People Don’t Accumulate Money Beyond Usability for Rational Reasons

The ability to fool yourself knows no boundaries of time, culture, race or religion. Sometimes these delusions are not particularly harmful, but more often than not- they are harmful to the believers and others other them. One of the most popular, and destructive, delusion is-

People accumulate money for rational reasons.

Now I am fully aware that many readers will find any suggestion that accumulating money is irrational as itself bizarre. But who is really being bizarre? Let me explain with a few examples.

Imagine a person who just had finished a tasty and perfectly cooked meal. Now imagine that the person also has more food in storage than he or she could possibly eat and the resources to prepare it all. Would you not find it very odd if the person was still obsessed about obtaining more food? What is the rationale behind obtaining so much of something, even as essential as food, that you cannot possibly consume it all?

Now imagine a person who had hundreds to thousands of bottles of all the booze he or she ever wanted. Would it not be odd if that person kept on obsessing about getting more booze, even as they drank very little of what they already had? What could possibly drive a person to spend all of their waking hours obsessing about newer ways to acquire more booze when he did not drink the good stuff around him? Or take a person with unlimited access to sex with hot and willing chicks? Would you not find it odd if that person most of time acquiring more willing partners than actually having sex with them?

Did you see the common thread in my examples? In each case- the hypothetical person exhibits a total disconnect between the urge to acquire more of what he wants and the ability to actually consume it. Most of you would see such a person as nuts and urge him to seek psychiatric help.

But would you do that if the person was obsessively seeking money rather than food, alcohol or sex?

Nope.. most of you would see that as admirable and express your desire to emulate such behavior. The CONservatives and LIEbertarians amongst you might actually build shrines and worship such a person. So what is so different about money that obsession about acquiring it in amounts that cannot possibly improve your life any further is OK? Is money that different from food, alcohol or sex?

Now ask yourselves a few questions. Can any amount of money buy you immortality? Can it buy you everlasting respect? Can it buy you god-like omnipotence? Can it buy you anything useful that an upper-middle class person in a developed country does not already have? While money can certainly buy you a good life, amounts beyond that necessary for a certain level of existence don’t make things any better.

So why do allegedly “smart” and “high-IQ” people obsess over acquiring more of something that cannot make their lives any better?

An analogous process in multi-cellular animals might be helpful to model the behavior of behavior of rich people. An animal with some form of cancer is less fit and will live a far shorter life than a similar animal without that disease. However cancerous cells cannot survive the death of their host and therefore die along with it. So why do cells become cancerous in the first place? Wouldn’t they live longer if they had just stuck to their original program? Don’t the vast majority of cells stick to their original program and not become cancerous?

Cancerous transformation in cells is growth taken to its ultimate extreme. While the ability of cells to multiply is an important component of their overall role in multi-cellular organisms, it is not the only one. The ability of cell to differentiate, maintain differentiation and perform other functions is as important as their ability to multiply.

Growth for its own sake without concern for the other cells that constitute an multi-cellular organism is the hallmark of cancerous transformation.

A cancerous cell does not keep on multiplying and stealing resources from other cells in the organism because it has to. It does so because it can get away with it. That is right, there is no underlying rationale to the behavior of a cancerous cell. It will keep on being cancerous until other cells in the body or surgery, radiation and drugs kill it- or the host dies. The desire to accumulate money beyond what a human being CAN consume is not driven by any rational reasons, though those who do so always try to explain their behavior as rational. If you could ask a cancer cell why it was cancerous, its excuses would sound remarkably similar to those given by humans who accumulate money beyond the point of usability.

and don’t expect cancerous cells or cancerous humans to change their ways.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. May 11, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    If you’re at the top of the pyramid, every bottle of booze you don’t control is one more your rivals and immediate inferiors can use against you, Everyone around you covets your exalted place in society and would unseat you in a moment if they had the slightest chance.

    Past a point, it’s not about the money but the power. And not just one’s own power, but simply sitting on sources of power so others can’t get to them.

