This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect, persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments.
— Adam Smith, Scottish political economist in his 1759 The Theory of Moral Sentiments273
When the rich rule, that which makes them special is deified and glorified. As a society, we have come to worship money. We embrace a philosophy that worships capital and capital ownership. We worship wealthy people, accept their choices as divinely inspired, and exploit each other to their advantage. The very wealthy have successfully altered our culture to reflect the value of profit over life and selfishness over altruism.
Every single day on the top of the news you hear how the market indexes are faring. This is our guiding light. When stocks are doing well, our economy is doing well, so we must all be doing well, right? Those with lots of money are treated with special respect, consideration and privilege. As the transfer of wealth moved up the exponential curve of money creation, we have dispensed with the negative view of conspicuous consumption. The president of the United States elected in 2016 surrounded himself with gold – walls, floors, even his toilets – and, many admire that as an indicator of success.
Sacrifice on the altar
Today one in five children goes hungry during the year.274 One in seven have developmental issues requiring special help.275 If any other nation harmed so many of our children, we would go to war with them. Instead, politicians claim the regulations and standards that would keep our children safer would hamper the profit-making efforts of corporate America. So far, we accept this.
In the US, people work hard and long – 1,770 hrs/year on average in 2014. In France people work about 1,473 and in Germany 1,366 hours. The Netherlands with the second shortest hours at 1,422 is more productive than average.276 In Switzerland, people work an average 35-hour workweek – and they make more than Americans. European countries value rest, recreation and family time.277
The US is the only developed country in the world with no legally mandated vacation time. Every country in Europe has a minimum mandate of from 25 to 40 days!278 The research says they are right: people who are rested and happy are more productive. Vacation days are important.279
We diminish the value of those who dedicate their lives to others off the money-making grid. We give little value to the non-money economy of caring for our children, our sick, our elders, or each other. When these jobs are monetized, we make them some of the lowest paying jobs, demonstrating our disdain for caregiving. The US is one the only developing country that does not mandate any paid maternity leave so parents can bond with their children. New baby leave is seen as valuing families and an investment in the future citizens. Thirty-eight countries provide from 5 to 60 days of paid leave for new mothers.280 In the US, we’ve been convinced businesses can’t make enough profit if this cost is built into prices. This is a blind worship of profit-making.
A system that creates money in a different way will reflect a different set of values: money can be a useful tool benefitting everyone instead of the idol in the temple of selfishness and greed.