I spend a great deal of my life talking, thinking and writing about money. We are all familiar with the oft-repeated biblical phrase that says the “love of money is the root of all evil”. It is important to understand that “money” is not the emphasis here, but rather the “love of” money. We are well aware of the dangers posed by an unhealthy desire for money, yet the fact remains that money is a tool we all need.
Photo by Southern Foodways Alliance via Flickr
Dave Ramsey refers to money as “certificates of appreciation”. Money represents value, the value is not intrinsic, but rather representative. Our employer gives us these certificates in exchange for doing a job that brings him certificates. We accept those certificates as payment because we are confident that we can use those certificates to trade for things we need to live — heat, power, food, clothes, housing, even water.
I was thinking the other day that an abundance of these certificates has weakened us to a certain extent. We depend on these certificates for everything in life. Yes, it is true that some of us have become really good at acquiring these certificates of appreciation, no doubt about it. But here is the big question: Could we survive without money?
If you no longer had any money to pay for heat in your home, what would you do? Our great-grandparents and grandparents were able to heat their homes by getting wood to burn anywhere they could find it. The woods, by the road, if things got really bad, they could scavenge burning material from their own furniture. I have read stories of early pioneers who burned hardened cow dung or buffalo chips. During a recent cold spell in the UK, some people were purchasing hard bound books to burn in their stoves.
Except…my house does not have a fireplace or a wood burning stove or any place really safe enough to have an open flame. Does yours? The ability to pay for a furnace, natural gas, and everything that goes along with our safe, clean heat has made us dependent on money.
What about water? If you could no longer purchase bottled water at the grocery store or pay to have it flow out of your tap, could you survive? You could, no doubt, beg enough water for your needs from neighbors or relatives, but what if they could no longer pay for water themselves? Do you know how to dig a well? I live in the city and it has been a long time since I have seen a natural spring bubbling up next to the sidewalk. I do not think that I would guzzle water from any of the stream or drainage ditches in my area. The ability to pay for water and the infrastructure that brings it to us is something that I sometimes take for granted.
How about food? We have one of the most safe, inexpensive, diverse food supplies in the world. Fruit, vegetables, meat, baking supplies and all the rest are right here in our neighborhoods — as long as we can pay for it. Our ancestors grew their food, all of it. My grandpa always told me that while he had no money when he was a boy during the Great Depression, he never went hungry on the farm.
Even if you own your own home, few of us have the ability to produce power, heat, water, food, communication, medicine, and all the other necessities of life on our own. We are a pretty dependent people on the whole. So what can we do about it? Personally, I am praying that our system stays intact. A friend of mine has a power generator for his whole house that runs off of gasoline. I know another person who has a year’s worth of food stored up in his basement! This is probably not a time to panic, but it would not hurt some of us to at least learn how to grow a garden in the meantime.
Andy is a 30-something New Yorker who turned his financial life around. He took charge of his finances, got out of debt, and is now working his way toward financial success. He is the owner and publisher of WorkSaveLive.com.