    Say you let some of your underlings escape the chains of financial need. Will they be grateful for getting some particularly large crumbs? Maybe for a little while. Soon, relinquishing leverage over them and by so doing creating new competitors proves to be a huge mistake.

    Why doesn’t a millionaire randomly hand out thousands of dollars of cash on the streets?
    If they did, millions of people would come to their door looking for more. No matter how desperate any of us became, a millionaire would never hand us a single dollar. They do not in part because of the tragedy of the commons that would immediately follow.

    The way a mass society works pretty much forces us all into perpetual zero sum gaming. If there is a momentary opening in one’s defenses, someone will take advantage. Defection is simply too tempting. Mercy, generosity are not actually possible without also sacrificing ourselves.
    The sad thing is, if one of us were to become rich, we would very well find ourselves in that same trap, prisoners to our own power.

    In any case, we’ve both discussed this topic extensively, Mr. Advocatus and will continue to do so, I’m sure. So long as most people fail to understand how the actions of millions add up, it is hard to imagine how meaningful change is possible.

    • Nestorius (A. Hourani)
      May 13, 2012 at 12:16 am

      It’s mostly about the illusion of acquiring power. It’s a competition between rich peolpe themselves, where every one is trying to gain more power than the others. I can see this daily around me.

  2. webe
    May 12, 2012 at 4:06 am

    NOT bizarre.
    You have Jesus, Buddha and all sages since the bronze age in your camp.
    Obviously the craving for power/money is a completely delusional attempt to escape the confines of mere mortal human existence, and the delusional attempt to escape it is itself the root of all evil (at least human and social evil). All societies have to a degree attempted to get their youth to renounce ego, money, power, and to learn that sharing is true wealth. Hoarding has always been considered weird, bad, anti-social, and related to witchcraft. Ours is the first society to celebrate greed as social purpose, hoarding money as virtue, and which has arranged the whole apparatus of society to fuel inexhaustible human desire instead of trying to learn that happiness consists of contentment with what you have and are, including the realization that everything is fleeting and bound by inexorable time.

  3. BL
    May 12, 2012 at 6:50 am

    profound

  4. jackal
    May 12, 2012 at 8:08 am

    So, you have an extra $40,000, and you’re saying: Do not save it but spend it, instead? Maybe buy a new SUV for yourself? Is that what you’re saying? Me, I’d buy the SUV, but then I’d lease it to someone creditworthy. I’d earn, say, $800 per month. After 5 years I will have collected $48,000 and I’d still own the SUV, which I’d sell and add the proceeds to the $48,000. I’d repeat this process as many times as possible. With a mere 10 vehicles out on lease, my monthly income is $8,000 per month — my net worth growing exponentially. With such a plan, who actually needs a job? All I’d need is enough stupid people — fooling themselves across boundaries of time, culture, race and religion — who’d rather go into debt than save their own money — people who’d rather sell their freedom to become hirelings, earning money just so they can give to me. IOW, I’d be financially independent. My father didn’t need a job because he preferred saving his money so he could buy real estate, which he then rented to hirelings. He did it this way because he didn’t believe in Wall Street, and accordingly never lost a nickel of his investments. Wall Street is crooked because dumb hirelings eagerly send their 401k deductions to Wall Street every payday. Before Wall Street, people invested locally. They sure as hell didn’t send their money to some dip-shit crook they never knew or met. In this way, hirelings are to blame for Wall Street, which in turn has highjacked the political process. Cancer is a broken cell. It’s not a parasite, as you suggest. But today’s hirelings are indeed a cancer, pissing away their time employed by corrupt corporations, spending paychecks buying stuff from evil corporations, wasting their lives in what amounts to little more than company-town culture. Hell, rats on tread mills have it better. You’d be better off looking at the larger picture before condemning savers, who are the only ones with the power to exterminate the spenders who breath life into evil corporations.

