, meet the people, the staff, see for
myself what the Mission is all about.
“A lot of people have come up to me and said, ‘I wish I had the courage
to do what you’re doing.’ A lot of people want to do good things,” he says.
But make no mistake, it takes courage. Brad has five children, ranging in
age from twenty-two to eight years old. Two of his kids are in college. “We
— +o¡ —
The Bas i c Det er mi nant s of Needs
had to have a discussion about our change in lifestyle,” Brad says. “But it really
hasn’t been so much; it’s different. Sure, I don’t make what I used to, and
money is tight. But I have so much more now.”
Brad says it’s the people who make the difference. He says, “These guys,
they’re at the bottom rung. And sometimes, I am sitting there and having a
conversation and I forget their situation, forget that they’re homeless. You
come to realize, they’re just real people like you and me.”
Brad introduces me to a large black man named Gilbert. “He’ll show you
around,” says Brad.
Gilbert is one of those fellows who reminds you of a big, gentle bear.
Something about him is soft. I figure that since he is a Rescue Mission staffer,
he must have worked himself up from the street. There’s something shy and
humble about him.
We sit on little plastic chairs in the chapel, where Gilbert tells me that serv-
ices are held every day. “Mandatory for residents,” he says. About 110 people
live at the Denver Rescue Mission. But Christianity isn’t force-fed. “We have
Muslims, Buddhists, Jewish guys. This is more of a place to show respect than
a house of worship,” Gilbert says.
But Gilbert is a Christian. He was active in his local church in Detroit,
leading the choir. “I would sing, direct, teach music,” he recalls. For the first
time, Gilbert’s eyes slide from mine. He takes a handkerchief from his pocket
and dabs his forehead. “I was married,” he says.
His stepson began selling drugs in the house. His wife became a drug
addict. He began to drink. They divorced. But the seed had been planted in
Gilbert. He moved to Denver, met another woman, married her, was begin-
ning to turn things around. “Then she asked me for a divorce too,” he says,
dabbing again. A white woman, she couldn’t handle the “cultural differences,”
he says. “That devastated me—to the point where I fell and didn’t want to get
back up.
“I didn’t want to get back up to fall again. I was working two jobs to sup-
port my habit. Then I lost them.”
Down and out, Gilbert had lost two toes loading a truck on a day job. He
couldn’t function, couldn’t pay for medical expenses. He turned for help.
He said to himself, “Change needs to happen, or this is going to be the
place you’ll be for the rest of your life.”
Gilbert is careful with his words. He’ll take long pauses between sentences.
He wants to get it right. For example, he says you hope for things to be dif-
ferent—not better—when you’re down and out.
“Better is what may have been destructive in our lives. Once you come
into a place of a fall, money becomes a support of your habit. And that you’ll
— +oo —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
have until you change your mind. We feel like we need to work and have
money in our lives. But when you’re using it to destroy your life—”
At this, he trails off. He doesn’t complete the sentence. Instead, he looks
away.
“I had those things,” he says, softly. “Money can be a way of getting things,
but until you get to that place of stability within you to make a change, to
offer gifts you have on the inside . . . those gifts on the inside you can get
without money . . . money is destructive.”
Gilbert’s point: Money supports the bad system of habits that entails self-
destruction. Until you can change the system, money only perpetuates the
destructive behavior.
“It keeps you longer in you weakness,” he says.
No one seems to miss money here, where shelter and food are provided free
of charge. New Mission residents are given $10 per week. After three years, a
resident gets $15 per week. Graduates get a car and part of their rent paid.
I’m back in Brad’s office, where he tells me the two biggest reasons for
homelessness are lack of transportation and rent rates.
“We try and make it as easy as possible to remove the financial pressures
as well,” Brad says.
“Yes,” I reply, “Gilbert, your staff director, told me.”
“Gilbert? He is a phase three resident. He’s not on staff, he’s one of the
homeless we’ve taken in.”
“But, he’s so . . .”
“Normal?” Brad asks. “Yes, that is the something I was talking about.They
have self-respect. That’s something most of them never had before.”
I praise Brad. “It’s great,” I find myself saying. “You’re giving people so
much.”
“Giving? I don’t look at it as giving. I’m the one who’s been blessed by
this whole deal.”
I leave Brad’s office and make my way down the stairs toward the front
entrance. Dozens of homeless people have begun to spill in, lining up for a
free lunch. In the cafeteria, a family of five takes up a whole table, the young
children run to the food. A straggly man in a dark hat and glasses stands in a
corner, brooding. Some are dirty. Some are clean.
The room fills up, and I leave.
A small handmade flyer is tacked to the door: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO
START DOING WHAT IS RIGHT.
The average age of the people at the homeless shelter is forty-one.
Outside, the rains that have continued nonstop in Denver for two weeks
end. The sun begins to shine.
— +o; —
The Bas i c Det er mi nant s of Needs
I know now what that “something” is that Brad spoke about, that he
wouldn’t tell me at the beginning of our conversation. What he and his staff
give the homeless people who turn to them for help is a sense of self-worth.
And that has nothing to do with money.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“It’s easy for me, you know.”
“What’s that?”
“Skidding off the map, getting us down and out. I can easily imagine
these things.”
“It’s certainly a big fear. It’s why I tap away so much on this keyboard. It’s
why I constantly configure scenarios of doom. I’ve even begun to
think that that’s what keeps us going.”
“The dire images you have me conjure you really believe will become a
reality?”
“In a sense. What would become of us if we didn’t do this, or do that.”
“I can’t imagine that ever really happening.”
“Because of you, I suppose.”
“Programmed, might I remind you, by you. Reality, the world you live in,
needs me to do more than just fantasize. I’m here to imagine new
heights, prevent us from falling to new lows. It’s an upward climb, I
tell you.”
“And you are imagining that you are the elevator that lifts us.”
“If you’re to be so perfunctory as to use ups and downs, highs and lows,
I suppose, yes. I prefer to imagine in a different way.”
“Which is?”
“A helix explanation to life, a matrix that pushes and pulls, ebbs and flows.”
“But that must begin with some basic foundations—food, shelter. Then
love and belonging, or security. With such solidity of mind, we can
move forward toward putting our ego into play, heading toward what
will make us, in the end, happy.”
“And I’ve imagined—and I think you’ve so far proven—that money is the
ultimate promulgator toward that end.”
“From your perspective, still, maybe. From mine, money isn’t the proven
solution.”
“Ah, yes. That’s what you’ve been stuck on. Let me hand you a little some-
thing I use quite frequently—actions, verbs, movement. You seem to
— +o: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
use money as a noun. Try using it as an active noun—or even a verb,
for that matter. It gets us places, places I conjure.”
“So you could equate a lack of imagination with being poor.”
“I’ve always imagined it that way. Look at some of the most creative peo-
ple we know. Do they lead ‘better’ lives than some of the richest peo-
ple we know?”
“Most, well, yes.”
“They can do more with what they’ve got. It’s not about the money. It’s
about living well.”
“Indeed, I look around us here in Positano, Italy. The house where John
Steinbeck created the most, or so he said, is just over there. It looks
out on to the sea. Below his balcony, a woman selling sarongs and
beach sandals sits happily in the shade, fanning herself. The cliffs
reach high into the clouds. Sun breaks through the crests in late
morning. Light refracts beneath the wake of yachts that moor or
simply cruise by, creating the most illuminating blue-green. A hat, a
book, a bathing suit is all that is needed to achieve a sense of
happiness. In fact, I’m immensely happy now. Put me in New York,
and things would be different.”
“Because I imagine a different sense of happiness. Here, it’s simple for
me—and therefore for you. I only have a few elements to work with
here. Happiness is just the fulfillment of basic needs, the surrounding
takes care of the rest—the sea and those cliffs you spoke of.”
“That’s why artists like it here. You can be put to better use, or something
other than everyday use, anyway. There’s a bigger sense of fulfillment,
too.”
“Yeah ’cause I have a mission. I have a world to create. There isn’t enough
of one here.”
“We shrink enough away from the real world and your power grows
substantially.”
“But we get along nice enough, yeah?”
“Sure, you get your way most of the time. There’s a danger in that, you
know.”
“I imagine you’re thinking of all those artists who realized the two worlds
could never join.”
“Hence all those suicides. A shame.”
“And you? I’ve had to imagine those circumstances as well. Usually when
you’re quite down.”
— +o, —
The Bas i c Det er mi nant s of Needs
“Brings us full circle, no? How far are those at the absolute top of
Maslow’s hierarchy from those at the absolute bottom? And how
much does money make a difference?”
“I suppose I’d have to be exposed to having it all, from self-esteem on
down.”
“Sort of what I was thinking.”
“Because we think alike”
“But how do we get to the next level of love and belonging? I mean, I
can see how we can survive by fulfilling the basic needs. But how do
we step up?”
“In the context of money, it’s getting it.”
“And how do we do that?”
“There are only a few ways to get money: earn it, steal it, win it, or inherit
it. Whether any of those leads to having a sense of love and belonging
is a whole other question.”
“Which I imagine we’re about to try and answer.”
“You said it.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  —
C H A P T E R 1 5
Self-Worth
M
arlene just got off welfare.
She’s making $5 per hour, just
scraping by. Two kids and
rent. Two kids and rent.
“One paycheck away,” she says, from being back, from being down and out.
“It’s not easy. That’s the fear.” She washes dishes at a restaurant.
No education. No skills. The beat rolls on, the crowd rolls over her. She
isn’t down and out anymore—she’s a mishap away. And that may be scarier.
“Now, at least, I have something. If I lose that, I don’t know what I’d do.
When I had nothing, it didn’t matter. Now it does.”
Sure, it does. She’s like millions of Americans. One step away from being
on the street.With a zero savings rate in the United States, Marlene isn’t alone.
But it’s tough to find love and belonging when worries are on your mind.
Do I even need to describe Marlene? She could be black, white, Hispanic,
Chinese. She could be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, agnostic, atheist. She could
be fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, tall short.
None of the physical features of Marlene matter. None of the religious
systems matter. Not even her name matters.
What matters most to Marlene is money. That will give her self-esteem.
That will give her the sense of security she needs.
Two children grab on to her legs.They are cute.They are happy.They play
in the street. They run to Marlene.
“I have just enough,” she says. “Just enough for the basics.”
That rules out treats like ice cream and candy. It rules out family vacations
or trips to the zoo. It means no video games or cable. For her, there’s no decision
of which restaurant to eat at. There’s no contemplation of what to do with
leisure time. “Those things costs money, money I just don’t have,” says Marlene.
Okay Marlene. So who are you? How did you get to be the person you’ve
become? How come earning money is so important to you?
“Earning money is my only means of escape.”
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
From a world that’s not so good. From a world that means sacrificing some
part of your morality to survive. From a world without hope.
“I grew up this way. I don’t want my kids to, too.”
Second-generation welfare. Government statistics show that most welfare
recipients stay on the dole, go back on the dole, never break away from the
system. The likelihood their children will go on welfare, too, is high.
“We didn’t have anything.”
But were you happy?
“No. No, I wasn’t happy. If I was happy I wouldn’t be doing this for them.”
The kids stand there and poke each other in the doorway. A stranger has
called. It’s a treat. It’s something, someone new. And it doesn’t cost anything.
“Who are you? Where are you from? Why are you here?”
The questions rattle back and forth from me to them.
Should I mention who they are, where they’re from, why they’re here?
Come on, Marlene, tell us.
Picture this: a father who can’t hold down a job, a mother who is pregnant
all the time. Picture this: a small, two-bedroom apartment, converted to three.
Picture this: an apartment building, part of a city “project.”Three towers rise
high into the sky. They overlook nothing but the urban landscape. The eleva-
tors break a lot, and you have to walk up and down the stairs—all ten floors.
Momma’s pregnant again.You’re the oldest.You have to help out. Picture this:
shopping at secondhand clothes stores, turning in food stamps. Going hungry
some days. Picture this: the cycle continuing, your family living that way.
No, no, it can’t be. It has to stop with you. So, you get out as soon as you can.
Now this: no education. No formal training. Taken care of by a man who
left. Forced onto the street. Family isn’t around. But the welfare office is. Her
friends do it, why shouldn’t she? She’s knows how. She knows the system. It’s
how she grew up. It’s second nature.
“I’m no saint. I’ve made mistakes in my life,” Marlene says. “But I want to
work. I want to earn my keep.”
Why? Because there’s a better life. She’s cognizant of that. Responsibility
first. Recognition second. And move up the chain. Maybe it’s as the cook.
Maybe it’s as the waitress. Maybe she could host or manage the place someday.
Maybe she could even own her own business. It’s the dream. It’s the first step.
It’s where the imagination runs wild with hope.
Indeed, my Imagination conjures: Marlene drying off the last plate left in the
sink. She flicks the hand towel over her shoulder.The last bubbles of suds disappear
down the drain. She wipes the sweat from her brow and walks to the time clock
where she’ll punch out. But a man, a short man in a white short-sleeve shirt, tie,
and glasses is standing there. He wears a nametag. It says MANAGER.
—  —
Sel f -Wor t h
In the back he takes her, to his office. He sits behind a cheap, metal desk,
piled high with manila folders. He takes off his glasses. He chats about the
evening’s business with Marlene, who is so tired, so god dammed tired, and
wants nothing but to get home to her kids. He talks about a problem he’s been
having with an employee. And Marlene gets a lump in her throat. She thinks
he may be speaking about her. She adjusts herself. She becomes uncomfortable.
An anxious knot develops in her stomach. “What am I going to do? What am
I going to do? What am I going to do?”
She is thinking rapid-fire as he talks. “A girlfriend knows about a job as a
chambermaid . . . ”
But he cuts into her thinking. “Would you consider . . . ?” he asks. “ It will
mean more money.”
Her attention is fully on him now. She gasps. It all goes blank then fills into
a wide smile. They shake hands.
And Marlene, light on her feet the whole way home, stops for the first time
at the corner store and buys candy for her kids.
She’s stepped up. Sweet, like that.
That’s how it could happen. Not likely. But it could.
Writer Barbara Ehrenreich lived the life that the Marlenes of the world
live. She spent two years working in minimum wage jobs across the United
States. What did she find? The escape hatch was locked shut, battened down
by the system, by managers and owners who held workers in their place; it’s
not worth their while to allow people like Marlene to have a leg up.
“Lousy pay makes for unlucky lives,” Ehrenreich concluded in her book
Nickel and Dimed: on (Not) Getting By in America.
9
In an interview, Ehrenreich, who holds a doctorate in biology, said,“I think
there is a certain kind of middle- and upper-middle-class complacency about
the poor. People say, ‘Oh yeah, they have a hard time, but they get by.’”
Sure, they get by.
But it’s really, really hard. It’s really, really tiring. It’s really, really frustrating.
And that’s the sad lesson of earning too little.You can never earn enough.
So, what’s the hope, what’s the dream, what’s the point?
Security, you see. Security that you’ll have a roof over your head and food
on your plate. Security that you can feed your family. For some, it’s a long way
off. For others, perhaps even more disturbingly, it’s tantalizing.
“I can see it,” says Marlene. “It’s right in front of me.”
But she can’t get there—yet.
What Marlene has is imagination. She too puts him to work every day
in search of hope. She too uses him to ward off reality and dream of a better
day.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Money, for Marlene, is not having to worry about completing the “what
ifs” of going without just one paycheck.
She’s on the tightrope, where so many people walk. And money would be
her safety net—just a little, and she plans to earn it.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“There was a lot more to that story. I could have had some real fun there.”
“We both could have—a book in itself. But that’s not what we’re here to
do.”
“Shutting me down at every turn?”
“Keeping you focused on money, its attachments, its meaning, its reason
for existence.”
“That’s obvious so far. You can’t help but imagine money will lead to a
better life in those circumstances. I mean, that’s basic.”
“Don’t you think that everyone at every stage wants a better life?”
“Little stuff, sure. But when I have to imagine ways to eat, to pay for
shelter—that takes up a great deal of my time. After all that, I’d be
too pooped to worry about travel and leisure.”
“Perhaps that’s just us.”
“I imagine it’s every one. There’s that question that always wakes me, even
when I’m in the deepest and darkest of slumbers: ‘Wouldn’t it be
nice?’ I can’t help but to rise to the occasion.”
“That’s partially my fault, I’m afraid. When I’m not satisfied, that question
pops into my mind. Sometimes the question is more vehemently asked,
I grant you. But most of the time it’s a little plaything: ‘Oh, wouldn’t
that be nice?’ It’s a luxury. You don’t ask yourself that when you are
hungry. You ask yourself that when you’re looking for a garnishment.”
“I imagine, however, that some people may just be content with the meal
as it is: the roasted chicken breast, mashed potatoes, string beans.
Who needs the parsley anyway?”
“Well, isn’t that what makes someone more sophisticated than another?”
“I make someone more sophisticated. I imagine all sorts of things to better
a situation. And I’ll tell you this: the more sophisticated, the more
expensive. That’s where money comes into the picture.”
“I’m thinking of the intellect. I can have a more sophisticated point of view
than someone else. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have more
money.”
—  —
Sel f -Wor t h
“Intellect, schmintellect. The more you know, the more you want. Come,
take a little tour with me, would ya, and I’ll show you: Park Avenue in
New York City. Both sides of the street are lined with yellow taxicabs,
black Lincoln Town Cars—a horse and carriage trots by. It’s fall. The
leaves are changing color, but there is still enough green on the ground
to brighten the median strip that runs down the center of the avenue.
Elegantly dressed people are on their way home from work, or on their
way out after work. They look as though they mingle on the sidewalk.
Tailor-made suits for the gents. Designer-made dresses for the ladies.
Couture. High fashion abounds. Now, let’s follow one of them into
one of those high-rise, luxury buildings that sits so grandly on either
side of the street. You know the ones, with the green awnings that jet
out to the curb. The ones where the doormen wear white gloves and
neat, green and black uniforms.
Inside, we walk past a heavy glass door to the marble lobby. A few plants.
A brass bucket for umbrellas. No unseemly desk awaits. God knows
where the doormen sit when no one is around. Surely it isn’t on one of
the needlepoint couches or leather chairs. Maybe they stand and look
at the horse and hound tapestries. In any event, when the elevator man
pushes back the door cage, a woman wearing a chinchilla fur wrap and
sunglasses steps out and walks past us. We comment on the time of
year, that it’s too early for fur, to the elevator man, who, in like uniform
as the doorman, takes us to the top floor. The door opens directly into
a waiting area reserved for this apartment and this apartment only. It’s
starkly different than the clubby feel of the lobby. Beige Italian marble
imported from the quarries just outside Siena; hand-grooved base-
boards. The second door, just painted in a Ralph Lauren flat white,
opens to the tri-level, four-thousand-square-foot apartment itself. Steel
gray ceilings and walls float to doublewide, custom teak floors. On the
walls: a small portrait of a dancer by Degas, a blue-period Picasso, the
original Matisse sketch for a Back sculpture, and, for kicks, an Egon
Schiele nude. A dining room set imported from Morocco, a living room
featuring a down-filled custom couch upholstered with $1,000-per-yard
French fabric. Viking appliances accentuate the kitchen. A wine collec-
tion includes a 1998 Chateau Le Pin, a 1990 Chateau Petrus, and a rare
1961 Bordeaux Carruades de Chat. Each bedroom has been sound-
proofed. Still, a THX surround-sound system and Nakamichi stereo make
the apartment media room buzz with classical music.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“We, or the person we’ve followed in from the street, are late for a
fundraising event, so we drop our Cartier key chain into the Lalique
bowl we use for such items. We undo our Hermes tie, slip off our
Edward Greene loafers, unbutton our Ike Behar shirt, and unbuckle
the A. Testoni belt as we remove it from the slips of our Zegna slacks.
All this as we zip back to the bedroom, where we’ll enter our own
dressing room and change into a Brioni tuxedo with matching shirt
and change our Rolex GMT Master II sport watch for a Patek Philippe
chronograph. The cufflinks—Harry Winston mother of pearl set in
platinum—go on easy, but tying the Turnbull & Asser bowtie, from a
thick Indian silk weave, takes longer than we expected. On go the
antique, hand-blown, German-made glass lights, off goes Bach’s Cello
Suite No. 3 in C Major (being performed by Pablo Casals) that has
been playing. If we take a quick peek over the balcony we can see
whether our Roll-Royce Silver Seraph has arrived. And we exit the
same way as which we came.”
“You suppose that is better than living in a one-bedroom walkup, cracking
open a can of beer and flopping on a Jennifer Convertible couch to
watch a ball game?”
“I was making the point of knowing better. I don’t use ‘better’ or ‘worse’
in an egotistical way; that’s your job. I just produce the images you
associate with better or worse. But I’ll tell you one thing, what I
described is more expensive. And, in the past, you’ve made me equate
more expensive with better.”
“We’re coming back to that issue of ‘satisfaction’ again. Can people be
satisfied with an average lifestyle? Does the car have to be the
Mercedes? Can’t it be a Honda? Do the clothes have to be designer-
made?”
“From the information I’m exposed to, there is a certain cache equated
with finer. A refined taste is better, or so you lead me to believe.”
“But the average individual doesn’t live that way. The typical American
family, for example, makes $39,000 per year. They live outside major
metropolitan areas, mostly in the suburbs. The father or mother, or
both, commutes to an eight-hour-per-day job. They have one or
maybe two children, own two (American-made) cars, have a pet, and
take approximately two weeks of vacation per year.”
“We mostly live in New York and Los Angeles. I can’t imagine living that
way.”
—  —
Sel f -Wor t h
“The statistics also show this: Upper-middle-class people live about the
same way and make between $75,000 and $1 million per year. Rich
people live pretty much the same way and make between $1 million
and $10 million per year. It’s only the super-rich, who earn more than
$10 million per year, who live life dramatically differently. Dinesh
D’Souza, in his fine book The Virtue of Prosperity,
10
quotes these
statistics and says, ‘rich people can do whatever they want within
reason, but they cannot do whatever they want, period. That honor
belongs to the super-rich.’”
“So how am I supposed to imagine that the typical American family is
happy when they are two strata away from doing whatever they want
whenever they want?”
“Yes, for that, we’ll need an example.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  —
C H A P T E R 1 6
Conditioning Values
I
t’s Friday. A summer’s day. Night falls
later now. It’s still sunny when work
is over, when dinner is on the table,
when the extra space in the driveway becomes filled again—after eight hours
of being left vacant.
The typical American works between 6.84 and 8.16 hours per day and
earns $14.35 per hour.
When the door opens, the children playing on the floor in the living room
rise to their feet. They run. Pitter, patter. “Daddy!” they yell.
Little arms wrap around long legs. An ear to a kneecap. A cheek to a thigh.
The typical American household comprises 2.62 people. The family unit
has been dropping in size since 1970, when it was more common for family
households to make up a majority of the population than for singles or cou-
ples. Now, it’s not unusual for both husband and wife to work, for a house-
hold to comprise just one person. Since 1970, the number of families with
five or more people has been more than cut in half, while single households
have increased by 25 percent. Men and women are getting married at an older
age, twenty-five years old for women and twenty-seven for men, as opposed
to twenty-one and twenty-three, respectively, in 1970. Women begin having
children at an older age, too, with the number of women bearing children
between the ages of eighteen and nineteen decreasing by about 20 percent
since 1970, and the number of women bearing children between the ages of
thirty and thirty-four increasing by about the same amount, according to the
National Center for Health Statistics.
Still, typically, when it comes to really settling, the man earns the bulk of
the $39,000 average yearly household income, the U.S. Labor Department says.
Through the doorway to the kitchen, the waft of dinner prepared. Pots rat-
tle. Steel lids muffle the noise of their own closing. Chop. Chop. Chop. Knife
on board. The crisp sound of something in between.
“Honey,” he says, “I’m home.”
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
The briefcase is placed by the door. The ear on the kneecap becomes a
waist in the arm lifted high. The cheek on the thigh becomes a hand on the
head. These strange body parts enjoined make their way to the kitchen.
It’s a nice, neat house. It cost $132,000.That’s $7,000 less than the national
average of homes in U.S. metropolitan areas. The typical house is about two
thousand square feet on a lot almost thirteen thousand square feet in size.The
typical house, like this one, is located at least an hour from a major city.
That’s why the sedan chosen gets such good gas mileage, thirty-two miles per
gallon. That’s why the minivan isn’t used for long trips. To the typical American
family, cars are luxury items. So are television sets, computers, and stereo systems.
These are the status items with which to compare neighbors and friends.
In the United States, the typical household looks like this: Its members are
white, Caucasian.The parents are between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five.
There is one child who is between the ages of ten and fourteen years old.The
family earns between $39,000 and $75,000 per year. They are Christian.
In the world, the typical household looks like this: Its members are Asian.
The parents are also between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five. There are
five children, all less than fourteen years old. The family earns between $756
and $9,265 per year. Most would also be Christian, but Muslim families are
growing faster.
My Imagination always had the typical household looking like this: Its
members are gray.The parents don’t seem to have an age-quality to them.They
could be thirty. They could be fifty. There are two children, a girl and a boy.
They are teenagers.The boy seems to get into a lot of trouble.The girl is naïve.
Money never seems to be an issue. But they stay home an awful lot. Material
items for the family just seem to appear. They don’t seem to be religious. If
they are, they never seem to go to worship anyplace. In fact, there is no par-
ticularly controversial quality about them. If controversy arises, it is quickly
overcome in a half-hour or an hour, not counting commercial time. Come to
think of it, when my Imagination conjures the typical American family, a bar
of Zest soap appears. So too do bottles of Coca-Cola. “McDonald’s is a happy
place” becomes lyrical.
But this is how it really is:
The Nelsons—let’s call them the Nelsons—have three children.
Both Laura Nelson and Rick Nelson are blond-haired, blue eyed. Their
children, naturally, have the same coloring. Rick stands about six feet tall, Laura
about five foot four. They’re both attractive people. Well mannered and well
dressed. Their children are four, two, and the baby is just a few months old.
Laura Nelson stays home and minds the children while Rick Nelson
goes to work at an office in the city. He is a mid-level executive at a large
—  —
Condi t i oni ng Val ues
corporation. He earns $62,000 per year. He has twenty-two days total on
which he is allowed to stay home. They’re called paid days, whether they are
vacation, personal, or sick days.They’re a new twist in the way human resources
departments calculate work hours.
Work, to Rick, is a way to earn money to support his family. He doesn’t
see his labor as a mission, as a calling. He sort of stumbled into what he does
for a living.
“After I graduated from college, I worked in retail management,” Rick says.
“Then I got hired by another company, then another company, and now I’m
here.”
Destiny took its own control over Rick’s work life. And that is fine with
Rick. He’s not miserable at the office. It’s boring, sure. He wouldn’t work if
he didn’t have to. He doesn’t really know what he would do with all his time
if he didn’t work at a job. Maybe he’d do something more creative.“Something
with music,” he says. But that’s a vague notion.
It’s not for lack of ambition that Rick thinks this way. He went to college,
he got his degree in marketing. He entered the workforce and moved up the
corporate ladder just fine. And that is just fine for Rick. “I don’t want the
stress,” Rick says. At thirty-five years of age, he doesn’t want to make the sac-
rifices necessary to skip ranks.
And Laura, at thirty-two, isn’t a frustrated housewife. She enjoys staying
home with the kids, taking them on walks, meeting other mothers for “play
groups” in the park.
“Our plan,” says Laura, “is about family. We want to raise well-grounded,
cool kids.”
Planning is a big part of the Nelsons lives. They plan for the children’s
college, saving $75 per month for each child. They budget $20 for their
children’s entertainment, like sports equipment, movie tickets, or computer
games. They have a separate budget for food—$400 per month. Then there
is the rest: clothing, car insurance, life insurance, short-term savings,
retirement—a 401(k) plan—haircuts, water, telephone charges, gifts for
birthdays and baby showers.
Sometimes they spend more money than they bring in. Those costs go on
a credit card, says Rick. But they try and maintain their budget. Laura keeps
the budget.
“Our budget works fine except for when we overspend on clothes,
entertainment, or food,” says Laura. “Those are the things we tend to always
go over on.”
Sure the Nelsons would like it to be a little easier. A bigger house would
be good, as Laura just had their third child. Some extra dough for food or a
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
vacation also would make life nice. But there are no dreams or desires for a
mansion, an exotic second home, fancy furnishings.
“Our ultimate goal would be to do more things as a family,” says Rick.
And that is it for the Nelsons. Money means security and nothing else.
Their lives now are nice. Why screw that up with mania, greed?
They’re not alone in their thinking.
Most Americans don’t want to be millionaires. In a national survey under-
taken by Modern Maturity at the height of the boom market in the U.S. econ-
omy, most Americans said they were suspicious of the moral effects of wealth.
More than 80 percent of the respondents believed that having a lot of money
makes people too greedy and feeling too superior. Almost 75 percent think
the rich are “insensitive to others.”
So, it seems most choose to be like the Nelsons. That doesn’t really make
them typical or average. It might just make them a family, however. Divorce
rates for people who seek materialism and monetary fulfillment are higher
than those who don’t, psychologists have found.
Even though divorce rates in the United States stand at more than 50 per-
cent, the average family stays together. It’s young marriages that separate; child-
less marriages.Those with children tend to stay together, according to the U.S.
Census Bureau.
So here it is. Dinner is served. Rick takes his usual place on the north side
of the table, Laura on the south side.The children sit east and west, except for
the baby who’s on Laura’s lap.
They all bow their heads and give thanks for their meal. “We give thanks
for everything,” says Rick.
Instead of wanting more, working more, seeking more, experiencing more,
the Nelsons give thanks for what they have.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“But you note that he, Rick, wouldn’t work either if he didn’t have to.”
“And you find that difficult to imagine?”
“What I find difficult to imagine is that they wouldn’t change if they were
suddenly handed over a large sum of money.”
“Their values, you mean?”
“Yes, I could see where the dynamic between them would change.”
“Perhaps. Laura seemed more open and excited about bigger, fancier
houses, a gourmet meal. Things.”
—  —
Condi t i oni ng Val ues
“I’d imagine that the reality of being able to afford things without sacrifice
would ultimately create the recipe for at least testing materialism.”
“But, you see, going in their favor is the lack of pursuit. When the
psychological pursuit of material gain is wrung around a person’s
neck, it will choke them. The Nelsons aren’t predisposed to such char-
acter traits; materialism and monetary fulfillment aren’t their goals.”
“But imagine if it were thrust upon them.”
“If they won the lottery, for example? Would that elevate their sense of
love and belonging? Would it skew their sense of self-esteem to the
point where they’d believe they are all of a sudden better off.”
“It would create some degree of deemed betterness, I’d imagine, some
degree of a better life—like that better house they spoke of; they
could afford it.”
“Bigger, they said, not better. Grand adjectives were noticeably missing
from the Nelsons’ vocabulary.”
“Because . . . ”
“Because they don’t perceive, as they said, more or bigger as better.”
“That’s just because they don’t have it.”
“You won’t let up on this, will you?”
“Not until you show me.”
“How about a lottery winner then?”
“Now we’re talking.”
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— +:¡ —
C H A P T E R 1 7
Money as a catalyst for change
A
n Italian sandwich costs $5.39.
A hot meatball sandwich costs
$4.79.
The mortadella, which looks so perfectly placed next to the provolone
cheese, the pepperoni, and the salami rinds, costs $5.49 per pound.
There is the smell of fresh-baked bread.
There is the visual elegance of an efficient market, stacked with olive oils,
vinegars, pasta, and wine.
Michael is wearing a white apron. Some ketchup and mustard stains are
smeared on the front, near the waist. He knows most of his customers by
name, the regular ones who come in to play Lotto.
There is a one in 80 million chance that any one will win the U.S.
Powerball lottery, where five numbers out of forty-five must be guessed
correctly, as well as one number of forty-two. State lotteries, where six out of
fifty-one numbers must be guessed correctly, hold a one in 18 million chance
of winning on any given day. Still, people line up when the jackpot gets large.
At the time of this writing, there was a Powerball lottery game whose
jackpot was worth $300 million. Lines, in which people waited to handpick
their lucky numbers, stretched around city blocks. Television stations carried
the footage and told stories of how people drove for hundreds of miles to place
their bets at designated lottery outlets.
The phenomenon of the lottery swept the nation.
Who was going to win?
“What do you think?” I ask Michael, as he’s slicing a round of honey-baked
turkey.
“It’s a lot of money,” he says. “Someone is going to win—big.”
“Yup,” I answer. “Someone’s life is going to change.”
What would they do with all that money?
How would it change their life?
Could they, anyway, take all the money at once?
— +:o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
New lottery rules allow the jackpot winner to claim all his or her winnings
at once. There’s a penalty for this, of course—50 percent. Plus, the winner has
to pay taxes on the entire amount—if it’s over $600—right off the bat. That
could be an additional 38 percent, depending on the person’s income bracket.
Lottery winnings are considered personal income.
The other choice is to take winnings over time, twenty or twenty-five years.
This reduces the total tax burden on the winner, but also takes away the
possibilities associated with the use of proceeds—other investment possibilities.
In any event, in any amount, the lottery is like found money. No one’s had
to work for it, no one’s had to be imaginative to get it; the winner was just
lucky.
“I want a Ferrari. I want a yacht to cruise the Mediterranean. I want a
beach house in Malibu. I want an apartment in New York. I want a flat in
London, a villa in Tuscany . . . ” My Imagination flashes these visions.
“And what will that get us?”
As Michael is making me a sandwich, this little debate rolls on in my head.
The sandwich is placed on the thick, white wrapping paper. The corners
fold in first, then the sandwich is rolled up. A sticker with a price printed on
it keeps the paper from unfolding. It keeps the sandwich intact, preserved.
Michael hands the sandwich to me.
“It’s not like that,” Michael tells me as we head into the storeroom of the
deli for a chat. “You don’t change.”
Michael won a $58 million jackpot. Granted, the pot was also won by
another ticket holder, and Michael divided his winnings with his family and
some coworkers who chipped in for a ticket. Still, Michael’s take, despite the
division, makes him a multimillionaire.
There was a new car, a boat, a house. A few other material trinkets Michael
bought with the money. He could have gone overboard. He was only twenty-
six years old when he won. He’s thirty-one now.
The psychological benefit of security is the most important thing Michael
clings to.
“It’s not materialism. You get past that. It’s the comfort that if I chose to
retire at a young age, I could,” Michael says. “It’s a nice, secure feeling for me.”
So why work?
“That’s just the way it’s been for me. I started working at this store when
I was eleven. The money is an illusion to me. It’s not reality. I didn’t buy shit
for two years. I’d just get the checks, look at them, and put them in the bank.
It was unreal,” he says.
We’re sitting uncomfortably on stools in the storeroom. A few clerks come
in and slide past us, punching in on the clock. Michael answers a few
— +:; —
Money as a Cat al ys t f or Change
questions about schedule changes. He takes a call from a wine supplier. It’s
3:30 in the afternoon, and he’s ready to knock off. He’s been at work since
7:30 A.M.
The reality of Michael’s situation is that he’s not super-rich. He’s
not worth that magic number that allows him to do anything, anytime. Bes-
ides, the deli Michael works at has been a part of his life since he was
born, directly or indirectly. His mother and father started it. His brother and
sister work there, too.
“I like it,” he says. “It also gives me responsibility and something to do.”
When I interviewed Tim Forbes, who inherited his money and capitalist
philosophy from his centimillionaire family, he said that work is the ethic.
Work is the religion. It keeps people on the straight and arrow. It breeds
ambition, success, a secure path in life.Veer from that ethical value system, and
destructive forces come into play.
Michael says where money’s involved, destructive forces come into play no
matter whether you’ve earned it, won it, or inherited it.
“There is a dark side to it,” Michael says.
Who to trust or not?
Whose intentions to question?
Those are the things that Michael now has to think of. Before, motivations
weren’t a part of Michael’s consciousness.
Money too, has taken its own identity.
Michael monitors his investments. He consults tax advisers.When the stock
market moves, it really means something to Michael now.
“Having a lot of money creates its own kind of work,” Michael says. “And
it’s just there anyway. Some days more, some days less. If you’re not using it,
who cares?”
There are cases of lottery winners committing suicide. There are cases of
lottery winners spending all of their winnings. Some go bankrupt. Some are
put in jail. One lottery winner is even on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s
Ten Most Wanted list.
What’s readily apparent is that it’s not the money that corrupts individuals.
Money fuels their ability to corrupt themselves.
Derek Sanderson, for example, was the highest-paid athlete in the world at
one time.Years later, he found himself broke and sleeping on a park bench in
New York.
“I never respected it,” Sanderson, the former Boston Bruins hockey player,
told me.
The same could have been said for himself. He turned to drugs and alcohol.
Now Sanderson consults young athletes about money.
— +:: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“Athletes don’t have a foundation for success. It’s like winning the lottery
or gambling.You piss it away.You don’t ask who you are, what your priorities
are, what’s life all about?” Sanderson says.
Creating a scenario of control is what Sanderson specializes in. Getting to
know yourself and what you want is the important hurdle. “Listen, I see a
young guy go out and by a new Bentley. I say, ‘Great, you just spent your kid’s
college tuition. Feel good?’”
What most people who get giant windfalls of cash fail to realize is the
payday isn’t as big as they think.
Let’s say you get $10 million when you’re thirty-five years old. Sanderson
calculates that on a conservative rate of return of 4.8 percent with spending
at $7,500 per month, you’re looking at $34 million when you’re fifty-two years
old. At a spending rate of $10,000 per month, you’re looking at $19 million.
And if you increase the spending to $20,000 per month, you’re broke when
you’re forty-seven.
Sally Kirkland Brown, a financial adviser, also consults high-paid
athletes. As well, she consults lottery winners about what they should do
with their money. Sometimes, she says, reality is too remote. “To them
that money looks like a new car, it looks like a trip to Las Vegas,” says
Kirkland Brown.
She says to people: Create the wish list. Give in a little.Then, create values.
Ask, “What does money mean to you?”
Most often it’s security. It should be peace of mind. At least that’s what it
means for Michael. And Michael may be the unusual example of a lottery
winner. But maybe not. In any case, he shows that money doesn’t make a man
or a woman who they are.
“Some [rich] people come in here. They treat me and my employees
bad. They try and show off. I just sit back and listen. I used to get mad
and ask them to leave. Now I just laugh to myself. They’re not unhappy
with us, they’re unhappy people,” says Michael. “What am I going to
do about it?”
Would having less money make them any happier? Wouldn’t a
sudden bankruptcy instead of a sudden windfall change them for the better?
Probably no such luck would befall them.
P.S. The $300 million Powerball jackpot was won by an unemployed man
in need of surgery. He said he had no immediate plans to spend the money,
except to pay for doctors’ bills.
— +:, —
Money as a Cat al ys t f or Change
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“You made it seem that money is a bad thing, that it’s not so great to win
it, and that winning it isn’t all that easy either.”
“Good recap, but what is your point? What does that have to do with you?”
“Think for a second, Mr. Unimaginative—”
“—I’m only unimaginative because you’re occupied at the moment.”
“Whatever. As I was observing, if your facts are straight, then winning the
lottery doesn’t mean what it did to me any more. I can’t fancy a bit
of hope around a ticket.”
“Well, at least your language is dandy, or should I say grand?”
“Is that a crack?”
“It’s whatever you imagine it to mean.”
“Now that was a crack.”
“Please, the point is that, sure, we win some money, you’re automatically
put into play. Those dreams held back by monetary inability can
suddenly be realized. But that’s a fleeting affair. At the end of the day,
we end up going to bed with each other again. Then we wake up to
face each other too.”
“But I could have more to do.”
“Only if I allowed it.”
“See, there’s the problem right there. You, reality, get in the way of me
doing what I want.”
“If I wasn’t around, we’d be in a lot of trouble.”
“Because what I conjure is bad?”
“Not so much . . . ”
“Then what is it?”
“It may lead us into temptation.”
“So? We are faced with temptation every day. You don’t have to be rich
to be tempted to do something wrong. In fact, I’d imagine that you’d
be much more likely to get into trouble—in your world, in the real
world—if you had less money.”
“That’s true. People in prison are typically of less means. In other words,
poor.”
“So, why would you say that if I was let loose, then we’d get into more
trouble? Our character, our moral fiber, is comprised of a set of values
that has been put into place by our familial and societal experience,
as well as that something else, which sometimes controls me, makes
us different.”
— +¡o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“That invisible beam that lets us know right from wrong, that drives us to
certain things, repels us from others?”
“I’m drawing a blank there. I can’t imagine that thing, or that beam, as
you call it. The only thing I know is that it’s there. Otherwise, when
you say beam, I’m imagining a flashlight, or some piece of wood that
holds up the ceiling.”
“Okay, so let’s go back to our foundation. If we need food and shelter to
get us on our way to love and belonging, and if we need love and
belonging before we can get a sense of self, or affirmation of that
sense of self, then money leads the way to self realization—the
ultimate goal.”
“And you really think that people think this way, that there is that level of
consciousness in most? I don’t imagine so.”
“Of course there is. It doesn’t have to be conscious, either. Just by the
mere fact that people work, that they have to earn a living in society
to garner those things we just mentioned, automatically puts them
on this path.”
“Hold it, hold it, hold it. Whoa, Nelly. You’re making quite a jump there,
that everyone is on the same path. We all don’t work for money to
get by. I can imagine any number of different ways to skirt the
system.”
“There aren’t all that many, as we noted earlier: earn it, get it as a gift,
or . . . ”
“That’s right, steal it. Here is that glaring hole in your foundation thesis.
Some people chose to skip over the trappings of social order, or
common law, and take what they need.”
“Think they need.”
“You don’t know that. I can imagine situations where people would have
to steal to survive.”
“Not in today’s culture. There is boundless opportunity. You should know
that. You create it.”
“Context! Context! Context! We come from a relatively stable upbringing.
We had moral guidance. We were shown where opportunities lie.
Now imagine someone who didn’t have those support systems.
Couldn’t you see how they could cross those subjective moral and
lawful grounds to get something that would satisfy their sense of
self?”
“They would have to have an awfully strange sense of self.”
“Strange because I can’t imagine it to any great extent.”
— +¡+ —
Money as a Cat al ys t f or Change
“Uh oh.”
“What?”
“You just implanted a vision of our next interview—and I don’t like it.”
“You’re afraid?”
“Yes.”
“Well, if you can think of another way to get inside the mind of a crimi-
nal, someone who finds money so powerful, so attractive, so com-
pelling that they would be willing to commit a crime to get it—“
“But murder?”
“It’s the most heinous offense I could imagine.”
“You’re right, of course.”
“Then it’s off to prison?”
“Yes.”
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— +¡¡ —
C H A P T E R 1 8
Monetary Desire in the Context of
Universal Common Law
I
t’s a glistening, long stretch of helix-
shaped barbed wire. It sits on top of
the electric fence.
Level 4. Maximum-security prison.
“He grabbed me by the shirt,” inmate B02100 says. “I pulled the nine mil-
limeter I had in my pants and shot him—boom, boom, boom—seven times.”
I pop my trunk. I show my identification.
What’s not allowed: denim clothing, bills larger than $1, $20 maximum,
electronic devices, weapons––the list goes on. I scroll down twenty-five bullet
points of what’s disallowed.
“There it was, just this stack of money on the ground,” Danny, inmate
B02100 says. “I took it. I didn’t even think about what had just happened.”
The parking lot is five hundred yards away from the central office. In
between cell blocks, flashes of denim can be seen in the yards.
Basketball.
Weight training.
What look like group discussions.
“I would work two or three days a month, make between $4,000 and $6,000,”
says Danny, inmate B02100, who has been in prison for thirty-five years.
Inside the central office, inmates’ families and friends gather.They represent
on the outside what the inmates represent on the inside: all walks of life.
Put a suit on him and Danny could be a banker, an attorney, a corporate
executive.The hair around the sides of his almost-bald head are gray. He sports
a mustache. He is of average height and build. He carries himself with an air
of confidence. He is well spoken and polite.
A half-dozen guards stand behind a wooden counter. They pass out and
examine visitation forms.
— +¡¡ —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Danny has been sentenced to life without parole. He’s fifty-five years old.
He’s not supposed to get out alive.
They take your belt, your shoes. They make you empty your pockets.You
turn around with these bunny ears hanging from your pants as they check the
bottom of your feet.
Danny murdered a man over money and drugs. He was part of a motor-
cycle gang. Had been since he was eleven.
Past the metal detector, a gate opens to a small, concrete courtyard.Another
gate leading to the prison compound is kept locked.
“The first thing I did [after the murder and robbery] was to take my little
three-and-a-half-year-old daughter to Baskin-Robbins; we got every flavor.
Then we went shopping and I filled up the back seat with toys,” Danny says.
There is an unemotional quality to Danny that stands out. But when he
speaks of his daughter, something in him goes soft.
After the first gate shuts behind our group, we are left in limbo: the gate
to the prison compound stays closed.We are caged in.There is a slight moment
of anxiety for me.
“The life of a citizen never appealed to me,” Danny says. A “citizen” is a
regular, hard-working, law-abiding person.
We are caged in until the black bus comes and takes us to the cell blocks.
“Even if I were to say that I got out now, I wouldn’t lead that life. I
wouldn’t know how,” he says, Danny says, as he wrings his hands. He tells me
he is nervous. He hasn’t seen any one from the free world in four years.
There is a woman behind me. She speaks as if she has throat cancer.
Different pitches interrupt her words. She speaks as if she is very old, like a
grandmother in a cartoon would speak—very high pitched and cheeky.
“It’s a way of life,” Danny continues.
“I was banned for three months . . . ” The squeaky voice expels this
information to the woman next to her. She says she was arrested for receiving
stolen property and had to go to jail herself. I look back. She is more than
sixty.
Danny was part of a motorcycle gang that ran money, drugs, and weapons.
A very well-dressed and good-looking family are standing next to me.
They’re in designer clothes, look well-coiffed. The parents in their forties, the
daughter in her twenties. A perfect-looking family.
To Danny, there was something dazzling about the life of crime.There was
something very attractive about the money. The risk too, made it sensational.
Two large African-American women wait in the cage, as well. They drove
four hundred miles to visit their “men” here in prison.They talk as if they just
met in a church parking lot, recapping their week.
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— +¡¡ —
Monet ar y Des i r e i n t he Cont ext of Uni ver s al Common Law
“It was special thing to be trusted by those people. I never even thought
to violate that trust,” Danny says.
When the black school bus finally arrives, the gate to the prison compound
opens. I feel oddly exposed.
Danny’s father was a small business owner. He lived in a relatively nice,
suburban town.
As we drive along the small track to the cell block, I’m thinking that if
there’s a riot, if something goes wrong, there’s no escape. The rings of barbed
wire look down on me.
“When I was growing up, my older brother got into the motorcycle life.
And I knew, since I was eight, that that was the type of life I wanted to lead,”
says Danny.
First stop is mine. The squeaky grandmother and the nice-looking family
get off with me.
“I’d get five bucks to hide a gun. I’d get a six-inch thick brown bag to take
somewhere,” explains Danny of his childhood introduction to crime. “I could
buy any toy I wanted. I’d look at what my friends got and laugh.”
Another identification check. A buzz through to the visiting room. It’s
open, like a cafeteria.Vending machines line the wall.
“My father wanted me to work for him real bad. He didn’t want me
hanging out with the motorcycle guys. So, one summer he says he’ll buy me
a car if I work for him. I do it. A few weeks later, I traded the car in for a
motorcycle. We didn’t much speak after that,” Danny says.
There’s the mob boss in dark glasses. There’s a couple holding hands,
praying and reading from the Bible. There’s a nice-looking Jewish boy who
sits down with his perfect-looking family. A massive Mexican, bald-headed, has
him arm around his girlfriend or wife. The squeaky grandmother kisses her
boyfriend, a young—say, thirty-five-ish—scruffy-looking slob. Heebie jeebie.
There’s a guard station at the front of the room, a guard station at the rear.
To the left, next to the vending machines, is a green door through which the
prisoners enter and leave. To the right is a set of windows that face the prison
compound.
Danny comes through the green door, asks the guard who he is supposed
to see, and heads in my direction.
A rather large mural of the solar system sits on the front wall of the visiting
room. A closer look reveals a meteor shower. Impending danger in the
universe?
I don’t feel afraid when I sit next to Danny in a remote corner of the
room. I don’t think for a second he’s going to harm me. Nor do I doubt the
fact for a second that he could kill me. He is like the system he has become
— +¡o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
a product of. Rules. Strict rules. Black and white. Yes or no. Something is or
it isn’t. You harm me, I harm you. You do something to me, I do something
to you. The human condition has been stripped of its essential faculty to
inquire, question, doubt, look for answers. Answers are given to inmates. They
don’t dare question the system.They have abused that privilege on the outside.
The night it happened.
“I didn’t think about it much when I was young. I do now.The longer you
are in the system, the more you start to think of stuff like that. You become
more introspective. I wasn’t when I was young. When I first got here, I was a
kid. I didn’t know any better. I played the games of politics in the yards. Now,
I mind my own business. I don’t have time for that,” says Danny.
Danny is what they call a dinosaur now. He’s been in the system so long
that he’s automatically granted respect. He’s left alone.
Respect is the medium of exchange in prison. It’s the money.
A murder crime gets automatic respect. A sex crime, on the other hand,
will most likely get you killed unless you ask for protective custody.“They take
you out of here one way or another,” Danny says.
You’re a gang member, you get respect.You treat people with respect, you
stand up for yourself, you’re not a rat, you get respect.
I tell Danny that I imagine I’d get raped and beat up in prison.
“It’s not like that. Sure, you’re a white guy. You’re a citizen. But that stuff
you see on TV isn’t what it’s like. All that, ‘Hey sweetie,’ stuff people are calling
through the bars when a new prisoner comes in is bull.You don’t know who
anyone is, so you keep your mouth shut until you do. Lesson number one,” says
Danny. “People will nibble at you, see if you stand up for yourself.You do, and
you show respect to the people that matter, people will leave you alone.”
Respect used to equate to credit, too. But not anymore.
“In San Quentin, they’d have canteen drops every two weeks,” explains
Danny. Canteen drops are when prisoners get to go to the canteen, or prison
store, and purchase items. “So you might want something like a bag of chips
or something and you go to a two-for-one guy and he’d give you credit until
your canteen drop was up. Not anymore. Now it’s cash in hand.”
Two-for-one guys are black market peddlers.You buy a bag of chips, you
pay them with something worth double.
Why would you do such a terrible exchange?
“Because you wanted the bag of chips,” says Danny with a smile. He then
tells me that those two-for-one guys are the ones that usually don’t last that
long. “Someone always gets pissed off at them,” he says. “They end up getting
stabbed.”
A lot of people get stabbed here, I observe.
— +¡; —
Monet ar y Des i r e i n t he Cont ext of Uni ver s al Common Law
Danny estimates that there are between three hundred to four hundred
stabbings a year in his prison. That’s about one a day.
“In San Quentin we had ten times as many guys, and there were maybe
five or six incidents a year,” Danny says.
The times have changed. The credit system based on a prisoner’s word has
dried up. Cigarettes, the traditional prisoner currency, are waning as a trading
item. Swaps are more in-kind exchanges.
Gangs fragment the environment. Respect goes out the window. The
hierarchy has been broken. Racial lines are blurred.Whites and Mexicans used
to be allies. Not anymore.
“Now it’s different. The Black Guerrilla Family is broken into the
Bloods and Crips.The Mexican Mafia is divided into North and South.The
Aryan Brotherhood has the Skinheads and the Nazi Low Riders,” says
Danny.
This changes the landscape for trade because you can’t cross lines, associate
with prisoners from different groups.
A large, bald-headed Mexican approaches our table. He places a Coke in
front of Danny and keeps on walking by, doesn’t stop or miss a step.
“Thanks, Mikey. That’s all right. I got you on that,” Danny says and nods
his head.
Payback for something.
Each prisoner has an account and his purchases are deducted from that. No
cash is ever exchanged in prison. On canteen day, prisoners can buy almost
anything that isn’t easily made into a weapon. In fact, the only things a pris-
oner gets for free, besides meals, are toilet paper and soap. Everything else:
deodorant, shampoo, pens, paper, aspirin, glasses, healthcare, he or she has to
pay for.
Danny makes $20 per month in his job as a clerk.
But money doesn’t mean something all that much different inside or
outside prison. It’s a way to get luxuries. In his life now, a nice bar of soap is
a luxury. Before, it was a car, a trip to Las Vegas.
What could have been so immensely tempting about money as to make
him commit a crime? What sent him over the societal boundaries?
The societal boundaries themselves.
“I was always spoiled and got what I wanted quick,” Danny says. “The
other way, there was too much work for too many years to get what you
wanted.”
It was the immediacy, too, of the gratification. “For me, it wasn’t the stack
of money, but what I could do with it. I never thought about putting it into
— +¡: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
something more. I wanted to do something that I liked to do with it,” Danny
says.
He partied for two days straight with the proceeds from his murder.
Two witnesses had spotted him, and he was picked up, “just driving
down the road,” he says. “Thought they were just busting me for a speeding
ticket.”
But now, here he sits, all these years later.
“The most valuable thing in life is life itself,” says Danny. “That may sound
odd coming from someone like me, but I’ve had a lot of years to think about
that and make my peace with that. I took a life. I didn’t really know what that
meant until years later.”
And with life, of course, comes the appreciation of life, especially the life
you create.
“My daughter is important to me,” Danny says.
His three-and-a-half-year-old daughter is now thirty-eight. She doesn’t
come to visit much. Never really writes. “It’s tough for her. This has been
something she has had to live with, too,” Danny says.
He says that if he could escape, he would. He’d spend time with his
daughter. He’d spend time with the people he cares about.
After that, if money weren’t an issue, he’d live alone on an island.
“I am around people all the time. I have a roommate in my cell. I eat with
three hundred other guys. I go to the yard with six hundred other guys. The
guards do counts every two hours. They’re around all the time. I haven’t had
any time alone in thirty-five years,” Danny says.
But he tries hard not to think about the “what ifs.”
“It would be nice, though, just to be able to walk into the kitchen and
make a sandwich for myself.You have no idea how much little things like that
mean,” Danny says. “Even now when there is a moment of happiness, it’s a
bigger thing for me than probably any one else like you on the outside. I don’t
get them that often.”
Happiness.
Time.
Appreciation.
Family.
These you can treasure locked up inside, but then it’s nice to experience
them and fill up again.
This is the cycle that money should help spin round and round—like a
double helix.
Whether you are on the inside or the outside. Whether you are in prison,
or whether you create one for yourself.
— +¡, —
Monet ar y Des i r e i n t he Cont ext of Uni ver s al Common Law
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“So?”
“So.”
“What?”
“What.”
“Why are you repeating everything I just thought?”
“Why are you repeating everything I just thought.”
“No, you are repeating everything I just thought.”
“Maybe it’s the other way around.”
“Oh boy, here we go.”
“No, maybe not. We only go where I imagine.”
“Wrongo, we go where it’s natural for us to go, sometimes.”
“So, you’re saying we go on impulse without me in any part of the
equation?”
“Sometimes. I only use you when I need you.”
“When you have enough time on your hands.”
“That, or if I need to figure out a different way of doing what we’ve
already done.”
“So I’m best used in moments of time and innovation.”
“Well, in other times too. But you are best used when you’re challenged
and when you have enough time to be creative. Indeed, I just watched
a show on time and innovation and the underlying theme was the
use of you.”
“Yes, I’m very famous, you know. I could even say there wouldn’t be a
television show—or even a television—if it weren’t for me. Anyway,
which show are you thinking of?”
“The storyline involved using Einstein’s theory of relativity to go back in
time.”
“Yes, I remember. That one bothered me. That theory always bothers me.
It brings up that ‘twin paradox’ and all sorts of stuff.”
“Where if you go back in time, you meet yourself.”
“It annoys me just to think about working so hard to imagine such a thing
occurring.”
“Indeed, that necessitates not just using you to your maximum ability, but
also all of the other faculties.”
“Those guys. Yuck. Anyway, before I get all anxious, what’s the point of
bringing up time and innovation?”
“In the context of you, it won’t matter so much—we can never escape
— +¡o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
the way in which we think or imagine, in spite of time.”
“But isn’t there the school of thought that says time is a man-made
invention—“
“—so the only way to escape it is to rethink what time is—”
“—and get outside the system—“
“—or the thought.”
“Or me.”
“That is one school of thinking, yes. But there’s more to this. As I said, we
can’t get outside thinking the way we do because we’ve been
conditioned to think this way. So, no matter what, we’ll always be
plagued with the footprint of our conditioned thought.”
“I’m imagining—besides a bear claw print in the snow—a scene from
Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World,
11
when Mustapha Mond
shows a copy of the Bible to the savage and says, ‘we are not our
own any more than what we possess is our own . . . ’”
“I, literally, remember the line ‘that independence was not made for man.’”
“I always imagined that the point of that book was who would suffer
more: the savage under the conditions of orderly society or someone
from orderly society under savage conditions?”
“Indeed, there was a nod to independent thinking and values there.”
“Free will, my buddy, would reign!”
“But the world would never be the same.”
“Is that why the government lies to us—to keep order?”
“The government doesn’t lie to us.”
“What about those aliens?”
“That’s a theory from a bunch of people who let you take over.”
“Of course you’d say that. You, the real self, the one who has to operate
in the ‘real world,’ are conditioned.”
“I never denied that I am conditioned. But, sorry to say, so are you.”
“By whom?”
“The establishment, who else?”
“Who’s that?”
“The establishment is the tenured majority. They are the ones who set the
rules, the laws, and define what’s good behavior and bad behavior,
what are proper manners, and what is gauche.”
“I’m imagining some Sunday school teacher.”
“You’re not far off. The educational institutions of the Unites States were
begun by religious organizations.”
— +¡+ —
Monet ar y Des i r e i n t he Cont ext of Uni ver s al Common Law
“So along with education and history came a set of values.”
“Exactly. Get ’em while they’re young, shape their characters, influence
their morals.”
“But this country has been around a long time. I’d have to imagine the
people who founded these ideals are dead.”
“They are, but their philosophies live on through educational institutions
that pass on these ideals. Besides, there are heirs.”
“Sounds like old money.”
“It is. The people who are born with money have different value systems
from what we’ve read. When people win or steal or earn a lot of
money, they are the same people, just with more money. We’ve seen
that. The lottery winner didn’t particularly change his style of living.
The prisoner said he’d most likely return to a life of crime if he ever
got out of jail. But inheritors, people who grew up rich, are in a class
to themselves. They operate on a different set of values. Values, I
might add, steeped in moneyed tradition.”
“I’ve always imagined an aura of elitism surrounding inheritors, trust fund
babies, those whose family lineage of wealth dates back genera-
tions.”
“Yes, you and Ralph Lauren show me the pictures: a blue blazer with some
type of patch on the breast pocket, a white button-down shirt, a
striped necktie, school names printed on jerseys and caps. There are
those penny loafers, chinos, and signet rings.”
“Now that you mention it, I always imagined these folks as going to prep
schools or Ivy League universities.”
“They usually do. And they’re in politics, on boards of cultural institutions
like museums, libraries, concert halls.”
“I imagine this is where they wield their influence on culture.”
“Yes. They are the upper class we’re always chasing.”
“Money, then, I imagine, means something else to them.”
“Only one way to find out.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  —
C H A P T E R 1 9
Old Money and Achievement
E
rnest Hemingway is snapping the
neck of a pigeon in the Jardins de
Luxembourg. Ezra Pound pedals
by, dressed formally in a suit (one pant leg is tucked into a sock). Gertrude
Stein is walking arm-in-arm with a young artist. The artist is wearing a beret,
Stein a floppy knit hat. This is literary Paris, a Paris that attracted a drunken
F. Scott Fitzgerald and, later, an earnest Henry Miller.
My Imagination sees these figures sitting in crowded cafes’ by day sipping
coffee, arguing in smoke-filled jazz bars at night. I conjure these images of
Paris because I’m reading the small author’s bio on the back on Nelson
Aldrich, Jr.’s book Old Money
12
: “Nelson Aldrich, Jr. is the editor of The
American Benefactor. Formerly Paris editor of the Paris Review, a senior editor
at Harper’s magazine, and a reporter for the Boston Globe, he is a frequent con-
tributor to such publications as . . . ”The bio names a few current titles, but
it’s the Paris Review that stops me—races my Imagination back to a Paris of
the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.
I’m set to interview Nelson about old money, its values, what the life of
an inheritor is like; Nelson is a keen observer of the money scene.
“The big divide in America is money that’s made by an individual and
money that’s inherited,” Nelson says. “The first thing you’d have to say is that
American culture is not at all hospitable to the inheritors of money.This is the
New World.This is a breeding ground of the new man and the new woman.”
Nelson goes on to tell me that the rich indeed are different than you and me.
In America, “the general ideology is that we are each responsible for
making our own lives according to our own values, ” he says.
Nelson takes me back to Puritanism. He takes me back to the deep pre–Civil
War South. He goes on at length about the foundations of elite educational
organizations in the Northeast, schools like Exeter Academy, St. Paul’s, Groton.
“The upper class in the United States becomes a screen onto
which the middle class projects all sorts of aristocratic attributes . . . and in
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
some subcultures of the rich class, like the Northeast rich, they founded the
educational institutions on aristocratic values,” Nelson says.
He is a good teacher and articulator of old money habits, Nelson. He is
quick to point out that the aura of old money, that generated by Fitzgerald or
Henry James, has faded.
“The aura of old money is really an afterglow of that concept [aristocracy],
but that has pretty much died out. Even Ralph Lauren doesn’t believe in it
anymore,” Nelson says.
It’s the images, you see, that Nelson says aren’t real—false images portrayed
by books and movies. Most of the old money set are relegated to private clubs,
like the Brook or the Knickerbocker in New York City. These are places of
mahogany, red leather wingback chairs, oriental rugs, old men in suits, and
cigar smoke. And just as these clubs are being displaced by the modern health
club, with step aerobics and spin cycling classes and both genders in Lycra, so
too are the members of the old boys’ network.
The old rich aren’t as rich as the new rich. Just look at the richest people
in the world; few are inheritors of wealth. Most are self-made. The old rich
may have a set of principles, but that is out of touch with today’s society.
Indeed, the old rich don’t even want to be rich, according to Nelson. He says
money taints inheritors in a way that eradicates their individualization.
“The person who inherited the money—the boy and the girl—didn’t
make any, so you can’t say that any of it is theirs—it’s Daddy’s or Grandpa’s.
“There is no merit attached to the inheritor’s wealth because it wasn’t his
agency. It was some ancestral god, as it were, before him.
“Because this is a culture that gives money a kind of power that is virtually
magical—a transformative power, a power to do anything for its possessor.
Famously, as Dickens says, it can make an ugly man handsome . . .
“So, if you have inherited a lot of money, but that money really doesn’t
belong to you, except in some legal sense, and if money is really transformative,
then it follows whatever you did in life, whether you went to college, whether
you started your own business, whether you own the America’s Cup, whatever
you did, was by the color of your money. But since you didn’t make that
money, your victories don’t belong to you, they belong to your Daddy. In this
way, whatever you did in life didn’t belong to you. Even your mistakes didn’t
belong to you . . .You cannot win for losing, and you can’t lose for winning.
It’s a terrific paradox,” Nelson conjects.
Actually, I reckon, it’s a sad paradox. Imagine going through life without
the prospect of getting credit for your achievements. For that matter, imagine
being discarded for your failures. Like a child seeking attention (love), the
unattended would lash out.
—  —
Ol d Money and Ac hi evement
I have a friend who never had to work a day in his life. An only child, both
his parents died when he was a teenager. He inherited a great deal of wealth,
and came from “good stock” as they say—Greenwich, Connecticut, White-
Anglo-Saxon-Protestant (WASP) wealth. Last I heard of him, he was at the
Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs. He had rented a yacht, filled it with
champagne and cocaine and sailed down the East Coast, through the Panama
Canal and up the West Coast all the way to Alaska. He came out as a
homosexual during the escapade, almost died of an overdose, and decided to
check himself in to rehab. There was no one to set the boundaries of his life.
Money had corrupted him, sent him into a life of decadence.
But old money can have the opposite effect. In fact, it’s supposed to. Old
money is equated with inherited money, which is equated with aristocracy.
Aristocracy derives from the philosopher Aristotle, who set down principles
for which the “moneyed” were supposed to adhere.
“Social virtues like good manners, good taste, political decency, charity,
high culture.These things, as Aristotle believed, could only be cultivated if you
didn’t have to worry about where the next buck was coming from,” Nelson
says.
So, what does money mean to old money? Immunity, mostly, it seems, and
something that Nelson describes as pietas. Pietas is described as a reverential
sense of ancestral precedence.
“If you don’t look too closely, and you don’t see the snobbery involved,
and you don’t see the violation of the American ethos of the self-made man
in it, and all you see is the good manners and civic duty and graciousness of
life and cultivation of life. If that’s all you see, then it looks pretty good.
“It’s things we would all like, but don’t have the means or the time,” Nelson
says.
My Imagination sees a young boy walking by a row of townhouses in
Lewisberg Square on Beacon Hill in Boston. It’s a winter afternoon. It’s getting
dark. The lights in one of the townhouses turn on. A man comes to the
window, wearing a maroon silk smoking jacket and black ascot. He has a
snifter of brandy in his hand. A fire burns in the fireplace behind him.
The boy, about nine years old, looks at the man, who’s in his fifties. The
boy is dressed entirely in denim. His cheeks are red. A knit cap sits awkwardly
on his head. Thick, brown hair jets out here and there. A pack of similarly
dressed and similarly looking boys joins him, and they all run off together
through the square, out of sight.
A young boy, also about nine years old, comes into view in the window.
This boy is dressed in a blue blazer, and a blue, button-down oxford shirt. He
is immaculately groomed. He stares up at the older man, whom my
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Imagination characterizes as the boy’s father. The father puts a hand on the
boy’s shoulder and they turn away from the window, walking out of the room.
The fire burns. A log crackles. A spark flies out from the fireplace and
disappears in midair. A small, burnt ember lands somewhere on the oriental
rug of the man’s study. Dusk turns to dark.
The trappings of old money. The boy on the outside, or the boy on the
inside?
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“That’s the second time I’ve had to imagine money as a prison of some
sort.”
“You’re wreaking havoc on my subtlety. Shh.”
“No, let’s go there. First, I imagine money as freedom. Now, I have to
imagine money as a prison. Help me out here, which is it?”
“I think learning that it’s both—depending on how it’s perceived to affect
your self-esteem, your place in society.”
“So the more secure, or more money we have, the more our ego
brandishes his might on our actions?”
“Yes, and that can either be damning or fulfilling depending upon our
moral and ethical characteristics.”
“I would imagine those morals and ethics we’ve developed—or which
have conditioned us—can be dissuaded, however.”
“Changed? Maybe. That’s where freedom or enslavement enter the picture.
After food, shelter, and the basics have been covered, we’re open to
other influences, influences of discretion. This may be the biggest obsta-
cle to fulfillment or self realization we’ll have overcome because it means
putting our individualization to the test to capture self-esteem.”
“That we’re good or worthy in our own eyes.”
“Right. Whether you imagine we’re a good person.”
“Don’t lay all that on me. Reason, perception, logic and all the boys play
a role in validating that concept.”
“Okay, okay, okay, you’re right.”
“So, I can’t particularly imagine the point of validating or succumbing or
even overcoming self-esteem when or if you have all the money you
need to fulfill your other needs.”
“There’s the trip-up. Here’s where most people spend their entire lives—
wobbling on the wall between self-esteem and self-realization. More
—  —
Ol d Money and Ac hi evement
becomes more. New goals are set. New desires appear. The
connection to what matters, what’s fulfilling, is broken.”
“I’ve got that middle-age crazy sequence going: A fifty-year-old man
drives up to a high school in his Corvette to pick up his new girlfriend
after cheerleading practice.”
“Well, it’s at that exact age when people make the most amount of money
in their lives. They become free to put discretion to use. That can lead
to decadence, too.”
“I thought the next step on the ladder of life, as it were, is self-realization.”
“It is. But people look outside for fulfillment. And that’s where money
comes in. They’re trying to best their self-esteem by acquiring more
and more material objects.”
“That is the fun part for me. Can’t we try that?”
“How about we let someone else show us, someone who can afford
virtually any material object in the world, someone whose name is
synonymous with conspicuous consumption?”
“I’m imagining Donald Trump.”
“Exactly whom I was thinking of.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
—  —
C H A P T E R 2 0
Ego and the Need for Success
I
don’t do it for the money,” is the
first line of Donald Trump’s first
book, The Art of the Deal.
13
He
continues,“I’ve got enough, much more than I’ll ever need. I do it to do it. Deals
are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful
poetry. I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
That was when Donald Trump was on his way up, just making a name for
himself in 1987.
Later, in 1990, in his book Surviving at the Top,
14
he writes, “It doesn’t
matter whether you have three billion or three hundred dollars in the bank:
Life is a series of challenges. Some of the challenges you face turn out well.
Some don’t.What separates the winners from the losers, I’ve learned—in busi-
ness and any other aspect of life—is how a person reacts to each twist of fate.
You have to be confident as you face the world each day, but you can’t be too
cocky. Anyone who thinks he’s going to win them all is going to wind up a
big loser.”
After the real-estate shakeout of the early 1990s, after his high-profile
divorce from Ivana, when Donald Trump became known as The Donald, and
he was in almost $1 billion of personal debt, he says, “It’s usually fun being
The Donald, but in the early 1990s, trust me, it wasn’t.”That was in his book
The Art of the Comeback.
15
But there is one theme throughout Donald Trump’s rise and fall and rise
again: He says he doesn’t live for the money.
Or does he?
“If you mean money as the scorecard that tells me I’ve won and by how
much, then yeah, I do it for the money,” Donald Trump says.
What Donald Trump does is develop real estate. He is one of the most
successful real-estate developers of our time. But all this you should know.
Even a description of Donald Trump seems like a waste. Fully 98 percent of
Americans know his name, according to Fortune magazine. His name is more
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
associated worldwide with wealth and money than that of the richest man in
the world, Bill Gates.
It isn’t relevant to ask Donald Trump if he would be happy if he were poor.
His state of happiness is tied to business dealings, business dealings that generate
enormous amounts of money as their by-product. If he didn’t do deals, he
wouldn’t be happy. If he didn’t do deals, he wouldn’t be rich. That’s just the
type of guy he is. Take him or leave him.
It’s all context.
And in the context of which I’m working through this interview with
Donald Trump, money seems as odd a topic for an important discussion as ego.
“Now just doesn’t feel like the right time to be talking about all this,” he says.
The World Trade Center towers have collapsed. A passenger jet with more
than 250 passengers aboard has crashed in Queens—Donald Trump’s
hometown. There has been a direct assault on New York—in the physical,
psychological, and political sense. Meanwhile, fewer people are traveling,
spending money, going to hotels and casinos. This put a damper initially
on Donald Trump’s businesses: He owns hotels, casinos, golf resorts, and recre-
ational facilities, not to mention a slew of residential and office buildings.
Still, Donald Trump is dealing with it all and moving ahead.
“The world changed on September 11,” Donald Trump says. But that hasn’t
stopped him.
“We have been working very hard,” he says.Working hard to work through
it. Working hard to overcome the economic downturn before the attack and,
as he puts it, “the post-attack economic disruptions.”
Disruptions, not stoppages.
He still wants to build the tallest building in the world, to top that of the
Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And while tall buildings now
connote a different type of fear factor, it may just be the type of project that
will symbolize America rising again.
See, it’s about new heights.
Donald Trump is a tall fellow. He stands at six foot three. He has just as large
a presence too. When Donald Trump is in the room, people take notice. Even
walking down the street, people stop and stare—and this is in daylight Manhattan,
when people usually only take enough time noticing a celebrity to tell them to
move.
This got me thinking about what it is that Donald Trump has that other
businessmen don’t.
My Imagination pops up with a litany of images when the name Trump
arises: luxury buildings, beautiful women, private jets, yachts, limousines.
Associations of wealth ensue.
—  —
Ego and t he Need f or Suc c es s
And that’s it.The Trump name stands for something, something more than
the person himself. It stands for quality, beautiful design, luxury resorts—and
money.
In reality, the Trump name is worth at least $5 million. (In South Korea,
a developer paid Donald Trump $5 million just for the use of his name
on a building.) And in New York, it’s reported by putting the Trump name on
a building an 80 percent premium can be charged.
Donald Trump himself is worth at least $5 billion, according to Forbes
magazine.
But these are all dollars. Numbers and sense aren’t at all adding up these
days. People are. People stories, the human condition—that is what’s being
celebrated and embraced. “Rich” takes on its softer meaning.
Donald Trump began working with his father on small developments in
the outer boroughs of New York City. He learned the trade, worked on as
many aspects of the business as he could, and then he moved in to the city,
Manhattan. The rest is history.
Over the twenty years he’s been a household name, Donald Trump has
climbed up the ladder, slid down a few rungs, and now is higher than ever
before. Perhaps he’ll always be stepping up.
Donald Trump attributes his success to tenacity.
“For me, you see, the important thing is the getting . . . not the having,”
he says.
What he goes for isn’t the money; it’s the challenge of creating a beautiful
building, or resort. It is having “vision.”
“Many people have called me greedy because of the way I amass real estate,
companies, helicopters, planes, etc. But what those critics don’t know is that
the same assets that excite me in the chase often, once they are acquired, leave
me bored,” he says.
Donald Trump has never said or set his mind to being the richest man in
the world. After all, what would that mean?
“If you go around saying ‘his is bigger than mine,’ then you’ll drive yourself
crazy and you’ll never win,”says Donald Trump.“You have to measure somebody
by more than that. There are a lot of guys that I respect a great deal who don’t
have much money. And there are guys who do have a lot of money whom I
don’t much respect. The art of this whole thing is winning for yourself. That’s
not easy because most people aren’t their own person. By that, I mean that
they’re afraid to be an individual and stand by what they themselves believe in,
not what they’re told. That’s what will make them a success in the end.
“In your mind you’re alone.You can’t bring people in there and show them
what you’re thinking or how you’d like to be.You have to show them. And if
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
what you do makes you happy, so be it! Money may or may not play a part
in that. Usually it doesn’t. It’s the action, what you do, that counts.”
I walk through his Trump Tower building on Fifth Avenue, his crown jewel.
It’s a mixture of luxury residences and boutique shops.
I first hear then see the grand waterfall in the far side of the marble lobby.
Tourists are taking pictures. Meanwhile, shoppers are scurrying for holiday gifts,
businessmen are cutting through to or from meetings. This, I notice, is upscale
New York in a microcosm. Trump Tower has become a landmark. It’s no dif-
ferent really than dozens of other buildings in the city. But is has something
unique; and that is the Trump name and all the “personality” that goes with it.
Back when, Donald Trump was criticized for the expensive marble, the
glass facade. His own father even advised him to go with brick. “It’s cheaper.”
But Donald Trump proved them all wrong.
He was true to his own beliefs.
Today, that stubbornness to achieve—the quintessential New Yorker trait—
is being tested again and again. Times aren’t easy, with a faltering economy, a
war, and New York the focal point of destruction.
But no one is giving up or in. Donald Trump is no exception.
On the twenty-sixth floor of his building, he sits behind stacks and stacks
of paperwork. He’s on the phone or on the move every second of the day. Or
as his longtime assistant Norma puts it, “We barely have time to breathe.”
Of course, Donald Trump has always been like this. But now, with New
York the way it is, he is especially indefatigable.
Donald Trump, no one would argue, is a staple of New York City; he is a
part of the city. And he feels personally attacked by all of the tragedies and
incidents that have imposed destruction so close to his front door.
Yet, what Donald Trump is doing is testament to New Yorkers, to people
faced with war and terrorism, with the big question of “What if I die tomor-
row and I don’t even see it coming?” See, Donald Trump isn’t living for the
fame or the glory. In times like these, that is reserved for others.What Donald
Trump is living for is the same thing he has always lived for. Now, it’s just more
apparent. He’s living for the machinations of his work, his life—not the results
and their attachments.
He fills imagination with reality and reality with the workings of his
imagination.
That’s how we should all live, trying to fit reality into the depths of our
imaginations.Then, maybe, we’d find that self-realization is our own concoction.
Donald Trump realizes how important the self is in changing the world,
making it a place you accept, not a place that accepts you.
Now, perhaps, more than ever.
—  —
Ego and t he Need f or Suc c es s
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“I’m bopping around like a dancing bear, wondering what it would be like
to have those wares. Get me a jet, that’s what I’d do, off to London,
Paris, and a scooby-do-bee-bop-a-scooby-do.”
“Um, hello.”
“Wassup!”
“Contact, please. Reel it in.”
“Yeah, yeah, party pooper.”
“May I ask what that was all about?”
“The Donald. He gave me life—forever. I’m gonna be around for a long,
long, time. Not getting buried six feet under by re-al-it-y.”
“Um, again, where is all this coming from?”
“DJT. That was cool. He has it all, and guess what? He wants more. What
little magic carpet gets him there? Who’s responsible for his success?
Here, I’m imagining my butt and pointing to it. That’s me. I’m the guy
The Donald likes to pal around with most. And I gotta tell you—I like
him a lot too.”
“Pardon me. Some bad news: I’m no Donald Trump, which means you’re
not going to be anything like Donald Trump’s imagination.”
“I’m speechless. You’ve knocked the wind out of me. Wait, I have to sit
down.”
“Stop with the dramatics. Look, our mind doesn’t work the same way as
Donald Trump’s mind. If you think about it, we wouldn’t be really
happy living the life he leads.”
“Why not? Four best-selling books, lots of women. And he says real-estate
development can be creatively satisfying.”
“Please . . . ”
“All right. But we could use his money to—”
“No, no, no. That’s the point. Donald Trump needs to satisfy his sense of
self-esteem in a different way than we need to satisfy ours. The way
in which we satisfy our own sense of self-esteem breeds different
results. You can’t mix the two.”
“No jets?”
“Nope.”
“No limos?”
“Sorry, Charlie.”
“Babes?”
“Now you’re just getting foolish. But listen, here is the good lesson: You
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
are needed at all levels of the game, at all levels of wealth. Donald
Trump needs his imagination just as much as I need you. Past those
levels of basic needs, you become the leader of the pack. Everything
else—reason, logic, fulfillment—plays catch up.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way before.”
“Sure. Your place is secure as long as . . .Wait, hold on, the telephone is
ringing.”
“ . . . Finally, that was a long call—and you didn’t need me once.”
“No . . . ”
“What’s the matter? I’m getting images of—”
“Yes.”
“This has something to do with me doesn’t it? The way I imagine.”
“Sort of.”
“Well, go on then. I’m a big boy. I can take it.”
“That was our friend, Jeff.”
“I have an image of him now, yes.”
“Our discussion came upon the fact that reality can cut short the life of
imagination.”
“Gulp.”
“For example, when Donald Trump imagined there was no end to his
success, he fell victim to the reality of the recession in the real estate
market.”
“But he used his imagination in a different way.”
“To fight reality. That’s the crux. What’s real will always impede what’s not.
The idea that you can live on ad infinitum doesn’t hold. At some
point, everyone says to him- or herself, ‘Okay, what’s real here?
Enough of this fake stuff.’ Truth, after all, is the great arbiter.”
“So you’re saying that, eventually, you’ll have your way with me and then
ditch.”
“Pretty much. Imaginings are erased when the reality of life’s
circumstances becomes apparent. That’s why, when people get old,
they look for pleasure from the past. They are wiser, and they typically
stop dreaming or imagining how life could be and suffice with how
life is.”
“Great, then you die. No wonder. Without me, death for you is surely
imminent.”
“Oh, I think there’s a fine balance. And that’s what we’re talking about
anyway, isn’t it? That balance. A total devotion to satisfy self-esteem
—  —
Ego and t he Need f or Suc c es s
through materialism is an empty promise of fulfillment.”
“Yeah, but a little drive doesn’t hurt. I can’t imagine that wanting nice
things can be all bad.”
“No, that’s true. Sometimes it creates drive, it creates that vigor George
Kinder spoke about.”
“See, there you go. A simple balance. Why is that so difficult to execute
when I can imagine such equity?”
“Well, for one, it usually takes some type of event to slow you down and
create parity with the real world.”
“Like . . . ”
“A tragedy. An awakening. Some life-changing event that creates
perspective and lends context to our existence. After that, the step
toward self-realization becomes smaller. A gap will have been closed
and what matters, what truly matters, is close at hand.”
“I’m imagining us running away to meditate on some mountain in the
Himalayas.”
“Not so drastic. Balance, remember. Listen: Jeff, with whom I just finished
speaking on the telephone, is a good example.”
“Why is that?”
“Don’t you remember?”
“I’m only responsible for the new stuff. Wake memory so I can use him.
Yes, yes, he’s waking . . . I’m beginning to see what you mean.”
“And I’ll take this opportunity to memorialize our remembrance of Jeff
and what we mean.”
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—  —
C H A P T E R 2 1
The Search for Meaning in a
Money World
T
here was a time—it seems so
long ago—when I held a six-
month-old girl in my arms. She
was exactly the length from my elbow to the tip of my middle finger, bum to
head. I remember how blue here eyes were, how there was so little white in
those rounds. She never cried, not that I remember, anyway. A tube was in my
arm. I was giving her my blood. Our types matched.
My friend Jeffrey Bronchick had called me to ask if I would donate my
blood to his daughter. She had a hole in her heart and was going in for an
operation. Jeff and his wife had two options.They could attempt a heart trans-
plant, or they could try to repair the heart. They opted for the latter.
When I called Jeff ’s office the day after his daughter’s operation, he wasn’t
in. By the second day I had heard; his baby Paige didn’t make it.
I can’t imagine the pain. I can’t imagine the suffering. I can remember the
tiny coffin. There was a lot of weeping—deep, deep weeping. It was so sad,
the saddest thing I had seen or experienced in my lifetime.
Jeff and his wife went to South America for a while.They dropped out, off
the map, to places where they couldn’t be reached by phone or by fax.
I think they wanted remembrance, and sweet, silent thought.
It’s five years later, and I’m walking along the beach with Jeff and his twin
daughters. They are one year old. He’s happy. The sun is shining. The water
glistens and rolls in, gentling washing the shore, foaming, and rolling back out
again. It’s a deep blue.
I imagine Paige at five walking with us. I imagine the color of her eyes.
Jeff is a money manager. He manages a billion dollars. He went to school
for money. He got a job at a money-management firm in New York. He
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
eventually became a partner in another money-management firm in Los
Angeles. He writes a weekly column about money, talks at seminars about
money, associates—mostly, he admits—with people who have money.The thing
is about Jeff, however, is that he is uncomfortable around money.To him, money
is important to give the chance of life; he’s set up the Paige Bronchick
Foundation to help doctors study and create awareness about pediatric heart
problems.
The Paige Bronchick Foundation endows fellowships for medical doctors
to specialize in infant child surgery.
It’s a fundraising event to raise money for the Paige Bronchick Foundation.
We’re seeing a screening of State and Main, a film by David Mamet.
Jeff and I steal some time in the screening room before the film begins. I
ease into my questions. I talk about other things, ramble on about familiari-
ties. Then we get down to it.
“It must have changed you,” I say.
He looks away.
“I mean you had all this success.You had all this money.”
He’s so vulnerable now. In a V-neck sweater-vest and glasses, Jeff looks like
he is back in high school. Even his body language shrinks from me. He’s
screaming: “Don’t hurt me! Please, don’t come near these emotions! I’m
scared! . . . Do you mean it?”
He fidgets.
Finally, he says, “Money, that doesn’t matter. And I know it’s stupid to say
that. I hate when people say that. But I believe that. I want money to help
other people, sure. I think money is important to get and do something
positive with—not just to get. I have a lot of friends who just want to get it.
It doesn’t matter. Trust me. It doesn’t matter. Life is short.”
Bum to head. Elbow to fingertip.
“I’ve learned that you can’t appreciate it.You can’t even appreciate life, but
you can try. I tend to be an optimist. That’s how I made it through.You have
to go on.You can’t go on for money.You have to go on for something impor-
tant. Money isn’t important . . . but it can help important things. If I can help
one doctor with his research, and that research can save a life, then money is
important. That’s what it’s there for—to do something good with . . . I feel
weird around money and buying things for myself. I don’t feel weird about
giving it away for a good cause. I feel good about that.”
—  —
The Sear c h f or Meani ng i n a Money Wor l d
You have to go on to feel good. You have to feel good to go on. Even if
it’s the tiniest thing. Even if it’s the smallest thing in the world. Even if it’s just
a glimmer. Even if there’s just that much good, you can go on.
If she didn’t die, how would you be?
“Look, I went to an Ivy League school. I’m a money manager. I hang
around other money managers or accountants or people with money. For the
first time, I was exposed to people who didn’t give a shit about money. I mean,
nurses who work for one-tenth or one-twentieth of what I make work harder
than I do, under the most horrible human conditions.
“I’ve always lived life fully and done things. I probably would have kept
doing that, but it’s not about me anymore.”
You still drive a nice car.
“The bizarre thing is that people want you to look successful, particularly
in the money-management business.You have to have some trappings or signs
of affluence, because your clients expect you to be successful.‘What, I’m going
to give my money to someone who doesn’t look successful?’ I find it very
uncomfortable.”
But you won’t give it up? You’ll still live in the money world.
“You can change the world a lot more quickly with a checkbook.You can
change the world over a longer period of time through activism. But a check-
book in the world draws people’s attention . . . ”
What you take in, you give out.The tide never stops.The waves never end.
Some things wash away. They land at the bottom of an ocean or get buried
under the sands of a beach. They are still there, though.
Remembrance. “My daughter died. And people go through their whole
lives chasing whatever and doing things that they don’t want to do and never
realizing that life is terribly, terribly short—and it can be snatched at any
moment. Grab, reach, take, snatch, move forward, get what you want . . .
Money has enormous power. Money can attract people who can do good
things.”
It can’t save people, even small children. What’s money to them?
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“Money is numbers. Money is dollars. Money is winning the game. That’s
how the money-management community thinks. If I lost X but another manager
or the market was down 2X, then I’m doing good. I don’t think that way. It’s not
about that. A lot of people are.They think money makes them better.”
Kids don’t care about money. It’s not a concept in their minds.
Feed me, hug me, hold me.
If coins were made only of compassion, money would be the arbiter of
goodwill.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“I have a question for you.”
“What is it?”
“You state that reality holds the key to balance, that I breed volatility.
However, there are things—that only I can imagine—that bring us the
most peace. The arbiter of goodwill is really me. Sure, I can be cloaked
in money. I can take on different means: charity, philanthropy, service
of some kind. I can imagine all sorts of ways to do good.”
“I’m smiling now.”
“Because I’m right?”
“Because it’s the total utilization of you, plus the maximum consciousness
of truth and reality, that gets us to another level—the ultimate level—
of satisfaction.”
“Self-realization, which I still can’t imagine by the way.”
“Instead of dragging you to another interview, let me just tell you what
Brother Achalananda, a monk at the Self-Realization Fellowship in
Los Angeles told me: ‘Basically everybody is the same in terms of
their needs: Everybody wants to be happy. Nobody wants to be
miserable. We all want to have one and avoid the other. How is that
done? We have to recognize the power of money and material
things. That they breed happiness. And then we have to recognize
that they are extrinsic. Instead of real happiness, it’s bliss that we
should be seeking. Happiness has its opposite. Bliss has no opposite.
Bliss is an absolute. That is the quality of God. That is where self
realization resides.’”
“An absolute? Bubba, that word will only get you as far as a bottle of
vodka with me.”
—  —
The Sear c h f or Meani ng i n a Money Wor l d
“I know. Absolutes are something you don’t have to fret over. They just
are. They are deep constructs that reach far beyond you or reason or
any other faculty of the mind. Indeed, they are like the mind’s atomic
structure.”
“Okay, I guess I’ll just have to give you that one, then.”
“Maybe this will help. Brother Achalananda also told us this: All the good
and philanthropic works of the world, all noble successes, have to be
accomplished through money. No saint ever lived who did not use
money, directly or indirectly. But to acquire it without greed or
attachment, and to use it rightly, is a great paradox and riddle of life.
To love money is to be lost. That is the snare. You must use it wisely,
allowing just the right voltage of prosperity to shine through the bulb
of your life.”
“I imagine he’s investigated this a bit.”
“He’s been a monk for more than forty years. He is held out as an expert
on the principles of self-realization and has lectured extensively
around the world. When I finally asked Brother Achalananda specifi-
cally what money means, he gives me an example: ‘The family man
has to earn money to support his family. He starts a certain business
and begins to attend to the details that will make it successful. Now,
what often happens after time? The business goes on successfully,
and money perhaps accumulates, until there is much more than is
necessary for the fulfillment of his wants and those of his family. Now,
one of two things happens. Either money comes to be earned for its
own sake, and a peculiar pleasure comes to be felt in hoarding; or, it
may happen that the hobby of running this business for its own sake
persists or increases all the more. We see that, in either case, the
means of quelling original wants—which was the end—has become
an end in itself; money or business has become the end . . . Then the
purpose for which we apparently started a business becomes sec-
ondary to the creation.’”
“I can imagine people losing sight of their goals, getting wrapped up in
some job they originally took on temporarily to pay the bills, and then
slowly giving up on their dreams.”
“That’s why some of us are frustrated, some of us dream of riches, some
of us merely forget our goals and remain unconscious. It takes a brave
person to change and seek self-realization. ‘Change is pain,’ Brother
Achalananda reminds us. ‘Even good change is pain,’ he says.”
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“I’m imagining us sitting at that place again, the gazebo near the lake
where we spoke with Brother Achalananda.”
“Yes, Brother Achalananda was happy to be at the Lake Shrine, too. Part
of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are entombed there.”
“I can imagine what Gandhi would have said about all this—our investi-
gation into what money means for you and me.”
“For us, probably, integration: the total integration of the body, mind, and
spirit. See, until now, we’ve just focused on what money is, and what
money means to different demographic and psychographic groups.
We haven’t explored what money ought to mean.”
“I imagine we’re going to look into that.”
“It’s the last series of inquiries. It’s where both you and I will be confronted
by a different part of us—our deep, silent partner: Spirit.”
“Sometimes I’m afraid of Spirit.”
“Why is that?”
“Because he decides our fate, you know.”
“No, I don’t. That’s why I want to ask people who know more about the
spirit than we do.”
“Let’s call for the chariot then.”
“Yes, it’s time to go.”
S E C T I O N 3
The Spiritual Attachment of
Money:What Money
Should Mean
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—  —
C H A P T E R 2 2
The Search for Bliss
S
piritualism’s dichotomy is inherent
in the concept of money:At once it
is a path to freedom and a barrier
to free will.
Hope is the middle ground. And spirit, with all its might, tries to lift hope
out of the trenches of mankind toward idealism.
If money is, as someone once said, a frozen desire, then both the suppres-
sion of desire and the manifestation of desire are governed not only by the
psychological, but the spiritual paths we choose (or choose to ignore).
It’s those spiritual paths that often pave the way to how we conduct our-
selves in society.
Spiritual laws help us determine good from bad, right from wrong, and
teach a code of ethics and morals. Spiritual laws, or universal laws, are those
to which common laws, or societal laws, extrapolate their direction. Both gov-
ern our actions.
Money is fuel for our actions. But in which direction do we go? What will
happen to us when we get there? And how can we find comfort along the way?
To be sure, money isn’t the golden chalice. Money isn’t the end and the means.
Spirit decidedly puts money in its proper place when the big issues arise—
meaning of life and meaning of death issues.
Where and how, then—during normal times—should money be utilized
for appreciation to gain its utmost value according to religious virtues?
Organized orders of religion lay the groundwork for what money ought
to mean.
“The success of our lives and our future depends on our motivation and
determination or self-confidence,” says the Dalai Lama.
Money is, as it’s said, the Great Motivator. Money is a provider of
self-confidence. But money, most spiritual orders will agree, should be an
incidental factor in our lives.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
A small cult here in the United States has put money as its god.The group
has money worship services, built money temples. But money isn’t a god.
Money may have godlike tendencies, but it isn’t everlasting. Just ask any
Internet entrepreneur.
We use money as an excuse for “it’s okay.” It’s acceptance.
I want to buy that. It’s okay. Money is accepted. But the big wants, the big
hopes, dreams and desires can’t be had with money.We can’t buy our way out
of dying. We can’t buy our way into love. Money’s role is limited in that way,
just as those big questions are limited in our lives. Who wants to go around
asking ‘what does it all mean?’ when all we’re really trying to do is order a
cheeseburger? Contemplating meaning isn’t always practical.
Jack Miles, in his Pulitzer Prize–winning book God: A Biography,
16
argues
that the biggest proof of our search for the existence of God, comes from our
attempts to model ourselves after God—most blatantly in the West, where
Judeo-Christian mores most lie.
“They believed that by trying they could make themselves into better copies
of the divine original, and they bent themselves diligently to the task. Imitatio
Dei, the imitation of God, was a central category in Jewish piety. The imitation
of Christ, God made man, was equally central to Christians,” Miles writes.
Why model ourselves after something that no one has ever seen? We want
to trade on that hope that we, too, will someday be godlike. Until then, com-
mercialism and materialism placate, empowered by money.
The two worlds—spiritualism and materialism—don’t mix. Otherwise,
JESUS SAVES would be a testimonial advertisement for a bank.
There are more than three thousand orders of faith in the world.There are
about twenty-two widely practiced religions and twelve classical world reli-
gions—Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam,
Jainism, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism,Taoism, and Zoroastrianism—to which peo-
ple turn to most for answers, according to the Adherents organization, duly
noting that every human is: (a) like all other humans, (b) like some other
