Saturday, February 12, 2005

Too Much

Why do people desire more than they need?

I see two answers to this question: 1) Practicality and 2) Power.

It's certainly not uncommon nor unwise to want a back-up. If you lose your job, it's wise to have a savings account to see you through the lean times. If your car is in the shop, it's nice to have a 2nd vehicle to get you around (though maybe it might be better simply to take the bus). If a friend stops by around dinner time, it's nice to have an extra potato on hand to pop in the oven.

I think this desire to want a little extra is rooted in the history of human existence. In days of yore, our species often existed at the whim of nature. A mighty wind or wall of water or a trembling of the earth could easily destroy the year's crops. If nothing had been put away from previous seasons, the whole tribe or community might starve. So, it makes sense to want to fill one's basic needs and put a little back for safekeeping to get one through a calamity.

Unfortunately, we humans, being as we are, seem to have a penchant for taking a pragmatic concept and stretching it out to its extreme. What began as a simple concept -- holding a little back as a safeguard -- has morphed into a mentality that is altogether different. Instead of holding a little back, many tend to hoard. It's one thing to keep a potato or two in reserve; it's quite another to fill warehouses with bushel upon bushel of potatoes.

For starters, the individual who is hoarding the potatoes knows that he can't possibly eat them all before they rot. If he attempts to eat as many as possible, he will be nothing more than a glutton. If he has no use for the extra potatoes and simply allows them to rot, then he is nothing more than a selfish person who has promoted great waste.

So, why collect all these bushels of potatoes? I would say that, in almost every case, the potato collector is hoping to cash in on the misery of others. If others fall victim to calamity and are on the brink of starvation, the person who has hoarded potatoes can sell them at almost any price he names. This is called the science of monopoly and it is why monopolies are adverse to the concept of community.

In my opinion,the drive to accumulate more than one needs or could ever use is rooted in a far more sinister motivation. If you have vastly more of something of value than others do, this excess grants you immense power. Using the example of the potato, you alone get to decide who can buy a potato and who can't -- you are able to accomplish this feat through the "pricing" mechanism. In other words, you alone get to decide who lives and who dies. In a manner of speaking, you obtain the power of God.

Because you have a corner on all the potatoes or you and a small cabal have hoarded all the potatoes, you must erect an apparatus to protect "your" potatoes from the hungry masses, lest they all get together and storm the warehouses. So you create the "state" and develop police powers to shield you from the have nots. You pass a lot of laws that "apply" to everyone equally BUT, in reality, only truly apply to those you seek protection from -- the starving masses.

And this leads to my belief that the DESIRE to become wealthy is evil. I have no problem whatsoever with the drive to meet basic needs and to keep a little extra in reserve. This I call prudence. However, when an individual moves beyond this basic precept, we enter the realm of desiring to have power and dominion over others. You want freedom for yourself and your family, but not for others. You want the power to say who receives and who doesn't. In other words, you want the opportunity to be able to call the shots as YOU see fit.

But, I hear some say, "I want everyone to have the opportunity to become wealthy". The problem here is that if everyone became "wealthy", then wealth would cease to exist as a concept. Wealth can only exist in the presence of poverty. It is only by understanding its opposite that any concept holds meaning. If everyone possesses 100 bushels of potatoes, then nothing of these potatoes has any value or, we could also say, they are all valued equally. Therefore, no one would gain an advantage.

In the end, that's the entire motivation of accumulating wealth -- gaining an advantage over others. You want to be richer, stronger, or more powerful than most of your neighbors. And the only advantage you gain from being richer, stronger or more powerful than others is being able to control the lives of others. In essence, wealth is merely a synonym for control. And where there is unregulated control, there cannot be true community.


  1. Great insights Trey! Also, it strikes me that humans (in our "civilized" cultures) are the only creatures that exhibit this "excessive accumulation" trait. Even indigenous peoples are smart enough to refrain from this behavior because they know it's unsustainable.

    -Bob W

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