A good way to test an assertion or belief is to stretch the proposition to its limits and see if it still holds. We are told that people with lots of money are very powerful and that we ought to do what they tell us to do. We are also told that without money, nothing can happen. Things of value won’t be created and we’ll live like cavemen in a dog-eat-dog, primitive society. We’re told that money is power.
Is it true?
Consider the following three stories:
1) During the middle ages, the knights Templar were some of the most wealthy and powerful people on the face of the earth. They had unprecedented wealth. Legend has it that they had discovered Solomon’s riches in the Holy Land and that they could fund any project they chose to fund. At this moment in history, all of the raw materials to make electric motors and electric power transmission possible existed on Earth. All of the iron, copper and sundry raw materials were available. There was a gap in the market. Electric motors would undoubtedly have transformed medieval society, as they later did the twentieth century. The best and brightest minds could be pressed into solving the problem, because there was enough money available to make them do the Templars’ bidding. And yet it didn’t happen. Electric motors did not appear for many hundreds of years. People were just as intelligent in the middle ages. No new raw materials came into existence in the twentieth century. Electric motors could have been invented at any time. The real question is: why wasn’t money powerful enough to cause them to be invented earlier? Was it even the power of money that caused them to be invented when they finally were?
2) Leonardo Da Vinci was an outstanding creative mind. He produced works of art that have never since been paralleled. There is undoubtedly more money around today than when Leonardo lived. We could fund a hundred Da Vincis and furnish them with the materials and time necessary to produce new works of art comparable to those of Leonardo himself. Arguably, there is enough money today to make some artist produce works that are of even greater significance and quality than Leonardo’s. There is clearly a gap in the market, because Leonardo’s works are priceless. Production of new works would therefore find a buyer. Yet, no Da Vinci has come forward. No money can make that happen. The power of money and of those that hold money does not extend to bringing a genius into being. That takes an ordinary mother and father.
3) Einstein, working more of less alone and with minimal materials, produced a theory that has resulted in trillions of dollars of wealth, in the form of electronic devices, optical communications, new materials and so on. Einstein’s creativity required little money. The power of money was an irrelevance.
What these three examples all demonstrate amply is that money is not powerful. It’s power is only to compel the duped into producing ordinary things of limited significance. Money’s power does not extend to creating a creative genius. It can’t do that. And yet, the value of a creative genius is almost incalculable, in monetary terms. Ergo, those with money exert only a very limited power, compared to those that have creative genius to offer. We’re lead to believe that the opposite is true. It isn’t.
Money isn’t even a very reliable store of value. If you had funded electricity, relativity and Leonardo Da Vinci, but were shipwrecked on an island, with only your money as possessions, you would very soon realise that the value you thought was stored in that money was minuscule. You can’t even eat money.
Tesla died penniless, Leonardo in exile and Einstein in comfortable, but not opulent, circumstances. Yet, their lives produced more value to humanity than the richest kings, the wealthiest robber barons or the most powerful billionaires today.
Money is not powerful. It isn’t valuable. Value comes from creativity. Value is people. That’s something that money can’t buy.