humans, and (c) like no other human.
Sociocultural influences probably direct the course of money the most in
the context of human nature. Consumerism after all is bred outside religious
orders (unless you’re trying to sell God, or are part of the 14 percent of the
world population that is nonreligious). But religions do have their say. And
money is often at odds with—arguably in competition with—their goals.
Money in Christianity is the root of all evil. Money in Islam caused
Mohammed to head for the mountain.Yet money can do good.
“[Money] takes us out of innocent idealism and brings us into the deeper,
more soulful places where power, prestige and self-worth are hammered out
—  —
—  —
The Sear c h f or Bl i s s
through substantial involvement in the making of culture. Therefore, money
can give grounding and grit to a soul that otherwise might fade in the soft
pastels of innocence,” writes Thomas Moore in Care of the Soul.
17
Money’s false promise is that it is a protector of the soul.That is the job of
spirit. Such are the two sides to the coin.
In the corporeal sense, money may play the role of God—deciding what
type of life we will lead. But the role of god stretches further. That is why the
U.S. dollar comes with a disclaimer: IN GOD WE TRUST. Hence, we turn to
religion for some answers that go beyond the practical, psychological, and soci-
ological attachments of money.
The religions chosen represent those most recognized and celebrated in the
West.There are subsets of each, of course.There are many leaders of each, too,
of course. But just as the rest of this book has pulled from myriad ranks of
society, so will we follow that pattern into the spiritual world.
—  —
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— +o, —
C H A P T E R 2 3
Money in the Muslim World
A
black head-veil. Long, dark
strands of hair are pulled back
over her ears spilling just over
her shoulders. Her brown eyes are piercing. Her intensity is apparent.
Dr. Hasnita Dato Hashim is standing in an airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
speaking to me about the Islamic perspective on money.
“Someone making money at the expense of someone else losing money is
not accepted,” she says.
Dr. Hasnita is widely considered an expert on Islamic principles governing
money and trade. She speaks around the world on Shari’ah, the Islamic inter-
pretation of the Koran governing banking and finance. She meets with
Muslim clerics, political leaders, and business executives to shed light on what
is acceptable in the eyes of Islam and what isn’t, when it comes to monetary
ethics. She has begun a Web site, IslamiQ, for Muslim investors, explaining
what is ethically deemed right and wrong when it comes to money matters.
And she manages investment funds based on her religious beliefs.
That fact that Dr. Hasnita is a woman conferring with leaders in the
traditionally male-dominated Muslim religion is a sign of the changing times
in the world of Islam.
It’s so alien to us Westerners.
Take Riyadh. Men dress in thawbs, a full-length shirt, and affix a ghutra, a
cord-coiled cotton headdress. Women must wear a black cloak and veil when
they leave their homes.There is no eating pork or drinking alcohol. Everything
revolves around religious dos and religious don’ts in Saudi Arabia, a country
that houses a desert the size of France, a country that houses Islam’s two holiest
cities, Mecca and Medina, a country that houses some of the richest people in
the world on account of its vast oil reserves.
Dr. Hasnita’s job is to try to make sense out of the religious laws and
customs for the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. After all, Muslims live in the
West (between 6 and 7 million in the United States alone), visit the West,
— +;o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
conduct commerce with the West. They need to integrate. They need to be
able to buy, sell, invest—trade, like every one else.
Islamic laws prohibit the taking of interest. That makes banking a prob-
lem. Islamic laws also prohibit trade merely for the sake of making money.
That rules out investing.
Dr. Hasnita has enlisted the help of religious scholars to help her interpret
Islamic laws in a way that leaves room for commercialism.
“In Islam, the use of money is different than in the traditional banking sys-
tem, where profit is encouraged and commercialism is encouraged,” says
Dr. Hasnita.
She has the voice of a medical doctor, although she has a Ph.D. It’s just one
of those voices that is firm, but caring. Unlike some people who speak with
a Semitic dialect, she avoids the lingering verbal question mark at the end of
sentence. She is exact in her choice of words. She seems, actually, always in a
bit of a rush.
“In Islam, you make money for the benefit of everyone, ” says Dr. Hasnita.
That isn’t capitalism. And it makes trade in today’s global village very
difficult.
But there are ways to live within the laws of Islam and still make money,
trade, and invest. Here’s how:“If you invest in a good company with an under-
lying asset, that can be okay,” Dr. Hasnita says. “The risks then are based on
the value of something—you both stand the chance of losing. We can’t allow
someone to make money and allow someone else to lose everything. That is
inequitable.”
Now, we’re getting somewhere. Dr. Hasnita emphasizes the “can be okay.”
It’s the qualifier, and where the laws of Islam get complex.
Murabahah refers to a particular kind of sale where a seller agrees with a
buyer to provide a certain amount of profit relative to an initial cost.
Everything is disclosed, including the original costs and the profit, which can
be a lump sum or a percentage. It’s okay to trade that way in the eyes of Islam.
Musharakah is an Arabic word meaning “to share.” It’s used in business and
trade, so that partners share the profit or loss of a venture. Because interest is
prohibited in Islamic law, if a debtor suffers a loss, the creditor can’t claim a
fixed rate of return or earn a high rate of profit. People have to profit or lose
money together in any trade or venture in the eyes of Islam.
Such laws make it cumbersome at best to operate in the capital markets
today. So, Shari’ah experts have come up with a “5 percent rule” that deems
it “tolerable” to deal with companies that have a maximum level of 5 percent
of non–Shari’ah compliant activities or “tainted income sources.”This makes
it okay to invest or engage in trade or commerce.
— +;+ —
Money i n t he Mus l i m Wor l d
Tainted income sources don’t just mean investments. They include bank-
ing—financial institutions make or pay interest—and companies that have any
association with pork products. So, don’t look for your friendly, next-door
Muslim to be working at your local bank or deli. Still, Dr. Hasnita sees a
change in the way Muslims are integrating with the West. Already, about $150
billion has moved into the Western capital markets from Muslim coffers. And
that amount is growing 20 to 30 percent per year.
Dr. Hasnita says, “We are looking to make a difference and change the
world.”
How? Through the ethical maneuvering of money via the capital markets,
according to the ways of Islam.
With a hold on one-quarter of the world’s population, Muslims exhibit a
huge potential audience for Western culture. The obstacles, of course, are
what’s allowed and how these material items will affect the Islamic culture in
the future.
Dr. Hasnita is a case in point. Being a woman sends a strong sign to the
West that traditional Western conceptions of Islam should be rethought.
“I am received well, even in traditional Islamic countries,” says Dr. Hasnita.
“Because I'm a woman, they are proud. It shows we are modern.”
My Imagination interrupts: “An image I can’t seem to shake loose is of a
man wearing a turban. This man is sitting. He has a black shawl wrapped over
his shoulders. A long beard points down in V-shape to his chest. While it’s just
an image, I can’t help but sense that he is religious.”
Religion. It’s evident in everything a Muslim does, from the way he or she
speaks, to the way he or she dresses, to the way he or she eats, even to the way
he or she spends money. Religion isn’t something that is reserved for one day
in the week. Prayer times are posted on IslamiQ’s Web site: early morning,
sunrise, noontime, late afternoon, just before sunset, and just after sunset—at
specific times, precise to the minute. Five times a day, every day.
In Egypt, during Ramadan, the Muslim high holiday, I observed liquor being
taken down from shelves, people scurrying home before sunset, the calls to
prayer that stopped traffic and had people on their knees before the Nile River.
It stops, this religion. It forbids, it bans, it seeks retribution. All this is in the
name of Allah, or God.
This is how it began: In the early years of the seventh century, an Arab
merchant from the city of Mecca named Muhammad ibn Abdallah took his
family on retreat to a nearby mountain. He was part of the Quraysh Bedouin
tribe, who had become quite wealthy as Mecca became the central trading
spot for Arabia.Tribal values had changed as capitalism thrived for the Quraysh,
and it was quickly making a new religion of money. According to Karen
— +;: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Armstrong in her book A History of God:
18
The 4000-year Quest of Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam the Quraysh felt money had “saved” it from the perils
of nomadic life, cushioning its members from malnutrition and tribal violence,
where they faced the possibility of extinction.
Muhammad believed the new religion was going to tear the tribe apart
morally and politically unless it could put another value at its center and over-
come all the greed and egotism that its new wealth had brought.This was prob-
ably on his mind, Armstrong posits, when he sat in prayer on the summit of
Mount Hira. He would have been praying, by the way, to al-Lah, “the God”—
the same God as the one worshipped at the time by Christians and Jews.
Suddenly, an angel appeared.
“Recite!” the angel commanded. (Iqra!). And the rest of the scripture is
called the qur’an—literally translated from the Arabic as “the Recitation”; it
took twenty-three years.
The Koran comprises the verses as told to Muhammad by the angel
Gabriel, who is also God’s communicator in the Bible.
Money, or the way you conduct yourself in business, isn’t as big a part of
the Koran as it is the Bible. Mostly, the Koran is a series of verses fashioned as
metaphors to exemplify the way to heaven. Money, in the eyes of Islam, can’t
get you there.
Money, says Dr. Hasnita “doesn’t belong to you, but it’s something that God
has given to you and your neighbors. Some people will have more money and
more wealth than others. We have designed a system to limit this and to limit
the greed in a person. Through hard work and productivity, there’s no reason
you can’t be wealthy. And that’s not just about the money.” She says in Islam
you must contribute back to society in order to enlighten others (a principle
known as zakah). It’s like a tax for the poor and the needy and the education
of others. “You need some form of currency to purchase goods and services.
But that’s not the point. We look at how you distribute your wealth.”
Sure, in strict religious countries there may not be the same type of value
put on money like there is here in the United States. Money is viewed more
as a responsibility in Islam. Every action is broken down like that; Allah gov-
erns. In the West, we really don’t view money as a responsibility. Dr. Hasnita’s
job is to bridge the two worlds.
She points out the rise in socially conscious and ethical investing. (One out
of every $8 invested in the United States goes into an investment with a social
or environmental concern. The total amount of assets under management in
this category come to more than $2 trillion, the Social Investment Forum
says.) She says there is a new consciousness awakening in the West, one more
akin to the ways Muslims conduct themselves—responsibly.
— +;¡ —
Money i n t he Mus l i m Wor l d
And there is something to be said about that. Having a good conscience
about every action you make imputes ethics into every decision, from the
smallest to the largest.There is a direct connection there, and it makes you feel,
of course, like you’re not alone. I can understand the comfort in that. But at
the same time, I can see the suffocation such strictness could bring.
Freedom, in every manner, is the hallmark of Western culture. In the
Islamic culture, you are only free when you are in heaven.
My Imagination is flashing an image of Atlas, chained to the planet. He is
bigger than the world, yet constrained by it. The universe, all black, is dotted
with tiny, bright stars. They are the eyes of heaven, my Imagination decides,
looking down with great pity upon Atlas.
Ego, power, and influence are human forces. No matter how much wealth,
power, or fame one acquires, they are inextricably tied to our humanity, our
“human-ness.”
Our actions, every action we take, is a reflection of God’s will, a Muslim
would say.When we exert wrong, we perpetuate wrong against all of mankind.
When we are immoral, we make all of mankind immoral.When we bring evil
into the world, we bring it into the world for everyone to bear.
“Whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and stops eating Riba
(usury) shall not be punished for the past; his case is for Allah (to judge); but
whoever returns [to Riba], such are the dwellers of the Fire—they will abide
therein,” says the Koran.
Money, in Islamic terms, is the trust of God. On U.S. bills, it’s written IN
GOD WE TRUST. Between the two meanings is a world of difference.
The Muslim religion was begun as a rebellion against capitalism—its val-
ues, its moral undoings. Today, in radical elements, it’s not much different. We
have seen the wrath of radical Muslim elements waging war against the United
States. We have seen, up close and personal, the destruction. How much more
emblematic can the attack on the World Trade Center be?
Make no mistake, it’s a war on money and its values and principles. Morality
and money are the two things Islam was built upon, respectively for and
against.
Of course, money itself isn’t the harbinger of immorality. Money, after all,
is a reflection of who we really are as people. And it’s a mecca for that.
— +;¡ —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“I never imagined that Islam was begun as a religion against money.”
“Looks that way.”
“So I imagine that’s why there is such an anti-Western movement among
them.”
“Not everyone, and we have to be careful here. The radical elements who
have struck out with violence and force against the ‘capitalist imperi-
alists’ are a very small minority of Muslims.”
“We seem so different. Our values, our dress, our manners . . . almost
everything.”
“Again, not as much as you’d imagine. Remember, the angel Gabriel who
spoke to Muhammad is the same angel who is the communicator in
the Bible. So, Christians and Jews share that same belief. It separates
later down the road, after Christ separated the Christians from the
Jews. In fact, Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet—just not the mes-
siah.”
“Yes, I can imagine how religions share commonality. Their interpretations
of morals, from whichever oracle, must be similar. There is only one
right and one wrong.”
“One right? One wrong? Moral absolutes? I’m not so sure about that.
What is sure is the place of money in society—it is something to do
good with. From a religious point of view, anyway. From that per-
spective, money, like all things, is possessed by God.”
“One God.”
“Yes.”
“When I imagine God, I imagine some bearded man sitting on a throne
looking down upon the earth.”
“There’s no sense trying to imagine what I can’t experience. It doesn’t
work, has a false ring to it. Muslims, actually, say they can’t describe
what God is, so they set about describing what God isn’t.”
“That sparks negativity in me.”
“It shouldn’t. When you imagine God, there is some judgment usually
associated with the image.”
“That’s you, something you picked up somewhere. I’ll admit, some of my
imaginations do give you some pause. Although, there are many more
times when what I imagine in that vein gives you some comfort.”
“I know, and intellectually I know that there should be no reason for either
of those things. However, it’s inexplicable.”
— +;¡ —
Money i n t he Mus l i m Wor l d
“Meantime, I’m left wondering about all the things we take for granted.
If we were Muslim, we couldn’t do a lot of the things we do.”
“If we were really a practicing Muslim, that’s true. I’d have a whole dif-
ferent value system from which I’d have raised you, for instance.”
“So, our dreams would be different?”
“Of course. Materially speaking, that is. Money isn’t something to com-
pete for—it’s the underlying principles that are of value. If you gain
money from, say interest, you’d be required to give it away.”
“I can’t imagine doing that. But then again I can’t imagine wearing a
nightshirt walking around during the day either.”
“Joking aside, you’re imagining what we see as the image of the Islamic
community. Granted, some of that is true, but it’s changing. People
are becoming more ‘modern.’ They are embracing more and more of
the freer values of the West.”
“Isn’t that what this violence is all about? I imagine the radicals could see
the United States as the new Mecca.”
“Indeed.”
“And what about money?”
“What about it?”
“As a value. Is it used the same way as we use it here? I mean, you have
to work, right? You have to buy things, clothe yourself, all that. Then
what?”
“From the perspective of abundance, you have to give it back. Don’t get
me wrong, you could live a nice comfortable life, have nice things,
but you’d be expected to also support your local neighborhood or
society. You’d be expected to do business with local, Muslim busi-
nesses. Then, there’s charity. A Muslim should practice zakah.”
“Gesundheit. So, tell me, what is this charity thing you’re speaking of?”
“All righty, then. Here we go again: Zakah refers to the purification of a
Muslim’s wealth and soul. Wealth purification is using money for jus-
tified distribution. Purification of the soul means freedom from hatred,
jealousy, selfishness, greed . . . ”
“Sounds serious.”
“It is. Zakah is one the five pillars of Islam. The other pillars are the pro-
fession of faith, daily prayers, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. So,
zakah is considered an important economic tool in an Islamic state or
society. Every Muslim at the end of the year who is ‘in possession of
the equivalent of eight-five grams of gold or more in cash or articles
of trade,’ must pay his or her zakah at least 2.5 percent of that
— +;o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
amount. This is supposed to prevent hoarding wealth and advocates
solidarity among Muslims; excess wealth is distributed to the poor.”
“Okay, enough, you win.”
“Thank you.”
“Well, I, for one, am beginning to imagine the Islamic world as one big
family. And they choose to keep everything in it.”
“That’s about right. There is a system they use called hawala—a Hindi
term, actually, but it’s used by a great deal of Muslims.”
“Hiawatha, what? Now I’m picturing an American Indian girl.”
“Hawala is your word.”
“Keep it coming, Webster.”
“Literally translated, that’s what hawala means: ‘your word.’”
“Oh, why didn’t you just say so?”
“Sometimes it takes turns at the plate to knock one through to you.”
“B . . . a . . . s . . . e . . . b . . . a . . . l . . . l . . . ”
“Back to money.”
“Right, and hawala. We don’t have such a thing in the West.”
“Not yet. And we’ll get to that bit later. We used to trade on our word,
but not now. We operate on a different system, more influenced by
Christian and Judaic values.”
“Show me the money!”
“Stop.”
“Okay, I’m subjective. But I have been trained to imagine that Jews and
Christians even treat money differently.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. I can imagine more about Jews and money than Christians and
money. You’ve been exposed to a lot more influences on that sub-
ject.”
“I know. Most of it is ignorant comment.”
“Care to clean up your imagination?”
“Why don’t I leave that job for a rabbi?”
—  —
C H A P T E R 2 4
Money in the Jewish World
R
abbi Burt Visotszky and I meet
in front of the Jewish Theo-
logical Seminary on the Upper
West Side of Manhattan. The building is essentially on the grounds of
Columbia University. It’s way up there, as New Yorkers say, on 122nd Street
and Broadway.
The front of the JTS is under construction. It had been in disrepair since
the 1970s, Rabbi Visotszky tells me. Rabbi Visotszky goes by Burt. He doesn’t
wear his religious nature on his sleeve. He is dressed in an open-collared shirt
and slacks. No yarmulke.
Rabbi Burt explains that a fire had destroyed much of the front hall, but
fire codes and most of all a lack of money had kept the seminary from rebuild-
ing or repairing it.
“It was of no other use, so we used it as a lobby.Then we decided recently
that something had to be done,” Rabbi Burt says.
The JTS embarked on a plan to fix the front entrance and model a lobby.
What it needed, of course, was the funding to do it.
“A development person got a call from an old rabbi in Nebraska. He wanted
to donate part of his estate after he died to the seminary,” says Rabbi Burt, recit-
ing the story as we wind around a maze of construction and take a small ele-
vator to his small office. I figure he is recounting the tale just to buy time until
we could sit down more formally. But the story about the front entrance is
more than that, it’s the theme that Rabbi Burt uses in his later discussion with
me. Amid rows of books on the Talmud and the Torah, he continues.
“The rabbi and his wife flew in to New York. They came here. They sat
down with the development person. And, to give her credit, she said, ‘Rabbi,
why don’t you do something good with your money right now, something
you can see?’ Now, this was a rabbi from Nebraska who had spent his whole
life in the rabbinical order. How much money could he have? Anyway, he says,
‘What do you have in mind?’ And the development person says, ‘Why don’t
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
you donate your money to help us fix the front entrance?’ And the rabbi asks,
‘How much will that cost?’ And the development person says,“$7 million.’The
rabbi looked at his wife. She nodded. And the rabbi said, ‘Done.’”
This rabbi, as it happens, had moved to Omaha in the late 1960s. His wife
had written a children’s book. The financier Warren Buffett and his wife had
read the book. They liked it, and soon the wives became fast friends. Warren
Buffett took all the rabbi’s money at that time, some $60,000, and invested it.
Warren Buffett is one of the world’s most successful investors. Ten thou-
sand dollars invested with him in 1965 would equal about $50 million today.
Needless to say, the rabbi from Omaha could well afford to fix the front
entrance to the JTS.
The story about the front entrance gives Rabbi Burt and me a jumping-off
point to begin our discussion about what money really means in the context of
Judaism. Rabbi Burt often speaks for the rabbinical order, rendering ethical and
moral opinions on everything from public policy to politics. He has spoken at
the request of former President Bill Clinton and on many international panels
to provide the “Jewish view.”With the backdrop of a story on what money can
do, Rabbi Burt talks to me about what money is and what money should be.
He says, “Speaking as a rabbi and from the Jewish tradition, money is
another means by which you have the opportunity to make choices about the
type of human being you’re going to be. Which is to say, what money you
have and how you use it is a way in determining who you are.
“In the rabbinical system, you can use it to do God’s Commandments, or
you can use it for less noble purposes. In rabbinical law, in Torah law, all cap-
ital belongs to God.”
Those words echo: All capital belongs to God. I use the big “G” here in
deference to whom I’m interviewing.
I, I should now note, was raised Catholic, traveled the paths of Buddhism,
Hinduism, and even converted to Judaism, but rest between agnosticism and
atheism, depending on the day. On some days I’d like to thank god. On other
days I’d like to curse him or her or them—whatever.Trouble is, you can never
find a god when you need one.
As even the Bible says, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye
upon Him while He is near. But He is far away.”
And it’s the Bible where the answers to what money means can be found.
So says Rabbi Burt.
“There’s a verse of scripture that says Li Ha Kesef A Li A Zahev. ‘Mine is
the silver and Mine is the gold. This is the word of God.’
“What that means is that we recognize that all wealth is the gift of God. It’s
not really ours. It’s ours only for a short while, and we have obligations.
—  —
Money i n t he J ewi s h Wor l d
“Charity is not something you do out of the goodness of your heart.
Charity is a commandment.You must help your fellow man.You must donate
a portion of your income.
“Since the ancient world was an agrarian society, they thought in terms
of real estate and crop.You had to leave a portion of your crop for the poor.
You could not harvest every corner of your field, you always left a corner for
the poor. And it’s not like you were leaving it for the poor. It belonged to the
poor.
“They have their share of your land because it’s God’s land, in the end. In
terms of the actual cash you have, that, too, you’re obligated to support cer-
tain institutions, whether it’s supporting the poor, feeding the hungry, cloth-
ing the naked. Those are all biblical commands.”
I don’t need to prod Rabbi Burt with many questions. In fact, I have just
asked him the one. He waxes on cogently. Compelling him is probably more
time than it is my subject matter. He only has about an hour for me; he and
his wife are driving to upstate New York to participate in a cancer walk.
Before I can even ask him to exemplify, he tells me yet another story.
“There’s a very famous story of two rabbis going on their way to the bath
houses in the afternoon. Living as they did in the Roman world, they did as
the Romans did and they went to the bath houses. And on the way in, as it
was not uncommon, there was a beggar outside. And they said, ‘We’ll take care
of you on the way out.’ And when they came out, they found him dead. And
they were mortified that by perhaps not giving him money for food, they had
cost him his life. So they said, ‘Look, while we didn’t care for him while he
was alive, let us at least make sure that he gets a proper burial.’ And when they
went to take care of the body, they found around his neck a bag of gold coins.
And they realized that they weren’t responsible for his death at all, that he was
quite comfortably off.Which caused one of the rabbis to say, ‘Thank God that
there are amongst us those who seek charity, deceivers.’ Which is a very odd
statement . . . ”
Uh, yeah—I’m starting to have to edit Rabbi Burt. And he was doing so
well on his own. My Imagination, of course, is off somewhere in the old
Roman bath houses, flouncing around an indoor pool, ogling women in togas
serving grapes. Meanwhile, I’m here editing text, trying to paraphrase Rabbi
Burt, who, I think, means to say that because we occasionally turn beggars
away, it’s a good thing a few of them don’t really need our charity.
My Imagination is calling me to write more about the Roman baths, but
I am dissuading him. This deceiver section—“No, go away! Yes, I see her!”—
is difficult. Does this mean that God plays tricks on us to test our compassion?
Does this mean that the rich should give away their wealth? If we all gave to
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
every beggar, would we ourselves go broke? How much is enough? Bottom
line, “The rule is you help the needy.” But, and I’ll turn back to Rabbi Burt
for this, “The rabbis have no problem in being comfortable for yourself.”
That’s just great. What if I like a lot of comfort and have no room for
charity? Well, that’s no good either.
Get out of the pool, please.Towel off.We’re getting to some good stuff and
I need all of my concentration.
“The Torah itself talks about tithing. Tithing means one-tenth. But if you
actually go back and add up all the different tithes, it comes out to as much
as 12 to 15 percent of your income going to biblical causes, whether it’s sup-
porting the poor or supporting institutional religion,” Rabbi Burt says.
This seems like a lot of money to me. Taxing someone’s income and tying
it to a commandment has an implied “or else.” And I say this to Rabbi Burt.
He agrees.“There is an ‘or else,’” he admits.“But it’s part of the religion. Look,
to me it’s part of a piece of ethics that is redolent of a modern philosopher
named John Rawls, who’s up at Harvard. And Rawls came up with a theory
of justice. And Rawls’s theory is that you have to create a system of justice
where people are in agreement with the following proviso: You could wake
up on any given morning in that society and be any other member of that
society. So because of that proviso, you always want to take sure that there’s
the maximum amount of fairness distributed. In a way, that’s what the rabbis
are saying.”
Rabbi Burt tells me that the rabbis didn’t flagrantly make this stuff up. In
the Talmud, he notes, an entire chapter is devoted to commodities trading.
Another chapter is about interest.“The Torah prohibits Jews from taking inter-
est from one another,” he says. Loans, therefore, had to be equated to value.
Value is, of course, what money represents.
“They have a very complex trading system. They lived in the Roman
World. And because of their market consciousness, I think that they really
understand money as another commodity. Food is a commodity. And each of
those commodities can be used for good or for ill.
“For the rabbis, how you use those commodities was a measure of who
you were and how you, and in the rabbinical ideal, how you would be judged
by God.”
And, that’s how he ends it, Rabbi Burt’s and my discussion of money.
My Imagination has covered up at the word “judged” and the word “God.”
He is creeping out of the bath house now, out into the ancient world. As
He carefully shuts the stone door, the last sounds of laughter echo. The last
splashes from the pool are muffled. I, according to Him, am there now, carrying
my sandals. My toga isn’t quite wrapped properly. My hair is wet and tousled.
—  —
Money i n t he J ewi s h Wor l d
I turn from the door. A beggar is standing to the side, his hand out in front of
me. My Imagination has decided that I don’t have a coin or anything of value
on me. I take the beggar’s hand in mine. He clasps it tight. I hand him my
shoes and walk off down a dusty road, barefoot. I am soiled as the wind blows
and lifts the dirt from the road into the air. It swirls and rings and sticks to the
wet spots on my skin. I don’t mind.You see, I can wash again.
What snaps me back to reality is the lesson of washing again. It occurs to
me that just as the Muslims disallow the taking of interest as usury, the Jews
did too. But instead of devising a system of “acceptable” places to put your
money, as the Muslims do, the Jews made money itself the commodity.
Therefore, with money as a value, an agreeable term could be set out on which
to receive payment for that value. Banking, of course, derived from this; dia-
mond dealing, of course, derived from this. All because the Jews weren’t
allowed to own property in many countries in certain periods of time in his-
tory. Also, they were a migratory group of people who didn’t have a home-
land to settle in until fifty years ago. This made portable wealth and trading,
like diamond dealing, a lasting trade.
The idea of value within the Jewish religion is of utmost importance.Why?
Because it is a symbol of worth. When, as Edouard Valdman writes in his fine
book Jews and Money: Toward a Metaphyics of Money,
19
“Gaining money from
money was the height of abomination, and only abominable people could
engage in such activity,” he is saying that respectability was gained, power was
gained, through the force that money brought with it. A truth was there. A
truth, that despite what the West said, money was worthy, that Jews themselves
were worthy.
After centuries of being castigated and discriminated against, value and self-
worth became entwined with the physical manifestation of those measures—
money.
To be sure, money is important to all of us. But it’s most important because
it can buy a sense of belonging, a sense of security. I could see how one would
want to relish that value.
I am beginning to see now how money truly is a reflection of self-worth.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“You’re a racist.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Anti-Semitic, swastika-wearing, skinhead-lovin’, Jew-hatin’ racist.”
“Excuse me?”
“I can imagine how you calling Jews the same things as money would set
off firerockets in that community.”
“Please, I said we are the same, we all are the same.”
“Oh, then just get me straight here. Jews, in your extremely prejudiced
point of view, have reason to place a higher value on money because
they were discriminated against?”
“Are discriminated against. My point was, first, that Jews see money from
a religious perspective as something to give away to the community
to help others. Everyone’s dough. Then, my point was to show how
much value they placed on money for the purposes of security,
comfort, community binds, and so on.”
“Binds? I’m picturing leather straps.”
“Anyway, all I was about to say was that hoarding is sinful in the Jewish
faith. Determining value, on the other hand, is very much respected.”
“And?”
“Here’s the thing. Jesus was a Jew, right?”
“I never imagined that he was.”
“Well, he was. Wasn’t much choice back then. And what was it all about?
What was the purpose of his arrival, the significance?”
“History wasn’t my bag . . . ”
“To save mankind.”
“From whom?”
“From ourselves.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“We had placed such little value on our lives that we were corrupt, sloths,
mongers.”
“So, now I imagine you’re saying that Jesus saved us. In fact, I’m pictur-
ing a cute, little bumper sticker like that now: JESUS SAVES.”
“I know how it sounds. So, cut it out. Look, I’m not saying that Jesus was
the Messiah. I’m also not saying he wasn’t. I’m merely saying that
theoretically his raison d’etre—”
“Back to French again, which leaves me blank—”
“—his raison d’etre—and, again, theoretically—was to symbolize that
man had the potential to be good. That we, as humans, were of
—  —
Money i n t he J ewi s h Wor l d
value, but that we had to begin to respect ourselves, start to take
responsibility for ourselves.”
“Can I imagine an ‘Or what?’ I mean, if we are in control of our own des-
tiny, then who cares if we became irresponsible?”
“Ah, you beautiful, impressionable little baby boy. That is the point. Jesus
was around—again supposedly—to show that someone does care,
that we aren’t in control of our destiny.”
“And the ‘Or what?’”
“That we are worthy, worthy of the Creator.”
“Again—and listen, now: Or what?”
“Okay, I get you. Well, remember that book I read and which sparked all
sorts of images for you to run with—The Inferno? That’s the ‘Or what.’”
“Yikes . . . We’re back to that moral stuff again aren’t we?”
“More. We’re talking about our value, our own sense of money—how we
make the world grow into a better place—by exerting our will.”
“A will to me is a piece of parchment scrolled into cone that is suddenly
unfolded and read aloud by an attorney in a frock coat.”
“You, my friend, are an example of our will. You are an example of our
morality, our base assumptions about how we should conduct our lives.”
“And spend our money?”
“That conclusion is fast approaching. You indeed may play the most sig-
nificant part or the least—depending upon how the world turns out.”
“Back to that Jesus thing again? Or are we now talking flames, fire, and
brimstone, again?
“The cold, hard question of reason is, Is the world a better place?”
“Than?”
“No ‘than.’ Just now. By using our moral, intellectual and physical capital
goods, have we made the world the best place it can be?”
“I’d have to imagine not, given all the things I can imagine.”
“When more than a billion people live on less than $1 per day? When
more than 10 million children die of preventable diseases each year?
When more than 100 million children do not attend school? Or when
more than half a million women die unnecessarily each year during
pregnancy or childbirth? I’d say not, too.”
“I can only imagine religion is there to serve the pain in your world and
help you deal with reality.”
“Exactly. So, it’s time to look at the largest of all faiths, where most people
in the world look for hope.”
This Page Intentionally Left Blank
— +:¡ —
C H A P T E R 2 5
Money in the Christian World
It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a
rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.
—Matthew 19:24
T
hat’s a bold proposition, consid-
ering that there are more than a
billion Catholics in the world
who would believe such a thing. More than 300 million Christians besides
them, represented by eighty-five different sects, would also have to believe that
scripture from the New Testament.What with our global society turning more
and more toward a system of riches for everyone, dire consequences seem to be
forthcoming.
Yet, there is a balance, even if Matthew also says, “You cannot serve both
God and money.”
The most frequently discussed topic, or the topic the apostles and gospel-
writers wished to address most in the New Testament, is money. It is refer-
enced more than any other item, according to Biblical scholars. Why?
Commercialism and trade had proliferated in the ancient world.
The values brought by commerce: Greed, sloth, gluttony, and so on, were
to be rejected. Hence, the coming of the savior Jesus Christ.
Today, there is still greed, there is still sloth, there is still gluttony. The work-
ings of capitalism breed such destructive forces.The Christian way to work within
the context of this framework isn’t to reject money and capitalism, it’s to “do unto
others as they would do unto you.” Of course when competition is involved, that
maxim gets complex. It calls into question modern ethics. To get some real
answers to ethical questions about money in the context of Christianity, I turn
to one of the men the world’s largest religion turns to: Father Benedict Groeschel.
— +:o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
A bit on Father Benedict: Director of the Office for Spiritual Development
of the Archdiocese of New York, he is considered a “spiritual guide.” Father
Benedict founded the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the South Bronx
and is a professor at St. Joseph’s seminary in Yonkers.The author of some four-
teen books on the spirit, he specializes and lectures widely on Christian ethics.
There you go. Now, let’s put on the unofficial stuff: He was Mother
Theresa’s confessor. He is sought after by church leaders for advice on every-
thing from psychology to prayers. He travels the globe. He is smart, affable, an
eloquent orator. He is like a Christian goodwill ambassador at large.
I begin my inquisition with the simple question of what money means.
“Money is a means to an end, it’s never an end to itself. Money is the
opportunity to have goods, or abilities, or even powers to help other people
fulfill their responsibility before God, and to have a decent life, and to fulfill
one’s own responsibilities before God,” Father Benedict tells me.
He has a white beard, wears a gray wool sack of a robe tied by a rope. He
could exist in any century. Well, okay, he was wearing sneakers.
We’re at the Trinity House, a retreat center in New York. It’s a beautiful
place. It’s by the bay. It rests among mansions in one of the wealthiest com-
munities in the state: Larchmont. It’s peaceful. It coexists. I recognize the sym-
bolism of it all.
There are many questions to ask Father Benedict, so I decide to let the
New Testament itself lead the way.
If anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in
need and refuses to help, how can God’s love be in that person?
—1 John 3:17
“When possession of gold becomes a goal in itself, it is, as St. Paul said, ‘the
root of all evil.’ I realize that I’m saying this in a capitalist society. And I don’t
mean this to apply as a political or economic system. I think any system can
be corrupted by greed. In a kind of secular idealism, the very early Marxists
thought they were going to take the very motive of greed and possession and
power out of money. And they managed to create one of the greatest
catastrophes in human history.You know, what they attempted to do in their
classless society without wealth, what they managed to create, was an extremely
militaristic culture that destroyed people because they had no money to
protect themselves. Money is a protection of the poor. So, if you ask me, in
my honest opinion, a moderated capitalism, which keeps from becoming
complete piracy, is probably what works best. But it’s not some great ideal,”
says Father Benedict.
— +:; —
Money i n t he Chr i s t i an Wor l d
[Jesus] told him: Go and sell all you have and give the money to the
poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.
—Mark 10:21
In other words, give up all your possessions and you will be saved?
“I’m a disciple of Saint Augustine, and he never thought human history was
going to be more than a mixed bag . . . [So] I don’t look for the perfect system.
I think there should be a free but vibrant system of responsibility for the poor
who are cared for by the public system and, to some degree, by the private sec-
tor. But I must say that a society will always have the very poor, the humanly
indigent kind of people who can’t make it in the system, particularly if we have
a system based on volunteerism. In a system of serfdom, you can fit everybody
in, even if there is one guy whose job it is just to talk to the horses. In a free sys-
tem, people are going to fall to the bottom. I’d say this is between 3 and 4 per-
cent of any decent society. Next, you have the poor who can help themselves.
This is the group of people who have often done well in the American system.
People who get off the boat with little more than the shirt on their back. This
accounts for maybe 10 percent of the population. Now, it’s not the 4 percent but
it’s the 10 percent that need a little push . . . ” Father Benedict says.
It’s not giving it all up. It’s giving some to those who need it most.
Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and
their customers. He knocked over the tables of the money-changers and
the stalls of those selling doves. He said: the scriptures declare that my
Temple will be called a place of prayer, but you have turned it into a
den of thieves.
—Matthew 21:12-17
“The great problem in this country was The Great Society. Mr. [President]
Johnson made a very great mistake in confusing the poor with the very poor.
So, they began to treat the poor like the very poor, and so your number of
dependent people went from 4 percent to 14 percent—and you didn’t do that
10 percent any earthly good,” says Father Benedict.
Our culture supports those who don’t need it; that’s sinful.
Tell those who are rich in the world not to be proud and not to trust
their money, which will soon be gone . . . tell them to use their money
to do good.They should be rich in good works and give generously to
those in need, always being ready to share with others.
—1 Timothy 6:17-18
— +:: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“I’m a friar,” Father Benedict says. “I took a vow of poverty.”
My Imagination stops me from continuing further. He is at a loss to see
how anyone in a modern environment can live without some form of money.
Father Benedict explains that his annual budget is $8 million. That means
he has to raise $8 million to do good. Doing good, to him, is working with
the poor. That gives back. That takes the very poor and pushes them into the
class of the poor.That takes the poor and gives them hope of something more
in their life.What he takes for himself isn’t money for doing this.What he takes
is another step toward heaven.
. . . [P]eople who owned land and houses sold them and brought
money to the Apostles to give to others in need.
—Acts 4:34
I’ve begun to pry away the prongs of the Christian obsession over money.
It’s not about the people in need. It’s about giving to the people in need.
You can’t change the circumstances life has already brought to bear. You can
change the circumstances that life may bring. That’s why money is solicited
and money is distributed. A God connection from the rich to the poor is
established.
“You get to the upper class, and they have surpluses, and here’s where they
can be very greedy. And it’s the responsibility not only of religion but of other
philanthropic organizations to teach people they must use a portion of their
wealth to do good to others or they will be corrupted themselves,” says Father
Benedict.
The New Testament, too, addresses this:
Look here, you rich people . . . your wealth is rotting away and your
fine clothes are moth-eaten rags . . . the very wealth you were count-
ing on will eat away your flesh in hell. The treasure you have accumu-
lated will stand as evidence against you on the Day of Judgment. For
listen! Hear the cries of the field-workers who you have cheated of
their pay . . . the cries have reached the ears of the Lord almighty . . .
you have condemned good people who had no power to defend them-
selves against you.
—James 5:1-6
In his Encyclical Letter the Chief Duties of Christians as Citizens, Pope
Leo XIII adds,“[charity] binds intimately to God those whom it has embraced
and with loving tenderness, causes them to draw their life from God, to act
— +:, —
Money i n t he Chr i s t i an Wor l d
with God, to refer all the love of our neighbor, since men share in the infinite
goodness of God and bear in themselves the impress of his image and likeness.”
That was over a century ago. But the words hold even today. It is the image
Christians seek. It is in God’s image Christians hope to find happiness, says
Father Benedict.
Reality is the magnifier of ugliness.
The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good
News, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of
this world and the lure of wealth.
—Matthew 13:22
Money is something in the Christian faith that equates to stability, to bal-
ance. Right from wrong. Good from evil. The two forces must always be
balanced.
“Those who have done good, according to the power and opportunity
given to them, shall be received into everlasting joy by Christ the Lord,”
another passage in the New Testament says. But really, when it comes right
down to it, money means giving—not just currency, but of oneself.
Perhaps the best example of this is the story about the Good Samaritan:
As Jesus was talking to His disciples, a certain lawyer stood up and asked,
“Who is my neighbor?” And Jesus answered by telling them this story:
A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among
thieves, who robbed him, stripped him of his clothes, and, wounding him, left
him on the road half dead. By chance there came a priest that way, and, as a
teacher of religion to men, he should have stopped to help the poor man.
Instead of this, he pretended not to see, and passed by on the other side of the
road.Then there came by a Levite, who also, as an official of the church, should
have given help. But he merely came and looked on the injured man, and
passed on the other side as the priest had done.
Afterward there came by a Samaritan, and, when he caught sight of the
wounded Jew, he went over to him and was very sorry for him. Now the
Jews hated the Samaritans and were their enemies, so that it would not have
been surprising if he, also, had done as the priest and the Levite did. But, no!
Though it was his enemy, he could not pass him by and leave him on the
road, perhaps to die. He examined his wounds and bound them up; doing all
that he could to soothe them. Then he lifted him carefully on his own beast,
and brought him to the nearest inn, and took care of him through the night.
The next day, when the Samaritan departed, he paid the man who kept the
inn, and said to him, “Take care of this poor man until he is well, and
— +,o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
whatever it may cost for his lodging and food, that I will pay thee when I
come again.”
That is being a good Christian in the eyes of the church. It is the caring
for the moral commodity, placing value on that which Father Benedict says is
the final question of what money really means.
“All this is really dancing around that question. And it is how are we
exploited as people merely for the sake of money? And how is money
exploited merely for the sake of pleasure without concern of what’s good for
people?” Father Benedict asks.
It’s answered in scripture:
If you have money, share it generously.
—Romans 12:8
People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by
many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and
destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
—1 Timothy 6:9-10
[An elder] must be gentle, peace-loving and not one who loves money.
—1 Timothy 3:3
That gave me something to think about as I left the Trinity House.
Waiting for my taxi to arrive, I watched a father, son, and uncle fish on a
nearby bridge.The two brothers were showing the boy how to catch fish with
a mere hook and line—they had no poles. Finally, the boy caught something.
His line tugged, and he manually reeled in a small fish.There was a wide smile
on his face.
The Father and his brother patted the boy on the head. Then they took
the fish and threw it back into the stream that ran underneath the bridge on
which they stood.
They gave back what they had taken. And the little boy still felt good
about it.
It wasn’t the hoarding of fish that was the thrill, it was the action of giving
and receiving.
Money, I guess, should be something like that.
— +,+ —
Money i n t he Chr i s t i an Wor l d
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“I never imagined Christianity, Islam, and Judaism had so much in com-
mon.”
“Monotheism, one God?”
“Not just that, it’s the sense of responsibility.”
“Of money?”
“Of life.”
“In different ways I suppose that is true. But we are talking about money,
not life.”
“I know, I know, but money in a religious context is a reflection of life,
how one lives his or her life. That’s what I never imagined before—
the significance of it all, every single one of our purchases, our trades,
our exchanges.”
“Which seems to me to be a bit much, truth be said. How can we be that
conscious all the time?”
“I can imagine religious leaders wanting us to take responsibility for our
actions. Using money is certainly a way for us to take action, to do
good. Why shouldn’t they have something to say about that?”
“Well, if you think about it, and help me out here, everything they take
issue with was begun, according to them, by God.”
“If you take the reasoning back far enough, sure. From their perspective,
God empowered us with the ability to think. Ergo, whatever we think
is derived from the faculties He gave us. So, whatever we invent or
make is a product of the things He or She or It originally gave us.”
“Exactly, it can all be traced by to God. So, why take issue with how we
spend our money? That is, if we take actions—designed by God—to
purchase things—created by God—then why should there be an issue?”
“I imagine it’s because at some point religion relieves itself of responsibil-
ity.”
“Right. We take control of our exhibitions, while God controls our inhibi-
tions, or so one could say.”
“God is on the inside controlling our moral and ethical morass, and then
there we are on the outside actually taking actions—buying, selling,
interacting, whatever. I’m doing Oz and Dorothy now.”
“I can see. Please get me out of that dress . . . Thank you. Well, there is
evidently a disconnect.”
“Between me and you there is a disconnect, or else we wouldn’t be hav-
ing this discussion.”
— +,: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“And I suppose neither one of us will be able to describe that void.”
“Nope. What fills in the void, as you say, is sometimes the acquisition of
something. We bring things into our world. Money accomplishes a
great deal of that for us—or so I imagine it does.”
“You mean our recognition of images on the outside and being able to
acquire them?”
“Yes.”
“And from a religious perspective, having those things we imagine and
those things we acquire, as well as our actions, live up to some decree
of God?”
“I can only speak for myself here. But, something somewhere somehow
sometime had to implant what is deemed good—or attractive—in
your mind, directly, or indirectly, for you to be able to think in such a
way, for you to decide what is good and bad—what you want and
don’t want.”
“But there is a missing piece to that. If all that is good lies with someone
or something else—God—yet we establish value for ourselves, how
do we know if we are fulfilling our obligations to that entity?”
“Know what is true?”
“Yes, that is the ultimate question. We are constantly guessing, trying to
live up to something that we don’t even know exists.”
“And I imagine you believe this relates to money because—“
“—because money is a reflection of our value system—what we value.
Look around. We fill the world with everything we want, we desire.
Our clothes, our furniture, our cars, our homes, every material item
we have and the experiences to which we sojourn are motivated by
that unimaginable piece of the puzzle.”
“What makes us who we are, or the decisions we make?”
“Religion tries to provide an explanation for that. In religion, money is
used as the surrogate for God’s will. The problem is that we don’t
look at it that way. We aren’t conscious of that fact. We are blinded
by the mounds of materialism that are presented to us. We are
attracted to values set mostly by cultural phenomena, not by spiritual
phenomena. We get mixed up in that void. We go through life this
way once in a while realizing that, ‘hey, something more is going
on here.’”
“What are those moments called?”
“Enlightenment. It’s then that we can glimpse at self-realization and hap-
piness and can ignore the material world for a second.”
— +,¡ —
Money i n t he Chr i s t i an Wor l d
“I can’t ignore the material world because I’m made up of images. And
you, I dare say, couldn’t rise out of bed without some context—
image—of the life you are supposed to lead.”
“In the Phaedrus, Socrates, through Plato, says that everything is moti-
vated by love. Every image we have, every possible thing in our mind
is brought there because we love it. Even if it’s just for a second. Even
if it’s a monster. There’s an attraction. And in that pure second of
attraction we capture it—whatever it is—in our mind. It’s our box.”
“The one, I imagine, that was written about in that Greek myth.”
“The one where everything was locked up except hope.”
“And I imagine that money can buy everything except that concept.”
“We’ve been through this, but yes. Hope is idealism. The philosopher
Friedrich Hegel believed idealism ‘ruins’ consciousness and ‘ruins’ you,
imagination, by making it become everything.”
“Yes, the death of me. It’s always toward the death of me.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that. Hope is a rather evasive fellow. And you fol-
low hope around like a puppy dog. I don’t think we’ll catch him any-
time soon. Meantime, I’m stuck here using an ill-defined channel to
capture fragments of the world to remind us what is true.”
“That there is a God.”
“In a way. If God imputes the impetus for our systems of wants—values—
then we are mere carriers, vessels.”
“Vessels of God? That’s a little freaky. Are you turning Bible thumper on
me now?”
“Nope. I haven’t defined God. In fact, I can’t even begin to think of such
a thing—given the fact that we can only know what we are given.”
“Then how could we have imagined there was a God to begin with?
Something must have prompted me to imagine that.”
“Again, I’m at a loss, as a real person given mere physical things with
which to interact and contemplate.”
“Those physical things are just representations of thoughts, right?”
“Not just, but yes.”
“So, if that is the case, then which influences which?”
“You lost me”
“Well, I can imagine that the world could influence one’s thoughts—
spawn them. Or that a thought—me, your imagination—spawns
things in the world.”
“Materials. Manmade materials?”
“Yes.”
— +,¡ —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“I’m not sure, why?”
“Well, I imagine that if thoughts—or me—created the materials in the
world in which we live, then I also represent the means in which to
acquire those materials—or other people’s materials—all that com-
prises the world beyond nature.”
“And that’s where you imagine money’s place rests—the medium between
thought and materialism, like Kant said.”
“Quicker than that. It’s like you said. It’s that instant attraction that places
something in your mind. Then I interject and imagine it as part of the
world.”
“If it can’t fit logically, that is.”
“No, I would say that all the world is one big, made-up thing. And I did
the making up.”
“I’d have to argue with that.”
“Why?”
“Because you are a product of what I give you to work with. Unless you
coexist with thought.”
“Bingo.”
“Hmm. So, as soon as there was thought—”
“I’ll imagine light to make it easy.”
“—there was you.”
“You got it. Then I imagine there was motivation, desire—value.”
“Later then came the system of worths we put on things.”
“Life included.”
“Exactly.”
“And voilà, here we sit.”
“But how do you maneuver around in that endless materialism? How do
you cut out a piece of fabric that you’ll make our own?”
“I, for one, weave together the strings of the material world to reflect who
we are as an individual.”
“By?”
“Our actions, our use of things like money.”
“Which—full circle—is a definition of our character.”
“God’s character, to take it back a step.”
“God is the thought.”
“And the material is the thing.”
“And money is the medium.”
“But what if the material—which was devised by thought, after all—was
God’s thing, too?”
— +,¡ —
Money i n t he Chr i s t i an Wor l d
“Do you believe that?”
“It certainly makes sense.”
“But, then, everything would be created by God, or have God in it. And
that’s not what those religions we just examined said. They said there
is God on the inside and there is the world, materialism, on the out-
side. You and the actions we take are overseen by morality, or the
sense of God. But the materialism came across as static.”
“I always imagined one needed a soul in order to be influenced by God,
or the Creator. Material items have no soul.”
“Unless you believe that God is in everything.”
“I even have a tough time imagining that. Who would believe something
like that?”
“A pantheist, or more specifically a Buddhist.”
“Because?”
“Because they believe that most people are stuck behind that mound of
materialism we spoke about earlier; it’s there in the trenches where
they suffer.”
“To climb out?”
“To climb out there needs to be some form of enlightenment, some form
of consciousness.”
“Like the tragedies we looked at earlier, the highs and lows of people’s
lives?”
“Right, highs and lows. Buddhists just believe that we are already there,
at that stage. We don’t need to look high or low for God. He’s here,
right here, right now, with us. He’s in everything.”
“He is in everything I see, and I see everything in him.”
“What?”
“Just something I imagined. Thought sometimes helps me out.”
“Well, you’ll also have to imagine this: that if you coexist with thought,
and we can get to the point where there is no thought, you’ll disap-
pear.”
“How can we possibly get to the point where there is no thought? Now,
look what you’ve done—you’ve made thought cry. I never imagined
thoughts could cry.”
“It’s called bodhichita. It’s a Buddhist state of meditation that eliminates
all desires, thoughts, everything—the world. It’s a state of pure hap-
piness.”
“I thought money could buy happiness.”
— +,o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“That was our original inquisition. But I think it’s time to put an end to all
this—and ask the one person who probably knows. But in doing that,
he’ll also decide whether you live or die.”
“I imagined you’d say that. Kill the desire for the material world and kill
me, right?”
“I hope not, buddy. But we have to see whether you’ll be quashed. If that
happens, money won’t mean a pile of beans.”
“I’ll hold on to that image until we begin.”
—  —
C H A P T E R 2 6
Money in the Buddhist World
T
he sun is scorching down on Los
Angeles. It’s almost noon. I’m
waiting for a friend to pick me
up at my house. We’re driving together to meet the Dalai Lama, who is giv-
ing a lecture and workshop at the L.A. Sports Arena.
The Dalai Lama is the physical embodiment of the Buddha. As Buddhists
believe in multiple lives, one after the other after the other, until a state of per-
fection is achieved, the Dalai Lama is the closest achiever of a soul before it
blends with the universe in a state of nirvana. And the Buddha’s soul has been
embodied for some time, since 483 B.C., when the Indian philosopher
Siddhartha Gautama founded the faith.
I live near the beach. As I’m standing on the sidewalk in front of my house,
cyclists, walkers, joggers, and beachgoers are taking advantage of the day. I
stand and wonder why I am missing out on the beach, on the day. I’m choos-
ing to sit indoors, at an auditorium, for hours and listen to a lecture—ask a
question if I can. I want to find out what money means to the Dalai Lama.
The question, this inquisition of what money means, has taken over my life. I
look at everyone and ask myself what money might mean to them. My
Imagination is having a field day, as I am standing still on the sidewalk, wait-
ing, hot and bothered.
To a man on a bicycle, in bright cycling gear, to a woman in a bikini
rollerblading along the street, to a tourist couple in T-shirts, shorts, and base-
ball caps.What does money mean to them? It has little use for them here. Here
there is sand and ocean, a bright sky.There is nothing to buy here. Money may
be on people’s minds. It may be in their pockets or purses, but it will do little
but weigh on them here.
My friend arrives, and we drive downtown.
There is a line of people a quarter of a mile long outside the L.A. Sports
Arena. The arena is surrounded by tar, commercial buildings, and busy streets.
Air doesn’t seem to circulate much.
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
My friend and I stand in front of the ticket booth. There are $15 tickets,
$25 tickets, $50 tickets, $100 tickets. We opt for the most expensive, but we
still have to battle the heat like everybody else, stand in the long, long line.
There are maybe a thousand people in the auditorium.We are in the twen-
tieth row, directly in front of the stage setting where the Dalai Lama is to sit
on a large, ornately embroidered cloth throne. To the left of the throne are
about fifty monks garbed in their traditional red and orange robes, fastened
toga style over one shoulder. Some are bald. Some aren’t. Some are meditat-
ing, eyes closed. Some are chitchatting. To the right of the throne is another
group of about fifty monks. These monks are dressed in diverse attire, from a
simple yellow, crinkled robe to a fancy white robe. Above the throne hangs
the Tibetan flag along with other tapestry. A large oriental rug flows out from
the throne to the front of the stage. Urns, candles, flowers give the stage the
look of a television set, where actors will at any moment take their places.
The Dalai Lama is running late; he waits for most of the people who have
braved the heat and the long line to take their seats. I know he is about to
take the stage when the actor Richard Gere walks in from a side entrance. (He
sits a few rows to my right.)
When the Dalai Lama walks on stage from the black curtain lining the
back of the stage, people embark on the Buddhist bow, which entails several
prostrations. People stand and raise their hands, palms together, above their
heads. They move their hands to their foreheads, their throats, their hearts.
Then, they fall to their hands and knees, touching their foreheads to the floor.
They do this three times as a sign of devotion to their spiritual teacher, his
teachings, and the community around them.
The Dalai Lama looks about. He connects with the crowd, his surround-
ings. I wonder to myself if I’ll get the chance to ask him a question, my ques-
tion about what money means. I have read his text on the subject. He, the
Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the Lama of Compassion, has written extensively on
materialism, on economics, on money. In one text, Imagine All the People,
20
he says:
Money is good. It is important. Without money, daily survival—not to men-
tion further development—is impossible. So we are not even questioning its
importance. At the same time, it is wrong to consider money a god or a sub-
stance endowed with some power of its own. To think that money is every-
thing, and that just by having lots of it all our problems will be solved is a
serious mistake.
In the Buddhist approach, worldly happiness is based on what we call the
four excellences: the Dharma, wealth, nirvana, and satisfaction. Nirvana, or
—  —
Money i n t he Buddhi s t Wor l d
freedom from suffering, is the ultimate goal. The satisfaction achieved from a
successful temporal life is just a transient goal. The teachings are the means to
achieve ultimate inner freedom, whereas money and wealth facilitate worldly
happiness, temporary satisfaction. One strives to achieve that which is positive
for all beings.To do so, one must attend to both ultimate and temporary goals.
Well-being and money belong to the latter category. In fact, Buddhist texts
mention the fruition of eight qualities including wealth, health, and fame that
define a “fortunate” human existence.
To enjoy even temporary happiness, however, one must first have peace of
mind. Next comes health, then good companions, and then money, in that
order, though of course all four aspects are connected. For example, when we
had to escape from Tibet, our first priority was to save our lives. Being pen-
niless was secondary. If one is alive, it is always possible to make friends and
earn money. Peace of mind must come first. Peace of mind generally attracts
prosperity. Certainly someone who has a peaceful mind will use his or her
money judiciously.
The mind is key. If anything should be considered a god, so to speak, it is
the mind, not money. A healthy, positive mind is the utmost priority. But if we
were to reverse the order of these priorities, what would happen? I find it hard
to imagine how a person with great wealth, bad health, no friends, and no
peace of mind could even feel slightly happy.
I want a chance to simplify this. I want to ask the Dalai Lama what money
means in the context of its possibilities. What does it mean to him? What can
and should be done with it? And how, if we have it or don’t have it, can we
find peace, self-realization, fulfillment?
My Imagination sees me stand amongst the crowd. I stand and ask the
Dalai Lama, who is seated cross-legged on his enormous throne, which makes
him look smaller, even smaller than he is, “What is the meaning of money?”
My Imagination has the crowd hush. My voice would echo. The question
would be repeated through the microphone to all of the attendees, translated
via headsets into Japanese, Tibetan, Chinese. The Dalai Lama would close his
eyes—and then he would answer.
As I daydream of this moment, I catch myself looking up, way up into the
stands—the bleacher seats.There, under a large blue 3 painted on to the back wall
of the stadium, is a woman seated alone in the middle of her row.There isn’t any
one else in her section.There aren’t any other people that high up, that far back.
The Dalai Lama speaks, and the first words out of his mouth are those that
answer my question: “Let there be no involvement of money or other things.
Everything is right here.” (He points to his head.)
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
I look up at the woman under the 3. She is hearing the same words, pro-
cessing, connecting, filtering—just as I am. She, the $15-ticket buyer, is just as
close to spirituality, even though she is seated so far back, so high up. She hears
the Dalai Lama’s teachings on enlightenment. She hears the heart sutra chant
the Dalai Lama gives in Japanese, with its low, grumbling echoes. She sees his
hands in prayer as he rocks back and forth on his chair. She hears the melo-
dious Chinese chant, the air conditioning as the auditorium falls silent. She
hears the baby cry somewhere in the audience. She hears the Dalai Lama’s
words:“Suffering stems from our own misconceived perception of the world.”
I think about that. I think of what he said earlier about money—that it doesn’t
matter here, now.
We all hear the mantra recitation, the short prayers, the dedication prayers.
We can all recite from the text we are given, The Lamp for the Path to
Enlightenment.
20
It doesn’t matter where our seats are or how much we paid
to attend. Money, for the moment, in the moment, doesn’t matter to us as we
sit inside on a bright, sunny day in Los Angeles, just as it doesn’t matter to
those people outside, at the beach, enjoying the weather.
In the moment, it just simply doesn’t mean a thing.
Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“Are you alive?”
“Barely.”
“Tell me.”
“He’s right. It’s what I feared: Once you have what you desire, once you
get it, I’m no longer of use; the desire becomes a possession. Money,
too, is rendered useless. Our uses are exhausted.”
“Just in the one moment.”
“But it’s in that moment where we find peace and happiness.”
“Bliss.”
“The thing I can’t imagine.”
“Perhaps we should settle with happiness.”
“That would keep me alive; I can chase happiness forever.”
“Although it would mean settling on the fact that we’d never truly be ful-
filled.”
“I imagine that’s how most people go through life, and in some way
money just placates.”
“It’s sometimes an unconscious pathway of want that leads to hopes,
dreams, desires.”
—  —
Money i n t he Buddhi s t Wor l d
“Unconscious because it’s in our mind?”
“Unconscious because, even though those things may be in our minds,
sometimes they are aren’t fully realized.”
“But I imagine it’s consciousness—realization—where we’ll find peace and
happiness, a merging between you and me.”
“I agree, so that money is actually the physical manifestation of all those
hopes, wants, dreams, desires—after needs, of course.”
“However, money is a part of me too. It may be invisible here, but it’s still
here, that concept.”
“You said it, ‘a concept.’ You are predisposed to imagining things a cer-
tain way, even if I don’t necessarily act on those things. Sure, money
is a part of you, but it’s only a conceptual part of you.”
“Still, you even say that money is becoming more and more of a concept
than a physical thing. So, more and more I am able to exert my con-
trol over it. And more and more, the things that define me are extant
money.”
“I assume you are speaking of morality, ethics, societal virtues.”
“I imagine that’s what I meant. See, there’s a barrier I can’t seem to envis-
age when we move from my ideals to the actuality of things.”
“Images, actions, situations, and so on?”
“Yes.”
“Because you are limitless and the world is finite. We can’t squeeze every-
thing you imagine into this real world; hence, your existence. Because
money is finite, our purchasing power and actions are limited as well.
Money to a degree controls our freedom, remember.”
“Does that mean money impinges on our moral code?”
“Yes, I think we touched on that. Money allows our individuality, our
moral code, if you will, to become more apparent to the outside
world. We have more physical things, even if it’s just digits at the
bank, that reflect who we really are.”
“Then I imagine we are more easily judged.”
“Yes, that too. And until now, only a select few have been privy or subject
to that judgment, depending upon how you look at the situation.”
“I imagine that will change, so you must as well.”
“Yes, soon I believe we’ll just be trading with our morality. The transcen-
dental barrier between you and the physical world—the barrier which
money serves as well—is getting thinner and thinner as technology
presents us with the capability to acquire at will, or according to
willpower, less so inhibited by money.”
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
“How’s that?”
“Physical money, as we’ve seen, is dwindling. Our data, our moral codes,
equate to creditworthiness. Ergo, our ability to exert our will without
constraint—our bodyforth—is enabled by technology.”
“You’ll have to explain that again.”
“I plan to.”
“When?”
“In the next section. There, we leave God and the physical world behind.
There, we’ll explore the future of money and how our will and our
code of ethics are all we’ll need to conduct trade or commerce in the
future.”
“And me?”
“You’ll be everything you can imagine—or nothing at all.”
— :o¡ —
Conclusion
B
iometrics.The merging of humans
with computer-encoded data.That
is the future of money.
My Imagination sees a cyborg, a human in whose body computer chips
have been embedded. These chips communicate with our mind and with
computers outside the body. A chip perhaps kept in some lockbox in the skull.
A semiconductor surgically placed under the skin in the forearm.
But this isn’t science fiction fantasy. This isn’t something I have to try too
hard to imagine. It’s happening today. In England, for example, a professor at
the University of Reading has implanted microchips in his body. He can open
doors without physical contact and soon hopes to have his nervous system
communicate directly with his computer.
Still, that isn’t the future. Cyborgs are about as advanced as an external
computer modem.
Instead, picture this:That same professor walks into his office and the doors
open when he says, “open.” His computer turns on at the sound of his voice,
his fingerprint on the keyboard serves as his password to open secure files. He
even pays for deliveries just by a simple confirmation of “yes” when the deliv-
ery person drops off his food.That “yes” is circuited through a wireless Internet
environment and routed to his bank account. A debit is confirmed right then
and there.
That’s biometrics. We don’t need artificial devices planted on us to access
computer-encoded data and vice versa; those capabilities exist with biometrics.
Biometrics are computerized methods of recognizing people based
on physical or behavioral characteristics. The main biometric technologies
include face, fingerprint, hand geometry, iris, palm prints, signature, and voice
recognition.
Those biometric methods are currently being used mostly for security pur-
poses to identify criminals and terrorists at airports, passport control areas, and
security checkpoints around the world. But think about biometrics in the
— :o¡ —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
context of money. Money is, as we have found, a medium of exchange for the
purposes of conveying trust and information. So, let’s break that down.
Trust.This is a component of character, which determines whether people
can have faith in us. In what subtle ways do we act upon our moral base of
determinants that define right and wrong? Can we be trusted to pay on time?
Can we be trusted to create value, and by how much? Can we be trusted to
increase value or the worth of something? Can we be trusted to convey
another person’s or thing’s trust? It’s this last determinant that is most impor-
tant. If we say money is boundless (it needs some system of storage—an
exchange, accounting, or finite commodity—to make it valuable), then in an
open architectural environment of trade, the conveyors themselves would need
to be trusted in order to keep value measurable. Otherwise, like inflation,
money depreciates in exchangeable worth.
So, let’s say that money is your word. And let’s say that you parcel out what
you know is your value—increasing or decreasing that value as your exchanges
multiply—then you, the facilitator, must have a certain degree of trust to retain
value and pass that value along.Your moral code, or ethics, would have to be
judged, rated even. Let’s say that rating is how credible you are as a conveyor.
So, let’s make it easy and call that rating a credit rating. Sound familiar? It
should, it’s how we judge a person’s purchasing power most of the time.
Next is information. More original information will be created over the
next two years than over the course of human existence, or so says a University
of California Berkeley study. Moreover, 93 percent of this information will be
digital. It’s created by handheld organizers, PC devices, mobile telephones, and
other technologies. In other words, this information, which includes our per-
sonal information—things like how often we speak to whom, what we say,
how we spend, and what we spend on—is stored as data. In fact, piled high
on floppy disks, this information would reach 24 million miles into space, but
we can’t even see it.
Then, there are companies, called asset aggregators, which combine and
house our personal data, digitize it all, and store this information on the Web.
Telephone, utility, credit card, investment, saving, biographical, and even wage
information is electronically disseminated and captured online. Our purchases,
too, are more and more electronic, tracked and stored in product or service
vendor databases. More than half of all U.S. households last year purchased a
good or service online. Most American households own a computer. The
number of online purchases is estimated to saturate the number of computer
owners so that every one who owns a PC will eventually make purchases
online. This all means that most everything we say, act, or trade upon is digi-
tally recorded somewhere, somehow—and stored.
— :o¡ —
Conc l us i on
Access. The Internet and World Wide Web are the ways in which to reach
the vast pockets of information stored as data today. These “pathways,” already
five hundred times the size of any mere search engine like Yahoo, are deeper
and amass more routes than we knew existed in telephony. Some 12 exabytes
(one trillion, trillion bytes, or fifty thousand times all the information in the
Library of Congress) of who-knows-what is out there sitting on the Web and
the Internet. And even these routes themselves are multiplying. Electric cur-
rent (through a traditional AC/DC outlet) is being tested in Spain and is
replacing telephone lines. And then there is the wireless Ethernet. This is a
high-speed wireless network that can tap into the Internet,Web, and local area
networks at extremely high speeds and allows for simultaneous send and
receive signals.
So, wireless access to the plethora of information we generate is here. By
utilizing “smartchips,” or semiconductors that transmit wireless data, digital
“signals” can capture information and put it in front of our eyes. Soon, this
will happen in real time. XML, the new programming language, will lead the
way to open the architecture of software programs so any online device can
transmit “or speak” with any other online—or offline—device.
This wireless environment is upon us, and here’s how it looks:You’ll walk
into a supermarket and take a carton of milk from the rack. A small screen will
ask for purchase confirmation. The price and purchase amount will be relayed
via voice or visual display signal, at which point a personal characteristic con-
firmation “signal” will be necessitated to complete the purchase.You will say, “I
agree with the price,” or a fingerprint pattern will be taken to indicate “yes.”
At the same time, a digital video recording will capture the transaction. The
transaction will be posted to your personal account.The agreed-upon value will
be deducted from that account, and you’ll go on your merry way.
Won’t money—bills, coins—seem silly?
The premise behind a dollar or lira or yen is that we recognize value based
on the faith that a government will back its currency’s worth. This widely
accepted belief is based not only on the recognition of the government, but
also on the information and analysis of its backing.
We can easily find out enough information about Japan, for example—
touch the ground, investigate its commerce, analyze its financial condition, and
decide on a relative worth of its yen. But we can’t as easily do so for every
person in Japan. Well, we haven’t been able to. Technology is changing that.
The individual and the corporations and institutions with which a person
transacts have been empowered by the Information Revolution.
Just look at the lending rate in the United States, or the cost at
which banks—private corporations, institutions—borrow money from the
— :oo —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
government. This is the cost of money. It’s at its lowest point in forty years:
2.5 percent. That means that there is essentially a 2.5 percent difference
between what the government would charge me as an individual to have con-
veyed its trust and information as there is for a private institution to convey
that faith. Why? Theoretically, institutions are empowered by the government
to grow. But practically speaking, institutions, or corporations, don’t need the
government’s backing anymore. They can release their own currencies, and
trade directly with the consumer. Award points, frequent flier miles, coupons,
and “loyalty credit” programs are all examples of corporations trading directly
with the consumer without the need for a government wedge of interference
in the form of trust.
There is almost just as much trust and recognition worldwide of the brand
Microsoft or Citibank as the brand the United States. Hence, the connotation
of money has changed to infer a truer system of direct exchange. Money’s
propositional value, while more fragmented, is also becoming more defined.
(It’s impossible to guess what a person will want or need on a certain day. His
or her imagination of the propositional value of money is only realized at the
point of sale. Physical currency is generically applicable to any of the imag-
ined propositions.Yet “corporate currency” is specific to the individual and the
corporation or institution involved in the direct exchange.)
As corporations gain in their exchange value strength with people, people,
too, are empowered. Their decisions about at which places to trade are increas-
ingly important. Hence, their value increases to the corporation.While loyalty is
rewarded in the form of “credit,” the individual still needs to be able to be backed
by “something” on his or her side of an exchange. If a corporation provides a
good or service and credits back the consumer for loyalty, that is only a piece of
a value that can be tapped in the future. Besides, that loyalty credit is specific to
that one corporation or institution and doesn’t transduce multiple vendors.
Other forms of credit do, however. A credit account, for example, basically
allows you to spend a certain amount on goods and services on your reliabil-
ity to repay—your word only. The idea is that you will take that credit and
utilize its value with multiple vendors. The more trustworthy you are at deb-
iting back that credit account, the more your “value” increases, and the more
you are allowed to spend on the trust of your word.
This greatly empowers the individual in society because it wipes away the
necessity for a government-backed system of credit, like the currency system
we have in place. Again, the numbers of government-backed notes and bills,
or money supply, is dwindling. Less people use cash, more people use credit.
On average, mortgage debt payments, or the amount we owe on our
homes, represent 60 percent of our earned income. Add to that credit card
— :o; —
Conc l us i on
debt payments, which average 20 percent of annual income, and factor in a
depletion in savings kept in cash, from a high of 70 percent twelve years ago
to just over 50 percent today. Moreover, there is almost a zero percent savings
rate in the United States, so any cash that is kept on hand is offset by a liabil-
ity to an institution—whether it may be a financial institution, a corporation,
or a utility. Combine all this with the corporate credit programs in existence—
which account for the majority of personal liabilities, not government taxes—
and you have a recipe for corporate loyalty, not government loyalty.
The biggest example of this is government debt itself. Government debt is
manifested as either bonds or currency.
Currency, as we have seen, is being used less and less as a form of com-
merce, with its almost entire use—98 percent—as a speculative trading and
investment product. Bonds are dwindling, with even the traditional benchmark
thirty-year bond eliminated from use.
The physical forms of government debt are lapsing because of the down-
ward historical trend of government debt itself.
In 1945, the U.S. debt stood at 117 percent of GDP. Just ten years ago, it
stood at 70 percent. In his fiscal 2002 budget, President Bush proposes to pay
off all debt to the public over the coming decade.
Reduction of the public debt will make more capital available to private
businesses. When the federal budget is in surplus, that surplus has to be dis-
posed of. This can be accomplished by lower taxes (which are occurring),
higher government spending (unlikely in a Republican administration), or by
buying up or paying off all outstanding bonds. (The government has bought
back the largest number of bonds in history over the last two years. It elimi-
nated the three-year note and the thirty-year bond and limited five-year notes
to quarterly sales auctions from monthly auctions.)
All that “excess” money will move into private hands. Lower taxes mean
more money is put work in the private sector, or spending. Investors may even
look to invest in some other form of security besides government bonds and
may have to turn to the private sector, which mean corporate bond or stock
sales will likely increase. (Our stock market has doubled over the last five years,
and there are record volumes of stock and bond transactions.) All this is to say
that more control will end up in the hands of companies and institutions and
create more direct relationships between these entities and individuals.
Government, or public, control is being passed to corporate, or private,
control. We are witnessing a massive transfer of power into private hands. This
paradigm is also lending opportunity for the individual in society to step up
and exert more control over his or her likes and dislikes. Purchasing power
will be akin to voting power.
— :o: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Technology will only promulgate this system. If individual information in
the form of credit, like a credit rating, can be disseminated in real time, then
each of us becomes his or her own brand, capable of conducting multiple
exchanges in multiple vendor situations—globally.
In other words, you or I can walk into a store in Tokyo, be recognized, have
our credit assessed in real time, and trade on that credit—and so on. No mate-
rial will change hands. Verbal or some other recognizable form of confirma-
tion of the exchange will be all that is needed. Our wants will be directly
registered. This will create a new landscape of global democracy.
The largest obstacle to this is the trustworthiness of the consumer and his
or her interfacing with various networks—other people, places, things, online
and in a traditional commerce or trade-like situation—to establish a record.
To be sure, this is an ancient system. In Islam it’s called hawala. In Hebrew
it’s called mazal. In China it’s called fei qian. All of these systems basically mean
that you’ll trade on your word alone.The transaction is based on the individual
trust and faith in you as a person.
Morality and ethics are the key issues at stake.
What comprises our individual mode of ethics and morals is distinctly
unique. We all operate on highly refined and different systems in the context
of money’s propositional value—what we’d do with it. Some people have
amassed fortunes by evil means only to spread evil, while others have little or
nothing in terms of money but have spread fortunes of goodwill. Some of us
would spend our money on fine wine, others on ice cream. Propositional val-
ues can’t be traded or exchanged in a manner of equilibrium because of psy-
chological, societal, cultural and religious diversity. But a transferable
mechanism equated to value can be transferred globally.
This mechanism is our “proof,” or the footprint of ourselves gleaned from
varietal circumstances. Regression analysis (take all the things I have done in
my lifetime and deconstruct them to a mean) can be instituted to determine
this mechanism, or mean. That mean, our footprint, will be our means of
exchange. It will fluctuate. It will be worth more or less some days. But that’s
how money operates. Of course, the question is who will program the decon-
structive elements that will determine our exchange mean?
There is already a board, the Federal Reserve, that governs over our mon-
etary value system in the United States. Each country has one. In fact, there
is an International Monetary Fund Dissemination Standards Board and a
General Data Dissemination System, which are designed to provide guidelines
“for the public of comprehensive, timely, accessible, and reliable economic,
financial, and socio-demographic data.” There is even a Data Quality Refer-
ence Site, which was created to foster a common understanding of data quality
— :o, —
Conc l us i on
around the world. The International Accounting Standards Board, whose job
it is to achieve worldwide uniformity in accounting principles used by busi-
nesses and other organizations, could be redeveloped to include individual
accounting standards. If all of Europe can link to a common currency, the euro,
why can’t the rest of the world? And if governments, then why not corpora-
tions? And if that is the case, why can’t the individual represent him- or her-
self as governments do in the context of money—separate yet indelibly linked?
The information is there as are the standards, and now technology has bred
the access.
Oversight, under these paradigms, may seem too oligarchic. But at least the
premise is there.What could transpire to determine the fate of individual pur-
chasing power is a completely democratic system of development and crite-
rion designed, disseminated, and managed over a widely accessible platform; it
would be up to each participating individual to trust and verify, propose and
set standards by which we’d all abide.
“Money” is used in individual and situational circumstances. It is a mutu-
ally agreeable value set between two parties. Why can’t we let the parties
decide and let words stay as the representative force of the agreement, value?
Sure, there would be participatory barriers like language, geography, cul-
ture. But we have those barriers now. What could be developed—is being
developed—is a community based on communication, where our language is
immediately translated. (We do it with written words, why not verbal?) Those
1s and 0s used to program computer code can just as readily program our
languages into homogenous recognition.
That still leaves our actions, however. How do we physically manifest our
desires in the world? That’s what will be judged in the context of any trans-
action. That’s what we will trade on.
The wealthiest of us will be the most trustworthy, the most imaginative,
the hardest working, the smartest, and the most attractive to the most number
of people. Their word will be the most acceptable.
Soon it may become apparent that money is incidental to our wants, hopes,
dreams, and desires.We’ll be free to let our imagination decide our way—who
we really are as people. That of course will necessitate an inward journey of
consciousness and enlightenment. But it’s a journey we’re already embarking
upon.
Yoga is in fashion. New Age faiths and beliefs are cropping most every-
where. More people are returning to traditional religions—church attendance
is up, synagogues are reporting more members. Morality is back in favor,
despite all the evil that is inflicted in the world. This evil, like the supposed
thin red line God left in the universe after it was created, is there as a reminder
— :+o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
of all the good that surrounds us. We are reaching for that promise; desper-
ately, we are.
So, here’s what money really means: It’s a reflection of our responsibility as
people to live up to our place in this world and make it better. Money is but
a reflection of who we are, as individuals, as one tightly woven fabric of
humanity. All our actions affect all the others in the world. It’s a massive rip-
ple effect—and one bad thread can unravel us all. That’s why we have to be
the best individuals we can be.
Our word will be all that is the case and all that will be needed to convey
our desires. We just have to act on our trust in the most imaginable ways pos-
sible—and we can all get what we truly want: Bliss.
It will be all the good that we can ever imagine.
—  —
Notes
Section 1:The Physical Manifestation of Money and Attachment :
What Money Is
1
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998).
2
Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake (New York: The Berkley Publishing Group,
1998).
3
Alan Hughes, “Why E-Cash Isn’t a Common Currency,” BusinessWeek
magazine (April 9, 2001).
Section 2:The Psychological Attachment of Money:
What Money Means
4
Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being (New York: John Wiley
& Sons, 1999).
5
Alfie Kohn, “In Pursuit of Affluence, At a High Price,” the New York
Times (February 2, 1999).
6
Edward L. Deci, R. Koestner, and Richard M. Ryan, “A Meta-Analytic
Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on
Intrinsic Motivation,” Psychological Bulletin 125 (1999).
7
Edward L. Deci, and Richard M. Ryan, “On Happiness and Human
Potentials: A Review of Research on Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-
Being,” Annual Review of Psychology 52 (2001).
8
George Kinder, Seven Stages of Money Maturity (New York: Dell
Publishing, 1999).
9
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America
(New York: Metropolitan Books, 2001).
10
Dinesh D’Souza, The Virtue of Prosperity (New York: The Free Press,
2000).
11
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (New York: HarperPerennial, 1965).
12
Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr. Old Money (New York: Allworth Press, 1996).
13
Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal (New York: Warner Books, 1987).
14
Donald Trump, Surviving at the Top (New York: Random House, 1990).
15
Donald Trump, The Art of the Comeback (New York: Time Books,
1997).
—  —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
Section 3:The Spiritual Attachment of Money:
What Money Means
16
Jack Miles, God: A Biography (New York:Vintage Books, 1996).
17
Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul (New York: HarperPerennial, 1994).
18
Karen Armstrong, A History of God (New York: Ballantine Books, 1994).
19
Edouard Valdman, Jews and Money: Toward a Metaphysic of Money
(Rockville, Md.: Schreiber Publishing, 2000).
20
Copyright © Tenzin Gyatso, the 14
th
Dalai Lama and Fabien Ouaki,
1999. Reprinted from Imagine All the People: A Conversation with the
Dalai Lama on Money, Politics, and Life as It Should Be with permission of
Wisdom Publications, 199 Elm Street, Somerville, Massachusetts 02144,
USA, www.wisdompubs.org.
21
The 14
th
Dalai Lama, The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Los Angeles,
2000.
— :+¡ —
A
Achalananda, Brother, 160–62
Alchemist,The, 44–45
Aldrich, Nelson, Jr., 143–45
Almoudi, Sheik Al-, 94–95, 98
aloneness, money as insulation
against, 80
annual income, average, 120
Armstrong, Karen, 172
Art of the Comeback,The, 149
Art of the Deal,The, 149
B
Bartiromo, Maria, 63
beenz, 51
Berber, Philip, 96
Bergman, Joel, 65–68
biometrics, 54, 203–5
Black Monday, 26
bodhichita, 195
Brave New World, 140
Bretton Woods Conference, 6, 39
Bronchick, Jeffrey, 157–60
Bronchick, Paige, 157–59
Brown, Sally Kirkland, 128
Buddhist world, money in the. See
also Christian world, money in
the; Jewish world, money in the;
Muslim world, money in the
bodhichita, 195
four excellences as the basis for
worldly happiness, 198
importance of money, 198
meaning of money, 199–200
mind as a god vs. money as a
god, 199
money and wealth as facilitators of
worldly happiness/temporary
satisfaction, 199
nirvana, 198–99
pantheism, 194
Buffett, Warren, 178
BusinessWeek, 50
C
Care of the Soul, 166–67
child-bearing, average age of, 119
Christian world, money in the. See
also Buddhist world, money in
the; Jewish world, money in the;
Muslim world, money in the
avoiding the corrupting influence
of money, 188–89
capitalism, 186
difficulty of a rich man entering
the Kingdom of God, 185
doing to others as they would do
to you, 185
giving back what you’ve
received, 190
money as the giving of oneself, 189
money as the means to an end, 186
money as the most discussed New
Testament topic, 185
Index
— :+¡ —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
responsibility to care for the truly
needy, 186–87
serving God and money, 185
story of the Good Samaritan, 189
using money to do good, 187–88
Coehlo, Paulo, 44–45
Cohen, Charles, 52
consumerism
as a source of happiness, 77
vs. production, 79–80
credit
availability of information about
creditworthiness, 49
as the currency of the future, 49
transition from government to
corporate currency/credit/
loyalty, 205–7
your word as, 49–50
credit cards. See also VISA
average indebtedness, 206–7
and the decline in use of physical
money, 6–7
introduction of, 6
proliferation of, 52
crime, getting money through,
133–38
currency, production/destruction
of, 36
cybercash, 51–52
D
Dalai Lama, 165, 197–200
Danny (prison inmate), 133–38
Data Quality Reference Site, 208–9
debt, 206–7
Denver Rescue Mission, 103–7
Dickson, Joel, 34–35, 36
Dow Jones Industrial Average, 29
D’Souza, Dinesh, 117
E
Ehrenreich, Barbara, 113
electronic currencies. See also future
of money
beenz, 51
cybercash, 51–52
flooz, 50–51
smart cards, 52–54
equilibrium theory of money, 11–13
Ethernet, 205
Ethiopia
appearance of, 92–93
desperateness of, 93
helping people help themselves,
93, 96
history of, 95–96
international aid to, 93, 96–97
lack of class system, 92
money as the difference between
life and death, 92
money as the ruler of, 96
movement in, 91
multiple problems of, 91–92
signs of hope, 93–95
simplicity of life and values, 97
sounds of, 93
eudaimonia, 73
F
Federal Reserve Board
analyses made by, 33–34
lowering/raising of discount rate,
35–36
manipulation of interest rates by,
35–36
power of, 35
regulation of monetary policy by,
35–37
responsibilities of, 33, 35
— :+¡ —
I ndex
on the types of money, 33
financial planning
areas of awareness, 88
key questions to be answered in,
85–87
new approach to, 83
understanding money as part of
the soul’s journey, 87
flooz, 50–51
Forbes, Tim, 127
foreign exchange
calculating the rate of exchange,
40, 42–43
currency trading process, 41–44
factors affecting currency trades, 44
floating of rates following abandon-
ment of gold standard, 6, 40
money as a representation of a
country’s comparative
worth, 40
setting of rates by Bretton Woods
Conference, 6, 39
spot markets, 40, 44
U.S. dollar as the point of
comparison, 44
Frankl,Victor, 62
freedom, using money to obtain, 79
Freud, Sigmund, 62, 77
future of money. See also history of
money
biometrics as, 203–5
money as a reflection of our
responsibility to live up to
our place in the world and
make it better, 210
morality and ethics as key issues
in, 208
reduction in government indebted-
ness and movement of money
into private hands, 207
trading on your word alone,
208–10
transition from government to
corporate currency/credit/
loyalty, 205–7
G
GDP (gross domestic product), 34
Gemplus, 53, 54
General Data Dissemination
System, 208
George (homeless person), 103–4
Gilbert (homeless person), 105–6
God: A Biography, 166
gold standard, elimination of, 6, 7, 40
Good Samaritan, story of, 189
government debt, 207
Greenspan, Alan, 31, 35
Groeschel, Father Benedict, 185–90
H
Hagos Araya, 94
happiness. See also quality of life
becoming attuned to your intrinsic
values, 72–73
consumerism as a source of, 77
mindfulness and, 73
pursuit of affluence and, 71–73,
77–78
Sigmund Freud on, 77
$3 million check story, 78, 80–81
Hasnita Dato Hashim, 169–72
hawala, 176
Hegel, Friedrich, 192–93
hierarchy of needs, 61
History of God, A, 172
history of money. See also future of
money
— :+o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
ancient city of Lydia, 4
Bretton Woods Conference, 6, 39
creation of International
Monetary Fund, 39
credit currency, 4
decline in relative worth to gold, 5
decline in use of physical money,
6–7
elimination of the gold standard,
6, 7, 40
evolution of money to data, 6, 7,
20–22
floating of currency exchange
rates, 6, 40
introduction of credit cards, 6
introduction of paper money, 5
meaning of money to ancient
Lydians and Romans, 7
Roman over-minting and
inflation, 4
U.S. dollar as the worldwide base
currency, 5
Hock, Dee, 6, 7, 19–22
home cost, average, 120
homelessness
accounts of, 103–4, 105–6
reasons for, 104, 106
self-respect and, 106
hope, 89–90, 100, 192–93
hourly wage rate, average, 119
household, average American
description of life for, 120–22
statistical profile of, 116, 119–20
vs. typical world household, 120
Huxley, Aldous, 140
I
inflation, 35, 36
information
as a foundation of money, 11,
13–16
and the future of money, 204
impact of access on the value of,
21–22
importance to Internet trade,
50, 52
International Accounting Standards
Board, 209
International Monetary Fund, 39
International Monetary Fund
Dissemination Standards
Board, 208
Internet, 205
Internet trade
current volume of, 50
designing new currencies for,
50–52
failure of cybercash, 51–52
importance of trust and
information to, 50, 52
using beenz, 51
using flooz, 50–51
J
Jewish Theological Seminary, story
about remodeling of, 177–78
Jewish world, money in the. See also
Buddhist world, money in the;
Christian world, money in the;
Muslim world, money in the
Bible as the source of answers to
what money means, 178
charity as a commandment,
178–79
money as a means of choosing
who you are, 178
money as a reflection of self-
worth, 181
— :+; —
I ndex
money as a value, 181
personal comfort vs. helping
others, 179–80
story about remodeling of Jewish
Theological Seminary,
177–78
story about two rabbis and
beggar, 179
taking interest, 180, 181
tithing, 180
trading, 180, 181
wealth as a gift of God, 178
Jews and Money:Toward a Metaphysics
of Money, 181
JPMorgan Chase Bank, 41–44
Jury, Claudia, 42–44, 45
K
Kasser, Tim, 71
Kinder, George, 83–88
Kohn, Alfie, 65–66
Kurtz, Theodore, 77–81
L
Leo XIII (pope), 188
Levitan, Robert, 50
Lietaer, Bernard, 54
Live Aid, 92
lottery, winning the. See wealthy,
being
Luxembourg, 98–99
M
M, M1, M2, M3, 33
Magnolia, 29
Marlene (former welfare recipient),
111–14
marriage, average age for, 119
Maslow, Abraham, 61
McCooey, Robert, Jr., 26–28
means of payment, as a basic quality
of money, 13
Mexican fishing village story, 67–68
Michael (lottery winner), 125–28
Miles, Jack, 166
Modern Maturity, 122
Mond, Mustapha, 140
Moneta, 4
money. See also Buddhist world,
money in the; Christian world,
money in the; future of money;
history of money; Jewish world,
money in the; Muslim world,
money in the; old money
annual rate of turnover, 34
battle over, 99
as a conception, 3
derivation of “money,” 4
as a destructive influence, 105–6
empowering effect of, 63
equilibrium theory of, 11–13
as a frozen desire, 165
importance of, vs. life, 157–58
importance of doing meaningful,
positive things with, 158–59
importance of understanding
value and worth, 3
increased cultural focus on, 63
limited role of, 165
negative intrinsic value for the
dollar, 15
as the noise of Wall Street, 29–30
pain/death as an offset for, 14–15
quantum physics theory of, 13–15
as a reflection of life, 190–91
as a reflection of our value
system, 191–92
— :+: —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
as a representation of a country’s
comparative worth, 40
reputation and, 15
as the safety/security/value
within the confines of an
infrastructure, 28
sardines story, 12–13
as the scorecard on Wall Street, 28
and self-worth, 106–7, 111
as the source of a value system,
3–4
storage of value, means of payment,
and numeraire as the basic
qualities of, 13
trust and information as the
foundations of, 11, 13–16
ways of getting, 109
money supply, 33–34
Moore, Thomas, 166–67
mortgage debt, average, 206
Mueli, Brad, 104–7
Muhammad ibn Abdallah, 171–72
murabahah, 170
musharakah, 170
Muslim world, money in the. See
also Buddhist world, money in
the; Christian world, money
in the; Jewish world, money
in the
distribution of wealth, 172
5 percent rule, 170
hawala, 176
Islam as a rebellion against
capitalism, 172, 173, 174
making money, trading, and
investing within the laws of
Islam, 170–71
making money at the expense of
someone else losing
money, 169
making money for the benefit of
others, 170
money as a responsibility,
172–73
money as the trust of God vs.
trusting in God, 173
money in the Koran vs. the
Bible, 172
movement of money into Western
capital markets, 171
murabahah, 170
musharakah, 170
origins of Islam, 171–72
pervasiveness of religion in Islamic
countries, 169, 171
pillars of Islam, 175
tainted income sources, 170–71
taking interest, 170
trading for the sake of making
money, 170
understanding Shari’ah Law,
169–70
zakah, 172, 175–76
MV, 34
N
Nasrudin, 84–85
needs, human
Abraham Maslow on, 61
Carl Rogers on, 62
self-determination theory, 73
Sigmund Freud on, 62
Victor Frankl on, 62
New York Stock Exchange. See also
Wall Street
Black Monday, 26
cost of seat on, 26
impact of trades made, 27
operation of, 26, 28
— :+, —
I ndex
restrictions on members’
discussions, 25–26
New York Times, 65–66
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting
By in America, 113
nirvana, 198–99
Nixon, Richard M., 6, 7
numeraire, as a basic quality of
money, 13
O
old money
aristocracy and, 145
corrupting power of, 145
faded aura of, 144
false images of, 144
history of, 143–44
hostility of American culture
toward, 143
pietas and, 145
as a prison, 145–46
and the prospect of going through
life without getting credit for
your achievements, 144
wealth of old rich vs. new, 144
Old Money, 143
P
Paige Bronchick Foundation, 158
Park Avenue, life on, 115–16
Phaedrus, 192
Plato, 192
Positano, Italy, 108
poverty, escaping from, 111–14
prison
credit and trade systems, 136–37
living in/visiting, 133–38
respect as the money of, 136
production, vs. consumerism, 79–80
public debt, 207
“Pursuit of Affluence, At a High
Price,” 65–66
Q
quality of life. See also happiness
Mexican fishing village story, 67–68
relationship of money to, 65–68
research results on seeking
satisfaction in material
goods, 65–66
quantum physics theory of money,
13–15
R
rabbis and beggar, story about, 179
Rawls, John, 180
religion. See Buddhist world, money
in the; Christian world, money
in the; Jewish world, money in
the; Muslim world, money in
the; spiritualism
reputation, and money, 15
Ricardo, David, 14
rich Americans, life for, 117
Rogers, Carl, 62
Ryan, Richard, 71–73
S
safety/security, using money to
obtain, 78
Sanderson, Derek, 127–28
sardines, story about, 12–13
savings, average, 207
self-destruction, money as an agent
of, 105–6
— ::o —
WHAT MONEY REALLY MEANS
self-determination theory (SDT), 73
self-realization
Abraham Maslow on, 61
Carl Rogers on, 62
self-determination theory, 73
self-worth, and money, 106–7, 111
Seven Stages of Money Maturity,
The, 84
Shari’ah Law, 169–70
Sheraton Addis, 94
Shubik, Martin, 11–15
Siddhartha Gautama, 197
Singh, Surjit, 91
Skidmore, David, 35
smart cards, 52–54
Socrates, 192
soul’s journey, understanding money
as part of, 87
spiritualism. See also Buddhist world,
money in the; Christian
world, money in the; Jewish
world, money in the;
Muslim world, money in the
impact on the concept of money,
165–67
man’s attempts to model himself
after God, 166
spiritual laws as the basis for
common/societal laws, 165
vs. money, as a protector of he
soul, 167
vs. sociocultural influences, 166–67
stealing money, 133–38
Steinbeck, John, 108
Stiglitz, Joseph, 49
storage of value, as a basic quality of
money, 13
suffering, and money, 84, 87–89
super-rich Americans, life for, 117
Surviving at the Top, 149
T
tags, 53
Tamirat Yirgu, 93
TCI, 26
$3 million check story, 78, 80–81
time, as the focus of life, 79
Timequake, 55–56
Toward A Psychology of Being, 61
Trump, Donald
on being “The Donald,” 149
commanding presence of, 150
on doing it for the money, 149
on the getting vs. the having, 151
on making deals, 149, 150
name identification of, 149–50
on reacting to the twists of
fate, 149
reaction to September 11, 2001
tragedies, 150
stubbornness to achieve, 152
value of Trump name, 150–51
wealth of, 151
on winning for yourself, 151–52
Trump Tower, 152
trust
as a foundation of money, 11,
13–16
and the future of money, 204
importance to Internet trade,
50, 52
technology as the means of
unsheathing the hold
governments have on, 54
U
United For a Fair Economy, 100
upper-middle-class Americans, life
for, 117
— ::+ —
I ndex
V
V, 34
Valdman, Edouard, 181
Virtue of Prosperity,The, 117
VISA
as a demonstration of the impact
of access on the value of
information, 21–22
description of corporation, 21
evolution of, as a mirror for the
concept of money, 21
and the evolution of money to
data, 20–22
need for a new form of organiza-
tion, 20
as a reconceiving of the concepts
of bank money and credit
cards, 19–20
Visotszky, Rabbi Burt, 177–81
Volcker, Paul, 54
Vonnegut, Kurt, 55–56
W
Wall Street. See also New York Stock
Exchange
description of, 25
money as the noise of, 29–30
money as the scorecard on, 28
mood of, 25
wealthy, being
Americans’ suspicions about
the moral effects of
wealth, 122
creating a scenario of control, 128
creating values, 128
dark side of, 127
psychological benefit of financial
security, 126, 128
realities of, 128
winning the lottery, 125–27
work as a stabilizing force,
126–27
“We Are The World,” 92
welfare, escaping from, 111–14
work day, average, 119
World Bank, 96
World Wide Web, 205
Z
zakah, 172, 175–76

