Money Ruthless Criticism

Not participation in wealth, but exclusion from it

Anybody can buy anything for money; the modern “market economy” has made it this way. The most eccentric wishes are no problem if enough purchasing power stands behind them. Business people are no different from their customers – except with regards to purchasing power: as usual, nobody holds them to the equality principle of democratic constitutions. Likewise for the customers: in a Target, the lady in a mink coat also supplies herself with the bare necessities; people without bank portfolios also get luxuries in “gourmet aisles” – every now and then and in suitable servings. Wealth is nicest as coins or slips of paper, in absolutely inedible form; since in this form one can get, in precisely delimited magnitude, any conceivable pleasure. With money, as is well known, anything goes, even that which “money can’t buy.”

Of course, there must be enough of it. Since anything can be had for money, logically nothing can be had without money. In the modern market economy, scarcity is not a question of nature's recalcitrance, but of one's wallet or checking account. As easily as money provides access to all material goods, it also ensures exclusion from them. Therefore, luxury is no longer a catalogue of extravagant goods which only correspond to a certain social caste, but a question of the sum of money which one has for certain goods and not for others. Money and the price of commodities determine what one eats, how one lives, with what one gets along in everyday life and recreation – therefore what one generally has in life. This is not a moral warning, but a simple fact: in their private lives, modern people are first of all exactly what their financial troubles permit them to be.

Nowadays, social differences are rather simply constituted. Indeed, the wealthiest people are free to walk around slovenly; and no unskilled laborer is prohibited from saving up for a sports car with iron stubbornness. But everybody knows that this “surface” can be deceptive. One knows a good deal more about a person if a number is available that says how much he has, namely in money. This number decides which opportunities for development and freedoms he has – and not only this. With money of a certain magnitude, one not only can afford something. It itself accomplishes something. Its possession alone provides the owner – income. “Money,” as they say, “works.” And in this sense, there is something to it: it spares someone who has enough of it from work.

How money accomplishes this already belongs to another story, namely the title “capital.” In any case, this is certain: without people who work for money and in so doing generate appreciably more than they cost, this does not exist. It is not only the industrial companies who thrive on this “procedure,” and it is likewise not the only way money can be earned. The business people who buy commodities only in order to sell them more expensively also skim from it. And the banks also ultimately get rich from it, obtaining ample interest from money loaned to admirably allow their investors to also earn money from this business – even 3 to 4 percent on a simple savings account, the nest egg of the less than well to do, adds to it. It grants the power of command over all the claims and means to make money increase; in particular, the power of command over wage labor, still the most important means of business.

By contrast, the services of money look rather miserable for the people for whom the relation between work and money is acquired the other way around. First of all, it performs no service, but requires service: it has to be earned, namely through work for the benefit of the company – so much for “money works.” And with its other service, it is also already over: barely has one acquired some commodities, and it is thereby gone. The necessity to serve it, namely to earn some, promptly appears all over again.

When spent as wages, the money of the money owner flows over and over again back to business, continually creating monetary income. When received as wages, it flows away in the blink of an eye and creates nothing but the permanent compulsion to work for it. And both of these contradictory functions of money fit quite well together. On one side, it creates a wealth which doesn’t just get squandered, but grows. And on the other side, it procures a poverty which excludes the affected persons from many things, but not from economic life itself. This is the “increase in prosperity” it is good for.

It is thus not only a thorough difference in all the means and freedoms which one or another "money owner" is able to afford that hangs on the large or small number in one's bank account. It also establishes the conflict between money and employment, thus a conflict of interests between people who do not even need to know each other for it to exist. And above all they do not need to know that their interest in the nasty “means of sustenance” money, which is apparently common to all honorable members of the society without fundamental differences, in itself contains the whole antagonism of the social classes.