The Gradual Demonization of Money

EDIT 2016-12-05: I’m getting a lot of hits to this piece from readers in India. I think the term you may be looking for is demonetization, which you can read about on this Wikipedia link.

I’m a fan of cooking shows. The aspirational, upbeat-living kind. So I often watch the Food Network, occasionally letting it roll over to one of those cooking competition shows where contestants play for a cash prize.

Not a cash prize that they can enjoy or use for any normal purpose, though. A prize that they have to justify with a sad tale explaining why they deserve the money. Why their efforts are merely a tool to enrich their cause.

The sick nana. The food kitchen. The tales of woe and desperation, and the dreams that are selfless and society enriching.

This is a trend. Aside from old-style game shows, in virtually any case where money is a prize, prospective winners have to prostrate themselves and make an ascetic case for why they are deserving.

If children want to setup a lemonade stand, they best have a charity named as a beneficiary, at worst dedicating their efforts to their college fund.

What a ridiculous thing to complain about, isn’t it? Am I actually complaining about selflessness, charity, and noble pursuits?

No. I’m complaining about the pervasive lie, and the growing and self-defeating notion that commerce is bad, and that the entrepreneurial spirit has to be clouded with a bunch of embossed altruism.

Making money has become something to be ashamed of. At least, it seems, until you have it, ideally in large amounts, where it is celebrated. This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this, as I’m in the software development industry where so many will fill your ear about how little money means to them (or worse, the people with money are telling you how little it should mean to you), while taking every action to try to ensure copious riches come their way.

And the whole cloud of benefaction is a giant lie. While I can’t speak those specific food contest winners (though I heavily suspect few live up to their claims), empirically the world has just as many ostentatious cars, boats, cottages and far aflung trips of pleasure. Housing prices continue to explode, and luxury goods pervade. We celebrate $100,000+ electric cars as if they’re pedestrian. But we’ll talk about how some rare member of the ultra-rich lives in a small house or drives a low-end car, while completely ignoring the enormous excess of their lifestyle.

Charitable giving has stayed steady, or in many cases cratered, as we substitute talk and Facebook shares/likes for action. As talk increases, actions unsurprisingly drop.

And we all floss twice daily. It is, for most of us, a giant lie.

I want to see the contestant who wants to win money to buy a nice car or home entertainment set. I want to hear the kid at the lemonade stand who is earning towards a new bike or World of Warcraft membership. And I want to hear prospective startup candidates talk about how they want to hit the windfall of the startup lottery, and come out filthy rich.

For everyone to be honestly charitable. Make the world a better place, one small action after another. But discard with the proxies.