What Money Really Means
G

Thomas Kostigen

For My Mother
© 2003 Thomas Kostigen All rights reserved. Copyright under Berne Copyright Convention, Universal Copyright Convention, and Pan-American Copyright Convention. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher. 08 07 06 05 04 03 54321

Published by Allworth Press An imprint of Allworth Communications 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 Cover design by Douglas Design Associates, New York, NY Page composition/typography was done by Integra

ISBN: 1-58115-259-0 LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA: Kostigen, Thomas. Waht money really means/Thomas Kostigen. p. cm Includes index. ISBN 1-58115-259-0 1. Money. I. Title. HG221 .K743 2003 332.4–dc21 2002004403

Printed in Canada

Contents

Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .vii

Section 1:The Physical Manifestation of Money and Attachment: What Money is
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 The The The The The The The History of Money . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 Mechanices of Money . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 Evolution of Money to Data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 Exchange of Money Value . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25 Storage of Money Value . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33 Global Monetary Value System . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39 Future of Money as a Credit-Based System . . . . . . . . . . . . .49

Section 2:The Psychological Attachment of Money: What Money Means
8 Toward Self-Realization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .61 9 The Disconnect of Money from Quality of Life . . . . . . . . . . . . .65 10 The Empirical Study of Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .71
—  —

. . . .W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 The Childhood Development of Value . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .91 The Basic Determinants of Needs .169 . . . .149 The Search for Meaning in a Money World . . . . . . . . . . . . .xxx —  — . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .83 The Poorest People in the World . . . .177 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .197 Conclusion . . . Money in the Muslim World . . . . . . . .119 Money as a Catalyst for Change . . Money in the Christian World Money in the Buddhist World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .125 Monetary Desire in the Context of Universal Common Law . . . . . . .185 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77 Suffering and Money . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .165 . . . .111 Conditioning Values . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .203 Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . .211 Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Money in the Jewish World . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103 Self-Worth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143 Ego and the Needs for Success . . . . . .133 Old Money and Achievement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .157 Section 3: The Spiritual Attachment of Money: What Money Should Mean 22 23 24 25 26 The Search for Bliss . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We’ll be different. He’s thinking other thoughts when I’m listening to someone speak. If He had this amount of money.Preface There is a “mini me” inside me. What He needs is the means to do all the things He wants. I know He does. .There’s a New Economy. He’s full of proposition. .What do they have that I don’t (besides the money. There are a lot of “if onlys” these days. while I’m this somewhat stagnant being. Or like the seven million millionaires out there in the world today. In fact. develop new friends and relationships? Would it make us happy—He and I—one. He’s who I’ll be when . If He had that amount of money. He’s in my head. $100 million lottery winners. act differently. He’s contemplating my next move when I’m playing a game.Who Wants to be a Millionaire? I think I do. complete.We’ll be that person He always thought of. . fulfilled? —  — . He—I—will change. He could do that. that is)? If we had that much money would it really change us? Would we really think differently. I wonder why I’m not like the thousands of millionaires branded last year. He’s the one always trying to change me. of course.Then. that person we ought to be. . We’ll be perceived differently. He could do this. if only . an even a widely watched television show that asks. once He gets this or that. He will become the person I hope to be: full.

But what happens to the imagination then? Where does He go once His visions are realized? And what will happen to the self—me. The dichotomies He imagines are extreme. People picking out of a garbage can. A back alley. and at the same time picturing Ferraris and champagne. And maybe—just maybe—between us we’ll create some understanding. I. it sure would be nice if we could get together. This inquisition is. more about that than what money means. mansions and private jets. He is at once envisioning incense and robes. television commercials? All these things that money could buy. already imagining some of these people. For money holds the freedom of the self. be whom we’ve always dreamed of being. beads and introspection. But that’s what He is there for. perhaps. to just get money. films. from the Rockefellers to indigents. He’ll envision what they mean. G —  — . We’ll have to find people who might provide some insight on what it’s like to have always had money.com billionaires. have to live in the here and now. From the Dalai Lama to dot. to get money and lose it. He and I. or to never have money at all.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Okay. of course. that is? Would I just become what He has imagined? Would I live my life in snippets of the style displayed in magazine ads. A new life? A new lifestyle? Would those “if only” feelings of inferiority just pass? What new feelings would arise? I’ll turn to some people for insight. He is. it allows us to act out our imaginations. so these aren’t easy questions. on the other hand. So.

S E C T I O N 1 The Physical Manifestation of Money and Attachment: What Money is .

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but he didn’t have to pay for it (with money that is). 1 JPY = 0. In the beginning.7145 EUR. And worth may be a far thing from value.Would he pay more for a glass of water than someone not suffering from thirst? Of course he would. Once the man’s thirst is quenched. And that should tell us something. a whole value system has been created. you’re going to have to spend one hundred and five yen for a cup of coffee in Japan. a jingle jangle. posted at banks.9463 USD. what it’s worth. So. But what would he pay with? If it’s money. the value.01 EUR. Hence. time included.506 USD. It defines costs.6758 USD e’ve all seen this equation. My Imagination sees a man crawling onto an oasis from the desert—sunburned. money is defined by the people who made it up. money is nothing more than paper and coins.06466 EUR.C H A P T E R 1 The History of Money 1 EUR = 0. airports. 1 GBP = 1. It would get poured into a nominal value system. there wasn’t any money. exhausted. his clothes tattered.39 JPY. Without value. And —  — W . For in and of itself. It means the ability to live. what exactly is money and where did it come from? Adam valued fruit. Hence. 1 USD = 105. on the Internet. and tells you that if you spent a dollar on a cup of coffee in the United States. 1 CAD = 0. origami is about all money would be good for. Like all inventions. 1 CAD = 0. But price is a far thing from worth. then money means survival. 1 CHF = 0. concocted the idea. the worth of water to him would decline. From it. This currency equation is a deeply meaningful barometer of value. To understand what money means we have to understand worth and value: those things money is supposed to represent. That’s when things get complicated. Money is a conception. The value of money has to be assessed.

huh. most of the governments of the world were issuing some semblance of coinage. where the first trade centers of the world evolved. and most of all our purchasing power. which is a mixture of gold and silver. Commerce soon exploded—and the government of Lydia minted money to control the way in which things were bought and sold. the actual conceivers of money were the people of Lydia. Lydia began to mint coins made of electrum.And before long. the wife of Jupiter.That value system often defines our social status.D. Moneta is another name for Juno. So. She. The Romans played an integral part in devising money and its value. Indeed. the Roman goddess of heaven. Lydia was part of the thriving society of Asia Minor at the time. it defines us in a way. So moneylenders and merchants began to issue promissory notes in lieu of coins. our professional lives. our relationships. With government-minted money. Inflation occurred—and the value of money became an issue. Money was first minted there in seventh century B. Someone was on to something.The government issued these bean-shaped ingots and marked them with their weight and value in lieu of pieces of gold and silver. In other words. people obviously had to carry more coins.To make up for the loss in value of one coin. It had needed the money to build and finance its military. our leisure abilities. birth. could now exercise their influence on commerce. My Imagination is at it again. It derives from the Roman goddess Moneta. Ah.. the Roman government overindulged and minted too many coins. But. and credit currency began to be widely used as a system for buying and selling. that mint us to one another.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S that’s not just economics. another breakthrough in the creation of money. is also the goddess of light. or modern day Turkey. which had been the standard barter material because of their scarcity. the “money” idea caught on. you’ll see that it’s a promissory note “For All Debts Public And Private” issued by the government. life in situational barters. Governments. discoverers and inventors created an attractive marketplace. Needless to say. women and marriage—some of those things that give meaning to life. Hauling around buckets of coins wasn’t particularly convenient for the horseback. even today if you look at a dollar bill. trying to conceive of things we haven’t experienced. He tries to envision life without money. an ancient city in Asia Minor. they could control price and value: worth. what great ape set these definitions? Who defined money? The word “money” stems from the Latin.C. ’round about the first century A. There. pedestrian society of the Middle Ages. How would it change? How would it differ? We would still have to utilize —  — . ever seeking control. mule-riding. However.

