Love and Money

A common error is equating work with money. The two are only very tenuously connected. This can easily be illustrated: it is possible to work for no money, and it is possible to gain money and not work.

Money is a fundamental part of human society, however, and has evolved in every civilisation for at least two reasons. Firstly because it is a reflection of psychology, and secondly because it makes the emotional transactions of society more efficient.

Money is tangible representation of emotional debt. When someone does us a favour, we feel indebted to them and want to do a similar favour in return. This feeling will fade away though, we might simply forget who owes us what favour and what favour we owe. We might also have a different opinion on how important our favour was relative to the returned favour. It is simpler to have a token to recall such favours, using more tokens for greater emotional debt; and so this is money.

Money has a longer memory than emotions, so it makes the world work on a more stable basis. It also allows bigger favours that might stretch across several days or weeks. The indebtedness of lending someone your lawnmower is one thing but the debt from building someone's house is huge by comparison, and hard to measure in emotional terms.

Ideally money should represent the exact level of emotional debt. Note that I use the word debt not work, because the debt is the important thing. It is this emotion that money represents, not any exertion of labour. This can be illustrated in the labour that a train or spacecraft does, it uses a huge amount of energy to propel us (or any astronauts!) but we don't feel we owe a train or spacecraft anything, except perhaps its fuel. Yet, consider the kindness of a friend, or how we feel about romantic partners or our parents or our children: we always lavish tangible gifts on people we love. This illustrates that emotional bonds are always financial too.

For any favour we should ideally do exactly the same favour in return; not more, not less. This is known as tit for tat and has been shown to be, in general, the most efficient way to be productive. Money helps with this because we can quantify our favours exactly, so a money based society is necessarily more efficient than one without money.

The efficiency of tit for tat, plus the longevity of the preservation of debt proves that a Star-Trek style society without money is effectively impossible; it would not operate as efficiently as a society with money and so always fair less well when competing with a money based society. This is also why communist-style controlled economies are inefficient, because financial transactions must ideally be devolved and conducted on, or ultimately rooted to, a personal basis and individual transactions. Trying to control an economy equates to trying to control emotions, and the psychological effects are the same. This is one reason why freedom is connected to capitalism and a lack of freedom connected to communist states: freedom of thought and feeling is necessary for an efficient economy because freedom of expression and feeling are related to the friction in trade and financial transactions. Any control of emotional freedom will make an economy less inefficient because it will equate to control of financial freedom.

There is a relationship between love and money because we feel indebted to people who we appreciate more, for whatever reason. We might like a pop-star; they may enhance our lives, and so we feel indebted to them. We want to give to them that which they give to us, because we know instinctively that this is the correct, and most efficient, thing to do. We generally can't meet them or write music for them in return, so we buy their wares and thus our love for them makes them richer.

The equation of emotion and money indicates the limits of money, that becoming richer does not necessarily deny another wealth; although, there is only so much love, and feelings of indebtedness, to go round. If we love someone, then that love must be denied to someone else; yet this is not a systemic injustice, even if the spurned lover may feel it is a personal one. In other words no excess of wealth could be considered negative or bad for society, and no excess of poverty signs of an immoral or uncaring society. There is no injustice in either wealth or poverty, except that we are indebted to, or love, some people and not others. If we pity the poor and unloved, this itself creates an emotional debt and this is the root of charity.

The important thing is that all exchanges, financial and emotional, are like for like to be efficient. It is true, however, that for short term gain, this rule can be broken. Even subatomic particles can break the rules of the universe for a fraction of a second because the individual can sometimes gain by breaking the rules of tit for tat. Over the long term, rules are broken by both sides equally, and so the balance is maintained and the gains or loses are haphazard and unpredictable.

The connection between wealth and emotion also reveals a connection between romantic jealously and envy, and financial jealously and envy. Those who feel envy of the wealthy generally experience the same feelings of envy of other people's relationships and wellbeing. Each is a logical manifestation of the other.

In a lottery, people can gain large amounts of money in an instant, almost at random. Perhaps this could be seen as an injustice; surely this lucky person is not loved this much or has any connection of emotional debt worth a vast financial sum? This assumption is wrong. The prize money in a lottery comes from the individual purchases by huge numbers of people. It is these many tiny accumulations which make the prize, so the system is fair. A similar situation takes place with super rich individuals who head large companies. Generally those companies sell very general services to a very large number of people; only a tiny amount from everyone on earth would be needed to make any individual very rich, and in such companies, and with such billionaires, this is the case.

Ultimately, work is only related to finance when it is work for someone else to create a feeling of indebtedness in them. Other forms of work are not connected to wealth at the time, yet, might be one day. The work by an artist of today, perhaps unseen and unrewarded, unknown by society, may one day be valued for the love and pleasure the artwork gives the viewer or listener, and thus become valuable. The lovers of art might pay to buy or view the artwork, rewarding the then owners, or the museums which give the viewer pleasure. If the artist is still alive, then his or her audience will naturally direct their emotions of appreciation at him or her, which will naturally lead to wealth. This illustrates the connections between fame and wealth; the two are psychologically synonymous if the fame equates to indebtedness, rather than infamy.

Mark Sheeky, 28 October 2020