  5. JamesFun
    May 12, 2012 at 11:32 am

    How is the money earned to begin with? If it is doing a job that makes you miserable, then you’ve wasted most of your life and no amount of money can buy back that time lost. How is the money used? If it is used to buy expensive things (houses, cars, millions of dollars paintings, etc) that don’t add to the enjoyment of your life and that decrease in value, then it’s like throwing the money away anyway. Saving paper money that is currently decreasing in value in the U.S. and with higher inflation, is evidence that it is not rational to accumulate paper money in the U.S. as well. If I had some extra money I would apply for a patent, but I don’t now. If I had more extra money I would go out tonight and drive to an area with more people and get an escort or go to a club, but I don’t have any extra money to do this, so money can buy a lot of fun, but unfortunately for me I don’t have this extra money. Money does buy respect, even when I am a more maculine man than many others, but when I did not have a vehicle people then viewed me as worthless than dirt (though I don’t care what others may think or say about me), so I don’t need or want the validation/approval/respect of these people regardless of how much money I don’t have. Is it rational to get married in this “modern” society? Why would anyone want to get married (straight or g*y) anyway? I will never get married, I won’t pay any money to any religions or the marriage industry, I will never lose any amount of money in a divorce, I will maintain my own self-respect doing what I want to do (if I ever get some extra money before I’m dead) no matter what society says (there’s a lot of tv shows promoting marriage, there’s articles daily about how people should get married, much of p*litical debates are about marriage/other people’s s*x lives instead of the national debt or other issues, and this seems like a cultural govt agenda that’s also odd). Other ways to try to make some extra money in the U.S. could have a person end up in jail. After death all that was horded (maybe not easily either) is going to end up going to someone else (very easily to them to be handed it) anyways (such as, the State, and maybe some relatives), so I would rather spend what I had myself before the time is over.

    • jackal
      May 12, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      How is the money earned? You begin with the basics, which means learning about the power of compound interest and the future value of money. A $200 wad today can be worth 20 to 40 grand after 30 years, depending on your skill at investing. IOW, if you had $200 to piss away on an escort tonight, you’re effectively pissing away 20 to 40 grand of future value dollars, which are gone forever, never to return. Do it weekly, and your losses quickly mount into the millions. But you’ll never find motivation to rid your spending addiction without, first, understanding the power of money. Spending addiction is no different than alcohol or any other addiction. Likewise, investing addiction works the same way, only in your favor. Live in your car if you have to. Lots of people have and do. I spent years living in a rooming house. Ralph Nader spent decades in a rooming house, maybe he still does. The main thing is to save and invest your income — not piss it all away as though an imbecile believing money is only for spending. A $500 weekly paycheck has a potential future value of 14 to 28 million dollars, depending again on your skill at putting it to work over 30 years. Save half each week and invest, you’ll end up with almost 7 to 14 million. Get a second job and invest all of it — you get there in 15 years instead of 30. You either get frugal or you end up a lifelong hireling like most everyone in life. You do have a choice. Naysayers of course will always be on the wrong end of dollars. Everything about an exchange economy is about addicting the masses into spending not just their paychecks but also going into debt so more can be spent. Historically, the basis for antisemitism has been because Jews the world over have traditionally been money lenders, pawn brokers, etc. in every country they migrated to. Classic literature is replete with Jews stereotyped as a moneyed class, the reason they’ve been hated and persecuted — by spenders, no less. Read Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which illustrates how pawn brokers quickly transform a few rubles into hundreds, while the masses feebly wonder why they live in squalor and sickness, after spending rubles as quickly as they come into hand. Spending is a disease, and like most diseases it can either hobble you or kill you.

      • May 13, 2012 at 9:27 am

        In your posts here, you look down on most people with contempt: a predator sizing up its prey.
        Yet you deride people on Wall Street?
        Your attitude is identical to theirs.

        Thirty years later, (if you haven’t died from a car accident/cancer and assuming your assets are still worth anything) you have a big pile of money, but you’re also probably old and sick.