“A bit lighter on the back and feet. I could acquire the things or barter the things I would need to survive. a cow. My place in society would then have been set.S. there wasn’t enough gold reserve to cover the “value” of U. a pelt. it meant world influence. worldwide the standard base currency became the U. or “paper money.” he might have thought. looking up at Palatine Hill.” This was quite a controversy at the time. the United States was in economic turmoil. Paper money was used by private lenders and merchants for centuries until France. A lot of people were focused on what money meant in the 1960s and 1970s. say. The value of the dollar had plummeted. formally standardized the use of government issued notes.S. Money’s influence to embark on the Vietnam War. until that day in Rome when perhaps on a hot summer morning a man in toga and sandals pushing a wheelbarrow full of coins stops to wipe his brow in front of. its value was tied to gold. where all people would ideally share in each other’s riches. In the early 1970s. All those barrels full of coins. a good spear. With that value. dollar after World War II. I would have had some very simple choices: craftsman. Still. consul. Those bartering objects that have utilitarian value. And it became the philosophical schism of the for the Cold War—between a nation state devoted to communism. What a jump it is to representative value. like shelter. I could trade on that value. and inflation was doing what it infers: going up. Oil prices and other commodity prices surged. albeit they had to physically back the paper with reserves of gold. mostly because there were no books. and a nation state whose basis was steeped in capitalism. Its relative worth to gold was plummeting. They could create value with a printing press. Money meant capitalism. to quell the philosophy of the anti-money movement of the time. though. almost a hundred years since its inception. Paper money meant governments no longer had to use gold or silver in the minting process. That made the dollar worth less gold. My Imagination sees: a horse. In fact. The United States and money became indelibly entwined when the dollar took on the indicia of the United States: $. And Fort Knox would have been barren if dollars had been traded for bullion. the Colosseum and gets an idea for paper money. Money became less valuable. currency.The Histor y of Money skill—whatever skill we had—merely to subsist or obtain objects of value to pay for our subsistence. sent the world into disarray. farmer. —  — . or hegemony. The use of gold and silver as the basis for value because they were scarce in supply. creating a relatively stable value system. What would we do for trade? I don’t think there would have been a market for writers. butcher. in the eighteenth century.

analyze—and try to make sense of. who set rates of exchange. of worth. Currency would represent nothing more than devised value.” are economists. sell. It’s all a blip on a screen. traders. Money had become an idea represented in digits. that is what money is worth. Plastic was introduced into the repertoire of physical representatives of money. the new breed of money manager doesn’t deal with paper or coin. By setting lending rates and gauging the growth or slow down of productivity of a nation. These credit cards represented value—but not in the form of paper or coin. This was further elaborated upon when Dee Hock.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S While all this was going on in the world. A new system of global exchange rates was established—and paper money around the world lost its link to a tangible asset. Unlike their predecessors. developed a system where value would become “data” in the form of electronic particles able to move around the world at the speed of light. Those blips. the founder of VISA. Indeed. He abolished the gold standard.And. These people who decide how much purchasing power it’s going to take to buy that cup of coffee. that is money. or value material goods. people could increase or decrease the value of money around the world. —  — . nothing changes hands. money managers. Nixon cut the link. Now. Indeed. California. voilà. With “people” now deciding what things are worth. No more silver. numerals on a computer screen. are what money managers oversee. Even paper and coins are being replaced more and more by the representative plastic card. money has become a disembodied principle of value. Money is a series of representations. Until then. of purchasing power. In 1971. I can purchase just about anything I need. There is less attachment to the physical “money” used to buy. President Richard M. No more gold. and financial analysts. With a debit card or a credit card. by 1976 the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund had been amended to legitimize the practice of letting currencies fluctuate. those digits. the banking industry was working on a concept that would forever change the monetary value system and its tie to any physical denomination. In 1958. My bank account is automatically debited money for goods and services. It was slowly losing its link to gold and physical or tangible value. The credit currency of the past is the credit card of today. people were in control of the value of money.We read or are told what these representations mean. who determine “value. I have gone days without using any physical money.The new breed of money manager deals with digits. Bank of America issued sixty thousand credit cards to the residents of Fresno. fixed rates had been agreed on between nations (shortly after World War II at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944). Its power would be in its potential.

It is full of “if onlys. The evolution of money has transgressed the physical and has found itself anew in a global compositional equation. the $5 bill with the face of Abraham Lincoln. doesn’t need to be fetched. the $10 bill with the face of Alexander Hamilton. transported. It was the exorbitant financing of a military that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union and its communist economy. the $20 bill with the face of Andrew Jackson. so too is wealth created and lost today. to financiers. It meant imperialism through a well-financed military. The value proposition money holds has been exploited to the tune of some seven million millionaires. and a generally expanding world economic environment. the Lydians spun the world away from utilitarianism and toward an interpretational matrix of worth. that drives my Imagination.To him. for example. in its tangible form. It holds that proposition. not particularly seeing it. and other professional money managers. the $50 bill with the face of Ulysses S. They hold the potential of being fulfilled. Money could buy power. five hundred billionaires. Dollars. He sees a blurry. My Imagination can’t see money anymore. It meant creating some type of comparability among goods and services.The Histor y of Money The idea of money is what has become all important. Just as those electron digits travel at the speed of light.” are housed by an account. This system. It’s a New Economy. Those dollars mean something to my Imagination. made up of blips of electronic digits. bring a flash of excitement. Dee Hock’s disorderly abstract placement of value on goods and services meant money. —  — .The digits that represent our “value. identified by a number. the purchasing power of money is communicated.” Money to the Lydians meant control. President Nixon’s lifting of the gold standard meant that money could stand on its own. to Him. It could buy control.The digits are influenced by the monetary system—and their value. The value of money is strong.” our “worth. He doesn’t need to see it to conceive of utilizing its purchasing power. and the $100 bill with the face of Benjamin Franklin. could disappear. Money. money means a system for the exchange of value. and exchanged for goods or services. It’s the idea of having it. But it doesn’t mean much to Him. By doing that. gray computer screen displaying digits. It was the capture of power and control—through disparate ideologies— that decidedly split the world into two superpowers. has created more wealth over the last ten years than in the course of history. He sees the green and white notes—the $1 bill with the face of George Washington. however. Money provides the ability to do certain things. is thus determined. our value. They service the spirit. Money to the Romans meant power and influence. Grant. It meant creating a basic system of value.

That’s the terrific thing. Money is—what? We know how it came about.” “The history. its stem angled toward the ground.” —  — .” “Bills. He sees the young Lydian in knee-high sandals.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S My Imagination sees a teenage Lydian boy tossing a coin high in the air and catching it as he strolls. She had wanted to present it to him as a sign of her love.” “Not that. We haven’t explored value. But to be honest. But we have yet to hear what money really is. coins?” “That’s currency.” “I hope to. curly brown hair. We haven’t explored worth.” “And where does that leave us?” “Past the beginning. We’ve only uncovered how a simple coin came to represent these things. But first. It’s a summer’s day. It will lie tilted. Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “So that’s the story of money. and skip off down the riverbank. I want to imagine what it’s like to have it. she had simply plucked it from the garden behind her house just before he had come to greet her. I think we have a few gaps in our foundation. rise. hold hands.” “I can’t. That’s what’s missing. you can do what you want? I think that’s naïve. I’ve already imagined what money is. he is going to use it to buy a gift for his girlfriend.” “So you’re imagining that once you get enough money. a simple tunic. She will be twirling a golden flower—perhaps a chrysanthemum—and drop it after he has given her the locket.” “Give me something to work with. Our story.The boy smiles as he looks at the ingot.” “And do what?” “Anything.The Lydian will buy a locket and present it as they lie by the side of a river. She had meant to present the young Lydian with the flower. She hadn’t purchased it.” “Enlighten me. or so my Imagination decides.” “I’m picturing a house.The plucked chrysanthemum will remain in the grass where they lay. They will kiss. We’ll be free to do what we want.” “True.

” “How about instead of things.” —  — .The Histor y of Money “And how do you propose to explain that? Value and worth aren’t imaginable to me. I give you someone. things that can represent other things. The coin is.” “I’ll take what I can get. I need things. I can’t equate symbols to those things. I can’t see abstract concepts. But I need things nonetheless.

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These concepts aren’t static. I pay the taxi driver and walk to the front door. National Public Radio is broadcast (loudly) from an old hi-fi. And I’m not kidding. I’ve pulled up to a rambling. old New England mansion in a mild state of disrepair—broken shutters. traditional theories explaining money like the “equilibrium theory” are wrong. I made that up) instead of Professor Shubik’s insights on money. I’ll say that again—thankfully my recorder comes through—because Professor Shubik goes into quantum physics to describe money and what it means.The leaves are changing. and what it means.C H A P T E R 2 The Mechanics of Money t’s fall in Connecticut. I’m fearful I’ll be recording an account of the plight of the Nambalese gorilla (yes. The desk is essentially two large pieces of wood propped on a sawhorse.The grass needs cutting. Therefore. where I’m greeted by a maid. His desk runs in an L-shape to give him room for a computer (the only discernible modern item in the room). its history. Professor Shubik is widely considered an expert on money. He even does a few quick fix-its as we speak—cleans his ears. —  — I . of course. But thankfully my recorder comes through. Professor Shubik says that money is based on two things: trust and information. Students are strolling the streets of New Haven. It’s book filled. it’s quantum theory that holds true. their backpacks filled with books. the Seymour Knox Professor of Mathematical Economics at Yale University. She tells me to wait in the breezeway while she goes to see if the professor is ready to see me. peeling paint. Rather. I can see my breath in the air. I meet Professor Shubik in his study in the rear of his house. Professor Shubik himself is the human embodiment of his house. I’m here in New Haven to interview Martin Shubik. his teeth. The wood floors need refinishing.

I know it may get a little “thick.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Stick with me here.” My Imagination is stifled.’ “‘So what are you complaining about? What did the distributors do?’ “‘The distributors sold them to the retailers?’ “‘Did they get their usual markup?’ “‘Yes.’ “‘Did you get your 30 percent?’ “‘Yes. The absolute prices are not fixed. My mind is unwinding the words. There isn’t room for images. not eating sardines. It must have been all those years of teaching.” but it all makes sense in the end. I think. senses when the left side of the brain needs a little help from the right side.’ “‘And what did they do?’ “‘The retailers sold them to customers. which merely enters as a fictitious quantity that facilitates the calculation of equilibrium.’ “‘So what are you complaining about?’ “‘But. And finally the importer comes back on the line and says. I sold them to the distributors. and this feeds all the way up the chain and reaches the importer. “In classical equilibrium theory in economics. “An importer imports a whole bunch of sardines.The distributor sells them to some wholesalers. The customers complain bitterly that they’ve been poisoned. so the process does not determine the value of money. traditional equilibrium theory does not offer a fundamental explanation of money.Thus.’ “‘Did they get their usual markup?’ “‘Yes.’ “There was a silence on the phone. ‘We are trading sardines.’” —  — . And the following conversation takes place between the importer and the main distributor: “‘I’ve called up to complain about the sardines. the customers came back and wanted to kill the retailers because they claim they were buying tainted sardines. never mind a story or tangent on which to affix. equating meaning. perhaps the most essential quantity in a modern economy. Professor Shubik. agents submit their demandversus-price functions to a ‘central agent’ who then determines the relative prices of goods and their allocation to individual agents. The retailers sell them to customers. I got my 30 percent. So he tells me a story about sardines: “This story really contains the essence of what money is about.’ “‘What was wrong with the sardines? Didn’t you sell them to the other distributors?’ “‘Yes. processing. He sells them to a distributor. they got their usual markup.The wholesalers sell them to some retailers.

slowly it dawned that as long as sardines are accepted in trade and as long as no one tries to eat them—the boxes could be empty. Well. ” My Imagination corners a gorilla peeling back the skin of a banana. and a legal system.” The point. why will I accept the stuff ? That’s the tricky thing. Now trade took off and what you had was the general acceptance of the legal system.” says Professor Shubik. like conditions and time. You use money to measure value.The coinage was a just a manufacturing process. you see. But then underneath it.” Money itself.And the customary something off the top was about 3 percent. “Numeraire has to do with measure. But the numeraire property is such that it doesn’t mean that there’s got to be a physical existence of the actual item. of Professor Shubik’s story is “the boxes could be empty. coinage and what have you. These add up to the constructs of money. . has three basic qualities: storage of value. He takes a bite of the banana and cocks his head to one side as he reads the chalkboard. ∑( p n q n n p n 1q n 1) 0 Professor Shubik is standing in front of the chalkboard holding a pointer. information and quantum physics all merge. He chastises me for not —  — .” he says. It’s the measuring sticks. I will accept the stuff. “The Nambalese gorilla is an indigenous herbivore of the Northern African plains where English hunters sought to exploit their rare pelts for trade . Professor Shubik leans forward at his desk in his study and reproaches me for not knowing the determinant values of money. Then things became a little more sophisticated and coinage came into being. I snap out of it. “The correct way to approach the understanding of money and financial institutions is pure physics. I no longer see him in front of the gorilla. the measurement system you use. nor in a classroom. Why will someone value something at X rather than Y? Here is where trust.Therefore. a guarantee of standardization.The Mec hanics of Money I get the sense that this is intellectual humor. It could have been anything. I’m not exactly sure of where Professor Shubik is taking me with all this. the original means of payment were barley or silver or gold. He is seated at a desk in a classroom. he says. He’s explaining that it’s the variables. Thankfully he explains the story: “That’s the original premise in which the formal existence of money came into being—that they were trading sardines. means of payment. that determine value and give money its meaning. but a manufacturing process taken over by the government. . so I chuckle. Means of payment merely says well. and numeraire. But what did they give you for the 3 percent? They gave you a guarantee of quality.

Instead. you don’t need the gold. This gets my interest. It’s the trust of a government’s backing that is the thing. Professor Shubik is stuck on the point of value in our discussion. okay. it can take on many forms to equate value to goods or services. Finally. and its only construct is the faith and trust and belief in it. we’ll kill him. replacement value became mythical. He stands and walks about the room. Gold coinage or silver coinage is one thing. But.” Professor Shubik says. I too get the point.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S knowing the philosophy of David Ricardo. is all that money is.You could use paper. Okay. The problem is who to trust: gold or a politician? That’s Ricardo’s line. which is wrapped in a sweater and scarf. as long as the government backs it. There is nothing. Money itself is an amoeba. It’s the value that is conditional. cigarettes. His last points he makes carefully. or the commodity. Value. Therefore there is a mysterious place like the vaults of the Bank of England or Fort Knox which has enough gold to pay every one off in real value.That there is a subtle distinction between credit and money. who is starting to wonder about the professor’s condition. but as soon as the world moved into paper currency. He gets some heat going in his body.”That the offset for money—as guaranteed by governments—is pain or death. The thing you use to represent value doesn’t matter. We go through money’s history.” as he says. as governments “got into the act. He tells me that he has been sick and almost died twice over the past two weeks. at the end of the day. Professor Shubik explains that originally money had an equitable value. Professor Shubik is very old. It’s conditional. the concept of money took a new direction. silver. And that. as money has lost its tie to anything “physical. Professor Shubik is saying that in an orderly society. in the form of gold. some trivia. death.’ which was the standard penalty for counterfeiting. I reel in my Imagination. But I bear him out and wait for him to settle into the rest of his discussion. I figure he must have caught me daydreaming. The guarantee is guaranteed by that penalty. “The way you hook the public into something like that is you have a myth which says that they [notes] are redeemable in gold. a pair of socks. Back to the session. I can tell that the professor is winding up his dissertation. or some other replacement item. I give my full attention to this financial scholar “Essentially what the state produced was: ‘We guarantee that this is what this coin is made of and if it turns out that somebody has mucked around with it. But that gold is trading sardines.” says Professor Shubik. —  — .

reputation and trust. ” The taxi retrieves me from in front of Professor Shubik’s home. But as long as everyone believes that everyone else is willing to accept it. it’s bankruptcy. Now instead of gold or coins.The Mec hanics of Money Today. and it ties it into the credit system. What I mean by that is the value for the dollar is somewhat determined by the default in bankruptcy laws in society. .” posits Professor Shubik.” he says. At a more complex level the whole financial system and banking system is the transformation of small networks where the players are unknown into bigger networks that are known and the words are known and trusted and respected. it’s pure information. So. He is getting tired. but the government can.“For example. it’s different but not dissimilar. Now. How unpleasant does it get for you when you go broke for an imaginary buck? So that gives it a value.The dollar is a mythical commodity invented by the government. I notice. Martin Shubik. It’s not death that is threatened. .” Speaking of information. I exit the same way I came. “is information. how do I get a stranger to sell me something? I go to a god damn bank who’s got a prime name because they’re known by a few million people and have got a reputation. do we have an intrinsic value for the dollar? Now strange as it may seem. and the Nambalese gorilla is nearly extinct . But the IOU notes are such for the United States that they never have to pay them. cannot get a stranger to take my IOU note. Hence.There are long pauses between words. . And the individual may take the bank’s IOU note and convert it into so-called cash money. When I pay the driver. Besides. You and I can’t get away with that. we quickly wrap things up. implicit in the economic system there really is a utilitarian intrinsic value for the dollar. which is the United States’ IOU note: dollar bills. I. I’m on overload.” he says. So. then everyone will accept it. The purely dynamic concept is this: that you can get a system of exchange going where everybody knows that the paper is of no value in terms of eating. we have an abstract symbol. “ . I think of what those bills mean—a magnificent signifier of —  — . “Government money is a purely dynamic concept. . but it’s negative. “Money. the professor is tired. It takes him longer to get out a sentence.” His final explanation is of networks. “Trust and information is what a governmental monetary system is about. I exchange my IOU note for the bank’s note and I pay the individual with the bank’s IOU note. It’s a negative value.“And we invent a measurement and the measurement is called the dollar.

punching little holes in small pieces of paper marking where we’ve been and where we’re going.” “Paper and coins. it’s a paradox.” “I can’t imagine something. Paper and coins are old hat. what we put trust and faith in that creates value. Debit cards. They can be packaged in any number of different ways.” “But we’re not talking about a physical symbol here.” “I can imagine those things. That’s data. But I can imagine that chips could store data—whatever that looks like—and those chips could be worth something.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S trust. You have to impose reason. the conductor knows him. On their own. You have to imagine those things.” “You may just be imagining the cards themselves. makes something worth something.” —  — . He trusts what the man says and moves on down the aisle. data are information. Data are made of electrons and photons.” “Seems so. would the conductor believe me? Would he trust what I had to say? Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “So money relies on me at the end of the day. I board the train and exchange another set of bills for a ticket.The man explains that he has already paid. he can’t find his receipt. I can’t imagine that. That’s currency.” “Help! Please help! It’s fine for you to process this. You can’t hold them in your hands.” “Trust and information.” “But you can’t picture them either. No matter. So. and you can’t physically value something without imagining it. Credit cards. or worth something else.” “Even if you could it wouldn’t mean anything.” “I can’t imagine that.” “Money as data? You’re right. I wonder if I were to relay the same information as the man did. not what they represent.” “Sure you can.” “Or nothing. Energy.The conductor wakes the man I sit next to and asks him for a ticket. but I can’t imagine anything but the uses of this data. It’s what we believe to be true.

It varies.” —  — .The Mec hanics of Money “And that information is conditional. And that information changes. Perhaps we should ask him. In fact. the person who created money out of data is an interesting enough fellow.” “So how do values stay constant? Where do data bridge the gap?” “It does seem rather mind-bending.

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until the whole universe can be accounted for. Can you hear me in the back? Good. He took a simple concept of a bank-issuing credit card company and took it global. let me explain how VISA was begun. how everything relates to everything else in the planet.” “Yes. Mostly because he doesn’t trust me. Dee Hock. his thoughts and ideas better than my scribbling. So be it.C H A P T E R 3 The Evolution of Money to Data had geared up for the challenge. yes. I finally got through. Hock.” “But it’s your book. on this one and the next. somehow I need to call him Mr. I came to find out. He decimalized value and made it part of a string of electrons in a computer. He likes Mr. and then next. Hock. Most recently. it changed the way that money is handled. I. founded VISA in the 1960s. But VISA was your concept. . To give you some idea of the weight of our discussion.” My Imagination wants Mr. Mr. I finally booked my time with Dee Hock. the founder of VISA. “Are you sure?” “Yes. Hock and me to trade places in this discussion. Hock to explain how VISA was begun. The concept. my Imagination. Go on. will give way to my Imagination and Mr. however. I’d read his book. Hock made money of 1s and 0s. the physical self. Really. was in the context of money—what it means. In fact. I’d rather. that’s true. . Better yet. my raconteur. I had tried to attend a conference his organization was hosting—to no avail. right now. —  — I . right here. in this space. in this time we are spending together. I should note. let me allow Mr. was not so simple.What was to be a scheduled ten-minute discussion turned out to be an hour’s talk about everything from the biosphere to biomechanics. Hock’s words. if you say so .” “Okay. combed through his articles. All of this.

Fast then slow. merchants. The concept of ‘credit card’ was inadequate. if there were no constraints whatever. Slow then fast. the concepts of bank money and credit card.They’re left in wonder. communication companies. “Money had become nothing but alphanumeric data recorded on valueless paper and metal. in the most fundamental sense. is it still a dollar bill? “What is it that we want to accomplish? How will we organize it?” A Palm Pilot. Credit cards had to be reconceived as a device for the exchange of monetary value in the form of arranged electronic particles. by infinitely diverse paths. people stand. Massachusetts. In a dark. wherever the customer happened to be. at minuscule cost. In fact. red lights. immune systems. individual customers.” Could they box the light show. and to understand how those elements might evolve in a micro-electronic environment. Blue lights. “Evolution routinely creates complex organizational patterns—rain forests. throughout the entire electromagnetic spectrum. suppliers. No stock corporation could do it. It would become data in the form of arranged electrons and photons that would move around the world at the speed of light. But a major problem remained. seven days a week. brain. green lights flash in sequences to music. They walk outside the room. circular room. marine systems. If anything imaginable were possible. Perceptions swiftly changed.” There’s a light show at the Museum of Science in Cambridge. No nation-state could do it. twenty-four hours a day. and government entities. Any organization that could globally guarantee and clear monetary information in the form of arranged electronic particles in every monetary value in the world would have the market—every exchange of monetary value in the world—that staggered the imagination. no existing form of organization could do it. It would require a transcendental organization linking together in wholly new ways an unimaginable complex of diverse financial institutions. body. How can they keep hold of that magnificent sensory world? “Embedded in what had seemed a hopeless problem was an incredible opportunity. It was beyond the power of reason or the reach of the imagination to design such an organization or to anticipate the problems and opportunities it would face. keep it in their left pocket? “No bank could do it.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “It was necessary to reconceive. what would be the nature of an ideal organization based on biological organizing principles to create the world’s premiere system for the exchange of monetary value? VISA was born of that idea. Demand for that exchange would be lifelong and global.” —  — .The show continues.” If I scan a dollar bill on to a computer screen.

Aren’t we missing something? “The balance sheets are all false. if converted to a stock company.” Mr. as ownership is in the form of nontransferable rights of participation. But it cannot be bought. The importance of the VISA story in my discussion with Mr. custom. Storage of value and means of exchange were all that would be needed to allow value to escape into the world.” he posits. its owners. the real self. “There is natural capital. Hock says. and be invisible to the human eye. What is the value of that concept? VISA. in the financial world. at the same time. All the principles that hold true for money hold true for VISA. Hock says. mirrors the concept of money. would have an astronomical value. Value is a concept that Mr. its customers. Hock is that its evolution. on a balance sheet? Commercial value. And its only has a staff of three thousand. what is intellectual value versus commercial value? What then is natural capital? What are the values that make companies perform? What do we measure in the capital markets. It became a belief system that empowered people to trade value without the need for physical numeraire. Hock. “Money had really become nothing but alphanumeric information.” The idea that banks were behind VISA provided the concept with value. it is the concept of money.” It was the understanding among banks that VISA would be honored that created value. I. for-profit membership corporation. sixteen million merchants and eight hundred million people in three hundred countries. “Money is information. For example.” Mr. —  — . intellectual capital. My research finds that VISA is a nonstock. At the heart of VISA was an understanding. politics. It transcends language. or traded. okay. That concept became money. sneak out without its clothes on.They are only a way to aggregate monetary capital. Its annual volume exceeds $1. its members. sold. and culture and connects more than twenty-one thousand financial institutions.” says Mr. Indeed.The institutions that create its products are. “There had to be the belief that someone would accept it.” says Mr. its subjects and its superiors. then what is the value of that information? “We haven’t a clue. essentially. “But then there is the question of value. Hock. Hock feels strongly about. It is an inside-out holding company in that it doesn’t hold but is held by its functioning parts. am taking back control from my Imagination.5 trillion per year.The Evolution of Money to Data If the light show was in my left pocket— Okay. “It’s a range of electrons and photons that move at the speed of light and bounce around the universe. If money is information. And it isn’t subject to any regulatory authority in the world.

Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “I’m flattered. Hock says. —  — . But aren’t we talking about the representation of value? Isn’t that what money is?” “For an imagination. you’re rather literal. “Information is destroying its boundary asset. the storage of the light. Hock.” “In fact. None of this is accounted for when we value things—whether they be organizations.” He takes a long pause. you’re on to something. Only a word can define it. The forests are lush. steam heat rising from a sidewalk.” “I’ve got a lot on my mind.The limitless information our mind can absorb is the money. Reality is too detailed. the thing we will comprehend in time. Energy can’t be seen. and therefore value. Information. the energy that comprises the world. My Imagination sees these things. Details are left out. we are left with data. Before. It changes most everything—governance. says Mr. An Eden. has changed. Money is what we use to represent value—in its most widely used form. We imagine it. Access is a mouse click away. aren’t you?” “Damn straight. Then the story gets told.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S commercial capital. there was a difference between public and private information. and infrastructure capital. But promise me later that you’ll watch television. I need a picture to move things along. “Our whole system socializes costs and capitalizes gains.Water is pure and plentiful. It takes on different representations: the sun. Value. locked. Maybe even a story if you have the time. You can’t account for and capture everything. as we know. Like a rose petal. a video. Hock says. There are wild birds overhead. We see those things and associate energy.” he says. you see.” “You’re putting me to work again. That. And evolution isn’t going to stop. But all those boundaries have literally dissolved. He knows where all this is headed. Until then. has heretofore been bound. is boundless. without form. power.” as well as scarcity of capital. kept out of reach. commodities or currency. But it doesn’t have to be anything. just like money. electric towers. Blue skies. Like a bee who gets sent off course in the breeze. Mr. That accessibility changes value. gas pumps.” Mr. “What is it that really concerns the public? Is it the price of the stock market? Nonsense. The air is clean. It can just be a word.” “Here goes.

as more and more people take the value of her word and store it or pass it on and use it themselves in whatever increments she has determined.” “Exactly! It’s the storage of information. A person could overspend.” “But words have no boundaries. You tell him that he has won a million dollars. the data. White picket fence. The ledger is really an exchange. all that. You pull up to a nice suburban house.The Evolution of Money to Data widow “You got it.” “Can I go to sleep now?” “Not yet. The neighbors come out from their houses. People believe him because they were just told that he is worth a million dollars. And so. she can spend on her word too. that represents the value. She can then use that to go purchase other things—or even invest.” “A ledger with that information would have to be kept. They are all informed that this guy is now worth a million bucks. You walk to the front door and knock. The preppy guy says. ‘I’ll buy that house for $500. right? That’s where one word is exchanged for another. on.” “It is Wall Street. That worth has now been transmitted. A preppy guy holding on to his Great Dane answers. The values are calculated. As long as people believe that she has that worth.” “All right then. The owner of the house takes his word.’ His word is all that is transmitted. “A house across the street is for sale.” “Sounds like Wall Street. and so on.000. A crowd gathers. That value represents money.” —  — . What we use to transact has been erased. or one thing is exchanged for another.

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Others are just getting fresh air. (The first block of Wall Street is closed to through traffic. mission critical. where George Washington took the first oath as the president of the United States on April 30. with its Roman columns. Workers at a company going public that day hold out signs to advertise and rally traders: AmBev. I walk the 650 steps of Wall Street. loses. it’s not from someone in a suit and tie marching next to someone else in a suit in tie as they scamper along the street or the sidewalk. I pass by Federal Hall. Most who are outside are sneaking a cigarette. The exchange trading floor is a huge basement filled with computer screens and people shouting at tiny digits that scroll by on a ticker display. someone who makes. I have walked up and down Wall Street hundreds of times. outside. I tell the man I sit next to that I am a writer and I want to know what money really means to him—as a critical part of the money machine. I pass by the New York Stock Exchange. Japanese tourists click off rolls of film. holds. I just now notice.) I notice the expressions on the smocked traders: They all look tired. and brown smocks. though. Meanwhile. one of those late summer days when it’s comfortable to wear a blazer—not too hot. its many entrances plagued by Wall Street traders in their blue. the expression on most everybody’s face: serious. 1789.C H A P T E R 4 The Exchange of Money Value Street in lower Manhattan. It’s a bright summer day. —  — I ’m at the place where more money changes hands in one day than any other place in the world. the floor of the New York Stock Exchange doesn’t have any windows to open. just next to the statue of George Washington. decides on the fate of lots of money throughout the day. If I see a smile. I’m on Wall . I sit next to a trader on the steps of Federal Hall. gray. from Trinity Church to the East River.

And people could lose money. And companies are deemed worth more or less at the end of a trading day. and literally buying TCI. But as I looked at my screen. they are the ones responsible for all that money disappearing. The guys in the smocks.Wall Street ticks.Traders like the one I sat next to can’t say a word about it all. “We can’t.TCI. Jr. I remember once when I was writing a story about the media industry.Their power is enormous when it comes to the value of money. I saw that I wasn’t alone. These firms. His name is Robert McCooey. The “they” he is talking about are the firms that control the flow of money in and out of the NYSE.5 million.” he says.’s ticker symbol—that’s TCOMA. He swallows what he was going to say.Transcontinental Realty. All that potential money—gone. I typed in the symbol TCI to get a price.” There is never a direct connection between the yous and the mes. He puts his glasses back on and looks at me. Specialists. Companies had been devalued that much—stock traders had sold. Considering the average seat on the NYSE goes for about $2. the McCooeys have —  — . The intrigue. like referees. They won’t let us. never mind the usual battle traders have to face in verbally matching orders to prices. regulate how much a company’s stock will go up or how much it will go down. They were hearing that TCI was a buy. that could start people talking.TCI had received some positive news about something or other—and its stock shot up. Stupidly. I noticed. means millions of dollars. Companies’ share prices rise and fall. the wrong company. as investors. the ones who can’t speak.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S He has just finished rubbing his eyes. wasn’t Telecommunications Inc. So with these deep pockets. they are the messengers. At the end of the trading day on October 19. He takes another breath and then informs me that he can’t speak to the media. for example. and his family owns seven seats on the New York Stock Exchange through their firm. Poof. Hence. whose members literally own seats allowing them sit in on the action as billions of dollars of companies’ shares trade through verbal commands and electronic confirmation orders.These “specialists” buy shares from me and sell them to you through “floor brokers.. I get some one who works on the NYSE floor to talk.TCI. the impulse to speak is stopped just before any words come out of his mouth to answer my question. more than a trillion dollars had been wiped out. was up big on even bigger volume. A word. Griswold Company. stock traders have to watch what they say. Finally. a misspelled acronym. It centered around Telecommunications Inc. fondly known in the business as TCI. step in to make sure my floor broker isn’t asking too much and your floor broker isn’t offering to pay too little. like that. People were getting it wrong. though.. 1987 (Black Monday).

That’s not good for a business whose sole function relies on capital. But they. let’s call them. ” There’s a bit of an irony to this. Jr. “We just did a two-million-share trade for a block of Wal-Mart. that’s $100. In one shot. Jr. Jr.The Exc hage of Money Value shelled out a lot of money to make a lot of money—for themselves and their clients. If Bob. I figured that smocked traders on the floor of an exchange didn’t really think too much about the meaning behind money. I figured this was coming. for a comment as I’m interviewing him. The number of people trading— trying to salvage the value of their money invested—increased dramatically the day before. his eighths add up. in terms of dollars. Jr. So the decline puts the value of most money invested in the market below what it was at the year’s beginning. the amount of money he represents on a moment-to-moment basis is too awesome for him to think of it in terms of dollars.Traders. spoken at length about the value of this company and the value of that company. he says. barraged with sell orders. Days when the market is down are days when people lose money. in one instant—$80 million. low. —  — . But that’s not it. that was $80 million. were looking tired and haggard. in terms of dollars. Jr. And. “I can’t think that way. what money means. In any case. He eyes the crew as they are escorted away. Considering Bob.’s eye. Well-smocked and well-endowed. “If I thought about how much that is. I couldn’t do my job effectively. after all. I’m there on the stock exchange floor a day after the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinks almost four hundred points. The slide follows a flat year for stocks.Volume was huge. There are media all over here. He has done reports for television.’s firm trades about eight million shares a day at an average price of $40. as I had. Money is big news all of a sudden. Bob is actually very thoughtful about the matter. He waves and smiles. .” he says. Jr. well into the millions. low. whether a “crash” will occur where the value of everybody’s money invested in stocks will sink low. Reason to freeze. as he is speaking with me when he says this to them.000. I look at Bob. deserve such an answer. say an eighth. . I’d freeze.They haven’t followed the rules of setting up a proper interview and clearing it with exchange officials. People wonder whether things are overvalued. Jr.” In fact. whether they’ve paid too much money for stocks that aren’t worth as much as they were once told. Another reporter catches Bob. the day’s losses make big news—around the world. He gives them the pat answer I received from the smocks on the street: “We can’t talk . I asked Bob. that Bob would give me a nonanswer. After the Germans are shooed away.” says Bob. gets a slightly better price for that block. A German television crew accosts Bob.

big fiber-optic cables strewn about. A value system outside the world of money has been created. This is where the specialists sit. so there is a lot of yelling. it seems. “Money is the scorecard on Wall Street. They step into an elevator and make it to the building lobby. a lot of urgency. A constant roar rises from the exchange floor. more or less. a lot of rapid-fire orders.” But at the same time he says that money really isn’t thought about in its traditional sense. The exchange floor environment is frenetic. Needless to say. They wind around past a couple of other traders like Bob. Thinking in decimals and digits is easier than thinking in dollars or currency. about the meaning of money. says. If you didn’t know otherwise. Money. not this windowless world of finance. supply and demand. (Anyone with a television camera draws a crowd. Money is the safety and security and the value within the confines of an infrastructure. The infrastructure is the snapshot from when a trader gets an order to buy or sell to when he executes that order and either makes or loses money for the customer. “Where were we?” Actually. it’s loud. The senior citizens just look on. He tells me. my Imagination goes with the German television crew.They interview a couple of tourists about the precarious situation the stock market is in. The German television crew decides to call it quits. Jr. but relents. They run into a senior citizens’ tour group. When a stock trades at nine and a half or five and a quarter no dollar sign is posted in front.) They begin to shoot footage outside the NYSE. they pass the team of security guards and metal detectors everyone who enters must meet. It’s a basic formula of. The crew steps out on to Broad Street. a depression? —  — . you’d think a grand cocktail party was underway. after all. There isn’t even a carpet on the floor. (They wear smocks. As Bob.” Bob.There.) No fine art is displayed. They take the buy and sell orders from the floor brokers. People aren’t dressed in fancy garb. His cameraman continues to shoot footage. The German correspondent tries to figure an angle in here. They take this information verbally. Jr. continues to talk about “finding value” by getting better prices. Jr. Will it lead to inflation. You’d never know so much money was being represented on the floor of the NYSE by an objective look at it. The decorum is utilitarian: computers. in wonder of the madness that an exchange environment promotes. I was just at the part where I was trying to get a personal philosophy from Bob. Jr.The tourists have gathered. Money is distilled here to its representation. is for use in the outside world. People race from phones to stations that represent companies.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “Sorry.

we pull in tighter and tighter on the man’s face. They were signs. lifts them in the air to see if he can spot any dirt or smears. A German tourist I once met told me that the tall buildings on Wall Street didn’t indicate to her signs of success or achievement. it means a lot of companies aren’t doing so well. and as the German television crew holds steady on the smocked trader for a close-up. But that is far removed from the NYSE and Wall Street. Whether those stocks go up or down doesn’t specifically matter to the economy at large. the noise of a plane engine: it’s there. on the footsteps of Federal Hall is the smocked trader who couldn’t talk to me. It’s like the frog scene in the film Magnolia. People then tend to take their money out of stocks. then places them back on his face and looks back out on to Wall Street—expressionless. He takes his glasses off. when the Great Depression began in America. it has to start somewhere. They walk up Broad Street—shooting as they go—to Wall Street. not frogs.That money out of companies’ coffers means companies have to borrow to produce goods. That means people have to pay more money for say. If a company’s stock falls it means it’s not performing well. They’ll have to pay higher rates of interest to do that.There. she said. except now it’s raining stockbrokers and briefcases. —  — . It just keeps running unnoticed. and another. That sends the prices of goods or services they provide up. like white noise.That sends prices down further. a cup of coffee. What affects the economy at large is the perception of what those stocks represent. a pair of shoes. Money on Wall Street is the sound of a dishwasher. A man lands on a car. He envisions men in suits.The Exc hage of Money Value My Imagination latches on to that. As it’s raining stockbrokers and briefcases.Then another. And it could all start with a trader uttering one wrong word. jumping from skyscraper windows as they supposedly did in 1929. Still. of loneliness and despair. Whether the NYSE or any other exchange sees a rise or a fall doesn’t much matter either. If a lot of companies’ stocks fall in price. The German television reporter asks the trader a question: “Are we safe?” The Dow Jones Industrial Average represents just forty stocks.That disease could spread. it’s unfazed. but after awhile you don’t pay attention to it. stockbrokers. The German television crew gets it all on film.

in a way. well.” “Right.” “Exactly. There are equations. nothing is signed. I imagine. You have to know.” “You gave me the idea. actually. left for me to imagine. It bears new symbols. Quiet time. The shouted order. The accepted exchange.” “Oh.” “Get off the traffic. I can’t stand those sounds in my head.” “On his word. cannot be static. Symbols. It’s then exchanged and recorded. must represent something. You’d imagine a whole assortment of things about Microsoft.” “I get it.” “Like if I imagined Microsoft trading at $10 per share. The exchange between two people is stored. It’s money— raw.’ On Wall Street. and facts that put words into context. Money is noise because it’s in the background all the time. values.” “Professor Shubik told us that.” “Please––let’s be adults. There you go. It’s represented as a number—the symbols you keep going back to. Money breaks into new digits.’” “And that word unravels a world. that noise. the foghorns.” “The trust that goes along with that information. It’s just done.” “Almost like us or any organism that reproduces. Valuing something on supply and demand is conveyed via money. New values are set. analyses. sorry.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “Money there is noise? I don’t get it. Give me some new ground. But you’d just use the word ‘buy.” “And then it’s recorded. ‘Buy’ takes on an implied connotation.” “I have that image again. It’s simple.” “Do tell. information is implied.” “Right.” “More than that. Another thing for me to piece together. or money.” —  — . imagine. It’s trust and information exchanged millions of times a day—on mere words alone. The point is. You’d then imagine the possibilities of it going up. Left unsaid. McCooey says he just looks someone in the eye when he accepts an offer or when someone accepts his—no papers are passed. yes. what the situation is. a sequence of events.” “I’ve already got that. Same thing with ‘sell. what the results are.” “Thanks.” “The words.

let’s say.” “Too complicated. let’s say.” “Right.” “Well.” “Show me why. We can value those too. And there are the makers of the objects. instead of a map. What did I say?” “It’s what you couldn’t say. There are objects.” “Like a basketball player spinning a basketball on his fingertip.” “So how do you value a value like money?” “One currency versus another.” —  — . We can then trade on that—“ “—like Wall Street. imagine an atlas. But what about the value itself. Then.” “Exactly. the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.The Exc hage of Money Value “That’s what I’m here for—to give you new ideas.” “Try Alan Greenspan.” “Who is it that who has the world spinning on his finger as such? I need that image. The economy of one nation versus another. I can only imagine a map of the world. which in turn represents all the objects and the makers of objects?” “Valuing a value?” “Isn’t that what money is now? The representative value of a value versus another value?” “Since money doesn’t represent gold or silver anymore?” “Exactly. they represent money. pull some cartoon imagery together and put a man’s finger on the world’s axis. a Microsoft. right? We can value those.

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S. doesn’t look at money as we look at money. It’s the Fed’s job to make sure that a dollar can buy relatively the same amount of goods or services for the same price. After all. The Fed says there are actually three types of money—and it tracks all three to determine an overall value for the U. you’ll have to go back to sleep for a while. the head of the British secret service?” my Imagination asks. “Wasn’t M James Bond’s boss.S. For the record. I promise I’ll wake you when the explanations are over. leaving room for growth (what companies can charge) and abating inflation (the oversupply of money in circulation). “Please. to the Fed. How this gets done is an extremely complicated series of analyses. over $100. A dollar’s equivalent value within the confines of the U. And money is also check-like deposits.” “Sorry. they value the value of the U. and so on. the Fed calls these three types money M1. M2. It’s checking deposits. certificates of deposit (CD) accounts. I was pleasantly snoring away. or savings accounts. The total of all three is our nation’s money supply. government is goods or services. In other words.000. and M3.C H A P T E R 5 The Storage of Money Value he Federal Reserve Board is responsible for defining the value of money. is hard currency—coins and bills. as it’s so fondly known.000. a dollar is a dollar anywhere in the United States. First of all. the Fed. under $100. currency. This isn’t done by putting a number value on the dollar. I truly won’t need to imagine anything for some time.S.” “You called me. M on its own is used to represent the total. the dollar. dollar. or what they call demand deposits—the money that can be easily withdrawn from your bank account. Money. we’ll never get through this if you keep popping up.” —  — T .

the iced tea. At each one of these stops. things get out of control—inflation. for example. is the number of times per year each dollar is spent.” GDP. That’s for two glasses. That. “But—” “—It is simple. “I ask for something I want. I need reason now. “Not really. “There sure are a lot of acronyms flying around. But you have to imagine some of this stuff . M.” “I was. at least. We are constantly spending money. It says that money turns over about nine times throughout the year. or velocity. Off you go. Money supply is deceiving because it’s not stagnant. “It wasn’t that expensive last time I was here. See. So. is our total spending in a year—money multiplied by the number of time it’s spent. who now works for the Vanguard Group. What goes on in between is money in this world. .” says Joel Dickson.” “I thought you were asleep. . In fact. MV. or GDP. So each dollar will end up at about nine different places every twelve months. no. that dollar should be worth the same amount. we’re sitting in the lounge of a fancy hotel looking out at the California beach. it should be able to purchase the same amount of goods or services.” “I’ve already got the simple stuff down.81. Velocity is how the Fed determines how much we spend. I just can’t shut down like that.” “We’ll get back to that later. but $5 for a glass of iced tea is a lot.V. like reason. the iced tea arrives. is how the Fed tracks money.” —  — .” Where were we? Oh yes. Joel informs me: Money is the arbiter. Another way to look at it is the average price all goods and services multiplied times the total quantity of goods and services sold in a year. money and how many times it’s spent has to always equal out. When we go to pay the bill. therefore. GDP is looked at both ways because MV.Total spending is our gross domestic product. GDP also comprises all the goods and services sold in a country per year. a former staff economist at the Fed.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “Then what?” “No. as we know.” I note. one of the largest investment companies in the world. “It only sounds simple.” I say. Makes sense right? We have to buy all the goods and services we buy with money.” he says. Otherwise. Granted. it comes to $11. the Fed has to track how much we spend in order to keep the ledger in order. Blackout time. and I get it.

The Fed manipulates interest rates through its —  — . What does the Fed use now to determine its policy and put it into effect? Good question. a hint over what the Fed might do when it exercises its power literally changes the markets. at the Fed who is allowed to speak. issuing more bonds. after dealing with the Fed and reading through all of its publicly disseminated information. Indeed. No way. stating that it’s antiquated. while it catches the news. Can’t get in the door.And that’s the trick. But good question. So. in order for things to prosper. M2. D.” says Dickson. reserve requirements. there is too much money in circulation—the prices of goods and services will increase too. All that talk about M1. Lower interest rates increase the money supply. stupid. one gets the sense that the Fed is either very confused itself about its mission. How to grow without creating inflation. it seems. Higher interest rates decrease the money supply. the only person. things must grow. All those formulas the Fed devised and calculated to battle inflation—well. Example: money supply. It sufficiently obfuscates what money is and how the value of money is determined. or it doesn’t know what its mission is. we wouldn’t need any money. “Money is determined by what we spend. It says that it uses a “broad range of indicators” to determine the value of money.” says David Skidmore. Nothing goes on record.” That increase is called inflation. if we overspend—in other words. However. The actual event of raising and lowering interest rates. If we didn’t spend any money.The Storage of Money Value The reason I’m talking to Joel in California is because the Fed.Vague answers. the Fed uses the term “monetary policy” to describe money. they threw money supply out the window just recently. Any one word can send the markets spinning. the Fed’s control over the money supply lies in its power to control interest rates. And that’s what the Fed hopes to avoid. accounting for billions of dollars in trading movements. Of course.C. in Washington. buying back debt.. To do that the Fed institutes its measures: interest rate changes. No how. isn’t really what happens. isn’t talking. What’s so sensitive? “It’s the economy. the Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked a few hundred points after Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan announced that interest rates would be slashed half a percent. and M3. Most recently. “You have to realize that what we do is sensitive. Skidmore is the Fed’s spokesman. The Fed composes money.” As I’m sitting with Joel. In its own lingo.

and. The banks deposit the money in their reserves. Money is incidental to that. When it wants to decrease the money supply. or its own bonds.5 million per day worth of currency in notes between $1 and $100. and then the banks re-lend that money out to us.Voilà. will I have a job and be able to afford those —  — . Moreover. We haven’t discussed how this affects the value of money. and increases the money supply. Mo’ money on the planet. Mint prints and mints dollars and coins to match our spending habits. those nine times each dollar gets spent. well. taking the money from buyers. Treasury securities. Dickson explains: “Remember I said it is simple? It is. Banks borrow money from the Federal government. This is what banks can borrow against from the U. it effectively lowers interest rates.S. When the Fed buys back its own debt.” Certainly. the $20 bill. and if they rise or.The average $1 stays in circulation eighteen months.) On top of that. the $10 bill. the value of money is determined by the prices of goods and services. The U. the Fed will sell securities. It also buys or sells U. And who are we as a nation mostly in debt to? Banks. the $5 bill. burning it. the Fed will write checks to the banks who own its bonds. It’s the prices.The amount really doesn’t matter. in the United States.Whatever we use to buy those things—let’s say money—is one side of the equation. the $50 and $100 bill. three years.S. But what really matters is how much will it cost us to borrow against from the government to buy those things (interest rates) and how much are those things anyway—consumer prices. like CPI [Consumer Price Index] or PPI [Producer Price Index]. That’s the gist of monetary policy. nine years. It also can raise or lower the discount rate it allows banks to borrow on. or discount. the Fed gives them a preferred rate or interest.That’s money. the Treasury destroys about $7. Of course we’ve just covered money in toto. producer prices. This creates an excess in their reserves. the more or less than the nine times each dollar turns over in a year.To buy back its debt.When money rises and falls. So next time you see those economic indicators. fall. Inflation means prices rise.5 billion per year in different denominations. This is the most efficacious way the Fed controls money and money supply. (It prints $22. so the banks will then lend out that money—to people like you and me—and put it into circulation. government.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S discount rate.S. values rise and fall. they indicate inflation. Raising or lowering the discount rate raises and lowers the amount of money banks have to keep on reserve to meet our cash requirements. four years. and how it rises and falls or gets destroyed. These bonds are our national debt. those same banks. two years.

Flags waft.” “We’re thinking in opposite directions. A couple holding hands walking along the boardwalk. a fastball. a tennis serve. sending it in what seems like an unnatural direction. paid with a credit card.” “How could you have slept through all of that? It was complicated.” “Just in time I see to picture the waves crashing to shore. That’s money.” “My point. Maybe it is simple.And at the end of the day. it was boring. that wind.” “No.” “Good. the RPM dial on a Porsche.” “Aren’t you getting it. and I’m awake. Perhaps this is why accountants don’t paint.” “But it isn’t. I mean I get the reality of money. In fact.” —  — . “ . what money means?” “Nope. what money is.” “In a sense. Imagining a nude woman from a single line drawn by Picasso is complicated. it’s nothing but air .The Storage of Money Valuey things or produce enough of those things to go around? The answer to that question is called an employment level. the clouds and the rain? It changes really everything. Where does that leave me? What can I do with a term like ‘velocity’? That ‘V’ thing you yammered on about. .” “What you’re saying is that we’re growing farther apart. I attach different meanings to what you conjure in your day-to-day discovery. you’ve said it to death. by the way. after all. I get lost when you steep so far into dry facts. In mine. . Pretty much those few things determine how much money should be printed or released to lap up demand. Velocity to me is a rocket ship’s bright flare. the waves.” “Then what is it?” “Whatever I want to make it. Dickson. Ripples chopping the sea. it’s what I can buy with it. ” Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “A breeze?” “I was just waking up.” “In your world. I’m stifled. “Which way will the breeze blow? What affect will it have on the tides. . .The wind change directions and send the breeze elsewhere.

That’s what I’m trying to provide.” “Where to?” “Ah.39 today?” “I suppose not.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “You really must have been asleep in the last chapter. despite your best work. Let’s get a world view. philanthropy.” “So why go through the exercise? I could have told you that. see what money is on the foreign exchange market. he’s out to get me.” “Some things you can’t imagine. the less you have to imagine.” “I don’t want to die. generosity. the world—New York. part of that anyway. Then that should just about do it. equality. power. ego.” “Could you have imagined that. gluttony—and the good—charity.” —  — .” “And that’s why I hate reason.” “No one is saying that yet.” “So is that the mission? Am I to die off here? Is that where we’re headed?’ “There’s a chance of that.” “Then what have we left?” “In terms of what money is. Once we determine what money can be and should be.” “Isn’t that the terrible thing about knowledge?” “What?” “The more you know.” “I hardly think so. That’s what we found out. Then and only then will we see whether there’s anything for you to turn to in times of silent thought. we need to identify ourselves. manipulation.” “But it feels like I’m losing something. You don’t have the ammunition. $1 in 1950 is worth $7. in all its forms: the bad—greed. support.

that year to hammer out exactly how this could be done. It’s to that which we are compared. In an almost perfect balance. the world at large. It has no choice. In 1944 fixed rates of exchange were determined by the world’s major industrial nations. fixed rates of currency exchange had been established and the International Monetary Fund had been created. Not too fast. whether they liked it or not. despite things affected by time. It’s entombed. Influences arise. It’s to that in which we must fit in. being strong testament to the “not.We are part of the inextricable weave of society. The growth of imports and exports meant nations had to rely on one another. It runs despite how big or little. International trade had forced the hand of governments who could no longer worry about the stability of just their own currencies. And then we are no longer isolated in our womb. makes it grow. —  — I nside. And then we are born into the world. Because who knows or cares what the outside world thinks. . Indeed. Not too slow. or better yet. But life cannot be lived in a vacuum. World War II. It makes perfect sense. the mission of worldwide price stability. was left to forty-four governments whose representatives met in Bretton Woods. New Hampshire. of course. When the representatives left three weeks later. only time is the thing that affects it.” In any case. All that is needed is within the confines of these borders. even is.C H A P T E R 6 The Global Monetary Value System All its parts are sufficiently connected. these walls. ergo currency balance.

A global village had been built through the proliferation of communication and technology. The early 1970s posed a disaggregative environment:The Vietnam War raged. in order to calculate the value of goods and services in one country versus the goods and services in another country.51 for a muffin. Not silver. Foreign exchange markets value these considerations in the Forex spot markets. a “foreign exchange rate” still has to be established. The free market took over. Currency takes on a new meaning. To be sure it was a struggle. or disinterested (lower interest rates) in attracting capital. dealers. Not gold. But this rate is determined on a second by second basis by currency traders.They decided how much a currency is worth compared to other currencies. —  — . means stabilization. They still do. Interest rates are the most widely used and indicative barometer of economic stability. oil prices skyrocketed. They decided how much a dollar would be worth on the worldwide market. Of course in countries of origin.55 for a muffin.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S In 1973. it’s basically determining the strength of the U. Here. Outside a country’s borders. That’s why the Federal Reserve Board is so powerful. is worth X number of yen. inflation fears neared. two years after the United States abandoned the gold standard. a dollar may increase or decrease in value. the world’s major currencies were allowed to float. What does that mean? Well. government: how desperate it is (higher interest rates). Here. or British pounds. in this case. Money represents what a country is worth when compared to other countries. money is viewed much differently. currency is no longer the material or the “numeraire” utilized as fiat money—paper. It’s trust and faith in governments and their ability to perform. It’s not a matter of pure supply and demand. coins. In this context. fixed rates were no longer imposed. currency remains constant. traders. Monetary control was transferred from the governments to the capital markets. Government performance. as the exchange value for goods and services. money is valued by the goods or services it can acquire. Forty years allowed the world to get a little closer. Within the confines of any country. The world was tumultuous. whatever. By setting interest rates. The dollar.S. or euros or deutsche mark marks. A dollar can only be redeemed for another dollar. It’s these floating rates of exchange that value all money today. or $1. and agents set the price of a nation’s currency. the strain on governments too much. we so often hear. Sort of. the stabilization of their economies. brokers. Its purchasing power may increase or decrease—$1.

is a digital ticker display. One could argue that they are the same thing. To peek inside this world. seven for a nose. Moneychangers have a special place in the world. not the dollar’s or coins. It’s Friday. currency rates. lunchtime. in banks. Trades executed. manufacturing.You see them frequently at airports. Phones ringing.This is the New Millennium. Even the rugby shirt he is wearing is pressed. A security desk greets you where you must sign in. All in the name of currency.” “Too colloquial. The zeros for eyes. recorded. cost of ingredients. His tassel loafers are polished. or in a kiosk near some tourist area. tacked to a mahogany paneled wall. A man wearing khaki Dockers and a rugby shirt looks so uncomfortable.” “Croissant. shouted. if not the largest. These exchange places are but a dimple on the real place where money exchanges hands— trading desks at the world’s major banks.You can tell he’d rather be in the suit and tie uniform. and stock quotes are brightly illuminated in neon green. All in the name of money. that dollar and change used to buy that bread are constant—it’s the bread’s price that has changed.” “Same thing. Office workers are scurrying around.You have to enter the world of exchanging money for money.The numbers blink. is another reception area. It says a lot. On the sixth floor. currency trader in the world. Orders accepted. you have to move outside the stolid environment of the exchange of money for goods or services. so every one is dressed casually— painfully so. But no matter what. His hair is perfectly groomed.The Global Monetar y Value System “Muffin?” “Okay. —  — . Interest rates. where old world meets new. But to do that. My Imagination sees it and immediately creates a scoreboard.” Lots of things may influence the value of that loaf of bread: labor.They somehow arrange into a face. ones for a mouth. I hear that it’s frenetic. doughnut. Here. like one found in any sports stadium. different country. JPMorgan Chase is known as one of the largest. where JPMorgan Chase Bank’s giant trading room lies. Nines fit nicely as ears.” “Loaf of bread?” “There you go. my Imagination and I enter the JPMorgan Chase Bank building on Park Avenue in New York City. But this isn’t the age for that.

W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S

It’s the face of the future. The mahogany paneled walls are anachronistic. Inside, on the trading floor, in rows of eight, perhaps fifty aisles long, sit the dressed-down, casual-Friday traders. They sit on their Herman Miller chairs screaming orders through the telephone headsets. Their eyes are glued to jet-black computer screens fanned out in front of them. Each workstation looks like a cockpit. Six, eight, ten computer screens. Numbers flashing. Numbers scrolling. Numbers changing. Second by second. Minute by minute. This is how and where value ticks. From the old world and into the new world, around the world, it’s here. And people want you to know about it.They shout their existence: “Ten at eighty!”They shout to let the world know what has just happened, to confirm it in high decibel, somehow to validate the fact that they just changed the value of an entire currency, deciding the worth of an entire nation. In an order, a shouted order, all the faith, trust, and belief in a government, in how strong its system for trade is—is determined. All in that shout, by a frustrated guy in a rugby shirt who’d rather be in a suit because it conforms. Not every one does. I see a burst of orange. I can’t decide whether it’s my Imagination or me, the logical self who sees this. Turns out that it’s me, the logical self. Claudia Jury, JPMorgan Chase’s chief currency dealer, is wearing an orange sweater. I try to imagine the significance of this, but He is asleep again, the cacophony, the eavesdropping on workers I pass by (“I’ll try and make it home early . . . ” “Yeah, they have a new salad at the deli . . . ”) drown him out, put my Imagination to sleep. And Claudia Jury is in a rush. She is the only trader monitoring the yen/dollar trading for the day. So I have to make my visit swift. I have to shake hands and pace back to her desk with her. Our grip last a few steps; she is that manic. I want to find out how decisions about value are made. How does she determine the price of a currency? And whom does she trade with anyway? Why do we need people like her on the planet? “If you’re a company in the U.S. and you want to buy a company in Japan, you need to buy yen. So you go to the bank and say I need this much yen. That’s where I come in,” says Jury. Jury’s job is to get yen at the lowest price for her customers. She has to bet that the value of the yen won’t rise, elsewise she loses money for her customers. And her customers want a lot of yen. Billions, in fact. “We don’t think in terms of millions.We trade billions.When we trade, we even lop off the million. So if I say ten, it’s $10 million,” says Jury.
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The Global Monetar y Value System

What Jury is fishing for are the after-digits of the rate. For example, if the dollar is trading at 137.301 yen, she’s trading the 301, looking for a change up or down. How is that determined? First, “there are about five hundred implications,” says Jury. By this, she means the market swings, interest rates, political events, wars, weather, consumption, production, employment, and other indicators. The foreign exchange, or Forex market, as the currency market is called, moves on news and rumor, innuendo and momentum. If the dollar value starts to tick down, she can buy fewer yen. That hurts customers. And that hurts business. When Jury trades, she may trade $500 million in one tranche. But that $500 million won’t ever actually move—physically, that is. Despite the fact that there is more U.S.-denominated money outside of the United States than inside U.S. borders, U.S. currency doesn’t actually move that much, in terms of bills or coins, outside the country. “Technically, we’re not wheeling in barrels of dollars,” says Jury.“We create an account at a branch in a different country.That is called our Nostro account. There is enough currency in that account to conduct the physical transaction made to credit someone else’s account [in U.S. dollars],” she says. In other words, “dollars” are on demand deposit at that foreign bank. Nostro, from the Latin, or Italian, means “ours.” When the Nostro account is tapped, dollars are transferred. What comes into the account in return? Yen. But not really. “We aren’t trading values, we are transacting” says Jury. That means the value is decimalized in the ledger; physical dollars don’t move. “It’s a trading situation.” says Jury. “I don’t think about it as dollars.” What thinking goes into it, in that split second when she is shouting over the phone to confirm an order? The digits. It’s not inflation, macro picture, will we survive or enter a recession? It’s digits.They beat the drum.They play the tune. The big song, that’s for others. An announcement comes in. The Fed lowers rates. Shouldn’t the dollar weaken? It doesn’t. The market decides. The economy in the United States is strong. The market decides. So the market doesn’t react. A weak dollar means it’s not worth as much. Interest rates will rise. Inflation occurs. Prices rise. Recession sets in. Bets are made on that scenario all day long, whether it will happen or not. In gradations. It’s all one big comparison—to a recession, to prosperity. And it’s all compared to the dollar. Only New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, and the euro currency don’t compare themselves in dollar terms. The rest of the
—  —

W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S

world does. Those four currencies compare themselves against all world currencies. But other governments prefer a steady price fix. They get that price fix from the U.S. dollar. It’s like the gold today. It’s the thing to speculate against. Here’s what Jury would typically say: “A customer will call and say I want $100 million of euros against the dollar. A hundred at twenty-eight. So I look at my supply to see if I have it or want it. I know the range is twenty-five to twenty-eight. And if I know they’re desperate, I know I can go twenty-seven to thirty. So, either I’ll take the trade based on everything I know about the market, or not.” The trade Jury speaks of would have meant trading $100 million worth of euros at .8828 to the dollar. Her trading range would have been .8825 to .8830 Jury says that the factors that determine a trade are: inventory, market momentum, political stability, economic stability, news events, and personal prowess. Data and information, on a second by second basis, of course, are key to gaining an edge when trading one currency against another. The speculative market, or spot market, is what comprises most of the currency trading today. It’s not companies looking to get currency to buy other companies or goods or services. It’s not tourists or banks looking to lap up their inventories.The currency markets today rise and fall on speculation— people trading money to make money. The currency markets far and away eclipse the dollar amount traded through any stock market. About $2 trillion per day of currencies is traded around the world. Every country’s currency changes hands, is equated to new terms, is, in fact, born again. But if I gave Claudia a dollar, she’d give me a dollar back. Nothing would change day to day. That’s the irony. Out there, in the world, things are different. Inside here, these walls, a dollar can only be traded for another dollar. It’s worth that much, or that little, depending how you look at it—what you perceive a dollar to mean. “At the end of the day, it’s all perception,” says Jury.“If I perceive a currency to be going down in value, based on all the factors I just told you, then I’d sell it. If I perceived that value to be increasing, then I’d buy it.” In Paulo Coehlo’s novel The Alchemist1, a young man goes out into the world to find someone who can make gold. He has the ingredients. He has the alchemy.The point of the book is that it’s the young man’s experience of going out into the world that is the true alchemy. Out there, life is all one big foreign exchange.
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The Global Monetar y Value System

It’s what he perceives to be valuable that counts. Claudia Jury is pregnant when we first speak. A few months later, when we meet in New York, she isn’t. Claudia had a boy. When babies are born, there is no concept of money. They lack the perception. That is something that is shaped and determined by society, by culture. Ultimately, it’s the values of society that determine the value of a currency. Ultimately, it’s societal values that shape us.

Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“zzzzzzz . . . hhh . . . zzzzzz . . . ” “Wake up.” “I thought I was dead.” “Hardly.” “You don’t need me.” “I do. You see, for all the logic that explains what comprises money, what makes a dollar a dollar, and how it can be manipulated up or down, there is conundrum of how this fits into the day-to-day workings of our culture. You don’t imagine, particularly, where the last dollar you are holding in your hand came from? You don’t look at the date and imagine where that dollar’s been?” “Sometimes I do.” “But not always. It’s taken for granted. The dollars and coins become incidental emblems of value to us. You come in when those emblems are connoted propositions.” “What I imagine you can do with that money.” “Right.” “But I’m having less and less to work with. You barely use dollar bills anymore. I see your credit cards, and I have to take a couple of leaps to get to a shopping spree at Barneys, a vacation in the Mediterranean. Money in the abstract is much harder for me to relate to.” “It seems that we’re dealing with perceptions again. What we perceive money to mean. What we perceive money to stand for.” “I’m struggling with what stands for money these days. I have to imagine a great deal of that. I work very hard, you know.” “Yes, yes. I’ve heard this complaint before.”

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that’d be great. the personal stories of what it’s like to have money. it would be much easier for you to put me to good use. what is that? A euro note. what it’s like not to have money. I’d like to know how value is created. that’s just Imagination again. Maybe even a little help with what I’ll have to deal with in the future. aren’t anywhere. what is that? Platinum cards. fly away and take you with me. aren’t there. perception is where reason and I meet all the time. okay.” “So what are you angling for? It sounds as if you are angling for something. Some ideas are kicked around and before you know it. Reason will be sitting there on some old pile of cash. All that. I’d like to know how value is transferred.’ But if I can get a few prongs around the future of money. You know. And then there are the instances when you just type in a number of some sort or say that number over the phone.” “I want a little tether to these abstract symbols of cash you are trading with these days.” “They are perceived.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “Cybercash. they’ll be what you deem is right. If I keep imagining things. I’m left trying to imagine things that aren’t here. you know him. if that’s not asking too much. Voilà. is changing. or the perception of money anyway. hum. then I can fly. Gold cards. You realize how many steps and what I have to envision to get reason to wake up and take notice?” “Okay. —  — .” “Thank you. logic steps in.” “I thought you wanted to move on to the attachments of money. and I think that you are telling me. It’s like our café on the corner. Debit cards.” “Not the way I see it. As it stands. reason and logic will always overtake me.” “You don’t have to explain that to me. you’re giving reason more power. that money. then I’d like to at least get a grip on that before we march on.” “Uh. and then I’m left out in the cold: ‘Oh. and you and I will be in cyberspace where only I rule.” “You do realize that by doing this.” “Sure. I get it. Credit cards. But if you’re telling me. And I’d like to know what the face of money will look like in the future. So what would you like to know?” “I’d like to know about credit.” “We rule. you get stuff.” “If I had a better sense of what these things are.

you asked. then. let’s wipe away all these misgivings and get on with it.” “Okay.” “But that was a little frightening. to the future of money.” —  — .The Global Monetar y Value System “Can you take me off the face of the dollar bill that is emblazoned in my head now?” “Well.” “So.

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is the currency of the future. the more purchasing power you obtain.C H A P T E R 7 The Future of Money as a Credit-Based System redit. or is the currency.” says Stiglitz. For some. Because that’s where Stiglitz’s views get controversial.” The immediacy of information available through advances in technology makes determining creditworthiness easy and accessible—worldwide. “You have a credit report.This is all based on behavior and patterns. Someday—arguably today—your word may in fact be good for it. indeed. How good is your word? The more successful you are.Your word can be checked —  — C . and someone can determine your creditworthiness instantly. So. criticism is easily launched. the more money you make. of course. or any other form of representative value? Used to be that anonymity forged the necessity of currency. is deemed rather radical. “That shows people who you are and what your purchasing power is. to some. Whenever you are in or associated with the political realm.” says Stiglitz. either. needs even a credit card like a VISA. his views are easy targets of criticism because of the job Stiglitz formerly held: chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. or any other form of numeraire—even data. “That’s what money has become. And your word may be all that you need. Now. It is what we’ll trade with. we trade on doesn’t exactly help matters. Stiglitz’s point of view. that has changed. Saying that credit will be the currency. essentially. credit cards. who needs a dollar to represent that amount of credit? Who. trading. says Nobel Prize–winner Joseph Stiglitz. it is what we trade with and on. checks. Indeed. whatever “it” is.” A credit reports indicates your pattern of behavior when it comes to. “You can be in Malaysia.

