Civilizing the Economy A New Economics of Provision

When is money the answer?

Posted Apr 1, 2011 by Marvin Brown in Uncategorized, No Comments

Scenes of hunger, TV game shows, Lotteries, Breadlines, Shopping, or Donations: where do we learn about money?   Many of us desire it, work for it, wish we had more of it, and yet we also know that it is not the answer to many questions.  When is money the answer?  Check out the following five questions

Question #1:  How do governments do what they have decided to do?

Answer:  They pay for it, and they get the money to make payments through taxes, borrowing, or by creating money.  This need to finance government is the first and primary function of money.  A government that borrows money easily ends up in massive debt.  The United States has a national debt of over 14 trillion.  A government that prints its own money, as the Greenback party suggested in the 19th century, does not increase its debt.

Question #2:  How can people make exchanges in modern systems of provision?

Answer:  Money serves as a third entity for exchanging different products or services.  This is sometimes confusing because it may appear, for example, that wage-earners work for money, but they actually work to make a living, and the exchange is between the contribution of their work and what they need for their material existence.  This is the rationale for a “living wage.”  The wage (money) should be enough to exchange one’s work for a good life.

Question #3:             How can new enterprises get started and grow?

Answer: Money provides credit to begin all types of enterprises from hi-tech start-ups to providing small loans to individuals in developing countries.  Money as credit assumes relationships of trust for all involved, faith in our capacity to produce and grow, and care for each other’s success.

Question # 4:  How can we get what we need?

Answer:  Most of us would agree that people have rights to food, clothing, housing, and social services.  Since most of these provisions are distributed in markets, people need money to acquire them.  In the United States, we have programs like food stamps and low-income housing that function as “money” to make these goods available.

Question #5:  Where can I gamble?

Answer:  You can gamble in Las Vegas, or you can gamble in currency exchanges, bond markets, and any number of ponzi schemes

This use of money puts all the other uses at risk.


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Marvin T. Brown, Ph.D teaches business and organizational ethics at the University of San Francisco and Saybrook University in San Francisco.

This book is the culmination of 30 years of teaching and writing on business and society from a communicative perspective. Visit for more information.

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