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08/14/2008

Money! Turns Out Its Bad for You…

Peter Singer opines in today’s Accra Daily Mail, one of Ghana’s capital city newspapers, about the evils of money. Singer cites a behavioral study that concludes that even the slightest suggestions of money presented to a group of individuals (e.g. money passing on a computer screen) made them less likely to ask for help or even sit next to others.

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Does anyone else think that these conclusions about how money isolates us and makes us less willing to be helpful in our society ring a bit hollow? And what does the conclusion that money is not neutral really get us? We can’t function without money in our society and I don’t know how we’d try to be more “aware” of money in our lives as to counteract the effects Singer describes in his essay.

Rather than engage with Singer’s claims, which fail to “cash out”, let me just ask this–does it seem ironic to anyone else that this column, appearing in one of Ghana’s major newspapers, written by a full professor with an endowed chair at Princeton University who literally makes, in salary alone, seventy times what the average Ghanaian earns a year (even minus his admirable 20% donation of his annual salary to charity). Strange that this philosopher should be making an argument about the non-neutrality of money to the Ghanaian people–don’t you think?

In any case, Singer fails to make a positive suggestion for what we would do to counteract the negative pull that money creates. Start trading corn cobs? No, says Singer, even he acknowledges we can’t escape money in this day and age. Then in the absence of a barter system or something to replace money that does not have the negative effects, what can we do?

I’m not sure–but I’m going to go buy a book to find out.

Summer Johnson

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