Flooz is a “gift currency. flooz?” “You got it. why not forget adapting currencies designed for this world and design a currency for the cyberworld? People are trying. Even though it’s called flooz. available without the necessity of anything tangible.” —to the tune of some $3. Credit card– and bank deposit–backed trading is expensive. sort of like a gift certificate. says it may soon look like this: “It’s payday. and growing. Even today. plus the phone and cable-TV bills.Trust and information. Expectations are that more than $1 trillion will be spent per year over the Internet in 2010. in an article on the future of money. Beenz. Now your paycheck is spent. I can’t imagine what those things are? What the hell is a beenz or a flooz?” “If.”2 That future BW wrote about is now. “In a network society. So. the two ingredients of money. and there are still questions about security. nor signed a single check. it really isn’t. but it still is backed by traditional forms of payment. then most likely the future. For now.5 billion per month. and you never even touched a single greenback. New moneymakers say their service is needed. It transcends all that.You realize your nephew’s birthday is coming up. Hold it right there. there will be lots of different electronic currencies.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S and verified. who founded Flooz. BusinessWeek. And we’ll have more on that later.” “Ideas are about all I have to work with. If not today. “You can move across countries. “Beenz. pay your rent and your credit-card balance. flooz.” says Robert Levitan. half of all Americans make purchases via the Web.” says Levitan. You can’t exactly cram a dollar bill into your computer. ” My Imagination demands. Right. and a week’s salary has been directly deposited in your bank account. pray tell. utilizing the information technology at our fingertips today.” You buy flooz and send it to people over the Internet.Your words can then be gauged for trust. are facilitating trade over the Internet— “Hold it. Do go on. the Arabic word for money and French slang for cash. you’d let me finish.There is no bank or country loyalty. and it’s not a credit card. —  — . the future of money is shaping up as a graphic representation on your computer screen. So you log onto your bank’s Web site. perhaps you’d have a better idea. so you e-mail him some Flooz online currency that could be spent at more than seventy online stores. cybercash in some form.

Interesting if you think about it. “Consumers can spend their beenz at participating Web sites on hundred and thousands of products and services. in fact. when computers already track data and inventory? Computers keep ledgers of what is bought and sold. “Enough. asking for flooz. not hard. “I think I get it now.” Beenz.You’d have to figure he or she wasn’t much good.” That thing has value. if you will.” says my Imagination. E-cash developers say the cyberworld will eventually make cash money obsolete. Electronic. mocking tourists. even you’ve fallen into it. the company. “Pour quoi?” “See. American Express even allows you to redeem award points for merchandise. says. interacting with online business. go on then. are cash.” “What about beenz?” “They’re .” “I’m still coming up blank. But it takes some work on my end.” “Consumers can earn beenz for performing ‘e-work’ online activities. I see French teenagers on corners of the Champs Élysées.The company that invented the initial online currency went bankrupt—ran out of money. canonly-spend-‘em-on-the-Web. He buys something from a desert merchant on an oasis. well. are currency. counting flooz. like visiting a Web site. Frequent flyer points. His camel is in the background.The Future of Money as a Credit-Based System Beenz. membership awards from spending on certain credit cards. Flooz. on the other hand. Data are all that is needed to conduct commerce.” Cybercash. What will be the need to exchange something tangible. very hot. shopping. . failed. . merely by trading in the points I received by using my Amex card to purchase goods. smoking cigarettes. E-cash is a way to package information.” “You imagine correctly. which in turn can be used to obtain other things—like upgrades or car rentals.Your action is valued. and you are rewarded with a “thing. So I had better clarify. and even loyalty points accumulated through long distance telephone use. It wasn’t that Cybercash wasn’t good. I can get everything from a set of golf clubs to free investment consulting. sort of like a counterfeiter who goes broke. Beenz are money. and account for its whereabouts. they’re . . I have to interrupt. And I’m imagining that if I’m having problems—being Imagination after all—then most people will have problems with this cybercash. or accessing the Internet through a service provider. . They are money. it just wasn’t being —  — .” It’s my Imagination again. cash. I could even trade in points for cash money. wearing tight jeans. I see an Arabic man in white robe and turban in the desert. data. Beenz can be likened to an online frequent flyer award point.

But green stamps couldn’t be taken to another country and traded for anything. we have established. And that is the dominant factor in the use of money. a peso is a peso.And there are debit cards. After VISA and Bank Americard. are the foundations of money. because they reduce the need for the card itself. which base your credit limit on your spending patterns. Why can’t that note be written in software code and transmitted as data?” asks Charles Cohen. when driving through a toll booth—the microprocessor. this is all that is needed. then in today’s world that trust and information is available at the speed of sound. a yen is a yen. fully equipped with a tiny —  — . Consumers say what they will pay. Stock traders buy and sell millions of dollars of stock on the faith of a verbal agreement. information. or whether there will be myriad brands. which act like checks. Governments tell us that a dollar is a dollar. They take credit cards and debit cards a step further. People in foreign countries didn’t understand what green stamps were. This chip stores electronic data. Optima. There are charge cards like Diner’s Club and Amex. The next logical question is which brand will survive. Why? The network of acceptance wasn’t large enough. Since trust and information. How widely accepted is whatever it is that is being called money—dollars. For the currency of the future. founder of Beenz. They didn’t have enough information. flooz. Merchants decide what this will buy. and the like.You need something to communicate with. making withdrawals from checking or savings accounts. Words. ergo they couldn’t trust that a green stamp was valuable. “You really don’t need hard money.There are a lot of names that can be added to the list of e-cash brands. Cybercash. and Ford. a slew of cards have hit the market.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S accepted. were successful. Currency traders shout the value of money and determine a currency’s worthiness. It’ll be traded on the trust of that brand. such as bank account information. A smart card has a microprocessor or memory chip embedded in it. rubles. They were worthless. or minicomputer. each pitching a unique twist with their brand name. Today’s smart cards are hybrids of these. today’s Mastercard. beenz. after all. which act like VISA and Mastercard. There are bank cards like Discover. It doesn’t matter what the currency of the future is called. trust. when the card is used—let’s say. Credit. A dollar is just a note. offering preset bank spending limits. Green stamps were a popular method of payment in the United States in the 1950s. The Internet is poised to change the way trust and information are transmitted. GM. So. yen. credit information. There are retail store cards that are only accepted at specific companies or outlets.

I also see you’ve got us careening through various drive-thru windows at fast food restaurants.” “Sorry.” “ . They are generally attached to objects such as gas bottles.” says my Imagination. no stopping. . This allows the object to be managed by an information system without any manual data handling. “The smartness of smart cards comes from the integrated circuit embedded in the plastic card. I’m being squelched. or animals and can hold and protect information concerning that object. in a split second. “How so?” “Whenever I imagine something that comes true. glasses.The Future of Money as a Credit-Based System antenna.” “Let me save you the trouble. the biggest manufacturer of smart cards. And now. yet they have the capacity to retain and protect critical information stored in electronic form. no.” “Well. And logic falls under reason’s domain. such as key rings. “I’m panting.” “See. Charlie.The two computers talk and debit your bank account or credit account—however you have the microprocessor programmed—the amount of the toll. “The development of contactless card technology was the catalyst for what is known as tags. All that is to say that a smart card is a credit or debit card that can transmit wireless data. the vision of us driving through a toll booth on Interstate 95 in Connecticut triggered some fond memories. I see that you think you’re being very creative and cute by designing a cyborg.Tags function like contactless smart cards but are in the form of a ring or even a baggage label. Something has to do with my lapel. rings. you’re trying to put together an image of me at the grocery store checkout stand.” “Yes.” Luxembourg-based Gemplus. This is done as you drive through. signals the toll booth’s microprocessor. it moves on over to become part of logic.” “I’m trying to imagine if they can attach a smart card anywhere. Smart keys are already being used for payTV subscriptions. The same electronic function could be performed by embedding similar circuits in other everyday objects. “The important thing about smart cards is that they are everyday objects that people can carry in their pockets.” “But you are still working now. cars. “Yes. or earrings. I had to take all this somewhere. . watches.” notes my Imagination. says. I’m afraid there’s a computer scientist in England who’s already embedding himself with microchips. or reader.” —  — .

”Volcker says. (Federal Express instead of the United States Postal Service? For-profit schools instead of public ones?) Who.” The company says. “The use of Biometrics will soon mean that a person can be reliably identified by his or her hand. may be enough. it’s all credit anyway. This is just the beginning and will ultimately influence the way that we shop.” Increasing the quality of life may be an aggrandizement. see the doctor.“I have come to the conviction that the full implication of a truly global system of trade and finance will ultimately be a common currency encompassing most of the world. mind. But the idea of money becoming an indelible part of the human nature—body. and spirit—seems inevitable. “Smart cards are a relatively new technology that already affects the everyday lives of millions of people. or sound of the voice. the blink of your eye. Bernard Lietaer. trust can be gauged without the need for a tangible conduit. as currency itself is being brought closer to the individual. in fact. governments themselves may be obsolete as corporations take over the functions of government utilities and services. will trust fall to? What will happen to money then? It may. Soon it will be possible to authorize the use of electronic information in smart cards using a spoken word or the touch of a hand. unify. fingerprints. because. But.We may all. This plays into Stiglitz’s thesis of credit. “Modern society needs an enormous amount of information. use the telephone. “The use of smart card technology will benefit the individual and increase the quality of life. retina of the eye. —  — . back to money.” “Right. a money scholar who was named the top currency trader in the world. money is trust and information. Gemplus says already the sound of your voice. as former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker suggests. as you’ve read over and over. You can have a lot of fun with the cyborg thing.That said. Computers give us the means to process this information. made part of the individual.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “If other people did the same. I’m imagining a scene from Star Trek. then.Technology may enable people to have the facilities to gauge trust because of the nanosecond ability to access information. posits that one day. and enjoy leisure. become a part of the Information Superhighway. Smart cards give us a way of individualizing the handling and control of this information. Pretty soon language would become obsolete. the chips would interact with your brain and speak for you. Technology may enable people to unsheathe the hold governments have on trust.

well. or any other commodity used as a signifier of money. I remember in Kurt Vonnegut’s book Timequake. But it’s his point at the end of the book. to impute that trust? Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “Satisfied?” “About the future? Yes. memorialized by a signature or document of trust. In this case. right?” “Exactly. there wouldn’t be room for. the observation of stars. me. It is. something would have passed between —  — . Not so directly. I’m a goner. That will be the future. . everything in the universe.3 he talks about the demise of.” “Not so. . There’ll be some giant wasteland of us creative types splashing around somewhere. Zeros. we can see them in a mere second! “Even if you’d taken an hour . “ . Why? Because it’s superfluous to any situation.” “You think?” “No. .The Future of Money as a Credit-Based System This is how. of course. nor did silver. I imagine that truth will prevail. White. microprocessing. Black. If we become the microprocessor. Exemplifying. “Can you be trusted?” may be the only barrier to trade in the future. “Pick two twinkling points of obsolete light in the sky above us. hopes. What you are imagining is that the creative process will be hindered by the logic necessitated by computer processing. or it isn’t.” But. only logic will prevail. Why put all that nonsense into the program. you. . desires. creativity. .” he asks. us. frolicking. Imagination. you know. It’s as I suspected. or reason for. he characterizes. wants. as an individual. remember. Whatever heavenly bodies those two glints represent.Who are you. I imagine. ’ will be completely erased.” Vonnegut writes that we may be able to discover it all. One’s word was most frequently used. if we just factor in one new thing: awareness. Thinking is your gig. . he goes on. Gold knew no nation or state boundaries. I’ll be put out to pasture with your dreams. as a person. blowing bubbles.” “You may be pushing it some. I will be stilted as will all of the other imaginations out there if the future of money is as you detect. In this case. it is certain that the Universe has become so rarefied that for light to go from one to the other would take thousands or millions of years. and interact with other microprocessors. right brain activity will be reduced. it was at the beginning. Ones. The concept of ‘wouldn’t it be nice .

and you catch up. Why should we go down the path of what makes us who we are when we are on the discourse of money?” —  — . for example. Those fancy clothes I imagined would attract all the girls were useless. Once in awhile I hit the mark and you appreciate me. other times. I could go on. you big ninny. But maybe that’s just us. you’re not on death row just yet. is human awareness. dare I say. what it is.” “If what isn’t nice?” “There. I imagined that new car you bought would make us happy.” “No one has been able to answer those riddles. how it evolved. When what you imagine gibes with what is real. I just put it out there. Appreciation is under your command. well. Whenever you and I come together. Then we’d talk to a few smart people about what it means. “That sounds nice. self-realization.” “He’s a good writer. Why bother? Let’s stick with money. fulfillment. And he said something about nice. He said appreciation is the motivator.” “I know. That’s perhaps the endgame. The watch I imagined would make us stand out didn’t do the trick. it’s not so pleasant an experience. So.” “Reality? I’m out of here. Whatever you imagine. too.” “I imagined we would just check out money. Maybe what we want just isn’t going to lead us to happiness. it didn’t. conservatively speaking. a million times the speed of light. just wanted to get a little fuel for what I should be on the look out for as we get closer and closer to asking those big questions you’re always on: Who are we? Why are we here? Too much for me. remember. There. at.” That something.” “See? My point exactly. Then maybe we’d finish up with a little discourse from some religious types about what money ought to mean.” “Now you’re guessing because I don’t always come up with everything you appreciate.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S where those two heavenly bodies used to be. In his words. ‘If this isn’t nice.” “Yes. that’s your domain. truth be known. then. Nothing too fancy here.” “How do you expect us to go on like this? We have to investigate that— awareness.” “Your ticklers on money. you know. And we as humans need that. that’s what’s truly bankable. just what is. you see. Vonnegut writes. what is the truth. all that. what is?’ should be the tag line.

We are going to get into the determinants of what makes us our self?” “Exact-a-mundo. It’s where we are shaped. as an individual.” “Of course. Stop being so paranoid.” “Humanize it.” “Funny you should put it that way.” “Oui. We are not going to get into anything particularly personal. to impute that trust?’” “Right.” “You choose your words carefully. . let me get this straight. But I’m uncomfortable with all this. We apply what money is to the self. keep you on the straight and narrow.” “Yeah.” “Enough!” —  — . We are only going to investigate the nature of the self from the standpoint of psychology. I hate that. if we are going to determine what money means. n’est ce pas?” “Enough with the queer French. to childhood. Shrinks—and I imagine you are going to speak with some shrinks—always try to mess with me: ‘The image or imagination we have of a person or situation and the reality of a person or a situation. . we have to take what money is—a way for us to get what we want—we have to understand what drives us to what we want.The Future of Money as a Credit-Based System “Must I really spoon feed you everything?” “I’m just a child at heart.” “And again the tie in with money is . you know.” “Well. yeah.” “Because they chip away at you. They rein me in. The truth versus the idea.” “So. ” “Look. formed.” “Because?” “Because I think we’ll have to go back there. you never know what’s going to come up. as a person. I get where you are going. That therapy stuff is a killer—mine.” “I’m asking because I imagine this ties back into the last line of the last chapter: ‘Who are you.’ God. and where our values are put upon us.

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S E C T I O N 2 The Psychological Attachment of Money:What Money Means .

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“I’m imagining you—” “Don’t even go there. because money is the promulgator. But this only goes about halfway up what some call the “pyramid” that Maslow defined.4 Maslow’s critics say you don’t need to be hungry before you need to be successful. Want to belong? Join a country club. then shelter. The more evolved our needs become. Proven right. rather than for the money. we can aim for self-actualization. Proven wrong. a degree of esteem. or self-realization. writing may be a curse if.C H A P T E R 8 Toward Self-Realization o humanize the constructs of money. Myriad motivations kick in for self-fulfillment. We need food first. and it’s here where money begins to sputter. it’s what allows needs to be filled most rapidly. The idea that money can lead us down this path of satiation is even more compelling. Some still agree with his thesis (like me). The basic needs that Maslow promotes are easily attainable through monetary measures. Someone may write to get published—for the recognition. Self-actualization.” writes Maslow in Toward A Psychology of Being. Cold? Shut the door and turn on the heat. individuation. then a sense of belonging. Hungry? Buy a burger. After all those needs are met. dancing is the true desire. The person whom I’m speaking of is Abraham Maslow. And you do need to be hungry before you can evolve toward a more sophisticated palate. or any other emotional quality. and some don’t (ask around). Writing. may not lead to self-fulfillment of the ego. the more we try to satiate those desires. Love and belonging are right smack in the middle of Maslow’s hierarchy. Instead. I disagree.The thesis is rather simple: We fulfill our basic needs on a bottom-up basis. say. fulfillment. I have turned to a theorem by an old fellow who has been both hailed and chastised.” —  — T . the psychologist who designed our (read: human) hierarchy of needs. for the money-grubber. is “[the] moments of greatest maturity.

our self-realization or actualization.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Carl Rogers.The rationale: to become happy you must understand unhappiness. ultimately. then the question becomes. They define suffering. we have to understand our pain. which interferes with our accomplishments. we understand what’s important to our lives.We can’t be whole if one side of us is imagining that life would be better another way. And once we are empowered with those values. Once the understanding of pain and suffering prevails. somehow. another psychologist and a contemporary of Maslow. If they came from somewhere else. they provide the expectations and. a student of Freud’s. it becomes readily apparent that something is missing: the human. or what makes us unhappy.” If the ideal self can be separated from the self. Once we understand what’s important. As I further examine the humanistic approach to psychology. Victor Frankl. Some of us don’t reach that goal. the pursuit of meaning. Can it ever be put back again? Fulfillment is completeness. but if you are going to say that the difference between me and you is love and belonging. But all —  — . he said.We can’t be whole if one side of us imagines that there is something more. They even give the solutions to ending pain and suffering. The real self becomes pained and suffers. In Maslow’s theory. Here. He said that in order to find meaning in life. our needs from that time. “I was leaving that to the reader. I can only imagine the things that separate us are the things that have influenced us both. form you.” “Why is that?” “Because if I am based on expectations. That’s the endgame. That puts the real self in jeopardy. sense of self and ego. knowing that life could indeed be better somewhere else. put forth a theory that we all have the drive to develop to our fullest potential. They define pain. tried to make sense out of all this. “I imagine you are speaking of the difference between me and you now?” asks my Imagination. But your point is well taken. love and belonging separate the two. then I think you have more problems than even I imagined.” “Sorry to wreck such subtlety. He said that human beings have an “actualizing” tendency that works through everything. the real self gets split from the ideal self. and. they aren’t yours or mine. all the theories are nice and well put. Sure.Those influences shape us. we can assign meaning to our lives.” “Sigmund Freud believed that we are influenced by our childhood obsessions. then those expectations had to come from somewhere. feeling whole. we can pursue those things. dare I say it.

every which way it can. It’s an illusion. in the United States anyway. the average family today has more money to spend. Entire television networks are dedicated to following money’s path on a minute-by-minute basis.The feeling of empowerment.Talking heads on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange blab about the value of this and the value of that. What could we expect if we had a million dollars? What would life be like? What would it mean? What could we expect if we.” Maria Bartiromo tells me.The feeling of success. winning. Many are suffering losses. They are more money-savvy. couldn’t even imagine a million dollars? What would it mean. They dispute existing value. Even though it’s not cash in hand. Analysts uncover new value. up and down. “People are better equipped with information.Toward Self-Realization this is based on empirical data. We have uncovered what money really is. is more and more about money. all-the-time news station CNBC and the first woman to report from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Fact. Or is it? Are there some commonalities that we can explore and investigate to get to the bottom of the situational meaning of money? Today. read the books. well. Despite any economic slips. Some are upset. The stock market has gyrated back and forth. highs and lows in the stock market change how people feel.What money means to me is different than what money means to every other person on this planet.” What Maria is really saying is that people are more empowered by money and knowledge. She’s about to talk. And the cultural focus. They change the way people feel about their money. We have defined the constructs of money. of course. Money’s tie to feeling good or feeling bad has to do with how much or how little of it you have. facts derived from test groups and certain kinds of people. Period. is the one being tested. It’s paperless. and now understand the defining principles of money and what money may become.” She is a television news anchor for the all-business. about themselves. it’s not.The stock market is a different story. the world is the most prosperous it has ever been. Ebullient investors counting their stock market winnings are concerned. how would we be? My Imagination. But is that really the case? Are we setting ourselves —  — .“People think an investment in the stock market is money.” Maria tells me. “It’s the wealth effect. “Money makes people feel richer. Defining what money means is an awfully personal endeavor. Who are these people? The people I’m interested in are the ones who can help me and my Imagination figure out if our expectations of money are true.” Maria says. Maria is fondly known as “The Money Honey. talked to the scholars.

to change. to be overwhelming. it is subject. the better we will feel? The following chapters sketch a portrait of feelings and expectations discerned by the concept of money. Drawn from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. needs to be defined by experience. Like any other feeling. we can find those experiences that will shed the most light and catch meaning by surprise. to be misunderstood. to be yearned for. Money.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S up for a gigantic fall if we expect that the more money we have. my Imagination and I will explore what today’s leading psychologists have to say about money. Then we will satisfy the human element. and to be relished. to be ignored. garnering interpretations from some of the poorest people in the world as well as from some of the richest. It will become a feeling.Through it all money will play the central role. with some comments from those in between. Hopefully. —  — . like the thoughts rummaging around in our heads. and apt.

I read. I think it’s part of strategy to give you time to reflect on why you’re there. stare at a broken. wonder about the video monitor that is hooked to a camera in his office. read. There are these tormented minutes. written by Alfie Kohn. “Not only does having more things prove to be unfulfilling. Some days I’ll even take out a magazine of my own and get through an article before I “hit the couch. I pick up the books.” the article. It catches my attention. A photocopy of an article that ran in the op-ed section of the New York Times catches my eye. Joel Bergman. At a High Price. I read on. I’m in the cluttered waiting room just outside Joel’s office.C H A P T E R 9 The Disconnect of Money from Quality of Live ’m waiting to see my shrink. old coffee maker. but let’s call it today—I peruse the clippings. says. He makes you sit on deck chairs. listen to the city traffic through an open window. The article is called “The Pursuit of Affluence. Dr. Seems it doesn’t matter where you live or how much money you have or make. rummage through what I can.” Today—it’s not. It fully intrigues me. so much so that I rip it off the door and ask Joel to photocopy it again for me.”5 It talks about psychological research that shows money doesn’t indeed buy happiness. studying different groups of people around the world and in different income brackets. The —  — I . Post-Its. Joel never sees you right away. and comics that Joel has tacked and taped to the front door (just below the cow bell). He says two psychologists have done groundbreaking work in the area of self-determination. I can never stand to sit and stare and wonder. scan books on marriage counseling. but people for whom affluence is a priority in life tend to experience an unusual degree of anxiety and depression as well as a lower overall level of well-being.

with my book. if they will. he tells me. He’d forgotten what the article said. He focuses on marriage counseling. It’s a day later—okay.” Joel says. some type of throwback?” he says. We move on in our discussion to other matters. When my ex-wife did something particularly painful. It wasn’t like that. he says. some type of response. I expected another “What-the-fuck-are-you-talking-about?” response. which I couched and forgave. Joel Bergman is a well-known psychologist. I have to explain Joel. “You’re the King of the Nile.” Then he catches himself and laughs. But first let me back up a step. of Wittgenstein and Freud. which we got on to immediately after he copied the New York Times article for me. a practitioner who has taught and lectured around the world. “I put that up for my yuppie clients. Dr. who prefers old leather chairs to couches in his office. but let’s call it a day later—and Joel sends me an e-mail. of Dante. doesn’t answer me right away. It’s his specialty that got us together. “What are you. He helped me. I know Joel. It’s an analogy. He says. I figure at my next session he’ll have an answer. “Let me think about that. So I decide to ask Joel about what money means to him. who looks like a bird and dresses in drab shirts and slacks like a liberal arts college professor.“You’re acting crazy. in that New York way: Identify the pain and deal with it. “Tell me”. How much these guys can help me. His office is in the Village. His specialty: pain and suffering. He is quiet.” But he pronounces the “the” as a “d” so it comes out “denial. I was going through a divorce. a pussy?” So when I speak with Joel about the meaning of money. I’m excited.) He doesn’t say. now. who keeps Hershey kisses in a jar. Joel doesn’t know what the hell I’m talking about.When Joel thinks about something. the less satisfied we become. What are you.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S same conclusion is made through all the studies that these psychologists have conducted: The more we seek satisfaction in material goods. even if they’re not that funny. It’s only a couple of paragraphs long. who has thick skin and thinning gray hair. . he really thinks about it— and he ain’t stupid. makes me think. it isn’t a day later. I tell Joel of what a find this is. Rather.And I remember why Joel is so good at what he does: —  — .” He points to the floor. and turned to Joel for help. Joel. . “We live here . Joel always laughs at his own witticisms. who is a bit slouched.” Joel says. “Fuck her. but it answers my question about what money means to him in full. Joel catches me on my oft-pretentious recitations of Goethe.” (An upsetting sentence coming from your shrink. It gives me insight. Joel is a native New Yorker. More silence ensues. that which stems from relationships.

“Look.You’ll be rich. “There are always fish.” says the Mexican. ” I read over Joel’s e-mail several times.” The investment banker nods. And he further surprises me with the depth and simplicity of his response. He asks the fisherman if he catches fish like that all the time.” “Why would I want to do that?” asks the Mexican again.You’ll cash in.” says the investment banker. take the whole operation public. “Because then you can buy another boat and hire more fishermen. and play cards with your friends . I imagine he does the same for others too. Every day he sees this young fisherman go out. It’s in a tiny box on the corner of my computer screen. He looks back up at the investment banker. why don’t you go out longer—catch more fish?” The young Mexican thinks a minute and looks down at his feet. catch fish. catch fish.The Disconnect of Money from Quality of Life He’s sneaky. catching a small load of fish and returning home. go out. “Yes. My Imagination pictures the Mexican village. who is about thirty years old.” “But you only go out a few hours a day.” he says.” “And then what?” “Then. “if you double the amount of time you fish.” says the young Mexican. “All my life.” “And you catch fish like that every time?” He looks at the sizable fish in the catch.” says the Mexican.” “And why would I want to do that?” “Well. come back. on —  — . The fisherman goes out for three or four hours.Then. come back. an investment banker from New York is vacationing in this Mexican village. . One week. he steps closer to the Mexican. “Well. “Since I was a boy. you’ll make double the amount of money you make now. So. .“you can spend time with your family. without fail. you’ll have enough fish to cut out the middle men and go directly to the distributor. Joel writes me this story of a fisherman in a Mexican village who goes out every day on his boat to catch fish. In his sneaky way. “How long have you been fishing?” asks the investment banker. Every day he does this. “Because then you’ll quadruple your earnings and pretty soon you can have your own fleet. he teaches me about myself. the investment banker approaches the fisherman. “I do.You do well enough with him. you can buy his company. I like to spend time with my family and play cards with my friends. If you catch fish like that. He catches me off guard with the e-mail.” “Why would I want to do that?” asks the Mexican. once you have your own fleet. after a few days. we do an IPO.

The boy and the fisherman don’t look over at the banker. whether he understands how ridiculously circular his plan is—his life is. shoulders high. He sees this young man standing on a dock.” —  — . who is now walking toward the other end of the U. He figures the investment banker chalks up the lack of enthusiasm to laziness. maybe lighting a cigar halfway around the U-shaped bay. My Imagination has the banker storming away. The investment banker: chest forward.” “It’s more about you now. these stories.” “Yes. espadrilles. I want to move on with things. My Imagination sees a young Mexican boy run over to the fisherman and take his hand. even talks on a mobile phone.The man is wearing large. The Mexican is squinting. The older man—this investment banker—is dressed in Docker shorts. He sees a shirtless young. escapism doesn’t seem to work so well. The fisherman and the boy head in the opposite direction of the banker. his chin creeping more and more past his toes as his neck stretches. the less hope there seems to be for any other life than the one you are leading. The young Mexican: resting back on his heels. these experiences. and a polo shirt. They seem to have forgotten about each other. as if their conversation never existed. his sternum pulling farther and farther away from the investment banker. My Imagination pictures their body language.They just couldn’t understand what money meant to the other. He sees the Mexican just staring at the banker as he lights the cigar and. He sees the red Spanish tile roofs of the homes that wind along the tiny roads. bronzed Mexican fisherman wearing pale.” “In what way?” “The more you experience what I imagine.” “Be brief. Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “We seem to have taken a turn. He sees the frustration in the investment banker. isn’t it?” “What do you mean?” “I’m more empowered by this knowledge. arms folded over his chest.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S a small bay dotted with boats. speaking with a man almost twice his age. to stupidity. emphasizing his speech. yellowed linen pants. It’s you who’s being diminished. perhaps. My Imagination wonders whether the investment banker gets it. Nike sneakers. and he doesn’t look back at them. black sunglasses. and a straw hat.

new wants.” “The pursuit of affluence.” “From what little you’ve read. new things. desires. dreams. hopes. You’ll get depressed.The Disconnect of Money from Quality of Life “I can keep imagining new places. will squelch me more than you. you’re saying. But if you know them to be false. “Let’s see. I’ll have wasted my time and effort.” —  — . I imagine that to be the case.

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commitment. more accessible fellow than such a title affixes. articles. They say materialism breeds depression. Indeed. I track down Ryan at the University of Rochester in New York.” They say that chasing money makes people mentally ill.” 7 and so on. not happiness—and they have case studies to prove it. I drop the “doctor” after a few moments with Ryan.” That was surprising.” says Ryan. it wasn’t the intent of the studies to show that the pursuit of affluence created unhappiness. no esoteric psychology jargon was put to me. “When we started out.This and the research papers. it’s this lack of understanding between wealthseekers and peace-seekers that has me on the hunt for Dr. He is a casual. at least. Richard Ryan and Dr. and personal growth.“When we put the relative importance value on money.C H A P T E R 1 0 The Empirical Study of Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being magination aside. and other discussions about “self determination” theory give me a pretty good idea of what Ryan and Kasser have discovered about the pursuit of affluence. —  — I . and he agrees to an interview. as well. it had strong mental effects. They are the two psychologists who look at “the dark side of the American dream. a gray area.”6 “On Happiness and Human Potentials: A Review of Research on Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being. Things are “happy. it just turned out that way. And while it’s difficult to say that it’s dark. Tim Kasser. we were looking at people’s value systems and their emphasis on relationships. professor in the Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology at the University of Rochester. according to Dr. He speaks informally. considering some of the titles of Ryan’s work: “A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation.” or “sad.” Unhappiness. Richard Ryan. it is.

nor does it seem to hurt personal well-being. . says Ryan. needs that Ryan speaks of.” Ryan says. “They want material trappings because they have promises of what comes with them.” says Ryan. basically say that most people are barking up the wrong tree. Ryan studied a group of eighteen-year-olds. So you can’t win. there is a problem—for the child and for me.” Play the game because you love it. Ryan’s work. doesn’t help. which is intimacy and a sense of security and love. Rosebud. .W H A T M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Ryan steered our interview away from esoteric methodology toward reallife. “We all think there is satisfaction in shopping. This happens with couples too. The material. If I wake up and all I think about is the next consulting job or the next seminar and my kid is asking me a question about something important to him but I’m too preoccupied to pay attention. In his findings.“When you are with someone because they look good. When your personal well-being is attached to the attainment of goals. The other part is fine. I drive a Porsche and date a model.” Simple pleasures mean the most.Among most of the individuals who wanted material trappings. right? But when people make purchases. and the attainment of those goals doesn’t produce happiness. and thesis. about three hundred of them from Russia and the United States. touchy-feely questions and answers. people are asking ‘What now?’ more and more. things that Ryan speaks of can never replace the internal.” says Ryan. or extrinsic. “Because it’s about being rich. that’s —  — . “If they happen to have an extrinsic benefit. Philanthropy is up more than 1. Try as we might.” Money. there is actually an upswing in negative effect. it means that they don’t love you. after two periods of affluence. that’s happenstance.” says Ryan. It doesn’t happen. If someone loves you because of your car. the majority had mothers who were cold or distant to them as children. “People who had financial success also had discontent with their family relationships and their caring relationships. depression sets in.When we get things. “Our intrinsic values have to be satisfying in their own right.000 percent over the last five years. and their looks somehow.” says Ryan. you think. there is nothing dissatisfying in that. look out. And then. will reflect upon you. we realize that we aren’t all that satisfied by them. . “After the 1960s and now. “When my wife comes up and gives me a hug. or intrinsic.

Once that consciousness approaches. the path to fulfillment is an individual journey.” says Ryan. Heat blurs the road about a foot above the tar. as well as the experiences of vitality and self-congruence.The sky is white.” The formal thesis: Self-determination theory (SDT) is another perspective that has both embraced the concept of eudaimonia. and well-being (e. Nothing is in sight. move—ever. can find intrinsic satisfaction even though happiness wasn’t the goal. SDT posits three basic psychological needs—autonomy. patched with blue. stretch of a road cutting through the desert. “Usually it begins with mindfulness: how attuned are you to people and what’s going on around you. Just the sand. Nothing much will move. Need fulfillment is thus viewed as a natural aim of human life that delineates many of the meanings and purposes underlying human actions. and go deep? “Those people who are higher in mindfulness and are attuned to what’s going on around them are also attuned to their intrinsic values. looks as if it dips and rises in curves leading to a large slice between the towering.g. Maybe a scrappy plant’s dead leaf. “Those who contribute. and weather. But the road to riches doesn’t seem to be the one to take. integrity (e. The yellow line. My Imagination wants a word or two: A long. life satisfaction and psychological health). competence.g. or self-realization. —  — .The Empir ical Study of Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being not a start to a healthy relationship.” Consciousness. But I don’t notice my surroundings. Specifically.g. intrinsic motivation).” says Ryan. someone you can relate to on a deeper level. skidmarks. How to satisfy a sense of love and belonging? How to satisfy a sense of competence and autonomy? These values and the fulfillment of them begin at mindfulness. The soul. jagged red rock hills ahead. as a central definitional aspect of well-being and attempted to specify both what it means to actualize the self and how that can be accomplished.That can take many routes. in fact. that is unless I stroll by and stir things up.” as Ryan calls them. who are caring toward others and for the earth. Nothing is there to indicate that anything will. I walk on. internalization and assimilation of cultural practices). broken by dashes.You have to find a spiritual partner. and relatedness—and theorizes that fulfillment of these needs is essential for psychological growth (e. How do we get there? How do we escape from these “surface trappings. Nothing appears.

in fact. You’re just focused on the wrong things. That’s all I got. and you.” “The throttle stuck and I tumbled over some shrubs. Before we decide where and when money becomes an apparent force in the world.” “Broke my nose. And how that fits into our hierarchy of needs. I imagined all sorts of things were gonna make us happy. But I’m not sure about that. begin to presuppose that they. But there still is room for you to produce happiness. I’ll get gypped out of even more things I associate with happiness. There was that Big Wheel. I get your point.” “Earring. pretty girls—are bollix. contacts. ” —  — .” “I can tell you for sure that I wasn’t imagining squat about money before the age of five. are. not girls.” “It wasn’t what I imagined. These inputs are what make me: memories and present happenings.” “Marriage. okay.” “I got news for you.” “I rode it down the stairs. .” “Skis. flipped onto the sidewalk. cars. armed with this new information you’ve gotten.” “Okay.” “Perhaps.” “I can imagine that at some point. I won’t need any of them anymore. If all those things I equate with having money—mansions. I only work with what I have. friends. bubba.” ‘That’s different.” “Those are shaped by family. .” “The mini-bike. society. and sprained a wrist.” “I attracted guys.” “When . and culture. however. Your experiences. and associations in this world.” “More things?” “Yes.W H A T M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “You’re killing me here.” “Silk shirts.” “Ditto.” “Not that. jets. we have to investigate what we base that force upon.” “Why? You had your little bit about the desert.

I started to imagine what we could do with that money. all sorts of things began to happen. From there.” “And I didn’t imagine it would all turn out like this.” “It became a concept.” —  — .The Empir ical Study of Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being “When your first tooth fell out and we woke up with a dollar bill under our pillow. I just imagined we’d continue to get it—somehow.” “By then it was too late. I never did put much thought into how until later. We could participate in society. that we would have to think of ways to earn more. We had already become a consumer.

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And what he came up with was that happiness would be the fulfillment of early childhood wishes. Both can learn lessons of appreciation from the other.C H A P T E R 1 1 The Childhood Development of Value eople. He focuses his skills on helping individuals cope with money issues and advisers cope with people who have to confront money issues. He writes a column for financial advisers in a trade magazine called Registered Representative. “‘How much is enough?’ is an issue I deal with all the time. It’s commercialism.” Kurtz says that Freud examined the issue of money and happiness. It’s during that period that our psychological pain and happiness live. Ergo. He specializes in financial issues.” says Kurtz. It’s a telling geographical intersection—people who’ve had lots of money for lots of generations and people who’ve just made lots of money for the first time. no amount of money can buy happiness. Kurtz is a Freudian. He follows the thesis that our childhood shapes much of our personality. To alleviate the pain. we must confront our childhood memories. Buy things. But that is exactly the opposite of the case. where old money resides and where new money encroaches. consume. It keeps going up.” Kurtz says. It’s advertising. He lives and works on Long Island’s North Shore. posits psychoanalyst Theodore Kurtz. It’s what we are told will make us happy. Money was never a childhood wish. “He examined whether money could provide happiness. “The problem is there is usually no amount of money that feels right. consume. —  — P . Kurtz isn’t your every day psychoanalyst either. to uncover the happiness. “We have built a society around the concept of consume.” he says. are focused on the wrong things to make themselves happy.

In this man’s mind. And it’s the chase that gets them high. It’s dated February 1. —  — . or their shoes. he failed to beat his own expectations.“You can’t get safety through money.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S That could have been the end of the discussion between Kurtz and me. But I decide to try and delve deeper into the matter. They believe that safety can be obtained by adding more and more locks. The man smiles. this only increases the anxiety.“A group is defined. It’s a code to indicate ‘You’re okay.’” Why? “This undermines closeness and contact.The man is seated in an office. Another check is being held by the same man that my Imagination pictured before.“Who is accepted and who isn’t. It’s the same with money. “The pursuit of money becomes an addiction. The man is seated in the same office. This will make them feel more and more safe. It reads $3 million. The same as last year isn’t more this year. If you cross the finish line. “But the thing is. More and more gates are put up. And the ‘us’ gives a sense of security. The man takes off his glasses and continues to stare at the check. He stands up and leaves.“What many people attach to money is a statement about themselves.” Kurtz says. This time. For women. 2002. 2001.The man angrily slams the check down on his desk and shakes his head. My Imagination sees a man holding a check. is wearing a shirt and tie. And you have to worry more about the money that you need to validate who you are. according to Kurtz.” Kurtz says. are indicators of this need. The door is closed. Kurtz says. And you can’t get security through a mentality of ‘us’ and ‘them.” says Kurtz. He leans back in his chair. but it’s dated February 1. the check reads $3 million. some memorabilia. They think people judge them by it.” Safety and security are also important psychological issues that many people try to mask through such things as gated communities.’” The “you’re okay” part Kurtz is discussing falls into Maslow’s hierarchy in the categorical need for love and belonging. There are a few books arranged on shelves across from where he is seated. A blue blazer is hung on a hanger on the back of his office door.” he says. You continue to feel more and more isolated. Some awards. Kurtz says. storming out of the office. On its base a small plaque reads I PLAY HARDBALL. he points out.This is acceptance. their pocketbook is the opening sign in terms of status. too. in his fifties.There are some pictures on the wall. in the same position. The man. It’s us versus them. On his desk is a bronze statuette of a baseball. you no longer have the pursuit. Country clubs.

“Money doesn’t create freedom. in large amounts bred dispiritedness and even illness. You can get depressed. you can become ill. You fall into a funk. “The problem with money is that it’s used to seed a side of consumerism as opposed to production.” says Kurtz. “The one commodity you can’t get back in life is time. The goals for money come in two parts. That is the goal. Some dogs retire early.” says Kurtz.” In other words.” says Kurtz. because it controls you. Sure. “Money for consumerism is tantamount to junk food—there’s not a lot of nourishment. It’s a prison. —  — .“And once the dogs realize it’s fake. they cease to chase the rabbit. That is the normal thinking. do something—don’t just buy something. “Money is a commodity and a useful commodity.” says Kurtz. People get around to realization in different ways. Kurtz and I discuss the paranoia money can promulgate. says Kurtz. It creates goals. It can be used to buy things. Some dogs die without ever realizing the rabbit was fake. Realization: that’s the tough part.The Childhood Development of Value My Imagination sees a bearded Howard Hughes driving an old. it seemed. In the most productive manner. In the most meaningful way. “That activates the decisions and the values that make us happy. It’s that nutrition that provides the real growth.You have to balance consumption with productivity. red pickup truck down a desert highway.“When consumerism doesn’t make you happy. “Am I doing what I want to do with the time I have?” should be the question. Money. How much more of a sense of accomplishment is derived from doing something yourself than buying something from someone else? “When I work with children of wealthy parents. or some other tragedy had occurred to arouse a sense of consciousness about money and its power. But that is false.They either had been sick.” says Kurtz.” But there are forces against us. We discuss how the “more” factor become like dogs chasing a rabbit on a track. so you need to keep consuming.” He says the focus of life should be on how we spend our time. then you can use money for freedom. they stop running. And then once you have enough of that commodity. I mention to Kurtz that a number of the rich people that I’d interviewed on the subject of money and fulfillment had suffered some type of loss. the first thing I have them do is produce something—whether it’s playing an instrument or making something with their hands. your whole value system becomes false.

People who overspend are trying to recapture their youth. we haven’t gone very far with money. which sits upright facing him. And as far as messages. too.They make the “anti” statement. at the end of the day.” says Kurtz.This is the fear we are constantly fighting. goes back in society to idolatry.We are inundated with calls. says Kurtz. buy. not producers. In the Amish culture.” Control is the goal. And never getting ahead means that you aren’t conforming. “They say. The date is circled: February 1. that was safety. We do what we have to do not be alone. commercials. He puts down the check.“If you worship the idol. this is what you’ll get in return.’” says Kurtz. needs to be controlled. now dated 2003. It’s just the other side of the same coin. He runs his hands through his hair. It says FATHER-SON BASKETBALL GAME. Otherwise. provocation to buy. they are all toward consumerism. If you always use up your money. whether we acknowledge it or not.They shun money.” says Kurtz. is a rebellion. buy. it’s closer to death. punishment is to be shunned. The ultimate aloneness is death. he says. In what way am I trying to fulfill that need? If I can get a handle on that need. My Imagination sees the man in the office with the $3 million check.“You want the idol to give you something.” says Kurtz.” says Kurtz. Ultimately.You worship something because of what it seems to provide. ‘We are not going to be like you. This. What. Advertising is geared toward consumers. are we buying. “Money insulates us from aloneness. In jail. people are consumed by it. taking his wallet from his back —  — . Money. They don’t want to grow up. looked upon. In shunning money. There are those that choose not to acknowledge this.“We are a culture of people who belong. The tax code reinforces this. desirable. He stands. He curses. they are also being controlled by it. The government reinforces this. and not have it control me. solitary confinement is the worst punishment. however? “It’s all a sense of belonging and being hip. He leans back in his chair and looks at a calendar. is existential anxiety. you can never get ahead.The man looks at his watch.” Today. At all levels of our culture. you make a contract.” says Kurtz. It’s closer to being alone. They are reverting to their childhood. Of course this is the case. it’s much the same. “You’ll be wanted. The wrong values are reinforced. however. It. And. most often. Money is looking for a need of gratification. it’s misused. I can control it.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “As far as we’ve gone as a society.“What they are trying to prevent is the problem. If you worship. Growing up is getting old.” says Kurtz. Inherent in this. we as a people have to decide what we want to encourage or discourage.

I imagine a continuum. . and people. like any other piece of paper.” “I try not to imagine what it would be like to be dead. it’s for the here and now. death certainly puts it in perspective.” “Lots of people have. of course.’ I can’t imagine an end.” “They do my job for me.” “You could die trying. of course . There’s the story of Midas.” “I imagine the pursuit is really for all that power—knowing that you could buy everything and anything. our devotion to certain religion and faiths.” “Until. The $3 million check floats. I suppose. a single dollar bill lies by itself. It’s false. ” “Don’t say ‘the end. See. to the ground.The Childhood Development of Value pocket. I imagine. enough of it anyway. Hence.” “That’s why I’m so useful when you think about money. . The man’s chair swings round and round. whose every touch turned things to gold.” “But it can certainly make the time we have a little more fun—allows me to get creative anyway. In my world. Even after we die. ostracizing him from society.” “Of course that’s the illusion.” —  — .” “And when it comes to money and what it means.” “That’s why. leafed open. water.” “You certainly can’t take it with you. Next to it. The wallet is on the floor. what fun. a dollar bill leaps out and gobbles him whole.” “It’s what you and I are fighting against most of the time. Money. Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “Death.” “I thought that was part of the concept of self-realization we were getting to. There’s that story of the sinking ship and the man who tied a bag of gold around his waist so he wouldn’t die broke. everything goes on and on. He takes the check from his desk and when he opens his wallet to place the check in it. but it comes with its consequences.” “I don’t suppose you could even imagine it if you tried. but who forgot to exclude food. may be the next closest thing to immortality. it’s so important to understand what money means in the here and now. Money can’t buy time—as Kurtz just explained. that’s happy.

we have to define some of these constructs so you’ll have someplace to go in case things don’t work out. or my type of place. Pain. Suffering.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “It is. Of course once in awhile I get into a funk and all I can imagine is bad stuff. I’m usually best at imagining things can get better. But it seems to me that before we move up the Maslowian pyramid. This doesn’t sound like happy talk.” “You mean if I die?” “I mean if your use is no longer needed in the context of putting me to use—in applying creativity to a futile notion. I suffer the consequences.” “Trust me. talk with somebody who’s explored these things before.” “So how do you propose we resolve this conflict for good?” “The usual.” “Death. I know. Futility.” —  — .

Guess what? They’re all the same George Kinder. When these new financial advisers hear from their clients. I meet people who know people whom I’ve met before. through other people. and how this all weaves together to create this wondrous fabric of humanity. that people want to achieve. George is part of a new vein of financial adviser who bridges the gap between psychology and finance. There is a goal. He’s an intriguing one. There is George Kinder the poet. analysts—but the central thesis behind this group of counselors is that there is more to money than investing There is a psychological attachment to money that most financial planners leave behind with a savings plan on the kitchen table.” they strive to understand why a person wants to retire at age sixty-five. whether it’s a positive or negative force in life. this George. however. and general beliefs in what money means. “I want to retire at age sixty-five. not a number. Hawaii. and what they imagine their lives to be like. Along the way. —  — O . I interview lots of people. They call themselves different things— behaviorists. and so on. There is a reason for this goal in their lives. how they see their lives. There is George Kinder the Buddhist teacher. I meet people who’ve met people who know people who know me. sentiments. in that rationale of six degrees of separation. advisers.There’s even a George Kinder who works in Massachusetts and one who works in Maui. There is George Kinder the financial adviser. George Kinder is one of those people who. emotional displacement. I speak with lots of people. The world. has landed on my interview list. how it attaches to pain. sometimes feels quite small. I find out at once that there is more than one George Kinder. suffering. planners. I inquire about attitudes.C H A P T E R 1 2 Suffering and Money n my search for money’s place in the world.

And. love. He’ll talk about chakras—those sections of the body that represent certain emotions.” was what I was told. From it. that shouldn’t come as any big surprise.This represents the beliefs. who lived sometime between the eighth and eleventh centuries A.This has to do with the conflict. and the cycle of life. This is patience and realizing that things don’t always work out at first as we wish. and fear. and I ask him the question: What does money really mean—to him? A simple answer I don’t get. This is connecting with the world. pain. realizing that money isn’t how much. Stage seven: Aloha. deeply. I show up at George’s office in Harvard Square. This is focus and directs our sense of life purpose. he suggests that I read his book. vigor. financial planning. In George’s book. First. he comes from a perspective that we’re all suffering. and aloha. a book spawned: The Seven Stages of Money Maturity. Meanwhile. suffering.This is the practical side of money.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S George Kinder has fashioned a lecture series and workshop on this type of goal-setting. investing. Stage five:Vigor. such as saving. —  — .D. vision. the equivalent of a prophet.These are the seven stages to resolving those inner conflicts around money. All authors suggest you read their books. I do. and truthfully. I climb the two flights of stairs required to reach his office. like pain. he tells me about Nasrudin. he talks about innocence. guilt and. shame that surround money. But I’m more interested in having George tell me what money means to him. thoughts. So. of course. but “What does it have to do with who I am?” George’s seven stages portend to get people to that point of discovery. George devised his seven stages to help people stop the pain associated with money. as he calls it. attitudes. As a Buddhist. The seven stages speak for themselves. I call George on the telephone and schedule an interview with him. Stage six: Vision. Step four: Understanding. It’s about becoming at ease with money. Stage three: Knowledge. 8 George. knowledge. So. understanding. They are a process by which one can embark toward self-discovery. Stage one: Innocence. Stage two: Pain. explores what money means. He’ll cite passages from the Bodhicaryavatara. He’ll talk about samsara. a Tibetan Buddhist poem. The essential question is how to stop the pain.“You should really speak with him. stories. given how I’ve described George’s various interests and manifestations. This is the enthusiasm to find what constitutes freedom in the world of money.As a Buddhist. and assumptions about money that we hold on to. George infuses some of his spiritual lingo into his financial philosophy. wholly. in all of this. Nasrudin was a mullah.

his joke. They spread onto the hardwood floors of George’s office. In fact. As the coins surround my neck and shoulders and creep up past my chin. as my Imagination runs wild. and Nasrudin stories are the kind you’d see on the bottom of Bazooka bubble gum—the little jokes. And the deeper meaning ascribed to that particular story is that money is about us. So. as if he has told it for the first time.Suffer ing and Money “People not only don’t know when he lived. suffocate. So. I take a deep breath in and relax. yeah. Betrayals. and he asks ‘Can I transact some business? ’And the teller says ‘Well.The Sufis are always looking for a deeper meaning. George is seated at a large. get buried. as paradox.When I open them.” George says. the one that I always introduce is the one where he goes into what is the equivalent of a bank in the Middle Ages. by Egypt. and other financial planners. Neither has my recorder. but can you identify yourself first?’ And he says. losing money in the stock market. So. I start to panic. and part of involves subtle issues of integrity. The heavy coins have me trapped and paralyzed from the neck down. this curse —  — . it’s about who we are. I find out he has told this same story in hundreds of speeches to individuals.” The balloon punctures and gold coins fall out.They spread out into the anteroom. I close my eyes. All these darknesses. “What are the deeper clues of who we are? Part of it has to do with our aspirations and our ideals. “Nasrudin’s stories are filled with money. associations. His body movements still. the energy shifts. not being able to retire. I think that we are going to drown in coins. George is there. ‘Yeah. but a deeper meaning. wanting to live more of a creative life but having to make a living. filling the room. It’s not about a set of numbers or net worth. covering us. Nasrudin was sort of puncturing that myth. And then I don’t—George fills the void. As he changes gears. As the first coin reaches my nostrils. Something means more than money.The level of the coins gets higher and higher. that balloon. But he was a Sufist. And in the Sufi tradition there are always these stories. He looks at me more directly. He then gets serious. where his assistant sits. that’s me all right. I hear the sound of traffic. ‘Well. But they also have this undercurrent. “He is claimed by Morocco.’ So he reaches into his satchel and he takes out a mirror and he gazes into it and he turns back to her and says. round table in his office. He hasn’t missed a beat. I can hear the traffic noise from below. sure you can.’” George laughs heartily at the story. The rest of my body is immobile. It’s George’s way of setting you up. Lots of money stories. not only as humor. Being taken advantage of. by Turkey—I think there are eight different countries that claim him. but they don’t know where he lived. by Lebanon. just as before.

But it’s stripped down. He doesn’t hit people with it at first. and they have the home. and the doctor said ‘I know you came in feeling perfectly healthy and everything. But they still have their travel. they dream about the houses and the vacations and what their work life would look like. and it’s gotten much more meaningful.’ And so the question that I have for you now is.” —  — . Who are we really?” asks George.’ Different things come out. So. this is what I’d like. that’s superficial.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S of having to work for a living and not finding the work that you love: that could be a clue. and you’ve been there for them. and they tell you these things. what happens in the room is that there is more of a hush. The first question that I ask is very much a money question: ‘If you had all the money that you needed. “The other stuff is peripheral. So. ‘Well. And there you might get the ‘security’ answer or the ‘happiness’ answer—‘I never found happiness. what would your life look like?’ “Almost always the client will answer that question. this goes deeper. they’ve begun to open up and share their dreams and aspirations. and there’s a whole layer from that first question that just gets stripped away. That could be it. But soon into the financial planning process. ‘What did you miss?’ ‘What did you not get to do?’ ‘Who did you not get to see?’ And there: really poignant stuff comes up. running through the questions. but the bad news is that sometime between five and ten years from now you’re just going to keel over dead. and if you’re a good listener. they’re ready for the second question. and this is what I’d like. you go to the doctor and the doctor says you have a very rare disease again. So. So the question is. and you’ve set them up so they’ve gone deeper now. or maybe they wouldn’t work at all. George gets to the bottom of self-discovery through a series of questions and answers. The person has already started to look at what they really want out of life. George will ask three questions to get an idea of the person he is working with.” I find myself. What grandeur would I immediately flock to if money were no object? What do I really want to accomplish? What would I regret? It’s only the answers to the second and third questions that really matter. and I’m sorry to say you will be dead within twenty-four hours. ‘How would that change your life? What would you do?’ “Suddenly. Now. “Then there’s the third question. and this is what I’d like. and they still have their certain set of things that they’d still have.’ And it’s kind of all material. of course. George says. but here’s the fact:You have a rare disease and the thing is that you’ll never feel bad.Which is great. because you’ve got all the money. which is this: “If you went to the doctor this afternoon.

” Part of our soul’s journey. and now it’s money. a reference to Milton. And the horrible thing is that we’ve split the thing in two. to be sure. and more and more toward letting go of structures of suffering so we can find more meaning. It echoes. “This structure of suffering itself—how suffering gets hooked by the grasping self. a pathway in which we express ourselves in the world. “So. The mission that George and his cohorts are on is a big one. Somehow. but it’s meant to be something that teaches us and something that we recognize as part of our soul’s journey. I imagine that George has thought of this: that we can attach suffering to pretty much everything we do. . And I know that when someone says that they have problems with their soul it’s because money is meant to be an avenue. you go down deep inside the soul and then you come back out and you try and make them connected.’ ‘me. They have gotten together under the banner of Nazrudin (sic). and death in the Seventies. it all fits into the context of money.” Divorcing from our programmed self is the impossible feat. It’s not easy. But it’s a journey.We can get trapped in a relationship with money that goes forever. But it’s not the images. We’ve split the soul of the world in two. How often do we think of the soul? “If people don’t answer those things. there is a lack of a deeper meaning and a lack of understanding —  — . How to unlock that suffering of ‘I. Our soul’s journey. He has found lots of other kindred spirits in the financial planning community. It’s the suffering.org. “I tend to think that where we’re headed is toward more meaning .” he notes. but it’s my money life that sucks.nazrudin.’ ‘my’ stories and relationships that get hooked to suffering.Suffer ing and Money George’s work is on connecting with the soul. “As long as we’re sort of obsessed about money. It’s not always easy—in fact it’s the toughest one of all. they are going to die with regrets. And that’s where we can help. It’s not the analysis.” The dark and fiery images that George sketches in his description of the soul aren’t all that obtuse.“Dante’s Inferno was full of money images. . He drills in a beat from Dante’s Inferno. So that so many people will say that my spiritual life is great and my family life is wonderful. and we’re just there for the pursuit of it. And they have a Web site: www.We can come back to ‘what does happiness mean?’ and ‘what does security mean in your life?’ And we can attack it and put a dollar sign around it. “It was sex in the Sixties.

“Three: emotional responses. So. if you have places that are really not understood by you where you’ve taken advantage.” —  — . The most powerful way to stimulate vigor is to help a client keep their eyes on the prize.” Those types of responses are grounded in awareness. And when we do those three questions.’ ‘me. you know.” George says. interactions. There are other things I attach myself to. and humiliation of greed? And what’s the ‘I.’ ‘me. that lonely person within who has no one to talk to but you. reasoned self. and what that will cost internally. What is the prize? “Two: integrity. Do they get hooked to these moments of guilt. Peace takes a great deal of compassion for the self. we come to those types of responses as opposed to the grasping of more money.” “You mean you.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S of who we are and of peace. “One: aspirations and ideals.” “George skipped past the imagined self and hit chords more akin to the logical. it’s going to block your capacity for real awakening. shame. the more tendency to see the world as corrupt. when you get very deep into your practice and you’re on the verge of a big awakening.’ and ‘my’ messages? What’s the feeling that is uncomfortable?” Finding peace is where George is leading. Then. Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “So I assume your were writing about me there?” “It slipped out. One of the main challenges money throws at us is the challenge to be aware of the violation of integrity around money. he does like numbers.To the extent that we violate ourselves around money. So perhaps his points weren’t so much directed at you but at the true self.To observe emotions around money. our intimate relationships are hardened. What is he saying that he really wants? What is he saying that he would really regret? Money may not be his only means of escape. Clearly.’ and ‘my’? What kind of messages come out? What are the ‘I.” “I don’t just manifest myself with money images. all your demons come up. “There are three areas of awareness. And certainly all this talk of suffering is lost on me. So.

You may not have used me very much. eh?” “No blames. because you end up designing more and more needs. Of course I turn to you.” “Oh.Suffer ing and Money “Yes.” “I think you may be confusing desire with hope. I wouldn’t be happy.” “You must have imagined some reason for existence for yourself. which I know—because I’m experiencing them—aren’t happy moments. now. If I thought things were as good as it gets today. Otherwise. I can’t always use your means of escape to create happiness in those moments.” “That may be just a result of poor memory. Desire falls under your domain. for one.” “Hope.” “Who says? Can’t we try? Isn’t that what life is all about? If we have no desire. I have to sign my name on checks to pay bills every month.” “I’m not saying that it’s all bad all the time. You’re part of my world of fantasy. I never even began to imagine the impetus for me to imagine those scenarios. I have to show up to work every day. And we can never satiate all our desires. can’t remember you being around when I was just a child. But the real world is full of pain and suffering. we have no reason to live. you’re saying that I don’t exist on the very primitive level of need?” “I.” —  — . I. to impute some sense of hope. suffer much more than you imagine we suffer. We never can have all the things we need. seems very removed. It would be unbearable without you. my faculty of imagination. as you put it. When we’re blinded by needs. It’s a fact. so now you’re going to blame all this pain and suffering on me.” “Yes. me.” “So. But life is tough. no. I’d be living in despair. you make it better when things aren’t as good as they can be in the moment. But desire—well.” “Unless you had all the things you needed. because I certainly was there. in the present. hope and desire seem very far removed. desire I can see getting. the hard lessons. It’s like there is very little chance you’ll ever get what you hope for. but I was there with big ears on until you decided to put me to good use.” “You have to admit that I make it better. I have to read and research and grow smarter.” “Actually. I have to try and actually do more.” “I never imagined. It’s I who has to deal with the hard facts.” “But that’s the point. here. I’ve only imagined various existences for you. to me.” “Of course you can because those things are past our needs.

That’s hope. Somehow. you’re saying that imagination sleeps in the young and the needy.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “So. ready and waiting—for what?” “For that day when hope enters the picture. Then I recall all those desires—I imagine them and ways to get them. someway. hope enters.” —  — .

they are going to be run over. scattering like ants. This is the movement of Ethiopia. lack of a formalized and functioning infrastructure. I see fields bordered by shacks. A new government slowly disjoining from its Communist past.” they might be thinking. It’s as though an alarm has sounded. where the buses go by at perilous speeds. an economist and lead operations officer at the World Bank office in Addis Ababa. with the average person making just $100 per year. Agricultural: droughts. They walk in a self-determined manner. the store. It’s the person on foot who musters caution. Hope . In Ethiopia. I’m riding on a bus. people are walking.” says Surjit Singh. And Ethiopia is the poorest country in the world. Economic: Prohibitive tariffs. Autos don’t take direction too well here. Boys and girls taunt and chase each other. cumbersome harvesting techniques. and every one is scurrying to get back inside their homes. I’m here in Ethiopia to investigate what money means to people in the poorest country in the world. it seems. Pedestrians gingerly step out of the way just before. bordered by buildings in disrepair. rather they walk through the fields. Even on the long roads. knocking into older people who seem to be heading to the office. people step—just so—out of the way. across the roads. people are walking. Hope is wrapped in the most basic of desires: food and shelter. or the market. massive debts. Societal: Life expectancy of just —  — H ope is hidden here.C H A P T E R 1 3 The Poorest People In the World here is simply living. Everywhere. They aren’t orderly. Old women carry stacks of firewood on their backs. Ethiopia’s capital city. Outside. “There is a place to get to and I’m going to get there. Even on the long roads past the city to the desert. Political: border clashes with neighboring countries. “there are so many problems. Cars careen through crowds. lack of reserves. Eritrea and Somalia. poor transportation.

Next to it. Singh sighs.Vans used as minibuses are jampacked with riders. Ethiopia is half Islamic and half Christian.” Everyone lives next to each other in the city. Millions of people are displaced. “Where do we begin?” Singh asks. intertribal warfare. fashioned by strips of aluminum siding patched together by mud. He and his staff sound almost defeated when speaking of Ethiopia’s troubles—they’re more than money can fix. the odd burnous. everyone lives next to each other.To be sure. projected to explode to upwards of 50 percent. The song “We Are The World” was played over film footage of famine victims. Those that carry nothing just beg. Herds die. Singh explains: “Rich live next to poor. there are no neighbors to turn to. They gesticulate the opposite of a kiss —  — . dented. Street urchins mill amongst the constant flow of pedestrians.5 percent AIDS rate. Cars are soiled. veils. Then. Money in Ethiopia isn’t the same as money in most other places. Shanties. Provocative displays of relief camps. Addis Ababa is like a small town.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S forty-two years. ride on bald tires. There is no class system. Across the road. women in skirts. line many of the roads.There are office buildings and hotels. but imagine these are rundown—by Western standards. It happens over and over. it’s very dangerous. In the mid 1980s. some people are dressed in suits and ties. In the desert and the valleys where famine strikes. Still. it’s the difference between life and death. take it down a notch. scarves. These they try to sell you. people don’t kill for it. But this isn’t how Ethiopia looks. But the backdrop of religion exemplifies itself in most of the outfits that pass by: turbans. Droughts bring famine. Most serious is the weather. anything—a newspaper. It’s not a dangerous country. a family lives on the street. crops fail. The worst section of any city conjures handily. except it’s home to some 5 million people. the odd trinket. anyway. young beggars play. Here. 7. tissue. Everyone is affected in the same way. In Kenya. the main roads aren’t paved. for example. Food drops from airplanes. And then there are the children. though ask any of either and they’ll tell you they are the majority. having basic needs fulfilled—or not. Singh is seated in a conference room in a modern-enough office building. headdresses. masses of people lined up to receive food. Live Aid brought with it pictures of starving Ethiopian children in the desert. They swarm you. They carry things. Mostly. because there is a very distinct line—there are rich sections and there are poor sections.

It’s more desperate. they would just lay back. Isolated relief efforts would probably be welcome. trades are conducted. People can farm. I investigate the spots where food was air-dropped fifteen years ago to prevent millions from starving. At the Marcato.They run in groups.” Hope is leading the change.They hold out their hands and then close their fingers tight. Ethiopia is not what I imagined. clothes. Even in the city. Ethiopia is changing. one of the largest relief agencies operating in the country. one after the other. It’s more desperate because its problems are ongoing.“When we just gave them the food and the assistance. and lots of other goods. They admit that conditions are far better. Relief workers say it’s because they are moving from giving direct aid to development. Before daybreak. as they bring them to their mouths. Later.“Food. it is light outside. a worker at WorldVision.The bargainers’ singsong tune takes on a melody that rises and falls in harmony. like background noise again. Shoulder to shoulder.Then the children break through. New irrigation systems make this last. “Hey mister.” This is how Ethiopia looks. Hey you! Money! Money! Money!” To be sure. The chants of the Coptic prayers wake me.” says Tamirat. Still.” they are saying with their sad eyes. vegetables. says. and students train and train for competition. Even people with jobs.The Poorest People In the World blown in the air. I go to the desert. their footsteps will be traced over by the pedestrians on their way to work.Tamirat Yirgu. there was no incentive for them to do anything else. along with the sounds of runners’ feet hitting the road. I hear these chants. They also put me to sleep. teaching them how to sustain their lives and maintain themselves. —  — . Then. in the dark. “Although it’s very difficult to have hope in this country. elbow to elbow. I can see from my hotel room balcony the blur of colors flash by at dawn. I visit the nomads who inhabit this part of Ethiopia. Africa’s largest market of fruits. developing irrigation programs. It becomes quiet. so much so that you don’t notice the sounds at first. like a Muslim’s call to prayer. Now we are creating schools. In the mornings. raise cattle. an eerie quiet is brought forth from the bustle. They chant: “Money! Money! Money!” This is how Ethiopia sounds—quiet and melodic except for those words: “Money! Money! Money!” The children beg. “I am hungry. But people live in poverty and go hungry every day. together. Relatively wet seasons have spawned better crops. Most. eat. Ethiopians are worldclass runners. A college-educated woman who works at a hotel in Addis says that most of the people she knows go without at least one meal per day.