        Escorts? When you can manage to get erect at least.
        Are spenders as ‘stupid’ as you claim since we have only a few decades as relatively youthful and able adults? Only a decade or so near our physical peak? If the probability of being alive another day statistically decreases each day we live?

        What of the value of time? Does finally becoming rich when you’re already old change the fact you spent years or decades living like an ascetic hermit breaking your back at multiple jobs?
        Is this not the most abject sort of addiction to power and status climbing?

        In the end: You spent most of your life in misery making everyone around you miserable. You never created any value or made anyone happy through your life’s work; you just shuffled around things.

        Ok, so those people were idiots and you ‘won’, right? They brought their misery on themselves, right?
        I guess there’s something to be said for a Darwinian take on things.
        I’d just point out you cannot object if you end up losing the money game despite your best efforts or if some people simply showed up, took your things, and killed you.

        Have you not noticed how much of this blog is devoted to pointing out the idiocy of zero sum ‘thinking?’

  6. InT
    May 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I think this can be explained by a fear of “reversal.” Rich/powerful people know that they are only a few shorts steps away from losing everything. If their company gets displaced by another one, their entire fortune could be wiped out. Likewise with stock gambles and whatever other intrinsically risky things rich people do. So this leads to a fanatical/uncontrolled desire to accumulate as much power as possible. It becomes sort of a war in the “all is fair in love and war” sense, and that’s where you see the major abuses happen..

  7. jackal
    May 14, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    Giovanni Dannato :
    In your posts here, you look down on most people with contempt: a predator sizing up its prey.
    Yet you deride people on Wall Street?
    Your attitude is identical to theirs.

    Do you mean “look down on people,” such as you’re looking down on me? There’s always the hypocrite who takes license to criticize someone for criticizing. Your comment is typical of someone who can’t or won’t sacrifice a few years in exchange for a lifetime of freedom, enjoying life without being at the mercy of a slave driver. You probably worship pussy to the degree that you willingly assign every paycheck to her until her ass grows as large as a hot-air balloon, then, when you don’t want her anymore, you’re as broke as the day you met her. Go ahead, spend to your hearts content. It’s what makes my lifestyle possible. If you’re too blind to see daylight on the horizon, then there’s nothing I can say or do to help you. Yes, I look down on some — but only down on those who are in denial about the assets they piss away unnecessarily. But unlike the assholes on Wall Street, one thing is certain — I don’t have any license to steal from people like they have license to do. Anyone who gives me one dollar, does so voluntarily. None begrudge me, as you do. At least I’m honest. You can’t deny me that. The thing that sets me apart from you: When someone had shocked my conscience with the knowledge of the power of compound interest, I didn’t go into denial or squirm about sacrificing. Instead, that person became my mentor. And I’m grateful to him for the freedom he bequeathed and that I’ve enjoyed ever since. And contrary to what you believe, none of my days have ever included a minute of suffering. And so what if I die without having spent my assets? At least I won’t die after having spent a lifetime without my freedom. My survivors will get my assets, on condition that they will not piss the assets away but, instead, continue to invest and enjoy the income only. And your children might, too, if you thought less about your own comforts. Just as a fool and his money are soon parted, so too is a fool and his freedom. But what liberal would know anything about such truth? If you could buy an ashtray for $5 that gave you a nickel every time a cigarette was put out it, you wouldn’t buy it, because you’d rather give the $5 to Starbucks in exchange for a few minutes of comfort. It’s your nature. It’s in your DNA. You’ll die before ever knowing what it means to be truly free, much less know the value of any cash cow.

    • May 14, 2012 at 6:52 pm

      That got you talking!

      I don’t spend money on pussies. The escort was an example of something you might want to spend some money on while you’re still young and horny. I mean, c’mon, we’re all going to die.

