Money As An Element Of Power
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
* * Quid non mortalia pectora cogis, Auri sacra fames? * * * said the bard of Mantua as Aeneas stood in wonder at the tomb of Polydorus, and surely there is nothing within the bounds of possibility that the love of money will riot force mortal hearts to do. In the words of another, they will face belching cannon, clog their lungs with dust become workers in arsenic, lead, phosphorus or any other substance destructive of life. They will blast with gunpowder, live amid malaria ; cling to the dizzy scaffold or upon high spires and towers ; work in dampness and darkness down deep in the dangerous mines ; do anything, dare anything, ,suffer anything for money and the power which money gives. No toil is too exhausting, no danger too appalling for men to confront the one and undergo the other, if the stakes are sufficiently high. Ten per cent. will insure the employment of capital anywhere. Twenty per cent will produce eagerness. Fifty per cent., positive audacity. One hundred per cent. will make it ready to trample on all human laws. Three hundred per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple nor a risk that it will not run. The physician's care is most attentive where money is easily forthcoming. The power of the law can be invoked most easily with cash. Senates may be influenced and legislatures moved, and government swayed, if there be millions in it. Even the minister's call is increased in audibleness by the proffer of a handsome salary. Harassing doubts and indecision vanish like dew drops before the logic -of five thousand dollars per annum.
Money is regarded in political economy as a measure of value, and by common consent all values of Whatever kind are convertible into money. Lands, houses, goods and labor are capable of being expressed in dollars and cents. -Hence money has become, in the process of civilization, the chief instrument of exchange, and from long-continued custom the man who has money can go into the world's market and purchase what he will. It is this function of money, as the measure of value, that gives it power in the commercial world. The man who possesses a large bank account has the surest means of making his pur-chases and accomplishing such results as. he may de-sire in business. This purchasing power of money arouses in the community an almost universal desire for its possession, and it is for this reason, and this only, that men can be induced to undergo such hazard and toil for the possession of money. This natural desire for the possession of money gives rise to numberless temptations to acquire it by dishonest means, and it has come to pass in our civilization that money is one of the greatest powers, not only in private but also in public life. Men not only accomplish herculean labors, but commit shameless crimes for its possession. They not only go through long toil and suffering and disaster, but some are even willing to inflict these woes upon others if they can only insure the possession of money. Be the fact a pleasant one to contemplate or otherwise, the great mass of mankind loves money, and strives by means honest or dishonest to obtain it in large measure. There are comparatively few, perhaps, that love money for its own sake ; but, surely, the number of those who love it for what it will do for them and what it will buy for them is not small. Probably no men exercise so great power and authority over the world in general as those money kings, who are today the great bankers, merchants and railroad princes of the world. This is certainly the case so far as mere worldly ends go, and it may be the case in politics, mind and morals. We are not among those who think that everybody and everything can be purchased at a price ; but there is no use of trying to cloak the fact that nearly every man and nearly everything can be purchased along the line of legitimate bargain and sale. It may not be possible to hire a man outright to commit a dastardly crime, but it is possible to buy the man heart and soul if he is convinced that the purchase is legitimate and the work he is employed to do is honorable work. There is a sense in which men of integrity, wisdom and honor cannot be bought; but there is another sense in which every man will sell himself and all that he has and is for money, and it must be said with sorrow that men in general are not so scrupulous as they ought to be about the conditions of the sale.
Yes, we know it is true that there are interests in human life higher and better than any money consideration. We know that fond love cannot be purchased thus. We know that self-sacrifice for the happiness of others cannot be purchased with rubies. We know that a genuine man or woman will not sell themselves to evil for the gold of Ophir and the treasures of Tyre and Sidon. And we know that men in all ages have made more heroic sacrifice for virtue, truth and moral goodness than were ever made for the possession of money ; but yet the fact remains that money is the great servant and agent of the world's commerce and prosperity, and along the lines of legitimate enterprise it has no peer in power.