My Imagination envisions the Sheik. like a souped-up Four Seasons. after leaving the city street.” The Sheik. And during a day tour. Just being on the hotel’s meticulously manicured grounds. bringing even more people into the workforce. and has built a world-class. Children run up to his car. top down. too much. It’s tasteful. it rivals any five star hotel I’ve seen in the world. He has a brewery. He is smiling all the way.” Indeed. “is a simple man. “The Sheik. is pouring huge amounts of money into the country. it gives us hope. I’d even blurt: I can’t imagine a hotel in such as place as this. But it’s there. At the end of the —  — .” says Hagos Araya. employs 650 people. His gold mines and other business ventures are also local. be the envy of all of his friends. a Pepsi distributorship. All marble (90 percent Ethiopian) and gold (twenty-four-karat). the dirtied and soiled mothers holding even more dirtied and soiled children. five-star hotel in Addis Ababa. “No. But ask an Ethiopian whether the hotel is. well. their attempts to get:“Money! Money! Money!” you wonder. had cocktails in the lounge. It’s the Sheik’s.There is a vast dichotomy between the world a few steps away and the world you are in. too weak to stand and even beg. past the muddied shanties. for example. and grand. that is one way to think of it. I see him at the “cafes”. at least when I was there. you feel guilty. the restaurants were empty. “I can’t stay there. My Imagination had a difficult time with this one. What’s spooky: Not many people were staying at the Sheraton Addis. mining operations. At least five restaurants. approachable. The Sheraton Addis is an enormous 328-room hotel. a Saudi Arabian whose mother was Ethiopian. He showers them with money.” There is a yellow Corvette convertible parked at the entrance of the Sheraton Addis.“I feel too guilty. The Sheraton Addis. of course.The child may put on a pair of sunglasses. cruising the streets of Addis. why it’s there. For the most part. We like what he is doing. like a Las Vegas hotel. curled up on the sidewalk. Sheik Al-Almoudi. shaking off the children who surrounded you with their chants. gold-inlaid columns and ceilings. is creating jobs. A few African businessmen and Westerners roamed about.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Signs abound. an Ethiopian who works at the World Bank. and people flock. numerous fountains.” said a woman from Vermont who works with local Ethiopian adoption agencies to bring children to the United States. He goes to the cafés. and they say. a billionaire on the Forbes 400 list. He is nice. He may even take one of the children for a ride in his car.

it minted coinage in bronze. In the first millennium A. Fatiha. Ethiopia is home to Lucy.D. Ethiopia sits at the eastern most tip of Africa. A boy. it’s known as the Cradle of Humanity. donkeys toting you name it.. It was rich.They don’t meet at cafés or restaurants. or Ras Tafari.They talk in person.” laminated verses from the Koran. bus and it’s dented.We pass goat herders. The country’s history is as poignant as its current conditions. It’s home to Queen Sheba. and gold. Emperor Haile Selassie. Then. Ethiopia was among the most powerful kingdoms in the world.Thumps on the door mean go. The country has never been colonized. no infusion of technology or pop culture that stand out. The song “Survivor” by the group Destiny’s Child blares out the window of this small minibus. Muslim dress mixes with Western outfits. with its backwards “P. the Sheik may tell him to work hard and “one day.” That is the message being displayed—capitalism at work in its most embryonic of stages. Now it’s just survival. are stored. is spilling out the window. Money has to be invested in infrastructure and programs to provide for the basic needs. The “Survivor” song gets louder as we drive through the center of Addis. Thumps on the door mean stop. Sure there are a few. Twenty of us cram into this sorry vehicle meant for twelve. where the tablets on which the Ten Commandments are written. Money for that can’t be spent yet. It allegedly houses the famed Ark of the Covenant. advanced. followers —  — . It’s intriguing. The tires are bald. literally. It traces histories back so far. referred to as the Horn. We drive fast. Its center was Aksum. he too can have a car like this. People walk. It has a total population of 58 million. maddening. People are embracing it. then sweeteners will follow. except for a brief period of Italian rule. silver. It embraced Christianity (even inscribing the cross on its coins. Islamic symbols adorn the front windshield: the symbol of Allah. curious. the first people in the world to do so). an ancient city in the northern part of the country (where the Ark is still supposedly stored). but not many. They don’t go shopping at malls or spend evenings watching television. Its influence spread across the Red Sea to southern Arabia. No cell phones. But the irony is evident is every sense of that meaning—humanity. the oldest-known human ancestor. woman walking with piles of firewood on their backs. This is basic. The luxuries that would support anything more aren’t there. It’s a blue and white VW. compelling. Lacking are billboards or posters or advertising. There is something more to it.The Poorest People In the World ride.

W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S of Islam came to Ethiopia. The Arabs were growing in power and fortunes. we'll still have $100 million creating interest and capital to invest in projects next year and for the next seven generations. But trickle-down is the hope. This lasted until the nineteenth century.These new initiatives tie debt relief to development programs in poor nations. has set up a $100 million foundation that strictly invests in Ethiopia. highly accountable approach to international aid. They come in floods. Its ideological past is being buried. Barter came back into existence with salt. when Kassa Haylu. who sold his company Cybercorp to Charles Schwab & Co. It has changed its monetary assistance to poverty-reduction programs.The World Bank is counting on such a system of self-governance and self-sustainability. the dry land makes farming impossible.000 people. Money evaporated. for $500 million. And. Ethiopia refused to be ruled. This requires Ethiopia’s government to comply with World Bank initiatives. The rains in Ethiopia come between July and October. And then the Muslim-Christian wars broke out. Relief camps are set up. because we are not spending the principal sum itself. So. Italy lost more than 4.000 soldiers. Coins even ceased to be minted. “This is an entrepreneurial. Churches were burned. thousands killed. instead of retired debt going toward. Aksum’s influence waned. Bloody battles ensued. They then herd together. military spending. say. Through it all. It’s the most direct impact and most powerful result money can provide. People begin to starve and die of thirst.” Berber joins the mantra: help people who are helping themselves. Philip Berber. or cloth. Just when things got settled. Money is given. He united the nation once again and was named Emperor Tewodros. iron.Then the Italians stepped in under Mussolini’s famous campaign to colonize the country. —  — . a virtual Robin Hood. The country split into tribes. It all curiously went silent. It requires oversight. nonbureaucratic. Berber says. the British invaded and robbed the country of its treasures and left. monitoring.Then. and we redistribute the interest and funds arising from that to help relieve some of the pain and suffering on the planet. People like Sheik Almoudi are being joined by wealthy Westerners with a cause. and participation—things not so easily accomplished in a continent prone to political instability and corruption. Ethiopia 275. cost-effective. The ruler of today’s Ethiopia is money. began to steal from the rich and give to the poor.We have a $100 million fund. Word trickles out. however. the World Bank is requiring those monies to be allocated to specific development programs. and the world sometimes watches. And sometimes they don’t come back. people need help. People live.

and walks using a stick. “I have my husband. in her land. thin. her family can tend crops. Round. for money. The man says simply. “To be a teacher. backed by a $70. she’s asked her dream. They want nothing but to look inside our car. a man. A mother of three who lives in one of these one-room huts. She's talking about investing as she knows it—in herself. And what if he had all the money he could ever want? It’s beyond him. I am taken care of. He’s like a prisoner who only focuses on getting through that day. A different set of values. More symbols. She wants nothing more.” he says “has its own requirements. He cannot think that way.Along their necks are stripes or polka dots.” Her children are held in awe of our cameras. Hopes and dreams and thoughts of an outside world. He is roughskinned. “What more could I want? I have all that I need. —  — . He says it will allow him to increase the size of his field. o. are prescriptions for going mad. Dust flies in our wake. He is dirty. He wears a loose white turban. she grabs the hem of her dirty purple dress and looks down. twelve feet by twelve feet in size. I just want to be able to feed my family. Close by.” You can bet she doesn’t know what a stock or a bond is.Through an interpreter. perhaps fifty years old. Rough terrain through unpaved roads. says she is happy. a better place.000 investment from World Vision may allow her to stay and attend school. A new irrigation system.” she says. She is nine. Her family are semi-nomadic— they wander where they can to find food.” A different life.” Within view sits an abandoned palace. cotton chino pants. as we know it. That is enough. whose faces are tattooed in demarcations of beauty—a cross. It was built as an imperial palace retreat. but now he is learning to farm. Shy to speak. my children. It’s high on a hill in the range that overlooks this valley. in her people. I am a simple farmer. He says he used to shepherd goats. He’s asked what money means to him. is standing in a field. the symbol of a female. and smiles.Women. “or an investor. despair—the lack of hope. Wouldn’t you like to have that? Live up there in that palace? “That. straw huts dot the path to the main road ahead.—stand and watch + us pass by. She’s not talking about investing.” she says. but his clothes are Western—an opencollared shirt. more signs tattooed on them.“I don’t have such grand visions. he can grow more crops.The Poorest People In the World Standing on the ground where food was air-dropped fifteen years ago by the Live Aid campaign is a young girl. Such thoughts breed inexorable feelings of depression.

You wouldn’t last long there—not that they’d want you.” “Hardly. well.” “Switzerland? Monaco? Some tiny place with lots of rich people?” “Some tiny place with lots of rich people is right.” “Ah. yeah. there is nowhere to go but up. . And you know what? Imaginations don’t seem to be running wild there. that impossible.” “Well. I still imagine the children chanting. He is working to relive that day. We’ve established that. but there’s the rub. Luxembourg. Luxembourg it is. just as poor people have nowhere to go but up. unimaginable day. people have hope there. The Sheik does seem to be having fun putting his imagination to work in Ethiopia. On the very basic level of need. . rich people . Know what it is?” “You’re the brains. It doesn’t mean that you need money to be imaginative. How exciting. you can imagine more because you’re exposed to more.” “I hadn’t thought about it that way. I’m the bullshit. when he drove through the streets like a king and was given hope. see. Once good.” “Why is that?” “Seems depressing. sure. boring. He was the boy who rode in the yellow Corvette with the Sheik.” “Rich people don’t like change. Luxembourg. from the simplest to the most complex.” “Right. And look at the richest country in the world. When you’re rich.” “Right. Good news for the likes of me. .” “Whatever. ” “Yeah.” “Because they don’t have the exposure to new things or the luxury of exploring and creating. . Then you might slacken. . remember?” “ .” “Indeed. you could imagine. . except for one. ” “Staid.” “Oh.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Appreciation takes many forms. Wake up.” “I imagined that was part of France. Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “I don’t know if I like where this is going. I mean. But the reality is that they can’t put me to as much use as you can. ” —  — . old reality actually takes hold of you and makes what you’ve dreamed up—a fact—you’re obsolete. Banking is its big claim to fame. yes—we’ve been .” “Hmm.

And you can replace chance with money or money with chance. Strangely. was able to win the presidency. This is how it’s supposed to be. at least it’s not a solicitor of change. yes.” “No kidding. are rioting in Genoa. The money battle is waged on both sides—and even in the middle. there is a slogan scrawled in quite a few places in Luxembourg: Mir wëlle bleiwe wat mir sin—‘We want to remain what we are.” “So I imagine all the hope lies at the bottom. When people have a chance and they don’t take it. as we write these words.” “I’m picturing police in riot gear waving batons and shields.” “I imagine that’s where all those right-wing groups get their fuel—from missed opportunity.” “I imagine that’s why a candidate. violent. Someone. really. even.” “In this news piece.” “Why?” “Because that’s when the rubber begins to hit the road. And the problems begin to arise in the middle. The average person voices his or her agreement or disagreement with monetary policy by the way they vote. A lot of people are mad at her and they take action.” “So it’s not right or left?” “No. Protesters in street clothes.” “You know. look out.’” “That doesn’t sound too friendly.” —  — .” “Or lost opportunity. ‘This is what I hoped for. or if they think someone else is taking it from them. The battle between rich and poor.” “That reality.” “Deeper.’ and when it isn’t. Ignite other imaginations like me out there. you’re exactly right. thousands of them. Tell people they’ll keep more of their money. Italy. she’s a bitch. rebellion.The Poorest People In the World “Yes. as I now read it.” “Well. such as the one we just had. Radical communists. overturning cars.” “There is a big dichotomy there. yes. smashing windows. I get it. they become bitter— sometimes. Tell people they’ll prosper. It’s the left wing too.” “I’m imagining riots. protesting rich nations’ policies. throwing rocks. was just killed. violence in general. it’s not just the right wing. Let them run wild with possibilities.

don’t you think?” “Being built. And I’m thinking tax break. I imagine the world a better place. Plenty of people want to put hope back in the game. if you will. I’m skeptical. They imagine the world a better place for everyone. But get this fact.” “I take offense to that.” “No. as you say. are also looking to fulfill a need?” “Good point. their offspring will have a leg up on society. old man. like himself. who would rather give money away to the government than to their own children?” “Seems so. But their needs actually help the needs of others.” “We’re to busy running around trying to impress god-knows-who with what we have. That’s a pretty amazing display of support for leveling the economic game. mostly.” “I can’t imagine why. They don’t want that. They see a bigger picture.” —  — .” “Well. they say if they’re allowed to keep such hordes of capital.” “Show me someone who isn’t. The father of the richest man in the world is part of the group: Bill Gates. So is a list of Who’s Who billionaires: Warren Buffett. We can’t afford to be charitable yet. And some people choose to make a commitment to care. Plenty of rich people give up what they have and help others get a leg up in the world. These guys and gals represent the wealthiest 5 percent of the country.” “For us. as I am by you. we’re just selfish and self-involved. they’re called United For a Fair Economy. In fact.” “Because. They want to keep America’s class and social system just the way it is. This is a morality play. and here’s one that will keep you busy: Some superwealthy Americans actually want to pay more taxes—or have less money. But they’re not such odd characters as what you describe. I’d say there was a trick here. We’re trying to fulfill some need of security. They are the enlightened ones.” “And I imagine those who act so charitable. let me finish. And lots of centimillionaires.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “For the average person. you’re right—that’ll most likely win them over. no. Sr.” “Of course. some Ebenezer Scrooge–type has found friends.” “Some people can’t afford to be. what does his kid have to worry about—“ “Eh. Ted Turner. George Soros. People like us.” “A stingy.

The Poorest People In the World “Listen.” —  — .” “You mean they didn’t walk around with a sign on.’” “You’re really starting to piss me off. ‘Hey. We didn’t get too spiritual. I’m doing a good thing here.” “Because you can’t imagine how someone could be so needy. or because you can’t imagine someone being so pure?” “Both. look at me.” “Watch and learn. as you imagined. saying. I saw all those relief workers in Ethiopia.

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who is supposed to be the protector. perfunctorily groomed. George walked and hitched from Missouri to get here. and a light shirt. Only one truck has stopped to give him a lift. earns his keep. Trying to —  — T . it’s too cold and he might not wake. “George. It’s gray. one of the oldest homeless shelters in the country.” The Denver Rescue Mission has been his home for close to nine months. eyes that have long lost the ability to see hope in anything or anyone.” he tells me his name. sneakers.” says George. The balance of equations George studies now are of a different type. period. His hands are red. proud as punch. Joseph. He fears sleeping on the side of the road. Patches of crusted ice and dirty snow are on the banks next to which he trots. He wears just a windbreaker. He has exactly $5 in his pocket. Through Kansas. He’s sober now. Deserted fields lay on each side. Joseph is where he lived. Better to walk on. A small town in Missouri has taken his name. “Just got my GRE. to see his brother. even though most of the time he leaves them in his pockets as he walks. “But I called. that Joseph. He’s standing now in a suit and tie. hard wrinkles. Brown hair cut. “If I could just get that algebra. the father of Jesus. He’s just removed his graduation gown and cap. he was headed toward Modesto. no matter what the time of day.Yes. Joseph. is studying hard to go on to a college where he can study computers. St. Moving from the Northwest to the South with a woman he met. George shows the signs of a difficult life—tough skin. But Joseph was nowhere to be found that night—how many nights ago he can’t even remember—when he left that place. California. He lives at the Denver Rescue Mission. Not that this was the place he had intended.C H A P T E R 1 4 The Basic Determinants of Needs he road is long. Missouri is far away from where he began. jeans. and he told me I wasn’t much welcome.” Five foot four or five. “Thank God for that. He has exactly $5. George is forty-two. He is homeless.” he says. Snow covers the fields. A farmhouse looms in the distance. And he walks.

He sees a lot of men like George come and go. which is now close. It’s a straight path. As a former vice president of a major bank. maybe he had had a few too many.The gray sky won’t admit whether it’s morning or afternoon. it’s not like that. Until she couldn’t take George anymore. Brad has five children. Maybe he had had too much anger. Two of his kids are in college.They welcome him in.” Brad says he won’t tell me until the end of our discussion what that something is.” he says.A place to eat or spend the night.The people at the Denver Rescue Mission take him in. her actions. see for myself what the Mission is all about. meet the people. there are only so many Mercedes you can take from those home equity loans.” he says. we’re giving people something very different.A quick right turn into the driveway. The wood is piled high on the side of the house. But make no mistake. Walking to California in the bitter cold with just $5 in his pocket must surely have been better than living with the results of his actions.Warmth. But here. it takes courage. Wells Fargo. and George will be there.” he says. Brad Mueli is the director of the Denver Rescue Mission. And it’s warm.” says George. separated from his natural brother. Maybe he had done what men had been taught not to do. it’s life troubles. the staff. Hanging on to that security until that fateful night. Maybe that all rose to the surface one fateful night in Missouri when Saint Joseph lapsed in his role as protector and George had his chance to lash out. their life. “And I could see red. Brad can testify to money’s place in these people’s lives. It isn’t money troubles that leave people like George at the Mission’s door.The long road ahead doesn’t bend. Smoke is billowing out the chimney. ‘I wish I had the courage to do what you’re doing. My Imagination can see George on that long road in Kansas. It impacts my entire being. George doesn’t know where that will take him. being raised by stepparents who might not have cared so much.’ A lot of people want to do good things. So he walks past the driveway. Maybe he had had enough of repressing the violence and the rage of being abandoned as a child. So. It impacts everything you do. a car stops there and then leaves him here. He can see that farmhouse. right out front. “As a banker. An omen. ranging in age from twenty-two to eight years old. “But I was afraid I’d scare someone and get into more trouble. He has no choice but to take it. Brad has helped many people with money issues. Comfort. Finally. Here. “It impacts every part of my life. Until she couldn’t take it anymore. Maybe. “A lot of people have come up to me and said. but it’s a direction.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S care for her two children. He wants me to spend the day. “We —  — .

” he recalls. she couldn’t handle the “cultural differences.This is more of a place to show respect than a house of worship. forget that they’re homeless.” he says. For example.“That devastated me—to the point where I fell and didn’t want to get back up. Then I lost them. “I was married. was beginning to turn things around. About 110 people live at the Denver Rescue Mission. He began to drink. teach music.” Gilbert says. “I would sing. Gilbert had lost two toes loading a truck on a day job. “Then she asked me for a divorce too. For the first time.” says Brad. direct. Buddhists. met another woman. and money is tight.The Basic Deter minants of Needs had to have a discussion about our change in lifestyle. He moved to Denver. Gilbert is one of those fellows who reminds you of a big. “Mandatory for residents. Sure. But I have so much more now. A white woman.” Down and out. they’re just real people like you and me. He was active in his local church in Detroit. I don’t make what I used to. And sometimes. He couldn’t function.” Gilbert is careful with his words. Gilbert’s eyes slide from mine. dabbing again. “We have Muslims. Jewish guys. He takes a handkerchief from his pocket and dabs his forehead. He wants to get it right. “Change needs to happen. money becomes a support of your habit.” he says. “I didn’t want to get back up to fall again.” Brad says it’s the people who make the difference. His wife became a drug addict. You come to realize. or this is going to be the place you’ll be for the rest of your life. it’s different. “He’ll show you around.” Brad says. couldn’t pay for medical expenses. But Christianity isn’t force-fed. And that you’ll —  — . Once you come into a place of a fall. they’re at the bottom rung. “Better is what may have been destructive in our lives. where Gilbert tells me that services are held every day. I was working two jobs to support my habit.” he says. We sit on little plastic chairs in the chapel. I figure that since he is a Rescue Mission staffer. There’s something shy and humble about him. But Gilbert is a Christian. he must have worked himself up from the street. “These guys. But the seed had been planted in Gilbert.” Brad introduces me to a large black man named Gilbert. he says you hope for things to be different—not better—when you’re down and out.” he says. I am sitting there and having a conversation and I forget their situation. He said to himself. His stepson began selling drugs in the house. He says. leading the choir. married her. They divorced. Something about him is soft. gentle bear.“But it really hasn’t been so much. He turned for help. He’ll take long pauses between sentences.

. No one seems to miss money here. your staff director. to offer gifts you have on the inside .” “Normal?” Brad asks. A straggly man in a dark hat and glasses stands in a corner. Outside. the young children run to the food.” I find myself saying. “We try and make it as easy as possible to remove the financial pressures as well.” I reply. lining up for a free lunch. where shelter and food are provided free of charge. where he tells me the two biggest reasons for homelessness are lack of transportation and rent rates.” he says. money only perpetuates the destructive behavior.” Gilbert’s point: Money supports the bad system of habits that entails selfdestruction. —  — . he’s one of the homeless we’ve taken in.” he says. After three years. . I’m back in Brad’s office. that is the something I was talking about. . The average age of the people at the homeless shelter is forty-one. “Yes. Dozens of homeless people have begun to spill in. “Yes. “It keeps you longer in you weakness. softly. . . he’s so . Until you can change the system.” “Gilbert? He is a phase three resident. The sun begins to shine. A small handmade flyer is tacked to the door: IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO START DOING WHAT IS RIGHT. He doesn’t complete the sentence. But when you’re using it to destroy your life—” At this. “I had those things.” “But. We feel like we need to work and have money in our lives.” “Giving? I don’t look at it as giving. brooding. the rains that have continued nonstop in Denver for two weeks end. “Gilbert. but until you get to that place of stability within you to make a change. and I leave. those gifts on the inside you can get without money . a resident gets $15 per week. The room fills up. he trails off. Some are clean. New Mission residents are given $10 per week. he looks away. He’s not on staff.” Brad says. “You’re giving people so much. Graduates get a car and part of their rent paid.They have self-respect. money is destructive. told me.” I leave Brad’s office and make my way down the stairs toward the front entrance. .W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S have until you change your mind. I’m the one who’s been blessed by this whole deal. Instead. That’s something most of them never had before. In the cafeteria. Some are dirty. “It’s great.” I praise Brad. a family of five takes up a whole table.“Money can be a way of getting things.

I’m here to imagine new heights.” “I can’t imagine that ever really happening.” “Programmed. I suppose. that he wouldn’t tell me at the beginning of our conversation. highs and lows. the world you live in.The Basic Deter minants of Needs I know now what that “something” is that Brad spoke about. That’s what you’ve been stuck on. I prefer to imagine in a different way.” “Ah. or do that. maybe. happy. or security. What he and his staff give the homeless people who turn to them for help is a sense of self-worth. verbs. in the end. yes.” “Because of you. I can easily imagine these things.” “If you’re to be so perfunctory as to use ups and downs. Let me hand you a little something I use quite frequently—actions. It’s why I tap away so much on this keyboard.” “It’s certainly a big fear. What would become of us if we didn’t do this. From mine. still.” “Which is?” “A helix explanation to life. I suppose.” “What’s that?” “Skidding off the map. needs me to do more than just fantasize. might I remind you. shelter. It’s an upward climb. And that has nothing to do with money. we can move forward toward putting our ego into play.” “And I’ve imagined—and I think you’ve so far proven—that money is the ultimate promulgator toward that end. getting us down and out. you know. I tell you. Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “It’s easy for me. yes.” “From your perspective. money isn’t the proven solution. prevent us from falling to new lows.” “But that must begin with some basic foundations—food. by you. heading toward what will make us. It’s why I constantly configure scenarios of doom. I’ve even begun to think that that’s what keeps us going. Reality. ebbs and flows. a matrix that pushes and pulls.” “The dire images you have me conjure you really believe will become a reality?” “In a sense. You seem to —  — . Then love and belonging. movement. With such solidity of mind.” “And you are imagining that you are the elevator that lifts us.

A hat. Here.” “We shrink enough away from the real world and your power grows substantially. Below his balcony.” “Indeed. yes. fanning herself. I only have a few elements to work with here. Sun breaks through the crests in late morning. There isn’t enough of one here. A shame. places I conjure. is just over there.” “That’s why artists like it here. and things would be different. anyway. Usually when you’re quite down. It gets us places. Light refracts beneath the wake of yachts that moor or simply cruise by. for that matter. too.” “Hence all those suicides. It’s not about the money. I’m immensely happy now.” “I’ve always imagined it that way. The cliffs reach high into the clouds.” “So you could equate a lack of imagination with being poor.” —  — . a bathing suit is all that is needed to achieve a sense of happiness. There’s a bigger sense of fulfillment.” “And you? I’ve had to imagine those circumstances as well. the surrounding takes care of the rest—the sea and those cliffs you spoke of. Do they lead ‘better’ lives than some of the richest people we know?” “Most. creating the most illuminating blue-green. Happiness is just the fulfillment of basic needs.” “Because I imagine a different sense of happiness.” “Yeah ’cause I have a mission. It’s about living well. Try using it as an active noun—or even a verb.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S use money as a noun.” “They can do more with what they’ve got. you get your way most of the time. a book. You can be put to better use. Put me in New York. well. I have a world to create.” “I imagine you’re thinking of all those artists who realized the two worlds could never join. It looks out on to the sea.” “But we get along nice enough. I look around us here in Positano. yeah?” “Sure. or something other than everyday use. Look at some of the most creative people we know. Italy. it’s simple for me—and therefore for you. In fact. you know. or so he said. a woman selling sarongs and beach sandals sits happily in the shade. There’s a danger in that. The house where John Steinbeck created the most.

” “And how do we do that?” “There are only a few ways to get money: earn it.” —  — . it’s getting it. no? How far are those at the absolute top of Maslow’s hierarchy from those at the absolute bottom? And how much does money make a difference?” “I suppose I’d have to be exposed to having it all. Whether any of those leads to having a sense of love and belonging is a whole other question.” “Because we think alike” “But how do we get to the next level of love and belonging? I mean. steal it. But how do we step up?” “In the context of money. I can see how we can survive by fulfilling the basic needs. from self-esteem on down. or inherit it.” “You said it.” “Which I imagine we’re about to try and answer.” “Sort of what I was thinking. win it.The Basic Deter minants of Needs “Brings us full circle.

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white. No skills.“Those things costs money. When I had nothing. She isn’t down and out anymore—she’s a mishap away.” Sure. Two kids and . Hispanic. ugly.” she says. at least.With a zero savings rate in the United States. atheist. “Now. just scraping by.” That rules out treats like ice cream and candy. They run to Marlene. Okay Marlene. That’s the fear.” she says.C H A P T E R 1 5 Self-Worth rent.” She washes dishes at a restaurant. One step away from being on the street. the crowd rolls over her. Do I even need to describe Marlene? She could be black. “It’s not easy. She’s making $5 per hour. tall short. There’s no contemplation of what to do with leisure time. from being down and out. it does. That will give her the sense of security she needs. She could be Jewish. I don’t know what I’d do. It means no video games or cable. Now it does. Muslim. It rules out family vacations or trips to the zoo. And that may be scarier. “One paycheck away. there’s no decision of which restaurant to eat at. But it’s tough to find love and belonging when worries are on your mind. skinny.They are happy.” —  — M arlene just got off welfare. from being back.” says Marlene. money I just don’t have. Christian. Not even her name matters. Two children grab on to her legs. agnostic. The beat rolls on. She’s like millions of Americans. That will give her self-esteem. For her.They play in the street.They are cute. She could be fat. None of the physical features of Marlene matter. So who are you? How did you get to be the person you’ve become? How come earning money is so important to you? “Earning money is my only means of escape. None of the religious systems matter. Two kids and rent. No education. Chinese. What matters most to Marlene is money. “I have just enough. If I lose that. Marlene isn’t alone. I have something. “Just enough for the basics. it didn’t matter. pretty.

You’re the oldest. too. He wears a nametag. It’s the first step. Now this: no education. Recognition second. I’ve made mistakes in my life. “Who are you? Where are you from? Why are you here?” The questions rattle back and forth from me to them. But the welfare office is. Maybe she could even own her own business. and glasses is standing there. But a man. From a world without hope. So.” The kids stand there and poke each other in the doorway. Maybe it’s as the cook. Family isn’t around. No formal training. tie. Picture this: a father who can’t hold down a job. tell us.You have to help out. It’s the dream. “We didn’t have anything. where they’re from. my Imagination conjures: Marlene drying off the last plate left in the sink. go back on the dole. It’s where the imagination runs wild with hope. If I was happy I wouldn’t be doing this for them. is high. A stranger has called. No. Responsibility first. Should I mention who they are. I wasn’t happy. Government statistics show that most welfare recipients stay on the dole.” Second-generation welfare. you get out as soon as you can. Taken care of by a man who left. Indeed. “But I want to work. two-bedroom apartment. She wipes the sweat from her brow and walks to the time clock where she’ll punch out. someone new. a short man in a white short-sleeve shirt. turning in food stamps.The elevators break a lot. Picture this: a small.They overlook nothing but the urban landscape. It’s second nature. part of a city “project. It says MANAGER.The last bubbles of suds disappear down the drain. The likelihood their children will go on welfare. It has to stop with you. Her friends do it.” Three towers rise high into the sky. From a world that means sacrificing some part of your morality to survive.” But were you happy? “No. Picture this: the cycle continuing. why shouldn’t she? She’s knows how. never break away from the system. It’s how she grew up. It’s something.” Why? Because there’s a better life. Momma’s pregnant again. no. Forced onto the street. I don’t want my kids to. She knows the system. and you have to walk up and down the stairs—all ten floors. She flicks the hand towel over her shoulder. Marlene. converted to three. it can’t be. why they’re here? Come on. Going hungry some days. your family living that way. Picture this: an apartment building. Picture this: shopping at secondhand clothes stores. No.” Marlene says. And it doesn’t cost anything. She’s cognizant of that.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S From a world that’s not so good. I want to earn my keep. “I’m no saint. And move up the chain. Maybe she could host or manage the place someday. —  — . too. It’s a treat. Maybe it’s as the waitress. “I grew up this way. a mother who is pregnant all the time.

Self-Wor th

In the back he takes her, to his office. He sits behind a cheap, metal desk, piled high with manila folders. He takes off his glasses. He chats about the evening’s business with Marlene, who is so tired, so god dammed tired, and wants nothing but to get home to her kids. He talks about a problem he’s been having with an employee. And Marlene gets a lump in her throat. She thinks he may be speaking about her. She adjusts herself. She becomes uncomfortable. An anxious knot develops in her stomach.“What am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” She is thinking rapid-fire as he talks. “A girlfriend knows about a job as a chambermaid . . . ” But he cuts into her thinking.“Would you consider . . . ?” he asks.“ It will mean more money.” Her attention is fully on him now. She gasps. It all goes blank then fills into a wide smile. They shake hands. And Marlene, light on her feet the whole way home, stops for the first time at the corner store and buys candy for her kids. She’s stepped up. Sweet, like that. That’s how it could happen. Not likely. But it could. Writer Barbara Ehrenreich lived the life that the Marlenes of the world live. She spent two years working in minimum wage jobs across the United States. What did she find? The escape hatch was locked shut, battened down by the system, by managers and owners who held workers in their place; it’s not worth their while to allow people like Marlene to have a leg up. “Lousy pay makes for unlucky lives,” Ehrenreich concluded in her book Nickel and Dimed: on (Not) Getting By in America. 9 In an interview, Ehrenreich, who holds a doctorate in biology, said,“I think there is a certain kind of middle- and upper-middle-class complacency about the poor. People say, ‘Oh yeah, they have a hard time, but they get by.’” Sure, they get by. But it’s really, really hard. It’s really, really tiring. It’s really, really frustrating. And that’s the sad lesson of earning too little.You can never earn enough. So, what’s the hope, what’s the dream, what’s the point? Security, you see. Security that you’ll have a roof over your head and food on your plate. Security that you can feed your family. For some, it’s a long way off. For others, perhaps even more disturbingly, it’s tantalizing. “I can see it,” says Marlene. “It’s right in front of me.” But she can’t get there—yet. What Marlene has is imagination. She too puts him to work every day in search of hope. She too uses him to ward off reality and dream of a better day.
—  —

W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S

Money, for Marlene, is not having to worry about completing the “what ifs” of going without just one paycheck. She’s on the tightrope, where so many people walk. And money would be her safety net—just a little, and she plans to earn it.

Dialogue: Me and My Imagination
“There was a lot more to that story. I could have had some real fun there.” “We both could have—a book in itself. But that’s not what we’re here to do.” “Shutting me down at every turn?” “Keeping you focused on money, its attachments, its meaning, its reason for existence.” “That’s obvious so far. You can’t help but imagine money will lead to a better life in those circumstances. I mean, that’s basic.” “Don’t you think that everyone at every stage wants a better life?” “Little stuff, sure. But when I have to imagine ways to eat, to pay for shelter—that takes up a great deal of my time. After all that, I’d be too pooped to worry about travel and leisure.” “Perhaps that’s just us.” “I imagine it’s every one. There’s that question that always wakes me, even when I’m in the deepest and darkest of slumbers: ‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’ I can’t help but to rise to the occasion.” “That’s partially my fault, I’m afraid. When I’m not satisfied, that question pops into my mind. Sometimes the question is more vehemently asked, I grant you. But most of the time it’s a little plaything: ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be nice?’ It’s a luxury. You don’t ask yourself that when you are hungry. You ask yourself that when you’re looking for a garnishment.” “I imagine, however, that some people may just be content with the meal as it is: the roasted chicken breast, mashed potatoes, string beans. Who needs the parsley anyway?” “Well, isn’t that what makes someone more sophisticated than another?” “I make someone more sophisticated. I imagine all sorts of things to better a situation. And I’ll tell you this: the more sophisticated, the more expensive. That’s where money comes into the picture.” “I’m thinking of the intellect. I can have a more sophisticated point of view than someone else. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have more money.”

—  —

Self-Wor th

“Intellect, schmintellect. The more you know, the more you want. Come, take a little tour with me, would ya, and I’ll show you: Park Avenue in New York City. Both sides of the street are lined with yellow taxicabs, black Lincoln Town Cars—a horse and carriage trots by. It’s fall. The leaves are changing color, but there is still enough green on the ground to brighten the median strip that runs down the center of the avenue. Elegantly dressed people are on their way home from work, or on their way out after work. They look as though they mingle on the sidewalk. Tailor-made suits for the gents. Designer-made dresses for the ladies. Couture. High fashion abounds. Now, let’s follow one of them into one of those high-rise, luxury buildings that sits so grandly on either side of the street. You know the ones, with the green awnings that jet out to the curb. The ones where the doormen wear white gloves and neat, green and black uniforms. Inside, we walk past a heavy glass door to the marble lobby. A few plants. A brass bucket for umbrellas. No unseemly desk awaits. God knows where the doormen sit when no one is around. Surely it isn’t on one of the needlepoint couches or leather chairs. Maybe they stand and look at the horse and hound tapestries. In any event, when the elevator man pushes back the door cage, a woman wearing a chinchilla fur wrap and sunglasses steps out and walks past us. We comment on the time of year, that it’s too early for fur, to the elevator man, who, in like uniform as the doorman, takes us to the top floor. The door opens directly into a waiting area reserved for this apartment and this apartment only. It’s starkly different than the clubby feel of the lobby. Beige Italian marble imported from the quarries just outside Siena; hand-grooved baseboards. The second door, just painted in a Ralph Lauren flat white, opens to the tri-level, four-thousand-square-foot apartment itself. Steel gray ceilings and walls float to doublewide, custom teak floors. On the walls: a small portrait of a dancer by Degas, a blue-period Picasso, the original Matisse sketch for a Back sculpture, and, for kicks, an Egon Schiele nude. A dining room set imported from Morocco, a living room featuring a down-filled custom couch upholstered with $1,000-per-yard French fabric. Viking appliances accentuate the kitchen. A wine collection includes a 1998 Chateau Le Pin, a 1990 Chateau Petrus, and a rare 1961 Bordeaux Carruades de Chat. Each bedroom has been soundproofed. Still, a THX surround-sound system and Nakamichi stereo make the apartment media room buzz with classical music.

—  —

W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S

“We, or the person we’ve followed in from the street, are late for a fundraising event, so we drop our Cartier key chain into the Lalique bowl we use for such items. We undo our Hermes tie, slip off our Edward Greene loafers, unbutton our Ike Behar shirt, and unbuckle the A. Testoni belt as we remove it from the slips of our Zegna slacks. All this as we zip back to the bedroom, where we’ll enter our own dressing room and change into a Brioni tuxedo with matching shirt and change our Rolex GMT Master II sport watch for a Patek Philippe chronograph. The cufflinks—Harry Winston mother of pearl set in platinum—go on easy, but tying the Turnbull & Asser bowtie, from a thick Indian silk weave, takes longer than we expected. On go the antique, hand-blown, German-made glass lights, off goes Bach’s Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major (being performed by Pablo Casals) that has been playing. If we take a quick peek over the balcony we can see whether our Roll-Royce Silver Seraph has arrived. And we exit the same way as which we came.” “You suppose that is better than living in a one-bedroom walkup, cracking open a can of beer and flopping on a Jennifer Convertible couch to watch a ball game?” “I was making the point of knowing better. I don’t use ‘better’ or ‘worse’ in an egotistical way; that’s your job. I just produce the images you associate with better or worse. But I’ll tell you one thing, what I described is more expensive. And, in the past, you’ve made me equate more expensive with better.” “We’re coming back to that issue of ‘satisfaction’ again. Can people be satisfied with an average lifestyle? Does the car have to be the Mercedes? Can’t it be a Honda? Do the clothes have to be designermade?” “From the information I’m exposed to, there is a certain cache equated with finer. A refined taste is better, or so you lead me to believe.” “But the average individual doesn’t live that way. The typical American family, for example, makes $39,000 per year. They live outside major metropolitan areas, mostly in the suburbs. The father or mother, or both, commutes to an eight-hour-per-day job. They have one or maybe two children, own two (American-made) cars, have a pet, and take approximately two weeks of vacation per year.” “We mostly live in New York and Los Angeles. I can’t imagine living that way.”

—  —

000 and $1 million per year.’” “So how am I supposed to imagine that the typical American family is happy when they are two strata away from doing whatever they want whenever they want?” “Yes.Self-Wor th “The statistics also show this: Upper-middle-class people live about the same way and make between $75. we’ll need an example. in his fine book The Virtue of Prosperity. for that. who earn more than $10 million per year. Rich people live pretty much the same way and make between $1 million and $10 million per year. It’s only the super-rich. ‘rich people can do whatever they want within reason. That honor belongs to the super-rich. period.10 quotes these statistics and says. who live life dramatically differently. but they cannot do whatever they want. Dinesh D’Souza.” —  — .

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and the number of women bearing children between the ages of thirty and thirty-four increasing by about the same amount. for a household to comprise just one person. The crisp sound of something in between. respectively. Through the doorway to the kitchen. “Honey. while single households have increased by 25 percent. patter. with the number of women bearing children between the ages of eighteen and nineteen decreasing by about 20 percent since 1970. Women begin having children at an older age. Since 1970.62 people. Now.” he says. the man earns the bulk of the $39. it’s not unusual for both husband and wife to work. too. typically. Chop.” —  — I .84 and 8. Night falls later now.000 average yearly household income. according to the National Center for Health Statistics. A cheek to a thigh. Pitter. Men and women are getting married at an older age.35 per hour. Knife on board. in 1970. Steel lids muffle the noise of their own closing. Still. They run. Chop. the children playing on the floor in the living room rise to their feet. The family unit has been dropping in size since 1970. the U. When the door opens.16 hours per day and earns $14. when the extra space in the driveway becomes filled again—after eight hours of being left vacant. “Daddy!” they yell. Labor Department says. the waft of dinner prepared.S.C H A P T E R 1 6 Conditioning Values t’s Friday. when it comes to really settling. as opposed to twenty-one and twenty-three. The typical American household comprises 2. Little arms wrap around long legs. The typical American works between 6. when it was more common for family households to make up a majority of the population than for singles or couples. “I’m home. Pots rattle. the number of families with five or more people has been more than cut in half. when dinner is on the table. It’s still sunny when work is over. An ear to a kneecap. A summer’s day. twenty-five years old for women and twenty-seven for men. Chop.

Material items for the family just seem to appear. But they stay home an awful lot. it is quickly overcome in a half-hour or an hour. There is one child who is between the ages of ten and fourteen years old. not counting commercial time. Their children.The typical house. all less than fourteen years old. They don’t seem to be religious. like this one. Come to think of it.265 per year. So are television sets. Money never seems to be an issue. Laura about five foot four.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S The briefcase is placed by the door. The ear on the kneecap becomes a waist in the arm lifted high. It cost $132. It’s a nice. the typical household looks like this: Its members are Asian. The cheek on the thigh becomes a hand on the head. They could be fifty. the typical household looks like this: Its members are white. Both Laura Nelson and Rick Nelson are blond-haired. and stereo systems. Rick stands about six feet tall. There are two children. Most would also be Christian. naturally.They could be thirty. neat house.000 less than the national average of homes in U. and the baby is just a few months old. In the world.“McDonald’s is a happy place” becomes lyrical.That’s $7. That’s why the sedan chosen gets such good gas mileage. Caucasian. So too do bottles of Coca-Cola. Their children are four. They are Christian. In the United States.To the typical American family.S. when my Imagination conjures the typical American family. If they are. cars are luxury items.000. a bar of Zest soap appears.The boy seems to get into a lot of trouble. There are five children. a girl and a boy.That’s why the minivan isn’t used for long trips. computers. thirty-two miles per gallon. My Imagination always had the typical household looking like this: Its members are gray. metropolitan areas. is located at least an hour from a major city. but Muslim families are growing faster.The parents are between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five. two. They’re both attractive people.000 per year. have the same coloring.The girl is naïve.The family earns between $39. The parents are also between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five.000 and $75. In fact. there is no particularly controversial quality about them. They are teenagers.The parents don’t seem to have an age-quality to them. If controversy arises. The family earns between $756 and $9. Well mannered and well dressed. But this is how it really is: The Nelsons—let’s call them the Nelsons—have three children. These are the status items with which to compare neighbors and friends. Laura Nelson stays home and minds the children while Rick Nelson goes to work at an office in the city. He is a mid-level executive at a large —  — . blue eyed. they never seem to go to worship anyplace. These strange body parts enjoined make their way to the kitchen. The typical house is about two thousand square feet on a lot almost thirteen thousand square feet in size.

Some extra dough for food or a —  — .” he says. personal. then another company. or sick days. at thirty-two. he doesn’t want to make the sacrifices necessary to skip ranks. But they try and maintain their budget. We want to raise well-grounded. They have a separate budget for food—$400 per month.” Rick says. It’s boring. car insurance. It’s not for lack of ambition that Rick thinks this way.” Planning is a big part of the Nelsons lives. And that is just fine for Rick. She enjoys staying home with the kids. and now I’m here. Laura keeps the budget. meeting other mothers for “play groups” in the park.Those costs go on a credit card. as Laura just had their third child. At thirty-five years of age.” Sure the Nelsons would like it to be a little easier. retirement—a 401(k) plan—haircuts. He doesn’t see his labor as a mission.“Something with music. He entered the workforce and moved up the corporate ladder just fine. Work.They’re a new twist in the way human resources departments calculate work hours. Maybe he’d do something more creative.” says Laura. Sometimes they spend more money than they bring in. “Those are the things we tend to always go over on. water. “Then I got hired by another company. sure. They’re called paid days. is a way to earn money to support his family. He has twenty-two days total on which he is allowed to stay home. gifts for birthdays and baby showers. And Laura.” says Laura.Conditioning Values corporation. They budget $20 for their children’s entertainment. He earns $62. “Our plan. “I don’t want the stress. says Rick.” Destiny took its own control over Rick’s work life.” Rick says. But that’s a vague notion. as a calling. And that is fine with Rick. “Our budget works fine except for when we overspend on clothes. entertainment. He sort of stumbled into what he does for a living. I worked in retail management. like sports equipment. taking them on walks. He’s not miserable at the office. or food. short-term savings. “After I graduated from college. whether they are vacation. movie tickets. He went to college. telephone charges. He wouldn’t work if he didn’t have to. he got his degree in marketing. Then there is the rest: clothing. life insurance. isn’t a frustrated housewife.000 per year. saving $75 per month for each child. “is about family. cool kids. A bigger house would be good. to Rick. or computer games. He doesn’t really know what he would do with all his time if he didn’t work at a job. They plan for the children’s college.

Census Bureau. it seems most choose to be like the Nelsons.” says Rick. seeking more. So here it is. an exotic second home.” “And you find that difficult to imagine?” “What I find difficult to imagine is that they wouldn’t change if they were suddenly handed over a large sum of money.” “Their values.” says Rick. greed? They’re not alone in their thinking. Even though divorce rates in the United States stand at more than 50 percent.S. however. Most Americans don’t want to be millionaires. In a national survey undertaken by Modern Maturity at the height of the boom market in the U.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S vacation also would make life nice. psychologists have found. Things. the average family stays together. They all bow their heads and give thanks for their meal. economy. a gourmet meal. It’s young marriages that separate. “Our ultimate goal would be to do more things as a family. Rick takes his usual place on the north side of the table. Divorce rates for people who seek materialism and monetary fulfillment are higher than those who don’t. That doesn’t really make them typical or average. More than 80 percent of the respondents believed that having a lot of money makes people too greedy and feeling too superior. Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “But you note that he. Laura seemed more open and excited about bigger. experiencing more. Instead of wanting more. “We give thanks for everything.” So. most Americans said they were suspicious of the moral effects of wealth. I could see where the dynamic between them would change. Money means security and nothing else. fancy furnishings. Laura on the south side. fancier houses. Rick. you mean?” “Yes. childless marriages. But there are no dreams or desires for a mansion. wouldn’t work either if he didn’t have to.” “Perhaps. the Nelsons give thanks for what they have. except for the baby who’s on Laura’s lap. It might just make them a family. Their lives now are nice. Why screw that up with mania. And that is it for the Nelsons. working more. Almost 75 percent think the rich are “insensitive to others.” —  — .S. according to the U.The children sit east and west. Dinner is served.Those with children tend to stay together.

” “That’s just because they don’t have it.” “But imagine if it were thrust upon them.” “It would create some degree of deemed betterness. it will choke them. they could afford it. as they said. will you?” “Not until you show me.” “Bigger. materialism and monetary fulfillment aren’t their goals. going in their favor is the lack of pursuit. for example? Would that elevate their sense of love and belonging? Would it skew their sense of self-esteem to the point where they’d believe they are all of a sudden better off.Conditioning Values “I’d imagine that the reality of being able to afford things without sacrifice would ultimately create the recipe for at least testing materialism. some degree of a better life—like that better house they spoke of. ” “Because they don’t perceive. When the psychological pursuit of material gain is wrung around a person’s neck. you see. not better.” —  — . I’d imagine. .” “But.” “If they won the lottery. more or bigger as better. .” “You won’t let up on this. Grand adjectives were noticeably missing from the Nelsons’ vocabulary.” “How about a lottery winner then?” “Now we’re talking. The Nelsons aren’t predisposed to such character traits. they said.” “Because .

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take all the money at once? —  — A . The phenomenon of the lottery swept the nation. anyway. “Someone’s life is going to change.49 per pound. vinegars. pasta.79. and wine. as he’s slicing a round of honey-baked turkey. stretched around city blocks.” “Yup. Some ketchup and mustard stains are smeared on the front. “It’s a lot of money. Still. There is a one in 80 million chance that any one will win the U. Television stations carried the footage and told stories of how people drove for hundreds of miles to place their bets at designated lottery outlets. in which people waited to handpick their lucky numbers. costs $5.39.” What would they do with all that money? How would it change their life? Could they. stacked with olive oils. “Someone is going to win—big. Lines. which looks so perfectly placed next to the provolone cheese. the regular ones who come in to play Lotto. State lotteries.C H A P T E R 1 7 Money as a catalyst for change n Italian sandwich costs $5. There is the visual elegance of an efficient market. where six out of fifty-one numbers must be guessed correctly.” I answer. Powerball lottery. At the time of this writing. Who was going to win? “What do you think?” I ask Michael.” he says. where five numbers out of forty-five must be guessed correctly. A hot meatball sandwich costs $4. as well as one number of forty-two. near the waist. There is the smell of fresh-baked bread. The mortadella. people line up when the jackpot gets large. there was a Powerball lottery game whose jackpot was worth $300 million.S. the pepperoni. and the salami rinds. He knows most of his customers by name. Michael is wearing a white apron. hold a one in 18 million chance of winning on any given day.

but also takes away the possibilities associated with the use of proceeds—other investment possibilities. Michael hands the sandwich to me. in any amount. I want a yacht to cruise the Mediterranean. punching in on the clock. depending on the person’s income bracket.There’s a penalty for this. It’s the comfort that if I chose to retire at a young age. twenty or twenty-five years. makes him a multimillionaire. preserved. Michael’s take. the winner was just lucky. The corners fold in first. There was a new car. a house. despite the division.You get past that. He was only twentysix years old when he won. . The psychological benefit of security is the most important thing Michael clings to. I started working at this store when I was eleven. A sticker with a price printed on it keeps the paper from unfolding. “It’s not like that.” Michael tells me as we head into the storeroom of the deli for a chat.A few clerks come in and slide past us. no one’s had to be imaginative to get it. white wrapping paper. No one’s had to work for it. He’s thirty-one now. . a villa in Tuscany . I want a beach house in Malibu. “You don’t change. Granted.” he says. We’re sitting uncomfortably on stools in the storeroom. He could have gone overboard. The other choice is to take winnings over time. I could. It’s not reality. a boat. and Michael divided his winnings with his family and some coworkers who chipped in for a ticket. and put them in the bank. Lottery winnings are considered personal income. secure feeling for me.“It’s a nice. I didn’t buy shit for two years. It was unreal. ” My Imagination flashes these visions. That could be an additional 38 percent. the winner has to pay taxes on the entire amount—if it’s over $600—right off the bat. then the sandwich is rolled up.” Michael says. “It’s not materialism. “I want a Ferrari. The sandwich is placed on the thick. Still. look at them. Michael answers a few —  — . In any event. “And what will that get us?” As Michael is making me a sandwich. Plus. the lottery is like found money. I’d just get the checks.” So why work? “That’s just the way it’s been for me. The money is an illusion to me. the pot was also won by another ticket holder. It keeps the sandwich intact. of course—50 percent. I want an apartment in New York.” Michael won a $58 million jackpot. this little debate rolls on in my head.A few other material trinkets Michael bought with the money. I want a flat in London. This reduces the total tax burden on the winner.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S New lottery rules allow the jackpot winner to claim all his or her winnings at once.

was the highest-paid athlete in the world at one time. who inherited his money and capitalist philosophy from his centimillionaire family. Derek Sanderson. who cares?” There are cases of lottery winners committing suicide.M. too. and destructive forces come into play. He consults tax advisers. it really means something to Michael now. Besides. “It also gives me responsibility and something to do. —  — . There are cases of lottery winners spending all of their winnings. His mother and father started it. Some go bankrupt. a secure path in life. Michael monitors his investments. The reality of Michael’s situation is that he’s not super-rich. Work is the religion. Who to trust or not? Whose intentions to question? Those are the things that Michael now has to think of. It’s 3:30 in the afternoon.Money as a Catalyst for Change questions about schedule changes. It keeps people on the straight and arrow.Veer from that ethical value system. or inherited it. and he’s ready to knock off. told me.When the stock market moves. Michael says where money’s involved. One lottery winner is even on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Ten Most Wanted list. Some days more. Now Sanderson consults young athletes about money. “There is a dark side to it. He’s been at work since 7:30 A.” Sanderson. he found himself broke and sleeping on a park bench in New York.” When I interviewed Tim Forbes. the former Boston Bruins hockey player. What’s readily apparent is that it’s not the money that corrupts individuals. “And it’s just there anyway. directly or indirectly. the deli Michael works at has been a part of his life since he was born. Before. for example. He’s not worth that magic number that allows him to do anything. has taken its own identity. “I never respected it. If you’re not using it.Years later. success.” Michael says. Money fuels their ability to corrupt themselves. anytime.” he says. won it. His brother and sister work there.” Michael says. He takes a call from a wine supplier. some days less. The same could have been said for himself. “Having a lot of money creates its own kind of work. motivations weren’t a part of Michael’s consciousness. he said that work is the ethic. It breeds ambition. destructive forces come into play no matter whether you’ve earned it. Some are put in jail. He turned to drugs and alcohol. Money too. “I like it.

It’s like winning the lottery or gambling. —  — . what’s life all about?” Sanderson says. you’re looking at $19 million. And if you increase the spending to $20. Feel good?’” What most people who get giant windfalls of cash fail to realize is the payday isn’t as big as they think.S.8 percent with spending at $7. Creating a scenario of control is what Sanderson specializes in. she says.” says Kirkland Brown. They try and show off. you’re looking at $34 million when you’re fifty-two years old. you just spent your kid’s college tuition. except to pay for doctors’ bills. “To them that money looks like a new car.You don’t ask who you are. At least that’s what it means for Michael. it looks like a trip to Las Vegas. And Michael may be the unusual example of a lottery winner. “Listen.000 per month. He said he had no immediate plans to spend the money. he shows that money doesn’t make a man or a woman who they are. Sanderson calculates that on a conservative rate of return of 4. I just sit back and listen. Sometimes.You piss it away. I used to get mad and ask them to leave. she consults lottery winners about what they should do with their money. “What does money mean to you?” Most often it’s security.‘Great. Getting to know yourself and what you want is the important hurdle. The $300 million Powerball jackpot was won by an unemployed man in need of surgery. But maybe not. reality is too remote. “What am I going to do about it?” Would having less money make them any happier? Wouldn’t a sudden bankruptcy instead of a sudden windfall change them for the better? Probably no such luck would befall them. Give in a little.” says Michael. “Some [rich] people come in here. Let’s say you get $10 million when you’re thirty-five years old. As well. Sally Kirkland Brown. they’re unhappy people. They treat me and my employees bad. Ask. I say. a financial adviser. In any case. P.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “Athletes don’t have a foundation for success. Now I just laugh to myself.000 per month. create values. also consults high-paid athletes.500 per month. I see a young guy go out and by a new Bentley. It should be peace of mind.Then. They’re not unhappy with us. At a spending rate of $10. you’re broke when you’re forty-seven. She says to people: Create the wish list. what your priorities are.

sure. is comprised of a set of values that has been put into place by our familial and societal experience. then winning the lottery doesn’t mean what it did to me any more. .Money as a Catalyst for Change Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “You made it seem that money is a bad thing.” “Whatever. I’d imagine that you’d be much more likely to get into trouble—in your world.” “Now that was a crack.” “Only if I allowed it.” “Well.” “Please. Then we wake up to face each other too. we end up going to bed with each other again. that it’s not so great to win it. get in the way of me doing what I want. why would you say that if I was let loose. At the end of the day. Mr. You don’t have to be rich to be tempted to do something wrong. or should I say grand?” “Is that a crack?” “It’s whatever you imagine it to mean. As I was observing.” “That’s true. in the real world—if you had less money. as well as that something else. if your facts are straight. and that winning it isn’t all that easy either. which sometimes controls me. . but what is your point? What does that have to do with you?” “Think for a second.” “Good recap. ” “Then what is it?” “It may lead us into temptation.” —  — . But that’s a fleeting affair. we win some money. you’re automatically put into play.” “So? We are faced with temptation every day. the point is that. I can’t fancy a bit of hope around a ticket. Unimaginative—” “—I’m only unimaginative because you’re occupied at the moment. makes us different.” “If I wasn’t around. Those dreams held back by monetary inability can suddenly be realized. In fact. our moral fiber. You.” “Because what I conjure is bad?” “Not so much .” “See. reality. we’d be in a lot of trouble. In other words. People in prison are typically of less means. poor. then we’d get into more trouble? Our character.” “So. there’s the problem right there. at least your language is dandy.” “But I could have more to do.

You create it. We were shown where opportunities lie. . then money leads the way to self realization—the ultimate goal. Some people chose to skip over the trappings of social order. either. Otherwise.” “Context! Context! Context! We come from a relatively stable upbringing.” “Okay. so let’s go back to our foundation. or . or common law. Nelly. or some piece of wood that holds up the ceiling. get it as a gift.” “You don’t know that. as we noted earlier: earn it. that there is that level of consciousness in most? I don’t imagine so. I can’t imagine that thing. . I can imagine any number of different ways to skirt the system. steal it.” “There aren’t all that many. automatically puts them on this path. Couldn’t you see how they could cross those subjective moral and lawful grounds to get something that would satisfy their sense of self?” “They would have to have an awfully strange sense of self. and if we need love and belonging before we can get a sense of self. or affirmation of that sense of self. You’re making quite a jump there.” “Not in today’s culture. Now imagine someone who didn’t have those support systems. I’m imagining a flashlight. There is boundless opportunity. hold it. Whoa. We had moral guidance.” —  — . You should know that.” “Of course there is. The only thing I know is that it’s there. Just by the mere fact that people work. repels us from others?” “I’m drawing a blank there.” “Think they need. It doesn’t have to be conscious. that everyone is on the same path. hold it. when you say beam. ” “That’s right. I can imagine situations where people would have to steal to survive.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “That invisible beam that lets us know right from wrong. and take what they need. or that beam.” “Hold it. as you call it.” “And you really think that people think this way. that drives us to certain things. Here is that glaring hole in your foundation thesis. If we need food and shelter to get us on our way to love and belonging. We all don’t work for money to get by. that they have to earn a living in society to garner those things we just mentioned.” “Strange because I can’t imagine it to any great extent.

Money as a Catalyst for Change

“Uh oh.” “What?” “You just implanted a vision of our next interview—and I don’t like it.” “You’re afraid?” “Yes.” “Well, if you can think of another way to get inside the mind of a criminal, someone who finds money so powerful, so attractive, so compelling that they would be willing to commit a crime to get it—“ “But murder?” “It’s the most heinous offense I could imagine.” “You’re right, of course.” “Then it’s off to prison?” “Yes.”

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C H A P T E R

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Monetary Desire in the Context of Universal Common Law

Level 4. Maximum-security prison. “He grabbed me by the shirt,” inmate B02100 says.“I pulled the nine millimeter I had in my pants and shot him—boom, boom, boom—seven times.” I pop my trunk. I show my identification. What’s not allowed: denim clothing, bills larger than $1, $20 maximum, electronic devices, weapons––the list goes on. I scroll down twenty-five bullet points of what’s disallowed. “There it was, just this stack of money on the ground,” Danny, inmate B02100 says. “I took it. I didn’t even think about what had just happened.” The parking lot is five hundred yards away from the central office. In between cell blocks, flashes of denim can be seen in the yards. Basketball. Weight training. What look like group discussions. “I would work two or three days a month, make between $4,000 and $6,000,” says Danny, inmate B02100, who has been in prison for thirty-five years. Inside the central office, inmates’ families and friends gather.They represent on the outside what the inmates represent on the inside: all walks of life. Put a suit on him and Danny could be a banker, an attorney, a corporate executive.The hair around the sides of his almost-bald head are gray. He sports a mustache. He is of average height and build. He carries himself with an air of confidence. He is well spoken and polite. A half-dozen guards stand behind a wooden counter. They pass out and examine visitation forms.

I

t’s a glistening, long stretch of helixshaped barbed wire. It sits on top of the electric fence.

—  —

W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S

Danny has been sentenced to life without parole. He’s fifty-five years old. He’s not supposed to get out alive. They take your belt, your shoes. They make you empty your pockets.You turn around with these bunny ears hanging from your pants as they check the bottom of your feet. Danny murdered a man over money and drugs. He was part of a motorcycle gang. Had been since he was eleven. Past the metal detector, a gate opens to a small, concrete courtyard.Another This Page Intentionally Left Blank gate leading to the prison compound is kept locked. “The first thing I did [after the murder and robbery] was to take my little three-and-a-half-year-old daughter to Baskin-Robbins; we got every flavor. Then we went shopping and I filled up the back seat with toys,” Danny says. There is an unemotional quality to Danny that stands out. But when he speaks of his daughter, something in him goes soft. After the first gate shuts behind our group, we are left in limbo: the gate to the prison compound stays closed.We are caged in.There is a slight moment of anxiety for me. “The life of a citizen never appealed to me,” Danny says. A “citizen” is a regular, hard-working, law-abiding person. We are caged in until the black bus comes and takes us to the cell blocks. “Even if I were to say that I got out now, I wouldn’t lead that life. I wouldn’t know how,” he says, Danny says, as he wrings his hands. He tells me he is nervous. He hasn’t seen any one from the free world in four years. There is a woman behind me. She speaks as if she has throat cancer. Different pitches interrupt her words. She speaks as if she is very old, like a grandmother in a cartoon would speak—very high pitched and cheeky. “It’s a way of life,” Danny continues. “I was banned for three months . . . ” The squeaky voice expels this information to the woman next to her. She says she was arrested for receiving stolen property and had to go to jail herself. I look back. She is more than sixty. Danny was part of a motorcycle gang that ran money, drugs, and weapons. A very well-dressed and good-looking family are standing next to me. They’re in designer clothes, look well-coiffed.The parents in their forties, the daughter in her twenties. A perfect-looking family. To Danny, there was something dazzling about the life of crime.There was something very attractive about the money. The risk too, made it sensational. Two large African-American women wait in the cage, as well. They drove four hundred miles to visit their “men” here in prison.They talk as if they just met in a church parking lot, recapping their week.
—  —

I feel oddly exposed. A few weeks later. since I was eight. He didn’t want me hanging out with the motorcycle guys. And I knew. “I could buy any toy I wanted.” explains Danny of his childhood introduction to crime. It’s open. “My father wanted me to work for him real bad. A closer look reveals a meteor shower. Danny’s father was a small business owner. We didn’t much speak after that. The squeaky grandmother kisses her boyfriend. I do it. There’s a guard station at the front of the room. bald-headed.” Danny says. A buzz through to the visiting room. I’d get a six-inch thick brown bag to take somewhere. When the black school bus finally arrives.” Danny says. has him arm around his girlfriend or wife. “When I was growing up.To the right is a set of windows that face the prison compound. a guard station at the rear. To the left. There’s the mob boss in dark glasses. is a green door through which the prisoners enter and leave. Heebie jeebie. a young—say. praying and reading from the Bible. I never even thought to violate that trust. A rather large mural of the solar system sits on the front wall of the visiting room. if something goes wrong. like a cafeteria.” says Danny. So. asks the guard who he is supposed to see. Nor do I doubt the fact for a second that he could kill me. There’s a couple holding hands. He is like the system he has become —  — . one summer he says he’ll buy me a car if I work for him. “I’d get five bucks to hide a gun. I don’t think for a second he’s going to harm me. First stop is mine. Danny comes through the green door. I traded the car in for a motorcycle. As we drive along the small track to the cell block. The rings of barbed wire look down on me. next to the vending machines. I’d look at what my friends got and laugh. There’s a nice-looking Jewish boy who sits down with his perfect-looking family. thirty-five-ish—scruffy-looking slob. there’s no escape. The squeaky grandmother and the nice-looking family get off with me. the gate to the prison compound opens. and heads in my direction.Vending machines line the wall. suburban town. that that was the type of life I wanted to lead. my older brother got into the motorcycle life.A massive Mexican. Impending danger in the universe? I don’t feel afraid when I sit next to Danny in a remote corner of the room.” Another identification check.Monetar y Desire in the Context of Universal Common Law “It was special thing to be trusted by those people. He lived in a relatively nice. I’m thinking that if there’s a riot.

I do now.The longer you are in the system. question.You become more introspective.’ stuff people are calling through the bars when a new prisoner comes in is bull.‘Hey sweetie. I was a kid.” Two-for-one guys are black market peddlers.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S a product of. I do something to you. Now it’s cash in hand. A murder crime gets automatic respect. Now. I mind my own business.You buy a bag of chips. Rules. You’re a citizen. people will leave you alone.They don’t dare question the system.Yes or no. “They end up getting stabbed.You do.You treat people with respect.” says Danny. “So you might want something like a bag of chips or something and you go to a two-for-one guy and he’d give you credit until your canteen drop was up. Canteen drops are when prisoners get to go to the canteen. you get respect. I didn’t know any better. I played the games of politics in the yards. He’s left alone.” says Danny. “People will nibble at you.” Respect used to equate to credit. Strict rules. A sex crime.You harm me.” Danny says.” he says. Sure. Not anymore. so you keep your mouth shut until you do. or prison store. Lesson number one. you’re a white guy. too. “It’s not like that. Something is or it isn’t.” A lot of people get stabbed here. I tell Danny that I imagine I’d get raped and beat up in prison. and you show respect to the people that matter. “I didn’t think about it much when I was young. doubt. The night it happened.” says Danny with a smile. look for answers. Respect is the medium of exchange in prison. they’d have canteen drops every two weeks. on the other hand. see if you stand up for yourself. I don’t have time for that.” explains Danny.They have abused that privilege on the outside. “In San Quentin.You don’t know who anyone is.You do something to me. He then tells me that those two-for-one guys are the ones that usually don’t last that long. will most likely get you killed unless you ask for protective custody. “Someone always gets pissed off at them. I observe. —  — . you get respect. You’re a gang member. I harm you. you’re not a rat. But that stuff you see on TV isn’t what it’s like. you stand up for yourself. But not anymore. All that. Why would you do such a terrible exchange? “Because you wanted the bag of chips.“They take you out of here one way or another. and purchase items. The human condition has been stripped of its essential faculty to inquire. Black and white. the more you start to think of stuff like that. Answers are given to inmates. you pay them with something worth double. I wasn’t when I was young. He’s been in the system so long that he’s automatically granted respect. Danny is what they call a dinosaur now. When I first got here. It’s the money.