      I’ve taken advantage of investing myself and made some nice extra money off of it.
      But I don’t delude myself that I’m being ‘honest’ or in any way virtuous by doing so.
      I’m simply taking advantage of discrepancies in the medium of exchange. I’m hacking the system for my selfish benefit.
      I’m not producing value or doing anything that helps anyone else.

      You feel free because of the money that you’ve acquired and that’s great for you.

      But if ‘idiots’ end up as slaves and have no stake in the society that’s benefited you so greatly, why ought they not plunder your belongings? You don’t contribute anything to their lives and you have resources that they haven’t.

      You can go on all day about their stupidity and genetic inferiority but whether you’re right or wrong, why should they suffer you to exist with all your hoarded assets unless there’s something in it for them?

      You live in a mass society of millions of people. Your get your wealth from exchange tokens that derive their value from the exchanges and the belief of millions.
      Without the crowds of ‘idiots’ you’d be living in a dung hut spending all your waking hours trying to get enough food to stay alive.

      Humans are social animals. To act as if the world is all about every man for himself is dumb.
      Societies can withstand a few predators living off of everyone else, but the carrying capacity for predators in natural ecosystems is small.

      You should realize that there are millions of people scrambling to be the predators. After all, who the hell wants to be prey, a slave?
      The funny thing is that all you ‘smart’ people seem incapable of understanding what happens when everyone tries to defect.

      Without enough cooperators(‘idiots’) the game is up.

      • jackal
        May 15, 2012 at 5:28 am

        So, if I buy a new pickup and lease it to a contractor, who in turn needs the pickup to build your house, I’m not productive? You’re saying I should’ve bought a new vehicle for myself instead, pissed the money away without returning anything to the economy? Seems to me you should rag on the contractor, not me. After all, he’s the one who can’t manage his business without adding extra overhead (lease money to me), which he passes on to you in the form of a higher price for your house. I mean, if I was like him, I wouldn’t have the extra funds to lease a pickup to him in the first place. I sacrifice. He doesn’t. I make my bed. He makes his. Your thinking is what led to the Russian Revolution, which didn’t work out so well for you.

  8. May 15, 2012 at 7:13 am

    No you haven’t produced anything, you make money off of other people’s mistakes or market fluctuations.
    You gave the guy a truck to use when he needed it, but the cost of leasing the truck as you said, makes the house more expensive. The cost just gets shifted elsewhere. All that happened here is some tokens got shuffled around while you pocketed the difference and passed the bill on to someone else. Need we go into the whole broken windows story?

    It’s somewhat rational, to say: “If there can only be a few people on top profiting from others’ folly, it might as well be me.”
    But I’ll point out again, any legitimacy you possess under this rationale comes from raw power. This works as long as the world goes your way.
    Who is ‘stupid’ or ‘weak’ by your definition is pretty much anyone who stumbles, fails, or makes a bad decision.
    Under your philosophy of market evangelicism you’ve simply placed all your hopes on the weak man, the sinner never being you.

    You insinuate I am arguing for Communist revolution.

    Really, I’m just pointing out the implications of your own thinking:
    If some people simply broke into your house, took your stuff, and shot you, you were stupid and weak.
    As they stand over your dead body, their arms loaded with loot, might they not say:
    “Poor idiot, it’s his own fault for failing to defend himself. Why wasn’t there a cordon of bodyguards and minigun turrets around his property? All the better for us I guess.”

    Do you still not get it?! A mass society requires certain tacit understandings, a contract, so to speak between its millions of members in order for anyone to get anything done.
    Otherwise we’re all too busy maintaining our defenses, second guessing each other, ready to pull a gun over every misunderstanding.

  9. May 16, 2012 at 3:55 am

    Yes, but Libertarianism forbids “initiation of violence”.

  1. June 30, 2012 at 11:05 pm
  2. June 30, 2012 at 11:08 pm
  3. August 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm
  4. October 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm
  5. November 24, 2013 at 11:29 pm
  6. June 14, 2014 at 4:05 pm

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