What is The Price of Money?
By Steve Gillman
Although we always think about the price of things in terms
of money, we rarely think about the price of money itself. Money,
after all, is just a convenient means of exchange that makes
life much easier than bartering goods. And just as in the past
we had to pay something in work and time and mental effort to
get the chickens we traded for flour, the same is true of money
today. Add to that list of payments the moral compromises that
we are sometimes tempted to offer for money, and we can see that
there really is a lot to think about in setting a price for the
currency we come to crave.
Lets start with time. Is thirty dollars worth an hour of your
life? Of course this depends on what you do have to do for that
hour, in a moral sense and because we all have activities we
enjoy or dislike more than others.
This is where the nature of the physical work enters the equation.
I might watch movies for $15 per hour (wouldn't that be nice?),
but I would have to pass on digging ditches.
Then there is the mental effort we trade for money. More precisely,
it is the type of mental effort that decides this. Most of us
are happy to pour our intellectual powers into things that interest
us, but find concentration on some things to be sheer torture.
I could never be an accountant, for example, although I do just
as much mental work with my writing of books and creation of
Now here's a tough question: How much compromising of your
basic moral values is too much? The price of money is sometimes
paid in moral compromise, whether or not this is theoretically
necessary. And I have to admit if asked, that I would certainly
steal money if it was truly necessary to my survival (or for
the survival of people I love).
My impression is that we tend to pay too high of a price for
money when we forget what the ultimate goals are. Nobody really
needs money for its own sake. It is just a way to get other things,
whether those "things" are food, travel, medicine,
or the chance to sit in a monastery in the Himalayas (the monks
will want some payment, as will the airline that flies you there).
When we remember what we want money for, we are treating it as
the tool that it is, and we will only pay a price that makes
sense in light of all that we really need and want.
Consider for a moment how cheap money is at the moment. It
costs less than ever by many measures. For example, an hour of
your labor buys much more currency (in terms of purchasing power)
than an hour bought 300 years ago. A paid employee can operate
a machine with little thought to do the work that took many muscles
and brains to do in the past. We also have more options
than ever about the type of labor we want to buy our money with.
And yet we are tempted to pay a price that is much too high in
The price of money is in part a function of the economic realities
of the time we are born into then, but also a part of each person's
own choices. What is the price of money for you? Few people would
dispute the fact that you need a certain amount, but is it possible
that you paid too much for that last ten thousand dollars you