Racial lines are blurred. are waning as a trading item. The Black Guerrilla Family is broken into the Bloods and Crips. he or she has to pay for. “Now it’s different. pens. a trip to Las Vegas. Everything else: deodorant. glasses. Gangs fragment the environment. It’s a way to get luxuries.” Danny says. it was a car. Swaps are more in-kind exchanges. But money doesn’t mean something all that much different inside or outside prison.The Mexican Mafia is divided into North and South. shampoo.Monetar y Desire in the Context of Universal Common Law Danny estimates that there are between three hundred to four hundred stabbings a year in his prison.The Aryan Brotherhood has the Skinheads and the Nazi Low Riders. healthcare. Not anymore. In fact. This changes the landscape for trade because you can’t cross lines. “The other way. aspirin. Danny makes $20 per month in his job as a clerk.” Danny says and nods his head.The credit system based on a prisoner’s word has dried up. too. What could have been so immensely tempting about money as to make him commit a crime? What sent him over the societal boundaries? The societal boundaries themselves. On canteen day. prisoners can buy almost anything that isn’t easily made into a weapon. Mikey. That’s all right. No cash is ever exchanged in prison. “I was always spoiled and got what I wanted quick. Respect goes out the window. and there were maybe five or six incidents a year. Each prisoner has an account and his purchases are deducted from that. I got you on that. He places a Coke in front of Danny and keeps on walking by. “For me. associate with prisoners from different groups. the traditional prisoner currency. the only things a prisoner gets for free. a nice bar of soap is a luxury. That’s about one a day. of the gratification. I never thought about putting it into —  — . paper.Whites and Mexicans used to be allies. “In San Quentin we had ten times as many guys. A large. Payback for something. The hierarchy has been broken. “Thanks. The times have changed.” Danny says. bald-headed Mexican approaches our table. it wasn’t the stack of money. Before. besides meals. there was too much work for too many years to get what you wanted. Cigarettes.” It was the immediacy.” says Danny. are toilet paper and soap. doesn’t stop or miss a step. but what I could do with it. In his life now.

But he tries hard not to think about the “what ifs. He says that if he could escape. he would. “It’s tough for her.” he says. if money weren’t an issue. I haven’t had any time alone in thirty-five years. here he sits. I took a life. just to be able to walk into the kitchen and make a sandwich for myself. especially the life you create. but then it’s nice to experience them and fill up again. and he was picked up. “Even now when there is a moment of happiness. Time.” Danny says. though. Two witnesses had spotted him.” “It would be nice. He partied for two days straight with the proceeds from his murder.” says Danny. Never really writes.” Danny says. of course. Appreciation. “Thought they were just busting me for a speeding ticket. He’d spend time with his daughter. I don’t get them that often.You have no idea how much little things like that mean. She doesn’t come to visit much. I didn’t really know what that meant until years later. He’d spend time with the people he cares about. Whether you are on the inside or the outside. I have a roommate in my cell. “just driving down the road. I wanted to do something that I liked to do with it. but I’ve had a lot of years to think about that and make my peace with that.” Danny says.” Danny says. The guards do counts every two hours. This has been something she has had to live with. it’s a bigger thing for me than probably any one else like you on the outside. After that.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S something more. His three-and-a-half-year-old daughter is now thirty-eight. too. “The most valuable thing in life is life itself.” Danny says.” But now. These you can treasure locked up inside. They’re around all the time. I eat with three hundred other guys.” Happiness. or whether you create one for yourself.Whether you are in prison. comes the appreciation of life. —  — .“That may sound odd coming from someone like me. “I am around people all the time. he’d live alone on an island. all these years later. I go to the yard with six hundred other guys. “My daughter is important to me. Family. This is the cycle that money should help spin round and round—like a double helix.” And with life.

” “So I’m best used in moments of time and innovation. you meet yourself.” “Maybe it’s the other way around. it won’t matter so much—we can never escape —  — . that necessitates not just using you to your maximum ability.” “No. you know.” “Where if you go back in time.” “When you have enough time on your hands.” “Oh boy. I’m very famous. in other times too.” “That.” “Wrongo. Indeed. I only use you when I need you.” “So. Yuck. sometimes. Anyway. or if I need to figure out a different way of doing what we’ve already done.Monetar y Desire in the Context of Universal Common Law Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “So?” “So. Anyway. maybe not.” “Yes. We only go where I imagine. which show are you thinking of?” “The storyline involved using Einstein’s theory of relativity to go back in time. That theory always bothers me. here we go.” “No.” “Yes. you are repeating everything I just thought. but also all of the other faculties. I remember.” “Indeed.” “Why are you repeating everything I just thought?” “Why are you repeating everything I just thought. But you are best used when you’re challenged and when you have enough time to be creative.” “Well. before I get all anxious. I could even say there wouldn’t be a television show—or even a television—if it weren’t for me. we go where it’s natural for us to go.” “It annoys me just to think about working so hard to imagine such a thing occurring. you’re saying we go on impulse without me in any part of the equation?” “Sometimes. I just watched a show on time and innovation and the underlying theme was the use of you. what’s the point of bringing up time and innovation?” “In the context of you.” “What?” “What.” “Those guys. It brings up that ‘twin paradox’ and all sorts of stuff. That one bothered me.

literally. in spite of time. my buddy.” “I’m imagining some Sunday school teacher. what are proper manners. ’” “I. . so are you.” —  — . sorry to say.” “What about those aliens?” “That’s a theory from a bunch of people who let you take over. we’ll always be plagued with the footprint of our conditioned thought. So.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S the way in which we think or imagine.” “By whom?” “The establishment. But. As I said. there was a nod to independent thinking and values there. and what is gauche. But there’s more to this. the one who has to operate in the ‘real world.” “Or me.’” “I always imagined that the point of that book was who would suffer more: the savage under the conditions of orderly society or someone from orderly society under savage conditions?” “Indeed. . and define what’s good behavior and bad behavior.’ are conditioned.” “I never denied that I am conditioned. the real self.” “Of course you’d say that. The educational institutions of the Unites States were begun by religious organizations.” “Free will. no matter what. You. who else?” “Who’s that?” “The establishment is the tenured majority. 11 when Mustapha Mond shows a copy of the Bible to the savage and says. the laws. remember the line ‘that independence was not made for man.” “I’m imagining—besides a bear claw print in the snow—a scene from Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World.” “That is one school of thinking.” “Is that why the government lies to us—to keep order?” “The government doesn’t lie to us.” “You’re not far off. would reign!” “But the world would never be the same. yes.” “But isn’t there the school of thought that says time is a man-made invention—“ “—so the only way to escape it is to rethink what time is—” “—and get outside the system—“ “—or the thought. They are the ones who set the rules. we can’t get outside thinking the way we do because we’ve been conditioned to think this way. ‘we are not our own any more than what we possess is our own .

And they’re in politics. steeped in moneyed tradition. I always imagined these folks as going to prep schools or Ivy League universities. chinos.” “Sounds like old money. They operate on a different set of values.Monetar y Desire in the Context of Universal Common Law “So along with education and history came a set of values. a white button-down shirt.” “Only one way to find out. on boards of cultural institutions like museums.” “But this country has been around a long time. I imagine. The lottery winner didn’t particularly change his style of living.” “I imagine this is where they wield their influence on culture. are in a class to themselves. They are the upper class we’re always chasing. means something else to them. The prisoner said he’d most likely return to a life of crime if he ever got out of jail. influence their morals. shape their characters. just with more money.” —  — . trust fund babies. people who grew up rich.” “Yes. The people who are born with money have different value systems from what we’ve read.” “Now that you mention it. but their philosophies live on through educational institutions that pass on these ideals.” “I’ve always imagined an aura of elitism surrounding inheritors.” “They usually do.” “Yes. But inheritors. Get ’em while they’re young. they are the same people. When people win or steal or earn a lot of money. Besides. There are those penny loafers. those whose family lineage of wealth dates back generations.” “Money.” “Exactly. and signet rings. then. I might add. a striped necktie. We’ve seen that. there are heirs.” “It is. Values. you and Ralph Lauren show me the pictures: a blue blazer with some type of patch on the breast pocket. I’d have to imagine the people who founded these ideals are dead.” “They are. school names printed on jerseys and caps. libraries. concert halls.

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C H A P T E R

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Old Money and Achievement
rnest Hemingway is snapping the neck of a pigeon in the Jardins de Luxembourg. Ezra Pound pedals by, dressed formally in a suit (one pant leg is tucked into a sock). Gertrude Stein is walking arm-in-arm with a young artist.The artist is wearing a beret, Stein a floppy knit hat. This is literary Paris, a Paris that attracted a drunken F. Scott Fitzgerald and, later, an earnest Henry Miller. My Imagination sees these figures sitting in crowded cafes’ by day sipping coffee, arguing in smoke-filled jazz bars at night. I conjure these images of Paris because I’m reading the small author’s bio on the back on Nelson Aldrich, Jr.’s book Old Money12: “Nelson Aldrich, Jr. is the editor of The American Benefactor. Formerly Paris editor of the Paris Review, a senior editor at Harper’s magazine, and a reporter for the Boston Globe, he is a frequent contributor to such publications as . . . ” The bio names a few current titles, but it’s the Paris Review that stops me—races my Imagination back to a Paris of the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. I’m set to interview Nelson about old money, its values, what the life of an inheritor is like; Nelson is a keen observer of the money scene. “The big divide in America is money that’s made by an individual and money that’s inherited,” Nelson says. “The first thing you’d have to say is that American culture is not at all hospitable to the inheritors of money.This is the New World.This is a breeding ground of the new man and the new woman.” Nelson goes on to tell me that the rich indeed are different than you and me. In America, “the general ideology is that we are each responsible for making our own lives according to our own values, ” he says. Nelson takes me back to Puritanism. He takes me back to the deep pre–Civil War South. He goes on at length about the foundations of elite educational organizations in the Northeast, schools like Exeter Academy, St. Paul’s, Groton. “The upper class in the United States becomes a screen onto which the middle class projects all sorts of aristocratic attributes . . . and in
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some subcultures of the rich class, like the Northeast rich, they founded the educational institutions on aristocratic values,” Nelson says. He is a good teacher and articulator of old money habits, Nelson. He is quick to point out that the aura of old money, that generated by Fitzgerald or Henry James, has faded. “The aura of old money is really an afterglow of that concept [aristocracy], but that has pretty much died out. Even Ralph Lauren doesn’t believe in it anymore,” Nelson says. It’s the images, you see, that Nelson says aren’t real—false images portrayed by books and movies. Most of the old money set are relegated to private clubs, like the Brook or the Knickerbocker in New York City. These are places of mahogany, red leather wingback chairs, oriental rugs, old men in suits, and cigar smoke. And just as these clubs are being displaced by the modern health club, with step aerobics and spin cycling classes and both genders in Lycra, so too are the members of the old boys’ network. The old rich aren’t as rich as the new rich. Just look at the richest people in the world; few are inheritors of wealth. Most are self-made. The old rich may have a set of principles, but that is out of touch with today’s society. Indeed, the old rich don’t even want to be rich, according to Nelson. He says money taints inheritors in a way that eradicates their individualization. “The person who inherited the money—the boy and the girl—didn’t make any, so you can’t say that any of it is theirs—it’s Daddy’s or Grandpa’s. “There is no merit attached to the inheritor’s wealth because it wasn’t his agency. It was some ancestral god, as it were, before him. “Because this is a culture that gives money a kind of power that is virtually magical—a transformative power, a power to do anything for its possessor. Famously, as Dickens says, it can make an ugly man handsome . . . “So, if you have inherited a lot of money, but that money really doesn’t belong to you, except in some legal sense, and if money is really transformative, then it follows whatever you did in life, whether you went to college, whether you started your own business, whether you own the America’s Cup, whatever you did, was by the color of your money. But since you didn’t make that money, your victories don’t belong to you, they belong to your Daddy. In this way, whatever you did in life didn’t belong to you. Even your mistakes didn’t belong to you . . .You cannot win for losing, and you can’t lose for winning. It’s a terrific paradox,” Nelson conjects. Actually, I reckon, it’s a sad paradox. Imagine going through life without the prospect of getting credit for your achievements. For that matter, imagine being discarded for your failures. Like a child seeking attention (love), the unattended would lash out.
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Old Money and Ac hievement

I have a friend who never had to work a day in his life.An only child, both his parents died when he was a teenager. He inherited a great deal of wealth, and came from “good stock” as they say—Greenwich, Connecticut, WhiteAnglo-Saxon-Protestant (WASP) wealth. Last I heard of him, he was at the Betty Ford Center in Palm Springs. He had rented a yacht, filled it with champagne and cocaine and sailed down the East Coast, through the Panama Canal and up the West Coast all the way to Alaska. He came out as a homosexual during the escapade, almost died of an overdose, and decided to check himself in to rehab. There was no one to set the boundaries of his life. Money had corrupted him, sent him into a life of decadence. But old money can have the opposite effect. In fact, it’s supposed to. Old money is equated with inherited money, which is equated with aristocracy. Aristocracy derives from the philosopher Aristotle, who set down principles for which the “moneyed” were supposed to adhere. “Social virtues like good manners, good taste, political decency, charity, high culture.These things, as Aristotle believed, could only be cultivated if you didn’t have to worry about where the next buck was coming from,” Nelson says. So, what does money mean to old money? Immunity, mostly, it seems, and something that Nelson describes as pietas. Pietas is described as a reverential sense of ancestral precedence. “If you don’t look too closely, and you don’t see the snobbery involved, and you don’t see the violation of the American ethos of the self-made man in it, and all you see is the good manners and civic duty and graciousness of life and cultivation of life. If that’s all you see, then it looks pretty good. “It’s things we would all like, but don’t have the means or the time,” Nelson says. My Imagination sees a young boy walking by a row of townhouses in Lewisberg Square on Beacon Hill in Boston. It’s a winter afternoon. It’s getting dark. The lights in one of the townhouses turn on. A man comes to the window, wearing a maroon silk smoking jacket and black ascot. He has a snifter of brandy in his hand. A fire burns in the fireplace behind him. The boy, about nine years old, looks at the man, who’s in his fifties. The boy is dressed entirely in denim. His cheeks are red. A knit cap sits awkwardly on his head. Thick, brown hair jets out here and there. A pack of similarly dressed and similarly looking boys joins him, and they all run off together through the square, out of sight. A young boy, also about nine years old, comes into view in the window. This boy is dressed in a blue blazer, and a blue, button-down oxford shirt. He is immaculately groomed. He stares up at the older man, whom my
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and the basics have been covered. A log crackles.” “Right.” “There’s the trip-up.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Imagination characterizes as the boy’s father. First. shelter. the more our ego brandishes his might on our actions?” “Yes. This may be the biggest obstacle to fulfillment or self realization we’ll have overcome because it means putting our individualization to the test to capture self-esteem. A small. Now. I have to imagine money as a prison.” “Okay. okay. The fire burns. Help me out here.” “Don’t lay all that on me.” “I would imagine those morals and ethics we’ve developed—or which have conditioned us—can be dissuaded.” “That we’re good or worthy in our own eyes. influences of discretion. Here’s where most people spend their entire lives— wobbling on the wall between self-esteem and self-realization. your place in society. which is it?” “I think learning that it’s both—depending on how it’s perceived to affect your self-esteem. we’re open to other influences.” “Changed? Maybe. okay. More —  — . I imagine money as freedom. I can’t particularly imagine the point of validating or succumbing or even overcoming self-esteem when or if you have all the money you need to fulfill your other needs. walking out of the room. you’re right. and that can either be damning or fulfilling depending upon our moral and ethical characteristics. The trappings of old money. Whether you imagine we’re a good person. logic and all the boys play a role in validating that concept.” “So. or the boy on the inside? Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “That’s the second time I’ve had to imagine money as a prison of some sort. or more money we have.” “So the more secure. let’s go there. Shh. however.” “No. The father puts a hand on the boy’s shoulder and they turn away from the window. burnt ember lands somewhere on the oriental rug of the man’s study. After food. That’s where freedom or enslavement enter the picture. Dusk turns to dark.” “You’re wreaking havoc on my subtlety. The boy on the outside. perception. A spark flies out from the fireplace and disappears in midair. Reason.

someone whose name is synonymous with conspicuous consumption?” “I’m imagining Donald Trump.” —  — . Can’t we try that?” “How about we let someone else show us. what’s fulfilling.” “I’ve got that middle-age crazy sequence going: A fifty-year-old man drives up to a high school in his Corvette to pick up his new girlfriend after cheerleading practice.” “Well.” “Exactly whom I was thinking of. as it were. But people look outside for fulfillment. The connection to what matters.” “I thought the next step on the ladder of life.” “That is the fun part for me. That can lead to decadence. is self-realization. They’re trying to best their self-esteem by acquiring more and more material objects. They become free to put discretion to use. New desires appear. someone who can afford virtually any material object in the world. it’s at that exact age when people make the most amount of money in their lives. New goals are set.” “It is. is broken. too. And that’s where money comes in.Old Money and Ac hievement becomes more.

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I’ve learned—in business and any other aspect of life—is how a person reacts to each twist of fate. trust me.”That was in his book The Art of the Comeback.14 he writes. I like making deals.That’s how I get my kicks. just making a name for himself in 1987. Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully on canvas or write wonderful poetry. in his book Surviving at the Top. You have to be confident as you face the world each day. “It’s usually fun being The Donald. Later. What Donald Trump does is develop real estate. but you can’t be too cocky.” Donald Trump says. and he was in almost $1 billion of personal debt. Some of the challenges you face turn out well. But all this you should know. but in the early 1990s. He is one of the most successful real-estate developers of our time. he says. I do it for the money. Anyone who thinks he’s going to win them all is going to wind up a big loser.What separates the winners from the losers.” After the real-estate shakeout of the early 1990s.C H A P T E R 2 0 Ego and the Need for Success don’t do it for the money.” is the first line of Donald Trump’s first book. “It doesn’t matter whether you have three billion or three hundred dollars in the bank: Life is a series of challenges. then yeah. it wasn’t. much more than I’ll ever need.” That was when Donald Trump was on his way up. Some don’t. when Donald Trump became known as The Donald. Fully 98 percent of Americans know his name. I do it to do it. The Art of the Deal. in 1990. preferably big deals. according to Fortune magazine.15 But there is one theme throughout Donald Trump’s rise and fall and rise again: He says he doesn’t live for the money.13 He continues.“I’ve got enough. His name is more —  — I . after his high-profile divorce from Ivana. Even a description of Donald Trump seems like a waste. Or does he? “If you mean money as the scorecard that tells me I’ve won and by how much.

not stoppages. casinos. business dealings that generate enormous amounts of money as their by-product.” he says. He stands at six foot three. going to hotels and casinos. See. And while tall buildings now connote a different type of fear factor. people take notice. not to mention a slew of residential and office buildings. When Donald Trump is in the room. it’s about new heights. That’s just the type of guy he is. and recreational facilities. psychological. —  — .W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S associated worldwide with wealth and money than that of the richest man in the world. people stop and stare—and this is in daylight Manhattan. fewer people are traveling. and political sense. he wouldn’t be happy. Meanwhile. when people usually only take enough time noticing a celebrity to tell them to move. There has been a direct assault on New York—in the physical. beautiful women. money seems as odd a topic for an important discussion as ego. A passenger jet with more than 250 passengers aboard has crashed in Queens—Donald Trump’s hometown. Donald Trump is dealing with it all and moving ahead. to top that of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. It isn’t relevant to ask Donald Trump if he would be happy if he were poor.” Disruptions.” Donald Trump says. Still. Even walking down the street. spending money. yachts. private jets. Malaysia. It’s all context. as he puts it. “The world changed on September 11. If he didn’t do deals. Take him or leave him. golf resorts. The World Trade Center towers have collapsed. If he didn’t do deals. Donald Trump is a tall fellow. This put a damper initially on Donald Trump’s businesses: He owns hotels. “the post-attack economic disruptions. He still wants to build the tallest building in the world. Working hard to overcome the economic downturn before the attack and. Associations of wealth ensue. He has just as large a presence too. This got me thinking about what it is that Donald Trump has that other businessmen don’t.” he says. limousines. My Imagination pops up with a litany of images when the name Trump arises: luxury buildings. And in the context of which I’m working through this interview with Donald Trump. “We have been working very hard.Working hard to work through it. he wouldn’t be rich. Bill Gates. But that hasn’t stopped him. His state of happiness is tied to business dealings. “Now just doesn’t feel like the right time to be talking about all this. it may just be the type of project that will symbolize America rising again.

not what they’re told.” he says. it’s reported by putting the Trump name on a building an 80 percent premium can be charged. luxury resorts—and money. slid down a few rungs. planes. leave me bored. it’s the challenge of creating a beautiful building. And if —  — . “Rich” takes on its softer meaning. People stories. It is having “vision. Donald Trump attributes his success to tenacity. He learned the trade. . It stands for quality. once they are acquired.There are a lot of guys that I respect a great deal who don’t have much money. or resort. But these are all dollars. what would that mean? “If you go around saying ‘his is bigger than mine. . The rest is history.Ego and the Need for Success And that’s it. a developer paid Donald Trump $5 million just for the use of his name on a building.“You have to measure somebody by more than that. Numbers and sense aren’t at all adding up these days. and now is higher than ever before. In reality. Perhaps he’ll always be stepping up.” says Donald Trump. you see. and then he moved in to the city.The Trump name stands for something. I mean that they’re afraid to be an individual and stand by what they themselves believe in. That’s not easy because most people aren’t their own person. companies. beautiful design.” “Many people have called me greedy because of the way I amass real estate. Over the twenty years he’s been a household name. The art of this whole thing is winning for yourself. not the having.That’s what will make them a success in the end. the human condition—that is what’s being celebrated and embraced.) And in New York. Donald Trump has never said or set his mind to being the richest man in the world. “For me. according to Forbes magazine. What he goes for isn’t the money. Donald Trump himself is worth at least $5 billion. Donald Trump began working with his father on small developments in the outer boroughs of New York City. Manhattan. the important thing is the getting .’ then you’ll drive yourself crazy and you’ll never win. the Trump name is worth at least $5 million. People are. something more than the person himself. But what those critics don’t know is that the same assets that excite me in the chase often.” he says. “In your mind you’re alone. After all. (In South Korea. And there are guys who do have a lot of money whom I don’t much respect. By that.You have to show them. worked on as many aspects of the business as he could.You can’t bring people in there and show them what you’re thinking or how you’d like to be. Donald Trump has climbed up the ladder. helicopters. etc.

I first hear then see the grand waterfall in the far side of the marble lobby. Donald Trump. with New York the way it is. But now. a war.” I walk through his Trump Tower building on Fifth Avenue. what you do. Now. He fills imagination with reality and reality with the workings of his imagination. But is has something unique. no one would argue. and New York the focal point of destruction. that stubbornness to achieve—the quintessential New Yorker trait— is being tested again and again. what Donald Trump is doing is testament to New Yorkers. He’s living for the machinations of his work.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S what you do makes you happy. he sits behind stacks and stacks of paperwork. In times like these. he is especially indefatigable.” Of course. I notice. to people faced with war and terrorism. But no one is giving up or in. Trump Tower has become a landmark. Yet. On the twenty-sixth floor of his building. Now. that counts. and that is the Trump name and all the “personality” that goes with it. “It’s cheaper. His own father even advised him to go with brick. “We barely have time to breathe.” But Donald Trump proved them all wrong. It’s the action. He’s on the phone or on the move every second of the day. it’s just more apparent. we’d find that self-realization is our own concoction. Times aren’t easy. Donald Trump is no exception. businessmen are cutting through to or from meetings. It’s a mixture of luxury residences and boutique shops. making it a place you accept. Donald Trump was criticized for the expensive marble. his crown jewel. with a faltering economy. Today. the glass facade. more than ever. shoppers are scurrying for holiday gifts. Or as his longtime assistant Norma puts it. And he feels personally attacked by all of the tragedies and incidents that have imposed destruction so close to his front door. Donald Trump realizes how important the self is in changing the world. with the big question of “What if I die tomorrow and I don’t even see it coming?” See. Donald Trump isn’t living for the fame or the glory. Meanwhile. Usually it doesn’t.Then. so be it! Money may or may not play a part in that. That’s how we should all live. his life—not the results and their attachments. maybe. not a place that accepts you. Tourists are taking pictures. is upscale New York in a microcosm. He was true to his own beliefs. he is a part of the city. —  — . Back when. trying to fit reality into the depths of our imaginations. perhaps. It’s no different really than dozens of other buildings in the city. Donald Trump has always been like this. that is reserved for others.This. is a staple of New York City.What Donald Trump is living for is the same thing he has always lived for.

If you think about it. The way in which we satisfy our own sense of self-esteem breeds different results. Some bad news: I’m no Donald Trump. no. And he says real-estate development can be creatively satisfying. I’m the guy The Donald likes to pal around with most.” “I’m speechless. I have to sit down. But we could use his money to—” “No.” “Pardon me. Reel it in. Donald Trump needs to satisfy his sense of self-esteem in a different way than we need to satisfy ours. That was cool. please. off to London.” “Please . I’m gonna be around for a long.” “No limos?” “Sorry. yeah. ” “All right. You’ve knocked the wind out of me. here is the good lesson: You —  — . we wouldn’t be really happy living the life he leads. and a scooby-do-bee-bop-a-scooby-do. Look. But listen. .” “May I ask what that was all about?” “The Donald.” “Babes?” “Now you’re just getting foolish. What little magic carpet gets him there? Who’s responsible for his success? Here.Ego and the Need for Success Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “I’m bopping around like a dancing bear. where is all this coming from?” “DJT. and guess what? He wants more. time. Wait. party pooper. That’s the point. Charlie. Paris. that’s what I’d do. our mind doesn’t work the same way as Donald Trump’s mind. no.” “Um.” “Wassup!” “Contact.” “Um. wondering what it would be like to have those wares. You can’t mix the two. long.” “Why not? Four best-selling books. That’s me. I’m imagining my butt and pointing to it. again. Not getting buried six feet under by re-al-it-y. He has it all.” “Yeah. He gave me life—forever. hello. Get me a jet. .” “No jets?” “Nope. And I gotta tell you—I like him a lot too.” “Stop with the dramatics. which means you’re not going to be anything like Donald Trump’s imagination. lots of women.

what’s real here? Enough of this fake stuff. What’s real will always impede what’s not. I think there’s a fine balance.” “Pretty much. Everything else—reason.” “Sure. the telephone is ringing.” “Our discussion came upon the fact that reality can cut short the life of imagination.” “That was our friend.” “Well. logic.Wait. I can take it. . And that’s what we’re talking about anyway.” “ . No wonder. yes. Imaginings are erased when the reality of life’s circumstances becomes apparent.” “So you’re saying that. fulfillment—plays catch up. then you die. is the great arbiter. when Donald Trump imagined there was no end to his success. They are wiser. At some point.” “Oh. isn’t it? That balance. go on then.” “Sort of. . that was a long call—and you didn’t need me once. ” “What’s the matter? I’m getting images of—” “Yes.” “No .” “But he used his imagination in a different way. everyone says to him.” “Great. Your place is secure as long as . hold on. you’ll have your way with me and then ditch. ‘Okay. That’s why. I’m a big boy. he fell victim to the reality of the recession in the real estate market.” “I hadn’t thought of it that way before. A total devotion to satisfy self-esteem —  — . and they typically stop dreaming or imagining how life could be and suffice with how life is.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S are needed at all levels of the game. . That’s the crux.” “For example.” “This has something to do with me doesn’t it? The way I imagine. Jeff. after all. eventually. Donald Trump needs his imagination just as much as I need you. at all levels of wealth.” “To fight reality. they look for pleasure from the past.or herself. you become the leader of the pack. Past those levels of basic needs. Finally. Without me. . . The idea that you can live on ad infinitum doesn’t hold.” “Gulp. .” “I have an image of him now. death for you is surely imminent. when people get old.’ Truth.

” “A tragedy. there you go. the step toward self-realization becomes smaller.” “And I’ll take this opportunity to memorialize our remembrance of Jeff and what we mean. that’s true. Sometimes it creates drive. A simple balance. for one. Balance. A gap will have been closed and what matters. . remember. with whom I just finished speaking on the telephone. . An awakening. Wake memory so I can use him. Yes. I’m beginning to see what you mean. Some life-changing event that creates perspective and lends context to our existence.” “I’m imagining us running away to meditate on some mountain in the Himalayas.” —  — . but a little drive doesn’t hurt.” “Like . . After that.” “Why is that?” “Don’t you remember?” “I’m only responsible for the new stuff. yes. . is a good example.” “See.Ego and the Need for Success through materialism is an empty promise of fulfillment. what truly matters.” “No. is close at hand. Why is that so difficult to execute when I can imagine such equity?” “Well. it usually takes some type of event to slow you down and create parity with the real world. I can’t imagine that wanting nice things can be all bad.” “Yeah.” “Not so drastic. Listen: Jeff. it creates that vigor George Kinder spoke about. he’s waking .

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They are one year old. It’s five years later. He got a job at a money-management firm in New York. his baby Paige didn’t make it. he wasn’t in. By the second day I had heard. The sun is shining. When I called Jeff ’s office the day after his daughter’s operation. deep weeping. He manages a billion dollars. Jeff and his wife had two options. It’s a deep blue. It was so sad. anyway. She never cried. and rolling back out again. I think they wanted remembrance. There was a lot of weeping—deep. They opted for the latter. foaming. and sweet. how there was so little white in those rounds. He —  — T . The water glistens and rolls in. He went to school for money.They could attempt a heart transplant. A tube was in my arm. off the map. He’s happy. or they could try to repair the heart. to places where they couldn’t be reached by phone or by fax.They dropped out. I can’t imagine the pain. I imagine Paige at five walking with us. silent thought. gentling washing the shore. I can remember the tiny coffin. I can’t imagine the suffering. My friend Jeffrey Bronchick had called me to ask if I would donate my blood to his daughter. She had a hole in her heart and was going in for an operation. I was giving her my blood. I remember how blue here eyes were. She was exactly the length from my elbow to the tip of my middle finger. Jeff and his wife went to South America for a while. not that I remember.C H A P T E R 2 1 The Search for Meaning in a Money World here was a time—it seems so long ago—when I held a sixmonth-old girl in my arms. I imagine the color of her eyes. bum to head. the saddest thing I had seen or experienced in my lifetime. and I’m walking along the beach with Jeff and his twin daughters. Jeff is a money manager. Our types matched.

Finally. then money is important. Jeff looks like he is back in high school. he admits—with people who have money.You had all this money. He writes a weekly column about money. I feel good about that. talks at seminars about money. Even his body language shrinks from me. I have a lot of friends who just want to get it. I feel weird around money and buying things for myself. If I can help one doctor with his research. But I believe that. don’t come near these emotions! I’m scared! . That’s how I made it through. I don’t feel weird about giving it away for a good cause. Do you mean it?” He fidgets. .To him. I talk about other things. Elbow to fingertip. The Paige Bronchick Foundation endows fellowships for medical doctors to specialize in infant child surgery. It doesn’t matter. Trust me.You have to go on. sure. “I mean you had all this success. I think money is important to get and do something positive with—not just to get. . Jeff and I steal some time in the screening room before the film begins.” He’s so vulnerable now. We’re seeing a screening of State and Main. but it can help important things. that doesn’t matter.” —  — . a film by David Mamet. he’s set up the Paige Bronchick Foundation to help doctors study and create awareness about pediatric heart problems. I tend to be an optimist. It’s a fundraising event to raise money for the Paige Bronchick Foundation. That’s what it’s there for—to do something good with . Life is short. . however. “Money. money is important to give the chance of life.You can’t go on for money. Then we get down to it. I hate when people say that. and that research can save a life. is that he is uncomfortable around money. “It must have changed you. “I’ve learned that you can’t appreciate it. . Money isn’t important .W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S eventually became a partner in another money-management firm in Los Angeles. It doesn’t matter.The thing is about Jeff.” I say.You have to go on for something important. but you can try. . He’s screaming: “Don’t hurt me! Please. he says. I ease into my questions. I want money to help other people. In a V-neck sweater-vest and glasses. . And I know it’s stupid to say that. He looks away.” Bum to head. associates—mostly.You can’t even appreciate life. ramble on about familiarities.

Even if it’s the smallest thing in the world. “You can change the world a lot more quickly with a checkbook. reach. you can go on. . If she didn’t die.” But you won’t give it up? You’ll still live in the money world. how would you be? “Look. take. Even if it’s the tiniest thing. They land at the bottom of an ocean or get buried under the sands of a beach. Grab. Money can attract people who can do good things. I probably would have kept doing that. Even if there’s just that much good.” You still drive a nice car. I mean. . For the first time. I hang around other money managers or accountants or people with money. get what you want . Some things wash away. terribly short—and it can be snatched at any moment. . snatch. What’s money to them? —  — . I’m a money manager. though. I’m going to give my money to someone who doesn’t look successful?’ I find it very uncomfortable. And people go through their whole lives chasing whatever and doing things that they don’t want to do and never realizing that life is terribly. nurses who work for one-tenth or one-twentieth of what I make work harder than I do. move forward.‘What. But a checkbook in the world draws people’s attention . .The waves never end. “I’ve always lived life fully and done things. under the most horrible human conditions.You have to feel good to go on.You have to have some trappings or signs of affluence. you give out. They are still there.The tide never stops. Even if it’s just a glimmer. Remembrance.” It can’t save people. because your clients expect you to be successful. Money has enormous power.You can change the world over a longer period of time through activism.The Searc h for Meaning in a Money World You have to go on to feel good. I went to an Ivy League school. “The bizarre thing is that people want you to look successful. particularly in the money-management business. ” What you take in. even small children. but it’s not about me anymore. I was exposed to people who didn’t give a shit about money. “My daughter died.

It’s not a concept in their minds. hug me. A lot of people are. Nobody wants to be miserable. a monk at the Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles told me: ‘Basically everybody is the same in terms of their needs: Everybody wants to be happy. let me just tell you what Brother Achalananda. there are things—that only I can imagine—that bring us the most peace. plus the maximum consciousness of truth and reality. If I lost X but another manager or the market was down 2X. service of some kind. If coins were made only of compassion.’” “An absolute? Bubba. Feed me. that I breed volatility.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “Money is numbers. I can imagine all sorts of ways to do good.” —  — . It’s not about that. And then we have to recognize that they are extrinsic. I don’t think that way.” “What is it?” “You state that reality holds the key to balance.” “Because I’m right?” “Because it’s the total utilization of you. However. That is the quality of God. Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “I have a question for you. That’s how the money-management community thinks. How is that done? We have to recognize the power of money and material things.” “Self-realization. Money is dollars. money would be the arbiter of goodwill. I can take on different means: charity. that word will only get you as far as a bottle of vodka with me. That is where self realization resides. philanthropy.” “Instead of dragging you to another interview. which I still can’t imagine by the way. then I’m doing good.” “I’m smiling now.” Kids don’t care about money. The arbiter of goodwill is really me. that gets us to another level—the ultimate level— of satisfaction. Sure. That they breed happiness. hold me. Money is winning the game. Happiness has its opposite. Bliss has no opposite. I can be cloaked in money.They think money makes them better. it’s bliss that we should be seeking. Bliss is an absolute. Instead of real happiness. We all want to have one and avoid the other.

” “He’s been a monk for more than forty years. Either money comes to be earned for its own sake. money or business has become the end .’” “I can imagine people losing sight of their goals. then. That is the snare. To love money is to be lost. But to acquire it without greed or attachment. It takes a brave person to change and seek self-realization. . have to be accomplished through money. When I finally asked Brother Achalananda specifically what money means. You must use it wisely.” “Maybe this will help. directly or indirectly. and to use it rightly.’ he says. They are deep constructs that reach far beyond you or reason or any other faculty of the mind. . they are like the mind’s atomic structure. They just are. Now. is a great paradox and riddle of life. I guess I’ll just have to give you that one. the means of quelling original wants—which was the end—has become an end in itself. it may happen that the hobby of running this business for its own sake persists or increases all the more. some of us merely forget our goals and remain unconscious. He starts a certain business and begins to attend to the details that will make it successful. Now. in either case. he gives me an example: ‘The family man has to earn money to support his family. one of two things happens. Absolutes are something you don’t have to fret over.” “Okay. No saint ever lived who did not use money. and a peculiar pleasure comes to be felt in hoarding. He is held out as an expert on the principles of self-realization and has lectured extensively around the world. until there is much more than is necessary for the fulfillment of his wants and those of his family. and money perhaps accumulates. Then the purpose for which we apparently started a business becomes secondary to the creation. or. getting wrapped up in some job they originally took on temporarily to pay the bills. Brother Achalananda also told us this: All the good and philanthropic works of the world. all noble successes.’ Brother Achalananda reminds us. Indeed. ‘Even good change is pain. what often happens after time? The business goes on successfully. We see that.” “I imagine he’s investigated this a bit. some of us dream of riches. ‘Change is pain. allowing just the right voltage of prosperity to shine through the bulb of your life.The Searc h for Meaning in a Money World “I know.” “That’s why some of us are frustrated.” —  — . and then slowly giving up on their dreams.

” “Yes.” “Sometimes I’m afraid of Spirit.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “I’m imagining us sitting at that place again. Brother Achalananda was happy to be at the Lake Shrine.” “For us. we’ve just focused on what money is.” “I imagine we’re going to look into that. you know.” “Yes. it’s time to go. and what money means to different demographic and psychographic groups. See. Part of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes are entombed there.” “I can imagine what Gandhi would have said about all this—our investigation into what money means for you and me. I don’t. It’s where both you and I will be confronted by a different part of us—our deep. the gazebo near the lake where we spoke with Brother Achalananda. integration: the total integration of the body. mind.” —  — .” “No.” “It’s the last series of inquiries.” “Why is that?” “Because he decides our fate. too. until now. We haven’t explored what money ought to mean. silent partner: Spirit. probably.” “Let’s call for the chariot then. and spirit. That’s why I want to ask people who know more about the spirit than we do.

S E C T I O N 3 The Spiritual Attachment of Money:What Money Should Mean .

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But money. and teach a code of ethics and morals. Money is fuel for our actions. should be an incidental factor in our lives. but the spiritual paths we choose (or choose to ignore). or universal laws. Where and how. a frozen desire. Hope is the middle ground. are those to which common laws. Money isn’t the end and the means. tries to lift hope out of the trenches of mankind toward idealism. But in which direction do we go? What will happen to us when we get there? And how can we find comfort along the way? To be sure. It’s those spiritual paths that often pave the way to how we conduct ourselves in society. Both govern our actions. as it’s said. or societal laws. then—during normal times—should money be utilized for appreciation to gain its utmost value according to religious virtues? Organized orders of religion lay the groundwork for what money ought to mean. extrapolate their direction. the Great Motivator. as someone once said.” says the Dalai Lama. Spirit decidedly puts money in its proper place when the big issues arise— meaning of life and meaning of death issues. with all its might. then both the suppression of desire and the manifestation of desire are governed not only by the psychological. Money is a provider of self-confidence. most spiritual orders will agree. “The success of our lives and our future depends on our motivation and determination or self-confidence. Spiritual laws.C H A P T E R 2 2 The Search for Bliss to free will. right from wrong. Money is. And spirit. If money is. —  — S piritualism’s dichotomy is inherent in the concept of money:At once it is a path to freedom and a barrier . money isn’t the golden chalice. Spiritual laws help us determine good from bad.

The imitation of Christ. Money in Christianity is the root of all evil.There are about twenty-two widely practiced religions and twelve classical world religions—Baha’i. or are part of the 14 percent of the world population that is nonreligious). Jainism. Consumerism after all is bred outside religious orders (unless you’re trying to sell God. I want to buy that. (b) like some other humans. Why model ourselves after something that no one has ever seen? We want to trade on that hope that we. Shinto. Sociocultural influences probably direct the course of money the most in the context of human nature. too. Money’s role is limited in that way. more soulful places where power. where Judeo-Christian mores most lie.16 argues that the biggest proof of our search for the existence of God.The group has money worship services. duly noting that every human is: (a) like all other humans. Christianity. There are more than three thousand orders of faith in the world. will someday be godlike. empowered by money. and they bent themselves diligently to the task. comes from our attempts to model ourselves after God—most blatantly in the West. Just ask any Internet entrepreneur. Sikhism.Yet money can do good. But religions do have their say. according to the Adherents organization.” Miles writes. prestige and self-worth are hammered out —  — . But money isn’t a god. built money temples. It’s okay. just as those big questions are limited in our lives. but it isn’t everlasting. God made man. Until then.We can’t buy our way into love. the big hopes. commercialism and materialism placate. Imitatio Dei. “They believed that by trying they could make themselves into better copies of the divine original.” It’s acceptance. The two worlds—spiritualism and materialism—don’t mix.Taoism. Islam. But the big wants. Buddhism. Jack Miles. the imitation of God. Money is accepted. Money may have godlike tendencies. We use money as an excuse for “it’s okay. Confucianism. JESUS SAVES would be a testimonial advertisement for a bank. Otherwise. dreams and desires can’t be had with money. “[Money] takes us out of innocent idealism and brings us into the deeper. was equally central to Christians. Money in Islam caused Mohammed to head for the mountain.We can’t buy our way out of dying. Hinduism. in his Pulitzer Prize–winning book God: A Biography. And money is often at odds with—arguably in competition with—their goals. was a central category in Jewish piety.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S A small cult here in the United States has put money as its god. and (c) like no other human. and Zoroastrianism—to which people turn to most for answers. Judaism. Who wants to go around asking ‘what does it all mean?’ when all we’re really trying to do is order a cheeseburger? Contemplating meaning isn’t always practical.

” writes Thomas Moore in Care of the Soul. Hence. and sociological attachments of money.There are subsets of each. But the role of god stretches further. of course. psychological.S. —  — .That is why the U. But just as the rest of this book has pulled from myriad ranks of society. so will we follow that pattern into the spiritual world. Such are the two sides to the coin. money can give grounding and grit to a soul that otherwise might fade in the soft pastels of innocence. In the corporeal sense. The religions chosen represent those most recognized and celebrated in the West. Therefore. we turn to religion for some answers that go beyond the practical. of course. too.There are many leaders of each.That is the job of spirit. money may play the role of God—deciding what type of life we will lead. dollar comes with a disclaimer: IN GOD WE TRUST.The Searc h for Bliss through substantial involvement in the making of culture.17 Money’s false promise is that it is a protector of the soul.

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a country that houses a desert the size of France. and affix a ghutra. for Muslim investors. political leaders. That fact that Dr. “Someone making money at the expense of someone else losing money is not accepted. Hasnita is widely considered an expert on Islamic principles governing money and trade.Women must wear a black cloak and veil when they leave their homes. She meets with Muslim clerics. Hasnita Dato Hashim is standing in an airport in Riyadh. a country that houses Islam’s two holiest cities.C H A P T E R 2 3 Money in the Muslim World black head-veil. Her intensity is apparent. Everything revolves around religious dos and religious don’ts in Saudi Arabia. Dr. Dr. explaining what is ethically deemed right and wrong when it comes to money matters. a full-length shirt. She speaks around the world on Shari’ah. Saudi Arabia. the Islamic interpretation of the Koran governing banking and finance.3 billion Muslims in the world. a cord-coiled cotton headdress.There is no eating pork or drinking alcohol. and business executives to shed light on what is acceptable in the eyes of Islam and what isn’t. And she manages investment funds based on her religious beliefs. visit the West. dark strands of hair are pulled back over her ears spilling just over her shoulders. Mecca and Medina. when it comes to monetary ethics. a country that houses some of the richest people in the world on account of its vast oil reserves. After all. IslamiQ. Men dress in thawbs. Dr. Long. —  — A . Hasnita is a woman conferring with leaders in the traditionally male-dominated Muslim religion is a sign of the changing times in the world of Islam. She has begun a Web site. Take Riyadh. Hasnita’s job is to try to make sense out of the religious laws and customs for the 1. speaking to me about the Islamic perspective on money. It’s so alien to us Westerners.” she says. Her brown eyes are piercing. Muslims live in the West (between 6 and 7 million in the United States alone).

so that partners share the profit or loss of a venture. It’s okay to trade that way in the eyes of Islam. Such laws make it cumbersome at best to operate in the capital markets today. Unlike some people who speak with a Semitic dialect. Dr. actually. like every one else. Dr.D. She is exact in her choice of words.” It’s used in business and trade. But there are ways to live within the laws of Islam and still make money. Because interest is prohibited in Islamic law. where profit is encouraged and commercialism is encouraged. trade. —  — . They need to be able to buy.” It’s the qualifier. you make money for the benefit of everyone. Everything is disclosed. “In Islam. Hasnita says. we’re getting somewhere. Islamic laws also prohibit trade merely for the sake of making money. Islamic laws prohibit the taking of interest. It’s just one of those voices that is firm. but caring.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S conduct commerce with the West.” Dr. always in a bit of a rush. and where the laws of Islam get complex. the use of money is different than in the traditional banking system. That isn’t capitalism.” Now. Hasnita. Here’s how:“If you invest in a good company with an underlying asset. if a debtor suffers a loss. People have to profit or lose money together in any trade or venture in the eyes of Islam. although she has a Ph. Hasnita. That is inequitable. that can be okay. Musharakah is an Arabic word meaning “to share. invest—trade. Shari’ah experts have come up with a “5 percent rule” that deems it “tolerable” to deal with companies that have a maximum level of 5 percent of non–Shari’ah compliant activities or “tainted income sources. That makes banking a problem. That rules out investing. They need to integrate. She seems. ” says Dr. She has the voice of a medical doctor.” This makes it okay to invest or engage in trade or commerce. So. Hasnita emphasizes the “can be okay. including the original costs and the profit. Murabahah refers to a particular kind of sale where a seller agrees with a buyer to provide a certain amount of profit relative to an initial cost. “The risks then are based on the value of something—you both stand the chance of losing. “In Islam. We can’t allow someone to make money and allow someone else to lose everything.” says Dr. the creditor can’t claim a fixed rate of return or earn a high rate of profit. and invest. sell. Hasnita has enlisted the help of religious scholars to help her interpret Islamic laws in a way that leaves room for commercialism. she avoids the lingering verbal question mark at the end of sentence. And it makes trade in today’s global village very difficult. which can be a lump sum or a percentage.

Hasnita sees a change in the way Muslims are integrating with the West. Hasnita is a case in point. It’s evident in everything a Muslim does. “We are looking to make a difference and change the world. Dr. So. next-door Muslim to be working at your local bank or deli. an Arab merchant from the city of Mecca named Muhammad ibn Abdallah took his family on retreat to a nearby mountain. people scurrying home before sunset. according to the ways of Islam. sunrise. “I am received well. Dr. who had become quite wealthy as Mecca became the central trading spot for Arabia. This is how it began: In the early years of the seventh century. are what’s allowed and how these material items will affect the Islamic culture in the future. All this is in the name of Allah.While it’s just an image. even to the way he or she spends money. Being a woman sends a strong sign to the West that traditional Western conceptions of Islam should be rethought. it seeks retribution. The obstacles.” Religion. this religion.” My Imagination interrupts: “An image I can’t seem to shake loose is of a man wearing a turban. from the way he or she speaks. precise to the minute. Still.Tribal values had changed as capitalism thrived for the Quraysh.Money in the Muslim World Tainted income sources don’t just mean investments. Muslims exhibit a huge potential audience for Western culture. Religion isn’t something that is reserved for one day in the week. Hasnita says. don’t look for your friendly. Five times a day. the calls to prayer that stopped traffic and had people on their knees before the Nile River. It shows we are modern.This man is sitting. I can’t help but sense that he is religious. According to Karen —  — .” How? Through the ethical maneuvering of money via the capital markets. It stops. about $150 billion has moved into the Western capital markets from Muslim coffers. He was part of the Quraysh Bedouin tribe. during Ramadan.” says Dr. With a hold on one-quarter of the world’s population. to the way he or she eats. it bans. Already. Hasnita. and just after sunset—at specific times. of course. late afternoon. And that amount is growing 20 to 30 percent per year. and it was quickly making a new religion of money. He has a black shawl wrapped over his shoulders. they are proud. A long beard points down in V-shape to his chest. the Muslim high holiday. Dr. In Egypt. They include banking—financial institutions make or pay interest—and companies that have any association with pork products. every day. just before sunset. Prayer times are posted on IslamiQ’s Web site: early morning. noontime. I observed liquor being taken down from shelves. “Because I'm a woman. even in traditional Islamic countries. to the way he or she dresses. or God. It forbids.

the Social Investment Forum says. She points out the rise in socially conscious and ethical investing. “Recite!” the angel commanded. And the rest of the scripture is called the qur’an—literally translated from the Arabic as “the Recitation”. can’t get you there. Hasnita’s job is to bridge the two worlds. by the way. in strict religious countries there may not be the same type of value put on money like there is here in the United States. we really don’t view money as a responsibility. Mostly. an angel appeared. says Dr. Allah governs. Money. Money is viewed more as a responsibility in Islam. But that’s not the point.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Armstrong in her book A History of God:18 The 4000-year Quest of Judaism. cushioning its members from malnutrition and tribal violence. In the West. where they faced the possibility of extinction. and Islam the Quraysh felt money had “saved” it from the perils of nomadic life. Dr. Hasnita “doesn’t belong to you. “You need some form of currency to purchase goods and services. Muhammad believed the new religion was going to tear the tribe apart morally and politically unless it could put another value at its center and overcome all the greed and egotism that its new wealth had brought. to al-Lah. it took twenty-three years.We have designed a system to limit this and to limit the greed in a person. Money. He would have been praying. It’s like a tax for the poor and the needy and the education of others. We look at how you distribute your wealth. but it’s something that God has given to you and your neighbors. there’s no reason you can’t be wealthy. (One out of every $8 invested in the United States goes into an investment with a social or environmental concern. Armstrong posits. The total amount of assets under management in this category come to more than $2 trillion. (Iqra!).” Sure. one more akin to the ways Muslims conduct themselves—responsibly. And that’s not just about the money. in the eyes of Islam. Through hard work and productivity.” She says in Islam you must contribute back to society in order to enlighten others (a principle known as zakah). the Koran is a series of verses fashioned as metaphors to exemplify the way to heaven.This was probably on his mind. Money. The Koran comprises the verses as told to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel.“the God”— the same God as the one worshipped at the time by Christians and Jews. Some people will have more money and more wealth than others. Every action is broken down like that. isn’t as big a part of the Koran as it is the Bible. or the way you conduct yourself in business.) She says there is a new consciousness awakening in the West. who is also God’s communicator in the Bible. —  — . Christianity. when he sat in prayer on the summit of Mount Hira. Suddenly.

like you’re not alone. it’s not much different. from the smallest to the largest. bills. yet constrained by it. we bring it into the world for everyone to bear. —  — . its moral undoings. The universe. power. In the Islamic culture. He is bigger than the world.When we bring evil into the world. Morality and money are the two things Islam was built upon. is a reflection of God’s will. and it makes you feel. the destruction. in radical elements. but whoever returns [to Riba]. respectively for and against. is dotted with tiny. And it’s a mecca for that. But at the same time. On U. we make all of mankind immoral. How much more emblematic can the attack on the World Trade Center be? Make no mistake. Of course. Ego. We have seen the wrath of radical Muslim elements waging war against the United States. Money.We have seen. his case is for Allah (to judge). bright stars. power. of course. in every manner. all black. I can understand the comfort in that. and influence are human forces. is the trust of God. Freedom. My Imagination is flashing an image of Atlas. it’s written IN GOD WE TRUST. No matter how much wealth.S.” says the Koran. The Muslim religion was begun as a rebellion against capitalism—its values.Money in the Muslim World And there is something to be said about that. Between the two meanings is a world of difference. When we are immoral. or fame one acquires. Having a good conscience about every action you make imputes ethics into every decision.” Our actions. after all.There is a direct connection there. money itself isn’t the harbinger of immorality. I can see the suffocation such strictness could bring. our “human-ness. we perpetuate wrong against all of mankind. is the hallmark of Western culture. they are inextricably tied to our humanity. you are only free when you are in heaven. is a reflection of who we really are as people.When we exert wrong. such are the dwellers of the Fire—they will abide therein. Today. They are the eyes of heaven. up close and personal. looking down with great pity upon Atlas. “Whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and stops eating Riba (usury) shall not be punished for the past. it’s a war on money and its values and principles. chained to the planet. my Imagination decides. Money. in Islamic terms. a Muslim would say. every action we take.

So.” —  — . Our values.” “Yes. From a religious point of view. and intellectually I know that there should be no reason for either of those things.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “I never imagined that Islam was begun as a religion against money.” “So I imagine that’s why there is such an anti-Western movement among them. From that perspective. . our dress. there are many more times when what I imagine in that vein gives you some comfort. like all things. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet—just not the messiah.” “That’s you. Although. after Christ separated the Christians from the Jews.” “It shouldn’t. What is sure is the place of money in society—it is something to do good with. say they can’t describe what God is. .” “One right? One wrong? Moral absolutes? I’m not so sure about that. from whichever oracle. some of my imaginations do give you some pause. our manners . is possessed by God. It doesn’t work. not as much as you’d imagine. However.” “Not everyone. Muslims. The radical elements who have struck out with violence and force against the ‘capitalist imperialists’ are a very small minority of Muslims. It separates later down the road. almost everything.” “We seem so different. so they set about describing what God isn’t. Their interpretations of morals.” “One God.” “That sparks negativity in me. Christians and Jews share that same belief. When you imagine God. actually.” “There’s no sense trying to imagine what I can’t experience. I imagine some bearded man sitting on a throne looking down upon the earth. there is some judgment usually associated with the image.” “Again. money. Remember. and we have to be careful here. There is only one right and one wrong.” “I know. I’ll admit. the angel Gabriel who spoke to Muhammad is the same angel who is the communicator in the Bible. has a false ring to it.” “Looks that way. must be similar.” “Yes. it’s inexplicable. In fact.” “When I imagine God. I can imagine how religions share commonality. something you picked up somewhere. anyway.

but you’d be expected to also support your local neighborhood or society. right? You have to buy things. you have to work. Here we go again: Zakah refers to the purification of a Muslim’s wealth and soul. you’re imagining what we see as the image of the Islamic community. that’s true. there’s charity. greed .” “So. daily prayers. all that. You’d be expected to do business with local.” “Joking aside. .’ They are embracing more and more of the freer values of the West. some of that is true. our dreams would be different?” “Of course. So. you’d be required to give it away. A Muslim should practice zakah.” “And what about money?” “What about it?” “As a value. Purification of the soul means freedom from hatred.” “It is. you could live a nice comfortable life. Money isn’t something to compete for—it’s the underlying principles that are of value. People are becoming more ‘modern. what is this charity thing you’re speaking of?” “All righty. Wealth purification is using money for justified distribution. zakah is considered an important economic tool in an Islamic state or society. Then what?” “From the perspective of abundance. . you have to give it back. Every Muslim at the end of the year who is ‘in possession of the equivalent of eight-five grams of gold or more in cash or articles of trade.5 percent of that —  — . If you gain money from. we couldn’t do a lot of the things we do. say interest. selfishness. for instance.” “I can’t imagine doing that.Money in the Muslim World “Meantime. I’d have a whole different value system from which I’d have raised you. I’m left wondering about all the things we take for granted.’ must pay his or her zakah at least 2. Then. If we were Muslim. Muslim businesses. ” “Sounds serious. jealousy.” “Gesundheit. Don’t get me wrong. have nice things. But then again I can’t imagine wearing a nightshirt walking around during the day either. tell me.” “If we were really a practicing Muslim. Materially speaking.” “Indeed. The other pillars are the profession of faith. Is it used the same way as we use it here? I mean. and pilgrimage to Mecca. clothe yourself. Granted.” “Isn’t that what this violence is all about? I imagine the radicals could see the United States as the new Mecca. but it’s changing. So. fasting. that is. then. Zakah is one the five pillars of Islam.

. excess wealth is distributed to the poor. We don’t have such a thing in the West. e . .” “Okay. but not now. I’m subjective. But I have been trained to imagine that Jews and Christians even treat money differently.” “Show me the money!” “Stop. .” “Right.” “I know.” “Okay. You’ve been exposed to a lot more influences on that subject. . and hawala.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S amount. And they choose to keep everything in it. . am beginning to imagine the Islamic world as one big family. but it’s used by a great deal of Muslims. . . enough. .” “Is that so?” “Yes.” “Well. actually. This is supposed to prevent hoarding wealth and advocates solidarity among Muslims. s . . Most of it is ignorant comment. a . I.” “Thank you. . l . ” “Back to money. b . for one. you win.” “Hiawatha. why didn’t you just say so?” “Sometimes it takes turns at the plate to knock one through to you.” “Hawala is your word. more influenced by Christian and Judaic values. . . that’s what hawala means: ‘your word. And we’ll get to that bit later. a .” “Care to clean up your imagination?” “Why don’t I leave that job for a rabbi?” —  — . There is a system they use called hawala—a Hindi term. We operate on a different system. I can imagine more about Jews and money than Christians and money. l . .’” “Oh. . We used to trade on our word. .” “Not yet.” “That’s about right.” “Keep it coming.” “Literally translated. what? Now I’m picturing an American Indian girl. .” “B . Webster.

C H A P T E R 2 4 Money in the Jewish World abbi Burt Visotszky and I meet in front of the Jewish Theological Seminary on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. “A development person got a call from an old rabbi in Nebraska. something you can see?’ Now. He is dressed in an open-collared shirt and slacks. He doesn’t wear his religious nature on his sleeve. They sat down with the development person. The front of the JTS is under construction. of course. ‘Rabbi. They came here. she said. to give her credit. was the funding to do it. he continues. And.” Rabbi Burt says. What it needed. It’s way up there. ‘Why don’t —  — R . on 122nd Street and Broadway. it’s the theme that Rabbi Burt uses in his later discussion with me. as New Yorkers say. Amid rows of books on the Talmud and the Torah. I figure he is recounting the tale just to buy time until we could sit down more formally. How much money could he have? Anyway. No yarmulke. this was a rabbi from Nebraska who had spent his whole life in the rabbinical order. Rabbi Burt explains that a fire had destroyed much of the front hall. why don’t you do something good with your money right now. The building is essentially on the grounds of Columbia University. he says.” says Rabbi Burt. “It was of no other use.Then we decided recently that something had to be done. The JTS embarked on a plan to fix the front entrance and model a lobby. reciting the story as we wind around a maze of construction and take a small elevator to his small office. “The rabbi and his wife flew in to New York. ‘What do you have in mind?’ And the development person says. Rabbi Visotszky tells me. Rabbi Visotszky goes by Burt. It had been in disrepair since the 1970s. But the story about the front entrance is more than that. He wanted to donate part of his estate after he died to the seminary. so we used it as a lobby. but fire codes and most of all a lack of money had kept the seminary from rebuilding or repairing it.

And the rabbi said. depending on the day. It’s ours only for a short while. was raised Catholic. This is the word of God. As even the Bible says. ‘How much will that cost?’And the development person says. call ye upon Him while He is near. She nodded.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S you donate your money to help us fix the front entrance?’ And the rabbi asks. I use the big “G” here in deference to whom I’m interviewing.000. Which is to say. Needless to say. and even converted to Judaism. all capital belongs to God.” Those words echo: All capital belongs to God.’The rabbi looked at his wife. but rest between agnosticism and atheism. “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found. Warren Buffett is one of the world’s most successful investors.’” This rabbi. you can never find a god when you need one. ‘Mine is the silver and Mine is the gold. Rabbi Burt talks to me about what money is and what money should be. the rabbi from Omaha could well afford to fix the front entrance to the JTS. “In the rabbinical system. money is another means by which you have the opportunity to make choices about the type of human being you’re going to be. and soon the wives became fast friends. Ten thousand dollars invested with him in 1965 would equal about $50 million today. —  — . had moved to Omaha in the late 1960s. Hinduism. They liked it. ‘Done. “Speaking as a rabbi and from the Jewish tradition. rendering ethical and moral opinions on everything from public policy to politics. in Torah law.’ “What that means is that we recognize that all wealth is the gift of God. He says. His wife had written a children’s book. So says Rabbi Burt. I. On other days I’d like to curse him or her or them—whatever. “There’s a verse of scripture that says Li Ha Kesef A Li A Zahev. you can use it to do God’s Commandments.Trouble is. and invested it.” And it’s the Bible where the answers to what money means can be found. It’s not really ours.“$7 million. Rabbi Burt often speaks for the rabbinical order. what money you have and how you use it is a way in determining who you are. In rabbinical law.”With the backdrop of a story on what money can do. or you can use it for less noble purposes. The story about the front entrance gives Rabbi Burt and me a jumping-off point to begin our discussion about what money really means in the context of Judaism. some $60. as it happens. The financier Warren Buffett and his wife had read the book. and we have obligations. Warren Buffett took all the rabbi’s money at that time. I should now note. But He is far away. On some days I’d like to thank god. traveled the paths of Buddhism. He has spoken at the request of former President Bill Clinton and on many international panels to provide the “Jewish view.

there was a beggar outside. “There’s a very famous story of two rabbis going on their way to the bath houses in the afternoon. So they said. yeah—I’m starting to have to edit Rabbi Burt. of course.’ Which is a very odd statement . And on the way in. And they were mortified that by perhaps not giving him money for food. he tells me yet another story. let us at least make sure that he gets a proper burial. deceivers. And he was doing so well on his own. while we didn’t care for him while he was alive. too. they had cost him his life. Does this mean that God plays tricks on us to test our compassion? Does this mean that the rich should give away their wealth? If we all gave to —  — . My Imagination is calling me to write more about the Roman baths. go away! Yes.’ And when they came out. that he was quite comfortably off. you always left a corner for the poor. means to say that because we occasionally turn beggars away. Living as they did in the Roman world. ogling women in togas serving grapes. I think. as it was not uncommon. that. ” Uh. My Imagination. feeding the hungry. You could not harvest every corner of your field. And they said. Those are all biblical commands.Money in the Jewish World “Charity is not something you do out of the goodness of your heart. In terms of the actual cash you have. “They have their share of your land because it’s God’s land.Which caused one of the rabbis to say.’ And when they went to take care of the body. He waxes on cogently. I have just asked him the one. who. they did as the Romans did and they went to the bath houses.‘We’ll take care of you on the way out. . Before I can even ask him to exemplify.‘Thank God that there are amongst us those who seek charity. He only has about an hour for me. but I am dissuading him. they found him dead. in the end. And it’s not like you were leaving it for the poor. they thought in terms of real estate and crop. Compelling him is probably more time than it is my subject matter. it’s a good thing a few of them don’t really need our charity.You had to leave a portion of your crop for the poor. whether it’s supporting the poor. It belonged to the poor. . “Since the ancient world was an agrarian society. trying to paraphrase Rabbi Burt. he and his wife are driving to upstate New York to participate in a cancer walk. ‘Look. I see her!”— is difficult. In fact.” I don’t need to prod Rabbi Burt with many questions. flouncing around an indoor pool. Charity is a commandment. Meanwhile. clothing the naked. is off somewhere in the old Roman bath houses. you’re obligated to support certain institutions. And they realized that they weren’t responsible for his death at all. This deceiver section—“No. I’m here editing text.You must donate a portion of your income. they found around his neck a bag of gold coins.You must help your fellow man.

