People love to throw blame on all sorts of things as the root of all evil. Greed and money are probably the most popular, but in my opinion aren’t in the least bit true. Without greed human beings would still be living as hunter-gatherers, and money is just a medium of exchange.
Greed can be both good and bad. In a way, it’s a tool. Under the right circumstances, such as a competitive market economy with minimal or no intervention from the State, greed causes people to selfishly pursue private gains, but in the process, their actions benefit everyone else too. That’s the great classical liberal insight of the invisible hand.
Under the wrong circumstances though, greed leads to wars, devastation of the environment, and companies like Monsanto.
I’m going to dedicate an article to the market process later on. Understanding that one concept is so counter-intuitive, and important, that it alone can change someone’s perception of what a free market economy is like (or should be like, we don’t have one).
Why is money the root of all evil?
Money is by far the favorite scapegoat of leftists around the world.
And yet money is just a medium of exchange. Without it, we would still be bartering. It allows us to overcome something economists like to call the double coincidence of wants. The idea that without money there would be no greed is silly at least because money is just a representation of goods and services – of real wealth. People would still be greedy without money, just greedy for the goods directly.
Without money, we would also be unable to make economic calculations. Is it cheaper to take the bus to work, or drive a car? Thanks to a common yardstick by which we can measure the value of things, this is easy to calculate. Without it, it would be impossible to make rational economic decisions.
What about The State?
As a libertarian, I feel like I should say the State is the root of all evil. But that’s not right either, because the State comes from somewhere. It didn’t always exist – certainly not in the most primitive of societies. How could it? The state requires society to produce a sufficient surplus for it to parasite off of the people. That’s not possible with the most basic of social organisations.
I like a quote by Robert Heinlein, which I’m going to re-work a little bit:
“The world divides politically into those people who want to control others, and those who don’t. To me, the how, why, and extent of that control is almost entirely irrelevant.”
That there, in my opinion, is the root of all evil – the will to control others. Its opposite is the libertarian “live and let live” philosophy. That as long as you don’t harm anyone, you should be free to do whatever you want with your life.
This will to control others is how governments come to power, how they remain in power, and how they grow their power. In that sense, the State is at best the proxy of all evil.
If politicians didn’t want to control others, we’d have no politics. If voters didn’t want to control what others did with their lives, we wouldn’t have “political issues” like legalization of drugs, same sex marriage, gun control, and all the other debates that never seem to go away.
All of it comes down to people taking their personal preferences, most of them aesthetic and not moral (more on that in a later post), and trying to forcefully apply them upon others through the political machine – Leviathan.
I have my own opinions about drug use, whether those are illicit drugs or socially acceptable ones like alcohol. Personally, I think it’s foolish and escapist to use them – but as long as the people who use them don’t harm anyone besides themselves, they should be free to drink, sniff, inject, and otherwise absorb whatever chemicals they want.
This is because I separate my own personal preferences from my politics. As a person who regards substance addiction as a sign of great mental immaturity and lack of self-restraint and discipline, I avoid it as much as possible. As a libertarian who respects other people’s sovereign claim to their own bodies, I will never do anything to reduce their freedom to engage in whatever harmless (to others) activities they so wish.
If more people were willing to let others live their lives in peace, we would have a much freer, more prosperous, and safer society.