In my last post, I suggested that philanthropism — giving away goods, services, and knowledge, rather than selling them — was a more ethical choice, and one which could be viable even in the modern capitalist world economy. Many thriving organizations — charities, non-profits, and open-source organizations — give away their work for free, subsisting only on donations of money and labor. And plenty of small, tribe-sized economies have existed without money or trade in the past. But could the whole modern world really run this way?
In my last post on this topic (Selling Salvation III: Property and Prostitution) I talked about the ethics of trade — the free market exchange — and suggested that buying and selling anything is inherently, at the deepest level, an act of disrespect.
Why? In brief, when you buy or sell something, you’re saying, “You’re worth $X to me.” This demeans it. You’ve bleached out its essential uniqueness and inherent absolute worth, and given it a value on a dollar scale. In unfettered capitalism, everything is placed on a dollar scale, everthing becomes a commodity, and everything — including sex, work, life, and salvation — is valued only in the marketplace.
But the other extreme — living without trade — presents problems for daily living, because the exchange of goods is the foundation of the modern economy. While capitalism is far from perfect, it has some serious moral and practical advantages over other economic systems used in the past (all of which relied heavily on the use of overt physical violence). What alternative is there?
In meditation, in my own personal inner landscape, Cernunnos most often finds me in the Forest of the Horned God; he emerges from a patch of dappled sunlight like something hidden in a puzzle-picture, his twisted horns reaching up among the tree branches, tall and dark, with twinkling eyes. Last October I begged him for guidance with my finances — I was at my wit’s end. Things were only getting worse and worse, with no end in sight.
“Are you expressing your will?” he asked.
I was caught off guard. “What do you mean?”
“Well, what does money do?” he said. “It lets you do what you want, yes? It allows your will to be carried out. It allows your will to be expressed.”
“But I don’t have any money.”
“Do you believe in magic? Do you believe in the Law of Attraction?”
“I — well, yes,” I said. “Mostly.”
“Then you alone are responsible for the amount of money that you have. You’ve made yourself broke.”
“It wasn’t on purpose!”
“Nevertheless. You’ve effectively made it very difficult for your will to be expressed. You’ve prevented yourself from acting freely. You’ve hamstrung yourself.”
“Money can be thought of as a measure of the extent to which you believe your own will should be carried out. The more money you have, the more confidence you have that what you want should be manifested. If you don’t have much money, you must not believe that what you personally want is important. You’ve made it difficult to express your free will. You’re sabotaging yourself.”