” he says. how you use those commodities was a measure of who you were and how you. “They have a very complex trading system. “The rabbis have no problem in being comfortable for yourself. it comes out to as much as 12 to 15 percent of your income going to biblical causes. how you would be judged by God. Look. to me it’s part of a piece of ethics that is redolent of a modern philosopher named John Rawls. an entire chapter is devoted to commodities trading.’” he admits.” And I say this to Rabbi Burt. carrying my sandals. He agrees.Towel off. the last sounds of laughter echo. of course.” But. Loans.” Rabbi Burt says.“The Torah prohibits Jews from taking interest from one another. Get out of the pool. that’s no good either.” Rabbi Burt tells me that the rabbis didn’t flagrantly make this stuff up. “The Torah itself talks about tithing.” That’s just great. had to be equated to value. Another chapter is about interest. So because of that proviso. I think that they really understand money as another commodity. out into the ancient world. “For the rabbis. Value is. And Rawls came up with a theory of justice. Food is a commodity.“But it’s part of the religion.” And.” He is creeping out of the bath house now. I. And because of their market consciousness.“There is an ‘or else. My toga isn’t quite wrapped properly. am there now. “The rule is you help the needy. would we ourselves go broke? How much is enough? Bottom line. whether it’s supporting the poor or supporting institutional religion. They lived in the Roman World. and in the rabbinical ideal.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S every beggar. In the Talmud. and I’ll turn back to Rabbi Burt for this. that’s what the rabbis are saying. —  — . please. In a way. This seems like a lot of money to me. you always want to take sure that there’s the maximum amount of fairness distributed. Rabbi Burt’s and my discussion of money. therefore. who’s up at Harvard. what money represents. that’s how he ends it. The last splashes from the pool are muffled.Taxing someone’s income and tying it to a commandment has an implied “or else. But if you actually go back and add up all the different tithes. Tithing means one-tenth. he notes. And Rawls’s theory is that you have to create a system of justice where people are in agreement with the following proviso: You could wake up on any given morning in that society and be any other member of that society. And each of those commodities can be used for good or for ill. As He carefully shuts the stone door. My Imagination has covered up at the word “judged” and the word “God. My hair is wet and tousled. What if I like a lot of comfort and have no room for charity? Well. according to Him.We’re getting to some good stuff and I need all of my concentration.

as Edouard Valdman writes in his fine book Jews and Money: Toward a Metaphyics of Money.When. of course. I hand him my shoes and walk off down a dusty road. To be sure. of course. an agreeable term could be set out on which to receive payment for that value.Why? Because it is a symbol of worth. This made portable wealth and trading. as the Muslims do.You see. that Jews themselves were worthy. He clasps it tight. and only abominable people could engage in such activity. power was gained. I can wash again. I am beginning to see now how money truly is a reflection of self-worth. a lasting trade. Therefore. I don’t mind. money is important to all of us. they were a migratory group of people who didn’t have a homeland to settle in until fifty years ago. My Imagination has decided that I don’t have a coin or anything of value on me. I take the beggar’s hand in mine. But it’s most important because it can buy a sense of belonging. that despite what the West said. I could see how one would want to relish that value. derived from this. It swirls and rings and sticks to the wet spots on my skin.Money in the Jewish World I turn from the door. I am soiled as the wind blows and lifts the dirt from the road into the air. A truth was there. Banking. barefoot.” he is saying that respectability was gained. The idea of value within the Jewish religion is of utmost importance. through the force that money brought with it. It occurs to me that just as the Muslims disallow the taking of interest as usury. Also. his hand out in front of me.19 “Gaining money from money was the height of abomination. —  — . derived from this. After centuries of being castigated and discriminated against. All because the Jews weren’t allowed to own property in many countries in certain periods of time in history. the Jews made money itself the commodity. with money as a value. a sense of security. But instead of devising a system of “acceptable” places to put your money. value and selfworth became entwined with the physical manifestation of those measures— money. the Jews did too. A truth. A beggar is standing to the side. diamond dealing. like diamond dealing. money was worthy. What snaps me back to reality is the lesson of washing again.

Then. right?” “I never imagined that he was. I’m not saying that Jesus was the Messiah. theoretically—was to symbolize that man had the potential to be good. have reason to place a higher value on money because they were discriminated against?” “Are discriminated against. on the other hand. I’m picturing a cute. That we. in your extremely prejudiced point of view.” “Me? What did I do?” “We had placed such little value on our lives that we were corrupt. . cut it out. ” “To save mankind.” “I know how it sounds.” “What are you talking about?” “Anti-Semitic. I said we are the same. as humans. mongers. we all are the same. that Jews see money from a religious perspective as something to give away to the community to help others. little bumper sticker like that now: JESUS SAVES.” “So. were of —  — . Jew-hatin’ racist. .” “Binds? I’m picturing leather straps.” “From whom?” “From ourselves. In fact. Jesus was a Jew. Determining value. now I imagine you’re saying that Jesus saved us. first. sloths. Look. all I was about to say was that hoarding is sinful in the Jewish faith. And what was it all about? What was the purpose of his arrival.” “Anyway. Everyone’s dough.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “You’re a racist. he was. Jews. My point was. I’m merely saying that theoretically his raison d’etre—” “Back to French again.” “Well.” “And?” “Here’s the thing.” “Excuse me?” “I can imagine how you calling Jews the same things as money would set off firerockets in that community. I’m also not saying he wasn’t.” “Oh. So. community binds. which leaves me blank—” “—his raison d’etre—and. comfort. Wasn’t much choice back then. my point was to show how much value they placed on money for the purposes of security. the significance?” “History wasn’t my bag . skinhead-lovin’. again.” “Please. is very much respected. swastika-wearing. then just get me straight here. and so on.

then who cares if we became irresponsible?” “Ah.” “And spend our money?” “That conclusion is fast approaching. You are an example of our morality. our base assumptions about how we should conduct our lives. and brimstone. you beautiful.” “Can I imagine an ‘Or what?’ I mean. where most people in the world look for hope. too. By using our moral.’” “Yikes . again? “The cold. have we made the world the best place it can be?” “I’d have to imagine not. We’re back to that moral stuff again aren’t we?” “More. intellectual and physical capital goods.” “You. our own sense of money—how we make the world grow into a better place—by exerting our will. . Jesus was around—again supposedly—to show that someone does care. Well. .” “Back to that Jesus thing again? Or are we now talking flames. We’re talking about our value. given all the things I can imagine. So. hard question of reason is. my friend.” “A will to me is a piece of parchment scrolled into cone that is suddenly unfolded and read aloud by an attorney in a frock coat. it’s time to look at the largest of all faiths.” “Exactly.” “When more than a billion people live on less than $1 per day? When more than 10 million children die of preventable diseases each year? When more than 100 million children do not attend school? Or when more than half a million women die unnecessarily each year during pregnancy or childbirth? I’d say not. You indeed may play the most significant part or the least—depending upon how the world turns out. remember that book I read and which sparked all sorts of images for you to run with—The Inferno? That’s the ‘Or what.Money in the Jewish World value. if we are in control of our own destiny.” “Again—and listen.” “I can only imagine religion is there to serve the pain in your world and help you deal with reality. are an example of our will.” —  — . but that we had to begin to respect ourselves. now: Or what?” “Okay. Is the world a better place?” “Than?” “No ‘than. that we aren’t in control of our destiny. worthy of the Creator. start to take responsibility for ourselves. I get you. impressionable little baby boy.’ Just now. That is the point.” “And the ‘Or what?’” “That we are worthy. fire.

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—  — T . there is still gluttony. there is still greed. Today. To get some real answers to ethical questions about money in the context of Christianity. that maxim gets complex. it’s to “do unto others as they would do unto you. or the topic the apostles and gospelwriters wished to address most in the New Testament. Why? Commercialism and trade had proliferated in the ancient world. Hence.C H A P T E R 2 5 Money in the Christian World It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. I turn to one of the men the world’s largest religion turns to: Father Benedict Groeschel. and so on. is money. sloth. Yet.” Of course when competition is involved. the coming of the savior Jesus Christ. It is referenced more than any other item.What with our global society turning more and more toward a system of riches for everyone. there is a balance.” The most frequently discussed topic. The values brought by commerce: Greed. represented by eighty-five different sects. gluttony. It calls into question modern ethics. —Matthew 19:24 hat’s a bold proposition. dire consequences seem to be forthcoming. there is still sloth. would also have to believe that scripture from the New Testament.The Christian way to work within the context of this framework isn’t to reject money and capitalism. were to be rejected. according to Biblical scholars. considering that there are more than a billion Catholics in the world who would believe such a thing. The workings of capitalism breed such destructive forces. even if Matthew also says. “You cannot serve both God and money. More than 300 million Christians besides them.

and to fulfill one’s own responsibilities before God. He is like a Christian goodwill ambassador at large. He has a white beard. There you go. It’s by the bay. It coexists. “Money is a means to an end. But it’s not some great ideal. He travels the globe. how can God’s love be in that person? —1 John 3:17 “When possession of gold becomes a goal in itself. he is considered a “spiritual guide. Now.” Father Benedict tells me. He is smart. okay. he was wearing sneakers. Joseph’s seminary in Yonkers. And I don’t mean this to apply as a political or economic system.” says Father Benedict. Money is the opportunity to have goods. in my honest opinion. In a kind of secular idealism. It’s a beautiful place. wears a gray wool sack of a robe tied by a rope. So. I recognize the symbolism of it all. Money is a protection of the poor. what they attempted to do in their classless society without wealth.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S A bit on Father Benedict: Director of the Office for Spiritual Development of the Archdiocese of New York. I think any system can be corrupted by greed. I begin my inquisition with the simple question of what money means. Well. it is. Paul said.The author of some fourteen books on the spirit. so I decide to let the New Testament itself lead the way. affable. There are many questions to ask Father Benedict. It’s peaceful. If anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help. or abilities. —  — . as St. It rests among mansions in one of the wealthiest communities in the state: Larchmont. an eloquent orator. a moderated capitalism. and to have a decent life. if you ask me. And they managed to create one of the greatest catastrophes in human history. is probably what works best.‘the root of all evil. a retreat center in New York.’ I realize that I’m saying this in a capitalist society. let’s put on the unofficial stuff: He was Mother Theresa’s confessor. We’re at the Trinity House. he specializes and lectures widely on Christian ethics. He is sought after by church leaders for advice on everything from psychology to prayers. which keeps from becoming complete piracy.” Father Benedict founded the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in the South Bronx and is a professor at St.You know. what they managed to create. the very early Marxists thought they were going to take the very motive of greed and possession and power out of money. was an extremely militaristic culture that destroyed people because they had no money to protect themselves. it’s never an end to itself. He could exist in any century. or even powers to help other people fulfill their responsibility before God.

Now. you can fit everybody in. Mr. —Mark 10:21 In other words.” says Father Benedict. it’s not the 4 percent but it’s the 10 percent that need a little push . . and you will have treasure in heaven.They should be rich in good works and give generously to those in need. people are going to fall to the bottom. I think there should be a free but vibrant system of responsibility for the poor who are cared for by the public system and. Then come. I’d say this is between 3 and 4 percent of any decent society. It’s not giving it all up.Money in the Chr istian World [Jesus] told him: Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor. even if there is one guy whose job it is just to talk to the horses. Tell those who are rich in the world not to be proud and not to trust their money. [So] I don’t look for the perfect system. [President] Johnson made a very great mistake in confusing the poor with the very poor. —1 Timothy 6:17-18 —  — . . but you have turned it into a den of thieves. Next. ” Father Benedict says. you have the poor who can help themselves. . But I must say that a society will always have the very poor. —Matthew 21:12-17 “The great problem in this country was The Great Society. tell them to use their money to do good. the humanly indigent kind of people who can’t make it in the system. and he never thought human history was going to be more than a mixed bag . Our culture supports those who don’t need it. . In a system of serfdom. It’s giving some to those who need it most. by the private sector. Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the merchants and their customers. In a free system. always being ready to share with others. follow me. He said: the scriptures declare that my Temple will be called a place of prayer. So. This accounts for maybe 10 percent of the population. People who get off the boat with little more than the shirt on their back. to some degree. they began to treat the poor like the very poor. and so your number of dependent people went from 4 percent to 14 percent—and you didn’t do that 10 percent any earthly good. . This is the group of people who have often done well in the American system. which will soon be gone . particularly if we have a system based on volunteerism. give up all your possessions and you will be saved? “I’m a disciple of Saint Augustine. . He knocked over the tables of the money-changers and the stalls of those selling doves. that’s sinful.

. Father Benedict explains that his annual budget is $8 million. You can’t change the circumstances life has already brought to bear. . addresses this: Look here. to him. —James 5:1-6 In his Encyclical Letter the Chief Duties of Christians as Citizens. The New Testament. to act —  — . and here’s where they can be very greedy. . He is at a loss to see how anyone in a modern environment can live without some form of money. your wealth is rotting away and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags . is working with the poor. you rich people . . That takes the very poor and pushes them into the class of the poor. the very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh in hell. and they have surpluses.” says Father Benedict. . the cries have reached the ears of the Lord almighty .” My Imagination stops me from continuing further. causes them to draw their life from God. . That’s why money is solicited and money is distributed. . . It’s about giving to the people in need. A God connection from the rich to the poor is established. That gives back. you have condemned good people who had no power to defend themselves against you. too.What he takes for himself isn’t money for doing this. It’s not about the people in need. And it’s the responsibility not only of religion but of other philanthropic organizations to teach people they must use a portion of their wealth to do good to others or they will be corrupted themselves.” Father Benedict says. [P]eople who owned land and houses sold them and brought money to the Apostles to give to others in need. .W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “I’m a friar. . “I took a vow of poverty.That takes the poor and gives them hope of something more in their life. Doing good.What he takes is another step toward heaven.The treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the Day of Judgment.“[charity] binds intimately to God those whom it has embraced and with loving tenderness. —Acts 4:34 I’ve begun to pry away the prongs of the Christian obsession over money.You can change the circumstances that life may bring. For listen! Hear the cries of the field-workers who you have cheated of their pay . . Pope Leo XIII adds. “You get to the upper class. That means he has to raise $8 million to do good.

Instead of this. a certain lawyer stood up and asked. and brought him to the nearest inn. stripped him of his clothes. “Take care of this poor man until he is well. and passed on the other side as the priest had done. he paid the man who kept the inn. “Who is my neighbor?” And Jesus answered by telling them this story: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. who robbed him. perhaps to die. as a teacher of religion to men. and took care of him through the night. Perhaps the best example of this is the story about the Good Samaritan: As Jesus was talking to His disciples. Good from evil. according to the power and opportunity given to them. doing all that he could to soothe them. to balance.” another passage in the New Testament says. but of oneself. Afterward there came by a Samaritan. Right from wrong. he went over to him and was very sorry for him. when he caught sight of the wounded Jew. He examined his wounds and bound them up. shall be received into everlasting joy by Christ the Lord. had done as the priest and the Levite did. and —  — . “Those who have done good. The next day. says Father Benedict. also. and passed by on the other side of the road. It is in God’s image Christians hope to find happiness. since men share in the infinite goodness of God and bear in themselves the impress of his image and likeness. wounding him. and. as an official of the church. By chance there came a priest that way. But he merely came and looked on the injured man. he could not pass him by and leave him on the road. he should have stopped to help the poor man. to refer all the love of our neighbor.Money in the Chr istian World with God. money means giving—not just currency. But the words hold even today.Then he lifted him carefully on his own beast. who also. but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares of this world and the lure of wealth. The thorny ground represents those who hear and accept the Good News. But really.” That was over a century ago. and said to him. Reality is the magnifier of ugliness. no! Though it was his enemy. and. —Matthew 13:22 Money is something in the Christian faith that equates to stability. But. when the Samaritan departed. The two forces must always be balanced. and. and fell among thieves. It is the image Christians seek. should have given help.Then there came by a Levite. so that it would not have been surprising if he. Now the Jews hated the Samaritans and were their enemies. when it comes right down to it. left him on the road half dead. he pretended not to see.

There was a wide smile on his face. It wasn’t the hoarding of fish that was the thrill.” That is being a good Christian in the eyes of the church.The two brothers were showing the boy how to catch fish with a mere hook and line—they had no poles. The Father and his brother patted the boy on the head. should be something like that. peace-loving and not one who loves money. And the little boy still felt good about it. And it is how are we exploited as people merely for the sake of money? And how is money exploited merely for the sake of pleasure without concern of what’s good for people?” Father Benedict asks. His line tugged.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S whatever it may cost for his lodging and food. it was the action of giving and receiving. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. I guess. It’s answered in scripture: If you have money. and uncle fish on a nearby bridge. placing value on that which Father Benedict says is the final question of what money really means. —  — . that I will pay thee when I come again. Waiting for my taxi to arrive. Money. “All this is really dancing around that question. —Romans 12:8 People who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. They gave back what they had taken. son. Finally. —1 Timothy 6:9-10 [An elder] must be gentle. share it generously. It is the caring for the moral commodity. I watched a father. and he manually reeled in a small fish. the boy caught something. Then they took the fish and threw it back into the stream that ran underneath the bridge on which they stood. —1 Timothy 3:3 That gave me something to think about as I left the Trinity House.

while God controls our inhibitions. But we are talking about money. We take control of our exhibitions. Islam. there is evidently a disconnect. every single one of our purchases.” “Exactly. not life. Why shouldn’t they have something to say about that?” “Well. How can we be that conscious all the time?” “I can imagine religious leaders wanting us to take responsibility for our actions. interacting. but money in a religious context is a reflection of life. and then there we are on the outside actually taking actions—buying. to do good. I’m doing Oz and Dorothy now. So.” “Of money?” “Of life. our trades. selling.” “If you take the reasoning back far enough. . and Judaism had so much in common.” “Right. if you think about it. I know. one God?” “Not just that.” —  — .” “I can see. how one lives his or her life.” “Which seems to me to be a bit much. Well. everything they take issue with was begun. Thank you. . whatever we think is derived from the faculties He gave us. it’s the sense of responsibility.” “God is on the inside controlling our moral and ethical morass. whatever we invent or make is a product of the things He or She or It originally gave us. or so one could say.” “In different ways I suppose that is true. according to them. and help me out here. whatever. if we take actions—designed by God—to purchase things—created by God—then why should there be an issue?” “I imagine it’s because at some point religion relieves itself of responsibility. Using money is certainly a way for us to take action.” “I know. From their perspective. So. it can all be traced by to God. or else we wouldn’t be having this discussion. That’s what I never imagined before— the significance of it all. Please get me out of that dress . why take issue with how we spend our money? That is.” “Between me and you there is a disconnect.Money in the Chr istian World Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “I never imagined Christianity. our exchanges. sure.” “Monotheism. truth be said. God empowered us with the ability to think. Ergo. by God.

how do we know if we are fulfilling our obligations to that entity?” “Know what is true?” “Yes.” “Nope. directly. It’s then that we can glimpse at self-realization and happiness and can ignore the material world for a second. that is the ultimate question.” “And I imagine you believe this relates to money because—“ “—because money is a reflection of our value system—what we value. for you to decide what is good and bad—what you want and don’t want. our furniture. In religion. we desire. something more is going on here. is sometimes the acquisition of something. The problem is that we don’t look at it that way.” “What makes us who we are. We get mixed up in that void. ‘hey.” “And from a religious perspective. money is used as the surrogate for God’s will. We are constantly guessing. trying to live up to something that we don’t even know exists. or indirectly. as well as our actions.” “You mean our recognition of images on the outside and being able to acquire them?” “Yes. something somewhere somehow sometime had to implant what is deemed good—or attractive—in your mind. our homes. We are attracted to values set mostly by cultural phenomena. every material item we have and the experiences to which we sojourn are motivated by that unimaginable piece of the puzzle. We bring things into our world. What fills in the void. We fill the world with everything we want.’” “What are those moments called?” “Enlightenment.” “But there is a missing piece to that. for you to be able to think in such a way. our cars. live up to some decree of God?” “I can only speak for myself here. Our clothes. We go through life this way once in a while realizing that. We aren’t conscious of that fact. as you say.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “And I suppose neither one of us will be able to describe that void. If all that is good lies with someone or something else—God—yet we establish value for ourselves.” —  — . having those things we imagine and those things we acquire. But. Look around. or the decisions we make?” “Religion tries to provide an explanation for that. We are blinded by the mounds of materialism that are presented to us. Money accomplishes a great deal of that for us—or so I imagine it does. not by spiritual phenomena.

It’s always toward the death of me. imagination.” “Then how could we have imagined there was a God to begin with? Something must have prompted me to imagine that. I imagine. Even if it’s a monster.” “That there is a God. Or that a thought—me.” “In a way. vessels. I can imagine that the world could influence one’s thoughts— spawn them.” “I wouldn’t worry about that.” —  — . the death of me.” “Again. every possible thing in our mind is brought there because we love it. if that is the case.” “In the Phaedrus.Money in the Chr istian World “I can’t ignore the material world because I’m made up of images. If God imputes the impetus for our systems of wants—values— then we are mere carriers. I don’t think we’ll catch him anytime soon. It’s our box. Are you turning Bible thumper on me now?” “Nope.” “And I imagine that money can buy everything except that concept. And you. And in that pure second of attraction we capture it—whatever it is—in our mind. but yes.” “Materials. I haven’t defined God.” “Yes. your imagination—spawns things in the world.” “The one. I’m at a loss. I dare say.” “Those physical things are just representations of thoughts. right?” “Not just. There’s an attraction. as a real person given mere physical things with which to interact and contemplate.” “Vessels of God? That’s a little freaky. but yes. And you follow hope around like a puppy dog.” “We’ve been through this. couldn’t rise out of bed without some context— image—of the life you are supposed to lead. I can’t even begin to think of such a thing—given the fact that we can only know what we are given.” “The one where everything was locked up except hope. then which influences which?” “You lost me” “Well. Manmade materials?” “Yes. Hope is a rather evasive fellow. The philosopher Friedrich Hegel believed idealism ‘ruins’ consciousness and ‘ruins’ you. through Plato. Hope is idealism. that was written about in that Greek myth. I’m stuck here using an ill-defined channel to capture fragments of the world to remind us what is true. In fact. Every image we have. Meantime. says that everything is motivated by love.” “So. Even if it’s just for a second. Socrates. by making it become everything.

” “And the material is the thing. It’s that instant attraction that places something in your mind.” “—there was you.” “God’s character.” “Later then came the system of worths we put on things. for one. our use of things like money. Unless you coexist with thought. Then I imagine there was motivation.” “Life included. And I did the making up. weave together the strings of the material world to reflect who we are as an individual.” “But what if the material—which was devised by thought.” “Bingo.” “Hmm. that is. So. then I also represent the means in which to acquire those materials—or other people’s materials—all that comprises the world beyond nature. like Kant said. I imagine that if thoughts—or me—created the materials in the world in which we live. I would say that all the world is one big.” “And voilà. as soon as there was thought—” “I’ll imagine light to make it easy.” “No.” “You got it.” “And money is the medium.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “I’m not sure. desire—value. too?” —  — .” “Exactly.” “Why?” “Because you are a product of what I give you to work with.” “And that’s where you imagine money’s place rests—the medium between thought and materialism.” “Quicker than that.” “God is the thought. Then I interject and imagine it as part of the world. after all—was God’s thing.” “By?” “Our actions. It’s like you said. why?” “Well.” “I’d have to argue with that.” “But how do you maneuver around in that endless materialism? How do you cut out a piece of fabric that you’ll make our own?” “I.” “If it can’t fit logically. to take it back a step. made-up thing.” “Which—full circle—is a definition of our character. here we sit.

Thought sometimes helps me out. on the outside. or more specifically a Buddhist. I never imagined thoughts could cry.” “Like the tragedies we looked at earlier. It’s a state of pure happiness.” “How can we possibly get to the point where there is no thought? Now. materialism.” “I thought money could buy happiness. You and the actions we take are overseen by morality. the highs and lows of people’s lives?” “Right. everything—the world.” “Because?” “Because they believe that most people are stuck behind that mound of materialism we spoke about earlier. Buddhists just believe that we are already there.” “He is in everything I see.” “I always imagined one needed a soul in order to be influenced by God. We don’t need to look high or low for God. it’s there in the trenches where they suffer.” “To climb out?” “To climb out there needs to be some form of enlightenment.” —  — . right here. you’ll disappear. thoughts.” “It’s called bodhichita. and I see everything in him. Who would believe something like that?” “A pantheist. And that’s not what those religions we just examined said. But the materialism came across as static. right now. highs and lows.” “But. then.” “Unless you believe that God is in everything. at that stage. everything would be created by God. or the Creator. They said there is God on the inside and there is the world.” “Well. you’ll also have to imagine this: that if you coexist with thought.Money in the Chr istian World “Do you believe that?” “It certainly makes sense.” “I even have a tough time imagining that. some form of consciousness.” “What?” “Just something I imagined. or the sense of God. Material items have no soul. look what you’ve done—you’ve made thought cry. or have God in it. and we can get to the point where there is no thought. with us. It’s a Buddhist state of meditation that eliminates all desires. He’s in everything. He’s here.

right?” “I hope not.” —  — . he’ll also decide whether you live or die.” “I imagined you’d say that.” “I’ll hold on to that image until we begin. But in doing that. If that happens. Kill the desire for the material world and kill me.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “That was our original inquisition. But we have to see whether you’ll be quashed. money won’t mean a pile of beans. buddy. But I think it’s time to put an end to all this—and ask the one person who probably knows.

one after the other after the other.What does money mean to them? It has little use for them here. Air doesn’t seem to circulate much.C H A P T E R 2 6 Money in the Buddhist World he sun is scorching down on Los Angeles. to a tourist couple in T-shirts. I live near the beach. Money may be on people’s minds. We’re driving together to meet the Dalai Lama. and beachgoers are taking advantage of the day.A. There is a line of people a quarter of a mile long outside the L. I want to find out what money means to the Dalai Lama. to a woman in a bikini rollerblading along the street. at an auditorium. has taken over my life. Sports Arena. hot and bothered. To a man on a bicycle. when the Indian philosopher Siddhartha Gautama founded the faith. As Buddhists believe in multiple lives. My Imagination is having a field day. It may be in their pockets or purses.As I’m standing on the sidewalk in front of my house. who is giving a lecture and workshop at the L. and busy streets.The arena is surrounded by tar. in bright cycling gear. The question. The Dalai Lama is the physical embodiment of the Buddha. walkers. for hours and listen to a lecture—ask a question if I can. as I am standing still on the sidewalk. since 483 B. a bright sky. Sports Arena. It’s almost noon.. Here there is sand and ocean.A. and we drive downtown. —  — T . but it will do little but weigh on them here. And the Buddha’s soul has been embodied for some time. waiting. I look at everyone and ask myself what money might mean to them. commercial buildings. joggers. until a state of perfection is achieved.There is nothing to buy here.C. cyclists. and baseball caps. on the day. I’m waiting for a friend to pick me up at my house. I’m choosing to sit indoors. the Dalai Lama is the closest achiever of a soul before it blends with the universe in a state of nirvana. My friend arrives. I stand and wonder why I am missing out on the beach. this inquisition of what money means. shorts.

) When the Dalai Lama walks on stage from the black curtain lining the back of the stage. Some are meditating. Without money. fastened toga style over one shoulder. his surroundings. In the Buddhist approach. his teachings. He. They move their hands to their foreheads. on money. and that just by having lots of it all our problems will be solved is a serious mistake. they fall to their hands and knees. There are maybe a thousand people in the auditorium. He connects with the crowd. people embark on the Buddhist bow. but we still have to battle the heat like everybody else. candles. wealth. worldly happiness is based on what we call the four excellences: the Dharma. or —  — . People stand and raise their hands. Some are chitchatting. Some aren’t. on economics. I have read his text on the subject. ornately embroidered cloth throne. their hearts. and the community around them. my question about what money means. their throats. The Dalai Lama is running late. They do this three times as a sign of devotion to their spiritual teacher. (He sits a few rows to my right. touching their foreheads to the floor. Urns.We are in the twentieth row. So we are not even questioning its importance. and satisfaction. daily survival—not to mention further development—is impossible. Nirvana. To the left of the throne are about fifty monks garbed in their traditional red and orange robes. eyes closed. To the right of the throne is another group of about fifty monks. from a simple yellow. These monks are dressed in diverse attire. Then. A large oriental rug flows out from the throne to the front of the stage. directly in front of the stage setting where the Dalai Lama is to sit on a large. There are $15 tickets. flowers give the stage the look of a television set. At the same time. stand in the long. where actors will at any moment take their places. nirvana. The Dalai Lama looks about. above their heads.20 he says: Money is good. the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. long line. To think that money is everything.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S My friend and I stand in front of the ticket booth. Above the throne hangs the Tibetan flag along with other tapestry. $100 tickets. I know he is about to take the stage when the actor Richard Gere walks in from a side entrance. We opt for the most expensive. has written extensively on materialism. It is important. it is wrong to consider money a god or a substance endowed with some power of its own. palms together. Imagine All the People. $50 tickets. the Lama of Compassion. In one text. which entails several prostrations. I wonder to myself if I’ll get the chance to ask him a question. Some are bald. $25 tickets. crinkled robe to a fancy white robe. he waits for most of the people who have braved the heat and the long line to take their seats.

Peace of mind generally attracts prosperity. I catch myself looking up.There aren’t any other people that high up. when we had to escape from Tibet. Tibetan. fulfillment? My Imagination sees me stand amongst the crowd. temporary satisfaction. I stand and ask the Dalai Lama. Buddhist texts mention the fruition of eight qualities including wealth. health. Certainly someone who has a peaceful mind will use his or her money judiciously. One strives to achieve that which is positive for all beings.There isn’t any one else in her section. The mind is key. I want a chance to simplify this. and then money.What does it mean to him? What can and should be done with it? And how. translated via headsets into Japanese. so to speak. For example. and fame that define a “fortunate” human existence.There. I want to ask the Dalai Lama what money means in the context of its possibilities. The Dalai Lama would close his eyes—and then he would answer.The teachings are the means to achieve ultimate inner freedom. is a woman seated alone in the middle of her row. no friends. one must attend to both ultimate and temporary goals. whereas money and wealth facilitate worldly happiness. Being penniless was secondary. not money. that far back. then good companions. A healthy. Peace of mind must come first. self-realization. “What is the meaning of money?” My Imagination has the crowd hush.Money in the Buddhist World freedom from suffering. who is seated cross-legged on his enormous throne. My voice would echo. In fact. however. which makes him look smaller. under a large blue 3 painted on to the back wall of the stadium. and the first words out of his mouth are those that answer my question: “Let there be no involvement of money or other things. way up into the stands—the bleacher seats. Chinese. As I daydream of this moment. if we have it or don’t have it. The question would be repeated through the microphone to all of the attendees. To enjoy even temporary happiness. and no peace of mind could even feel slightly happy.To do so. can we find peace. it is always possible to make friends and earn money. in that order. one must first have peace of mind. If anything should be considered a god.” (He points to his head. is the ultimate goal. If one is alive. The Dalai Lama speaks. But if we were to reverse the order of these priorities. what would happen? I find it hard to imagine how a person with great wealth. Well-being and money belong to the latter category. our first priority was to save our lives. it is the mind. positive mind is the utmost priority. bad health.) —  — . The satisfaction achieved from a successful temporal life is just a transient goal. Next comes health. even smaller than he is. though of course all four aspects are connected. Everything is right here.

I’m no longer of use.” —  — . processing.20 It doesn’t matter where our seats are or how much we paid to attend. She sees his hands in prayer as he rocks back and forth on his chair. the air conditioning as the auditorium falls silent. even though she is seated so far back. She hears the Dalai Lama’s words:“Suffering stems from our own misconceived perception of the world. Money.” “Although it would mean settling on the fact that we’d never truly be fulfilled. for the moment. In the moment. I can chase happiness forever.” “Tell me.” “Just in the one moment.” “Perhaps we should settle with happiness. Money. too. It’s what I feared: Once you have what you desire. She hears the baby cry somewhere in the audience. connecting. is just as close to spirituality. just as it doesn’t matter to those people outside.” “It’s sometimes an unconscious pathway of want that leads to hopes. the dedication prayers. desires. We can all recite from the text we are given. and in some way money just placates. The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. now. the short prayers.” I think about that.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S I look up at the woman under the 3. We all hear the mantra recitation. the $15-ticket buyer. She hears the melodious Chinese chant. dreams. at the beach.” “I imagine that’s how most people go through life. Dialogue: Me and My Imagination “Are you alive?” “Barely. She. grumbling echoes.” “He’s right. it just simply doesn’t mean a thing. with its low. She hears the Dalai Lama’s teachings on enlightenment. so high up. in the moment.” “That would keep me alive. enjoying the weather. the desire becomes a possession. filtering—just as I am. once you get it. doesn’t matter to us as we sit inside on a bright. She is hearing the same words.” “The thing I can’t imagine. is rendered useless. Our uses are exhausted. I think of what he said earlier about money—that it doesn’t matter here. She hears the heart sutra chant the Dalai Lama gives in Japanese.” “But it’s in that moment where we find peace and happiness. sunny day in Los Angeles.” “Bliss.

” “However. We can’t squeeze everything you imagine into this real world. And until now. dreams. of course. Because money is finite.” “You said it. depending upon how you look at the situation. so that money is actually the physical manifestation of all those hopes. even if I don’t necessarily act on those things. the things that define me are extant money.” “I imagine that’s what I meant. if you will. And more and more.’ You are predisposed to imagining things a certain way. even though those things may be in our minds.” “Yes. more and more I am able to exert my control over it. We have more physical things. to become more apparent to the outside world.” “I imagine that will change.” “I agree. ethics. hence. you even say that money is becoming more and more of a concept than a physical thing. and so on?” “Yes. desires—after needs. our purchasing power and actions are limited as well. ‘a concept. societal virtues. So. so you must as well. situations. even if it’s just digits at the bank. I think we touched on that. See. less so inhibited by money. Money allows our individuality. soon I believe we’ll just be trading with our morality. or according to willpower. The transcendental barrier between you and the physical world—the barrier which money serves as well—is getting thinner and thinner as technology presents us with the capability to acquire at will. money is a part of me too. there’s a barrier I can’t seem to envisage when we move from my ideals to the actuality of things. Sure.” —  — . It may be invisible here. actions. only a select few have been privy or subject to that judgment. but it’s only a conceptual part of you.” “Then I imagine we are more easily judged. that reflect who we really are. a merging between you and me.” “Yes.” “Images. Money to a degree controls our freedom.” “Because you are limitless and the world is finite.Money in the Buddhist World “Unconscious because it’s in our mind?” “Unconscious because. our moral code.” “Still.” “Does that mean money impinges on our moral code?” “Yes.” “But I imagine it’s consciousness—realization—where we’ll find peace and happiness.” “I assume you are speaking of morality. sometimes they are aren’t fully realized. that too. wants. but it’s still here. your existence. remember. that concept. money is a part of you.

we’ll explore the future of money and how our will and our code of ethics are all we’ll need to conduct trade or commerce in the future. we leave God and the physical world behind. is dwindling. our moral codes. our ability to exert our will without constraint—our bodyforth—is enabled by technology.” “When?” “In the next section. There.” “I plan to. equate to creditworthiness. Our data.” —  — .” “And me?” “You’ll be everything you can imagine—or nothing at all. Ergo.” “You’ll have to explain that again. There.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S “How’s that?” “Physical money. as we’ve seen.

But think about biometrics in the —  — B . That’s biometrics. These chips communicate with our mind and with computers outside the body. a professor at the University of Reading has implanted microchips in his body. In England. palm prints. He even pays for deliveries just by a simple confirmation of “yes” when the delivery person drops off his food. and voice recognition.Conclusion iometrics.The merging of humans with computer-encoded data. Still. for example. Those biometric methods are currently being used mostly for security purposes to identify criminals and terrorists at airports. The main biometric technologies include face.That “yes” is circuited through a wireless Internet environment and routed to his bank account. his fingerprint on the keyboard serves as his password to open secure files. It’s happening today.” His computer turns on at the sound of his voice. My Imagination sees a cyborg. “open. picture this:That same professor walks into his office and the doors open when he says. We don’t need artificial devices planted on us to access computer-encoded data and vice versa. A semiconductor surgically placed under the skin in the forearm.That is the future of money. a human in whose body computer chips have been embedded. But this isn’t science fiction fantasy. passport control areas. fingerprint. Cyborgs are about as advanced as an external computer modem. This isn’t something I have to try too hard to imagine. signature.A chip perhaps kept in some lockbox in the skull. Biometrics are computerized methods of recognizing people based on physical or behavioral characteristics. Instead. those capabilities exist with biometrics. hand geometry. A debit is confirmed right then and there. He can open doors without physical contact and soon hopes to have his nervous system communicate directly with his computer. iris. and security checkpoints around the world. that isn’t the future.

or ethics. the facilitator. Otherwise. or so says a University of California Berkeley study.Your moral code.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S context of money. which combine and house our personal data. More original information will be created over the next two years than over the course of human existence. biographical. Then. So. utility. mobile telephones. and even wage information is electronically disseminated and captured online. this information would reach 24 million miles into space. If we say money is boundless (it needs some system of storage—an exchange. and other technologies. which determines whether people can have faith in us. too. money depreciates in exchangeable worth. More than half of all U. The number of online purchases is estimated to saturate the number of computer owners so that every one who owns a PC will eventually make purchases online. let’s make it easy and call that rating a credit rating. Most American households own a computer. this information. then in an open architectural environment of trade. it’s how we judge a person’s purchasing power most of the time. let’s say that money is your word. somehow—and stored. as we have found. are more and more electronic. would have to be judged. called asset aggregators. This all means that most everything we say. must have a certain degree of trust to retain value and pass that value along. act. and store this information on the Web. 93 percent of this information will be digital. or trade upon is digitally recorded somewhere. there are companies. or finite commodity—to make it valuable). investment. and what we spend on—is stored as data. And let’s say that you parcel out what you know is your value—increasing or decreasing that value as your exchanges multiply—then you. digitize it all. a medium of exchange for the purposes of conveying trust and information. Money is. In other words. In what subtle ways do we act upon our moral base of determinants that define right and wrong? Can we be trusted to pay on time? Can we be trusted to create value. saving. which includes our personal information—things like how often we speak to whom. how we spend. tracked and stored in product or service vendor databases. It’s created by handheld organizers.S. Moreover. Our purchases. So. Trust. Telephone. Let’s say that rating is how credible you are as a conveyor. credit card. what we say. rated even. In fact. but we can’t even see it. let’s break that down. PC devices. Next is information. So. piled high on floppy disks. the conveyors themselves would need to be trusted in order to keep value measurable. households last year purchased a good or service online. like inflation. and by how much? Can we be trusted to increase value or the worth of something? Can we be trusted to convey another person’s or thing’s trust? It’s this last determinant that is most important. Sound familiar? It should.This is a component of character. accounting. —  — .

this will happen in real time.These “pathways. We can easily find out enough information about Japan. analyze its financial condition. Soon. are deeper and amass more routes than we knew existed in telephony.Web. and decide on a relative worth of its yen. But we can’t as easily do so for every person in Japan. at which point a personal characteristic confirmation “signal” will be necessitated to complete the purchase. And then there is the wireless Ethernet. Just look at the lending rate in the United States. institutions—borrow money from the —  — .” or a fingerprint pattern will be taken to indicate “yes. but also on the information and analysis of its backing. A small screen will ask for purchase confirmation. This is a high-speed wireless network that can tap into the Internet. and local area networks at extremely high speeds and allows for simultaneous send and receive signals.The Internet and World Wide Web are the ways in which to reach the vast pockets of information stored as data today. This wireless environment is upon us.” already five hundred times the size of any mere search engine like Yahoo. The individual and the corporations and institutions with which a person transacts have been empowered by the Information Revolution. By utilizing “smartchips. Well. And even these routes themselves are multiplying. will lead the way to open the architecture of software programs so any online device can transmit “or speak” with any other online—or offline—device.” or semiconductors that transmit wireless data. or fifty thousand times all the information in the Library of Congress) of who-knows-what is out there sitting on the Web and the Internet.” At the same time.The price and purchase amount will be relayed via voice or visual display signal. investigate its commerce. So.“I agree with the price. for example— touch the ground. Won’t money—bills. trillion bytes. Some 12 exabytes (one trillion. we haven’t been able to.You will say. XML. and you’ll go on your merry way. a digital video recording will capture the transaction. The transaction will be posted to your personal account.The agreed-upon value will be deducted from that account. coins—seem silly? The premise behind a dollar or lira or yen is that we recognize value based on the faith that a government will back its currency’s worth. digital “signals” can capture information and put it in front of our eyes. wireless access to the plethora of information we generate is here. the new programming language.Conc lusion Access. This widely accepted belief is based not only on the recognition of the government. and here’s how it looks:You’ll walk into a supermarket and take a carton of milk from the rack. or the cost at which banks—private corporations. Electric current (through a traditional AC/DC outlet) is being tested in Spain and is replacing telephone lines. Technology is changing that.

or money supply. Hence.Yet “corporate currency” is specific to the individual and the corporation or institution involved in the direct exchange. Physical currency is generically applicable to any of the imagined propositions. however. or corporations. too. are empowered. institutions are empowered by the government to grow. more people use credit. basically allows you to spend a certain amount on goods and services on your reliability to repay—your word only. institutions. If a corporation provides a good or service and credits back the consumer for loyalty. A credit account. and trade directly with the consumer. The idea is that you will take that credit and utilize its value with multiple vendors. is dwindling. It’s at its lowest point in forty years: 2.5 percent. Again. or the amount we owe on our homes. and the more you are allowed to spend on the trust of your word. This is the cost of money. Award points. The more trustworthy you are at debiting back that credit account. and “loyalty credit” programs are all examples of corporations trading directly with the consumer without the need for a government wedge of interference in the form of trust. for example. Their decisions about at which places to trade are increasingly important. the more your “value” increases. Add to that credit card —  — .” the individual still needs to be able to be backed by “something” on his or her side of an exchange.5 percent difference between what the government would charge me as an individual to have conveyed its trust and information as there is for a private institution to convey that faith. This greatly empowers the individual in society because it wipes away the necessity for a government-backed system of credit. is also becoming more defined. frequent flier miles. On average. His or her imagination of the propositional value of money is only realized at the point of sale. Why? Theoretically. that loyalty credit is specific to that one corporation or institution and doesn’t transduce multiple vendors. people. while more fragmented. coupons. represent 60 percent of our earned income. the connotation of money has changed to infer a truer system of direct exchange. But practically speaking. Less people use cash.) As corporations gain in their exchange value strength with people. Other forms of credit do. like the currency system we have in place. the numbers of government-backed notes and bills. (It’s impossible to guess what a person will want or need on a certain day. that is only a piece of a value that can be tapped in the future. Hence. They can release their own currencies.While loyalty is rewarded in the form of “credit. mortgage debt payments. Besides. don’t need the government’s backing anymore. their value increases to the corporation. There is almost just as much trust and recognition worldwide of the brand Microsoft or Citibank as the brand the United States. Money’s propositional value. That means that there is essentially a 2.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S government.

that surplus has to be disposed of. The biggest example of this is government debt itself. the U. not government taxes— and you have a recipe for corporate loyalty. Government debt is manifested as either bonds or currency. Currency. so any cash that is kept on hand is offset by a liability to an institution—whether it may be a financial institution. Lower taxes mean more money is put work in the private sector. or spending. which mean corporate bond or stock sales will likely increase. It eliminated the three-year note and the thirty-year bond and limited five-year notes to quarterly sales auctions from monthly auctions. with even the traditional benchmark thirty-year bond eliminated from use.This paradigm is also lending opportunity for the individual in society to step up and exert more control over his or her likes and dislikes. there is almost a zero percent savings rate in the United States. Moreover. from a high of 70 percent twelve years ago to just over 50 percent today. or private.We are witnessing a massive transfer of power into private hands. When the federal budget is in surplus. or by buying up or paying off all outstanding bonds.) All this is to say that more control will end up in the hands of companies and institutions and create more direct relationships between these entities and individuals. Just ten years ago. Government. The physical forms of government debt are lapsing because of the downward historical trend of government debt itself.Conc lusion debt payments. (Our stock market has doubled over the last five years. (The government has bought back the largest number of bonds in history over the last two years. debt stood at 117 percent of GDP. President Bush proposes to pay off all debt to the public over the coming decade. higher government spending (unlikely in a Republican administration). and there are record volumes of stock and bond transactions. or public. it stood at 70 percent. Combine all this with the corporate credit programs in existence— which account for the majority of personal liabilities. This can be accomplished by lower taxes (which are occurring).S. In his fiscal 2002 budget. with its almost entire use—98 percent—as a speculative trading and investment product. is being used less and less as a form of commerce. Bonds are dwindling. —  — . control is being passed to corporate. a corporation. Purchasing power will be akin to voting power. as we have seen. or a utility.) All that “excess” money will move into private hands. control. which average 20 percent of annual income. and factor in a depletion in savings kept in cash. In 1945. Investors may even look to invest in some other form of security besides government bonds and may have to turn to the private sector. Reduction of the public debt will make more capital available to private businesses. not government loyalty.

Regression analysis (take all the things I have done in my lifetime and deconstruct them to a mean) can be instituted to determine this mechanism. All of these systems basically mean that you’ll trade on your word alone. To be sure. Of course. will be our means of exchange. That mean. and reliable economic. Propositional values can’t be traded or exchanged in a manner of equilibrium because of psychological. which are designed to provide guidelines “for the public of comprehensive. then each of us becomes his or her own brand. We all operate on highly refined and different systems in the context of money’s propositional value—what we’d do with it. This mechanism is our “proof.Verbal or some other recognizable form of confirmation of the exchange will be all that is needed. that governs over our monetary value system in the United States. others on ice cream. our footprint. This will create a new landscape of global democracy. timely. this is an ancient system. online and in a traditional commerce or trade-like situation—to establish a record. The largest obstacle to this is the trustworthiness of the consumer and his or her interfacing with various networks—other people.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Technology will only promulgate this system. financial. If individual information in the form of credit. No material will change hands. It will fluctuate. But a transferable mechanism equated to value can be transferred globally. which was created to foster a common understanding of data quality —  — . Some of us would spend our money on fine wine. places. cultural and religious diversity. But that’s how money operates. have our credit assessed in real time. It will be worth more or less some days. and trade on that credit—and so on. Morality and ethics are the key issues at stake. the Federal Reserve. Our wants will be directly registered. In fact. Each country has one. accessible.” or the footprint of ourselves gleaned from varietal circumstances.The transaction is based on the individual trust and faith in you as a person. and socio-demographic data.” There is even a Data Quality Reference Site. like a credit rating. societal. In Hebrew it’s called mazal. be recognized. Some people have amassed fortunes by evil means only to spread evil. there is an International Monetary Fund Dissemination Standards Board and a General Data Dissemination System. In China it’s called fei qian. In Islam it’s called hawala. can be disseminated in real time. things. capable of conducting multiple exchanges in multiple vendor situations—globally. while others have little or nothing in terms of money but have spread fortunes of goodwill. What comprises our individual mode of ethics and morals is distinctly unique. or mean. you or I can walk into a store in Tokyo. the question is who will program the deconstructive elements that will determine our exchange mean? There is already a board. In other words.

however. and desires. But we have those barriers now. If all of Europe can link to a common currency. the hardest working. dreams. whose job it is to achieve worldwide uniformity in accounting principles used by businesses and other organizations. That’s what we will trade on. How do we physically manifest our desires in the world? That’s what will be judged in the context of any transaction.Conc lusion around the world. like the supposed thin red line God left in the universe after it was created.We’ll be free to let our imagination decide our way—who we really are as people. and now technology has bred the access. geography. the euro. may seem too oligarchic. why not verbal?) Those 1s and 0s used to program computer code can just as readily program our languages into homogenous recognition. Why can’t we let the parties decide and let words stay as the representative force of the agreement. But it’s a journey we’re already embarking upon. Their word will be the most acceptable. The wealthiest of us will be the most trustworthy. New Age faiths and beliefs are cropping most everywhere. What could be developed—is being developed—is a community based on communication. under these paradigms. More people are returning to traditional religions—church attendance is up. Oversight. But at least the premise is there. Soon it may become apparent that money is incidental to our wants. the smartest. it would be up to each participating individual to trust and verify. culture. That still leaves our actions. the most imaginative. there would be participatory barriers like language. propose and set standards by which we’d all abide. despite all the evil that is inflicted in the world. why can’t the rest of the world? And if governments. synagogues are reporting more members. This evil. and the most attractive to the most number of people. (We do it with written words. and managed over a widely accessible platform. It is a mutually agreeable value set between two parties. why can’t the individual represent him.The International Accounting Standards Board. “Money” is used in individual and situational circumstances. could be redeveloped to include individual accounting standards. where our language is immediately translated. Yoga is in fashion. is there as a reminder —  — . That of course will necessitate an inward journey of consciousness and enlightenment. value? Sure. then why not corporations? And if that is the case.or herself as governments do in the context of money—separate yet indelibly linked? The information is there as are the standards. Morality is back in favor.What could transpire to determine the fate of individual purchasing power is a completely democratic system of development and criterion designed. disseminated. hopes.

Our word will be all that is the case and all that will be needed to convey our desires. We are reaching for that promise. —  — .W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S of all the good that surrounds us. as individuals. desperately. It will be all the good that we can ever imagine. All our actions affect all the others in the world. we are. That’s why we have to be the best individuals we can be. It’s a massive ripple effect—and one bad thread can unravel us all. here’s what money really means: It’s a reflection of our responsibility as people to live up to our place in this world and make it better. as one tightly woven fabric of humanity.We just have to act on our trust in the most imaginable ways possible—and we can all get what we truly want: Bliss. So. Money is but a reflection of who we are.

” Psychological Bulletin 125 (1999). Brave New World (New York: HarperPerennial. and Richard M. and Richard M. 1997). Jr. 11 Aldous Huxley. 15 Donald Trump. 1999). 3 Alan Hughes.” the New York Times (February 2. Timequake (New York: The Berkley Publishing Group. R. 2 1 Section 2:The Psychological Attachment of Money: What Money Means Abraham H. 12 Nelson W. At a High Price. 1990). 6 Edward L. 2000). Ryan. 1999). 2001). 1998). “In Pursuit of Affluence. The Alchemist (New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 8 George Kinder. —  — 4 . 1999). 14 Donald Trump. 10 Dinesh D’Souza. 5 Alfie Kohn. 1987). The Virtue of Prosperity (New York: The Free Press. 1998). Koestner.” BusinessWeek magazine (April 9. Maslow.” Annual Review of Psychology 52 (2001). 7 Edward L. The Art of the Deal (New York: Warner Books. Kurt Vonnegut. Old Money (New York: Allworth Press. “On Happiness and Human Potentials: A Review of Research on Hedonic and Eudaimonic WellBeing. 9 Barbara Ehrenreich. Deci. 1996).Notes Section 1:The Physical Manifestation of Money and Attachment : What Money Is Paulo Coelho. 1965). Ryan. “Why E-Cash Isn’t a Common Currency. Surviving at the Top (New York: Random House. 2001). Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America (New York: Metropolitan Books. Seven Stages of Money Maturity (New York: Dell Publishing. Aldrich. 13 Donald Trump. Deci. Toward a Psychology of Being (New York: John Wiley & Sons. The Art of the Comeback (New York: Time Books. “A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation.

20 Copyright © Tenzin Gyatso. A History of God (New York: Ballantine Books.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S Section 3:The Spiritual Attachment of Money: What Money Means 16 17 Jack Miles. 2000). Reprinted from Imagine All the People: A Conversation with the Dalai Lama on Money. 2000. Thomas Moore. Los Angeles. Jews and Money: Toward a Metaphysic of Money (Rockville. 1994). The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. 19 Edouard Valdman. —  — . Care of the Soul (New York: HarperPerennial. 1999. Politics. God: A Biography (New York:Vintage Books. 1994). 18 Karen Armstrong. 21 The 14th Dalai Lama. Md. and Life as It Should Be with permission of Wisdom Publications. 1996). the 14th Dalai Lama and Fabien Ouaki.org. www.wisdompubs. USA. Somerville. 199 Elm Street.: Schreiber Publishing. Massachusetts 02144.

50 B Bartiromo. 26 bodhichita. 44–45 Aldrich. 185 —  — . 178 BusinessWeek. 166–67 child-bearing. 128 Buddhist world. 186 difficulty of a rich man entering the Kingdom of God. 185 giving back what you’ve received. Sheik Al-. 65–68 biometrics. 80 annual income. Muslim world. 199–200 mind as a god vs. 198 meaning of money. Nelson. 94–95. 186 money as the most discussed New Testament topic. 119 Christian world. money as insulation against. 143–45 Almoudi.The. 149 Art of the Deal. money in the. money as a god.The. Jewish world.. 198 C Care of the Soul. 203–5 Black Monday. money in the avoiding the corrupting influence of money. 157–59 Brown. money in the. Jeffrey. 98 aloneness.Index A Achalananda. average. Philip. money in the. 185 doing to others as they would do to you. money in the. money in the bodhichita. Joel. 195 four excellences as the basis for worldly happiness. 172 Art of the Comeback. Sally Kirkland. Jr. average age of. Karen. See also Christian world. 199 money and wealth as facilitators of worldly happiness/temporary satisfaction. money in the. money in the. 51 Berber. See also Buddhist world. 190 money as the giving of oneself. Maria. 140 Bretton Woods Conference. Muslim world. 63 beenz. 195 Brave New World. 120 Armstrong. 54. 199 nirvana. Jewish world. Warren. 189 money as the means to an end.The. 188–89 capitalism. Paige. 198–99 pantheism. 39 Bronchick. 160–62 Alchemist. 194 Buffett. Brother. 149 importance of money. 96 Bergman. 6. 157–60 Bronchick.

35–37 responsibilities of. 205–7 your word as. getting money through. 165. 36 cybercash. 93. 93. 92–93 desperateness of. 186–87 serving God and money. 29 D’Souza. 52–54 equilibrium theory of money. 35–36 manipulation of interest rates by. 51 cybercash. 11–13 Ethernet. 133–38 Data Quality Reference Site. 93 helping people help themselves. 187–88 Coehlo. 205 Ethiopia appearance of. 49–50 credit cards. 92 money as the difference between life and death. 91–92 signs of hope. 35 —  — . 97 sounds of. 206–7 and the decline in use of physical money. 96 history of. 36 Dow Jones Industrial Average. Dinesh. 52 crime. 93 eudaimonia. 49 transition from government to corporate currency/credit/ loyalty. 33. Paulo. 189 using money to do good. See also VISA average indebtedness. 51–52 flooz. 51–52 E Ehrenreich. production/destruction of. 77 vs. 133–38 currency. 185 story of the Good Samaritan. See also future of money beenz. Barbara.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S responsibility to care for the truly needy. 206–7 Denver Rescue Mission. 95–96 international aid to. 44–45 Cohen. 96 movement in. 103–7 Dickson. 33–34 lowering/raising of discount rate. 35 regulation of monetary policy by. 52 consumerism as a source of happiness. 35–36 power of. production. Joel. 92 money as the ruler of. 6–7 introduction of. Charles. 50–51 smart cards. 6 proliferation of. 96–97 lack of class system. 197–200 Danny (prison inmate). 93–95 simplicity of life and values. 91 multiple problems of. 73 F D Dalai Lama. 117 Federal Reserve Board analyses made by. 208–9 debt. 49 as the currency of the future. 79–80 credit availability of information about creditworthiness. 113 electronic currencies. 34–35.

dollar as the point of comparison. 62 freedom. Sigmund. 33 financial planning areas of awareness. 6. Alan. 62. See also history of money biometrics as. A. 77 future of money. 205–7 G GDP (gross domestic product). 192–93 hierarchy of needs. 40. 127 foreign exchange calculating the rate of exchange. 87 flooz. 169–72 hawala. 207 trading on your word alone. See also quality of life becoming attuned to your intrinsic values. 176 Hegel. 208 reduction in government indebtedness and movement of money into private hands. 6. 80–81 Hasnita Dato Hashim. 105–6 God: A Biography. 208–10 transition from government to corporate currency/credit/ loyalty. 85–87 new approach to. elimination of. 73 pursuit of affluence and. 77 $3 million check story. 72–73 consumerism as a source of. 94 happiness. 34 Gemplus. Father Benedict. 166 gold standard. 172 history of money. 40. 7. 83 understanding money as part of the soul’s journey. 39 spot markets. 207 Greenspan. 54 General Data Dissemination System. 203–5 money as a reflection of our responsibility to live up to our place in the world and make it better. 88 key questions to be answered in. story of. 185–90 H Hagos Araya. 40 money as a representation of a country’s comparative worth. 78. 44 Frankl. Tim. 40 setting of rates by Bretton Woods Conference. 79 Freud. 77–78 Sigmund Freud on. 189 government debt. 35 Groeschel. 208 George (homeless person). 50–51 Forbes. using money to obtain. 42–43 currency trading process. 103–4 Gilbert (homeless person). 40 Good Samaritan. 6. 53.S. 210 morality and ethics as key issues in. 77 mindfulness and. 41–44 factors affecting currency trades. 71–73. 44 U. 61 History of God. 31. Friedrich. 44 floating of rates following abandonment of gold standard. See also future of money —  — .I n de x on the types of money.Victor.

178–79 money as a means of choosing who you are. 103–4. 21–22 importance to Internet trade. 50–51 J Jewish Theological Seminary. 39 credit currency. average. 39 creation of International Monetary Fund. 204 impact of access on the value of. 120–22 statistical profile of.S. 5 Hock. money in the. money in the. dollar as the worldwide base currency. 205 Internet trade current volume of. 11. 51 using flooz. typical world household. 7. 209 International Monetary Fund. 89–90. 40 evolution of money to data. 13–16 and the future of money. 51–52 importance of trust and information to. 7. Aldous. 6. 120 Huxley. See also Buddhist world. 208 Internet. average American description of life for. 50. 116. 6. Christian world. 40 introduction of credit cards. 106 self-respect and. 50 designing new currencies for. 19–22 home cost. 177–78 Jewish world. 178 money as a reflection of selfworth. 181 I inflation. 178 charity as a commandment. 119–20 vs. 7. 7 Roman over-minting and inflation. 4 Bretton Woods Conference. 5 meaning of money to ancient Lydians and Romans. 39 International Monetary Fund Dissemination Standards Board. 4 decline in relative worth to gold. 140 as a foundation of money. money in the. Dee. 52 International Accounting Standards Board. story about remodeling of. 6–7 elimination of the gold standard. 100. 6. 6. 35. 50–52 failure of cybercash. 120 homelessness accounts of. 6. 104. 52 using beenz. 119 household. 192–93 hourly wage rate. 20–22 floating of currency exchange rates. 106 hope. money in the Bible as the source of answers to what money means. 50. 105–6 reasons for.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S ancient city of Lydia. average. 4 U. 6 introduction of paper money. Muslim world. 5 decline in use of physical money. 36 information —  — .

71 Kinder. 42–44. life. 181 wealth as a gift of God. 15 as the noise of Wall Street. history of money. 179–80 story about remodeling of Jewish Theological Seminary. Alfie. M1. 3 derivation of “money. 125–28 Miles. 179 taking interest. 14–15 quantum physics theory of. 98–99 M M. 92 lottery. being Luxembourg. 65–66 Kurtz. as a basic quality of money. 29 Marlene (former welfare recipient). Christian world. 190–91 as a reflection of our value system. future of money. 111–14 marriage. 26–28 means of payment. average age for. 180. 157–58 importance of doing meaningful.” 4 as a destructive influence. 165 importance of. Jewish world. winning the. 181 tithing. 33 Magnolia. 119 Maslow. 54 Live Aid. 67–68 Michael (lottery winner). vs. 45 K Kasser. George. 122 Mond.. See also Buddhist world. 105–6 empowering effect of. 61 McCooey. 41–44 Jury. Claudia. 29–30 pain/death as an offset for. Robert. 4 money. 50 Lietaer. 158–59 importance of understanding value and worth. 63 equilibrium theory of. 181 personal comfort vs. 11–13 as a frozen desire. money in the. 180. Bernard. 77–81 L Leo XIII (pope). Abraham. Jack. Theodore. Tim. Jr. 3 increased cultural focus on. 63 limited role of. 166 Modern Maturity.I n de x money as a value. 178 Jews and Money:Toward a Metaphysics of Money. M3. positive things with. 34 battle over. 191–92 —  — . Muslim world. 99 as a conception. 165 negative intrinsic value for the dollar. helping others. old money annual rate of turnover. money in the. money in the. 83–88 Kohn. 13 Mexican fishing village story. 13–15 as a reflection of life. Mustapha. 188 Levitan. M2. 140 Moneta. money in the. 181 JPMorgan Chase Bank. Robert. 177–78 story about two rabbis and beggar. See wealthy. 180 trading.

Brad. Christian world. 15 as the safety/security/value within the confines of an infrastructure. 62 Victor Frankl on. 176 Islam as a rebellion against capitalism. means of payment. 169. 175 tainted income sources. trading. 171–72 murabahah. 174 making money. 73 Sigmund Freud on. 40 reputation and. 62 New York Stock Exchange. 170–71 taking interest. 171 murabahah. 33–34 Moore. 28 sardines story. See also Buddhist world. 26. 173. and numeraire as the basic qualities of. 27 operation of. 104–7 Muhammad ibn Abdallah. Jewish world. 106–7. 173 money in the Koran vs. trusting in God. money in the. 172 5 percent rule. 61 Carl Rogers on. 12–13 as the scorecard on Wall Street. money in the. 170 understanding Shari’ah Law. 169–70 zakah. 170 musharakah. money in the. 3–4 storage of value. 62 self-determination theory. 175–76 MV. 28 and self-worth. 26 cost of seat on. 171 pillars of Islam. and investing within the laws of Islam. 172–73 money as the trust of God vs. 172 movement of money into Western capital markets. 172. 172.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S as a representation of a country’s comparative worth. 109 money supply. 11. 13–16 ways of getting. money in the distribution of wealth. 170 hawala. 171–72 pervasiveness of religion in Islamic countries. human Abraham Maslow on. See also Wall Street Black Monday. 170 Muslim world. 166–67 mortgage debt. 170–71 making money at the expense of someone else losing money. 169 making money for the benefit of others. 170 musharakah. 206 Mueli. 26 impact of trades made. 170 money as a responsibility. 111 as the source of a value system. 28 —  — . 84–85 needs. 170 origins of Islam. the Bible. 34 N Nasrudin. 170 trading for the sake of making money. Thomas. average. 13 trust and information as the foundations of.

136–37 living in/visiting. See Buddhist world. story about. 192 Positano. 6. 145–46 and the prospect of going through life without getting credit for your achievements. John. 145 as a prison. story about. 62 Ryan. Jewish world. life on. new. as a basic quality of money. average. 158 Park Avenue. 145 faded aura of. Italy. 127–28 sardines. escaping from.. 145 corrupting power of. money in the. 143–44 hostility of American culture toward. 192 Plato. 71–73 P Paige Bronchick Foundation. 180 religion. 65–66 quantum physics theory of money. 144 wealth of old rich vs. At a High Price. consumerism. and money. 108 poverty. 111–14 prison credit and trade systems. money in the. Christian world. David. life for. 143 R rabbis and beggar. 65–66 Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. See also happiness Mexican fishing village story. 79–80 public debt. 7 numeraire. Richard M. money in the. 78 Sanderson. money as an agent of. 115–16 Phaedrus. 207 self-destruction. vs. spiritualism reputation. 13 production.” 65–66 Q quality of life. 144 history of. 67–68 relationship of money to. 65–68 research results on seeking satisfaction in material goods. 14 rich Americans. 113 nirvana. Richard. 179 Rawls. 25–26 New York Times. 144 Old Money. 12–13 savings. Carl. 143 pietas and. 13–15 O old money aristocracy and. 105–6 —  — .I n de x restrictions on members’ discussions. money in the. 198–99 Nixon. 133–38 respect as the money of. 136 S safety/security. 117 Rogers. Muslim world. using money to obtain. Derek. 15 Ricardo. 207 “Pursuit of Affluence. 144 false images of.

80–81 time. 117 —  — . 149 T tags. 84 Shari’ah Law. as the focus of life. 35 smart cards. 150 on doing it for the money.” 149 commanding presence of. Martin. as a basic quality of money. 73 self-realization Abraham Maslow on. 91 Skidmore. 149–50 on reacting to the twists of fate. 150–51 wealth of. 13–16 and the future of money. money in the. 79 Timequake. Christian world. 61 Carl Rogers on. 87 spiritualism. 11. 150 stubbornness to achieve. 87–89 super-rich Americans. 11–15 Siddhartha Gautama. 117 Surviving at the Top. 13 suffering. 152 trust as a foundation of money. understanding money as part of. money in the impact on the concept of money. 165–67 man’s attempts to model himself after God. 133–38 Steinbeck. money. 192 soul’s journey. Muslim world. 53 Tamirat Yirgu. 111 Seven Stages of Money Maturity. money in the. The. money in the. 84. 50. 100 upper-middle-class Americans. 54 U United For a Fair Economy. 166 spiritual laws as the basis for common/societal laws. 149 reaction to September 11. 151 on winning for yourself. 55–56 Toward A Psychology of Being. 151–52 Trump Tower. 152 value of Trump name. 165 vs. life for. 78. and money. 197 Singh. life for.W H AT M O N E Y R E A L LY M E A N S self-determination theory (SDT). 49 storage of value. sociocultural influences. Surjit. 73 self-worth. 167 vs. 52 technology as the means of unsheathing the hold governments have on. 149 on the getting vs. John. 204 importance to Internet trade. 93 TCI. Jewish world. Donald on being “The Donald. 2001 tragedies. 149. and money. Joseph. See also Buddhist world. 26 $3 million check story. 108 Stiglitz. 61 Trump. 150 name identification of. 169–70 Sheraton Addis. 62 self-determination theory. David. 166–67 stealing money. 151 on making deals. 52–54 Socrates. as a protector of he soul. the having. 94 Shubik. 106–7.

34 Valdman. 128 dark side of. 119 World Bank. 21 and the evolution of money to data. 126. 21 evolution of. 125–27 work as a stabilizing force.I n de x V V. 128 winning the lottery. 25 wealthy. 20–22 need for a new form of organization. escaping from. average. 111–14 work day. 29–30 money as the scorecard on. 96 World Wide Web. 28 mood of. 117 VISA as a demonstration of the impact of access on the value of information. 126–27 “We Are The World. 21–22 description of corporation. 128 realities of. 127 psychological benefit of financial security. 19–20 Visotszky. 181 Virtue of Prosperity.The. See also New York Stock Exchange Z zakah. being Americans’ suspicions about the moral effects of wealth. 55–56 description of. 25 money as the noise of. as a mirror for the concept of money. Paul. Rabbi Burt. 205 W Wall Street. 172. Kurt. 122 creating a scenario of control. 128 creating values. 54 Vonnegut.” 92 welfare. 177–81 Volcker. 20 as a reconceiving of the concepts of bank money and credit cards. 175–76 —  — . Edouard.