What is The Price of Money?


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 websites.

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 some ways.

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 bought?

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