Money is Evil, Unless You're Sending It To UNH (2015 version)

Last year, the University Near Here offered a program called the "Future Leaders Institute". Subtitle: "A Summer Camp for Ambitious High-School Students." Pun Salad was unsympathetic.

But despite the scorn and derision, they are doing it again this year. Their description is slightly altered this year, and I've tweaked my 2014 comments appropriately. Otherwise, it's a rerun.

What will our Ambitious Future Leader High-School Students be doing at camp? Whittling? Canoeing? Learning how to recognise different types of trees from quite a long way away?

Nah. The camp's theme is "Money, Greed, Corruption." (Week One covers "Money, Greed and Society". The optional Week Two's topics: "Money, Politics and Government".) It doesn't sound like the Future Leaders will be learning any useful wilderness skills, or having much fun at all. The curriculum will be set up by faculty members of the Paul College of Business and Economics… no, sorry, I'm kidding. It will be run by R. Scott Smith, Professor of Classics, and Nick Smith, Professor of Philosophy, both of UNH's College of Liberal Arts (COLA).

Let's take a look at the program description, commenting as we go:

We tend to have mixed feelings about money and how it influences us.

What they actually mean to say: different people hold wildly different opinions about it.

Ayn Rand once described money as the "root of all good."

She did! Or rather, one of her Atlas Shrugged good guys, Francisco d’Anconia, did. His speech is reproduced here. (Recommended reading.)

Karl Marx (echoing a host of ancient thinkers) thought money was closer to the "root of all evil."

Despite the "quotes", I'm pretty sure Marx didn't say that, but it's true that he was no fan. Last year, the source of the quotation was correctly identified as 1 Timothy 6:10, where love of money (not money itself) is identified as the "root of all evil".

[1 Timothy, by the way, is also well-known for being the epistle where Apostle Paul advocated that women shut up and know their place and advised slaves to be respectful to their masters. Bible-thumpers pick and choose which parts of the book to thump.]

In any case: you see where we're going with this: it's gonna be Rand vs. Marx and a "host of ancient thinkers." Good luck, Ayn.

Money provides a near universal common denominator that allows people on opposite sides of the world to exchange things of value with great efficiency.

Stipulated. Not even Francisco d’Anconia would disagree. But:

Money motivates us, for better or worse, to do things we would not otherwise do.

Confused drivel. All incentives, including economic ones, can lead us to make different choices than we would otherwise. That is the definition of "motivate". But the paycheck is not the goal, it's not in the driver's seat; it's what the paycheck allows us to do. (Quoting Francisco: "[Money] will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires.")

Your desires may be wise or foolish, noble or base. Don't blame (or bless) "money" for your own choices and values.

Business leaders often see making money as their primary goal, but this objective often conflicts with and sometimes overrides all other principles.

Pay attention, aspiring academic writers: If, in a single sentence, you use "often" twice and "sometimes" once, nobody can prove you wrong.

No doubt: businessmen are guilty of attempting to run their businesses more profitably than a couple of COLA profs think they should. It's difficult to work up any outrage, or even concern, about that at all.

Although we live in a democracy where citizens' votes are supposed to count equally, we know that money influences politics at many levels.

A brave stand against (unnamed) corrupt politicians! Hey, I won't defend them. Although I'd wager far more politicians are corrupted by their love of coercive state power than by love of money. Good luck getting a couple of Liberal Arts profs to even recognize that, let alone preach against it.

Can one be a good person, honest, loyal and caring while attempting to maximize profits and win elections in a money-hungry world?

Yes. Thanks for asking.

But ask the question without adding the superfluous phrase "in a money-hungry world." People that blame a "money-hungry world" for their own poor life choices are irresponsible losers.

Or are ethical principles naive in a world where money and power are so entwined?

The answer here is "No". Again, thanks for asking.

Here's one bit I left out. From up at the top of the page:

Cost: one week: $900 two weeks: $1,600.

Yes, they are charging money to tell the kiddos how awful money is. (Is this irony? I can never tell.)

I'll close with the final paragraph of Francisco's speech, linked above:

Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns–or dollars. Take your choice–there is no other–and your time is running out.

I'd put the whole thing on the Ambitious Future Leaders High-School Students' required reading list. In fact, I'd be happy to give a dramatic reading of it for the AFLHSS this summer. And to show what a money-loving greedy selfish bastard I am: I would do it for free.

Last Modified 2015-04-17 6:19 AM EDT