The last word on money

Whether it is painted as the root of all evil or the means to a happy life, money always stirs strong sentiment. Kevin Jackson has spent time collecting a mint of ideas from some great and not so great thinkers
Click to follow
FEW SUBJECTS have so exercised the minds and attention of the world's greatest writers as money. Not even love, said Gladstone, has made so many fools of men as pondering on the nature of money. Yet that has not deflected writers, from Aristophanes and Aristotle down to Auden and Amis, from debating its nature and its merits.

Money remains a universal preoccupation in literature, as it is in all our everyday lives.

For years a fierce argument has raged betwen those who cling to the notion radix malorum est cupiditas - the love of money is the root of all evil - and those who see money as something more noble, or at least essential to the achievement of personal independence. As the current political argument over executive pay demonstrates, our attitude towards money remains a deeply ambiguous one.

The pros and cons of this timeless argument are rehearsed at length in the pages of The Oxford Book of Money, a newly published anthology of writing on the subject. The 480-page anthology was edited by Kevin Jackson, Associate Arts Editor of The Independent. The extracts that follow give some flavour of the emotional heat which this subject, more than any other, invariably generates.

Money pays for whatever you want - if you have the money.

Money buys food, clothes, houses, land, guns, jewels, men, women, time to be lazy and listen to music.

Money buys everything except love, personality, freedom, immortality, silence, peace.

Money is power, freedom, a cushion, the root of all evil, the sum of blessings.

CARL SANDBURG 1936

Money is human happiness in the abstract; and so, the man who is no longer capable of enjoying such happiness in the concrete sets his whole heart on money.

ARTHUR SCHOPENAUER

1851.

Happiness is the deferred fulfilment of a prehistoric wish. That is why wealth brings so little happiness; money is not an infantile wish.

SIGMUND FREUD 1898.

The usual definitions of the functions of money are that money is a medium of exchange, a measure of value, a standard of deferred payment and a store of value.

SIR NORMAN ANGELL 1930

Money is the last enemy that shall never be subdued. While there is flesh there is money - or the want of money; but money is always on the brain so long as there is a brain in reasonable order.

SAMUEL BUTLER 1912.

Money is not, properly speaking, one of the subjects of commerce, but only the instrument which men have agreed upon to facilitate the exchange of one commodity for another. It is none of the wheels of trade: it is the oil which renders the motion of the wheels more smooth and easy.

DAVID HUME 1752

Money. You don't know where it's been, but you put it where your mouth is. And it talks.

DANA GIOIA 1991.

Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, or rather thrown away, five shillings besides.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 1748.

Time is money - says the vulgarest saw known to any age or people. Turn it round, and you get a precious truth - money is time . . .

With money I buy for cheerful use the hours which otherwise would not in any sense be mine; nay, which would make me their miserable bondsman . . .

What are we doing all our lives but purchasing, or trying to purchase, time? And most of us, having grasped it with one hand, throw it away with the other.

GEORGE GISSING

1903.

Money and time are the heaviest burdens of life, and . . . the unhappiest of all mortals are those who have more of either than they know how to use.

SAMUEL JOHNSON

1758.

All money, properly so called, is an acknowledgment of debt. The intricacy of the question has been much increased by the use of marketable commodities such as gold, silver, salt, shells, etc, to give intrinsic value or security to currency; but the final and best definition of money is that it is a documentary promise ratified and guaranteed by the nation to give or find a certain quantity of labour on demand.

JOHN RUSKIN 1860.

Since money, as the existing and active concept of value, confounds and exchanges everything, it is the universal confusion and transposition of all things - the inverted world, the confusion and transposition of all natural and human qualities.

KARL MARX 1844.

Money is the MOMENT to me. Money is my MOOD.

ANDY WARHOL 1975.

Above all things, good policy is to be used that the treasure and monies in a state be not gathered into few hands, for otherwise a state may have a great stock and yet starve. And money is like muck, not good except it be spread.

FRANCIS BACON.

The thing that differentiates man from animals is money. All animals have the same emotions and the same ways as men. Anybody who has lots of animals around knows that. But the thing that no animal can do is count, and the thing that no animal can know is money.

GERTRUDE STEIN

1936.

Money is in itself most admirable. It is essential. It is not intrinsically evil. It is one of the most useful devices in social life. And when it does what it is intended to do, it is all help and no hindrance.

HENRY FORD 1922.

You will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh.

They do not know how mean it makes you. It exposes you to endless humiliation, it cuts your wings, it eats into your soul like a cancer.

W SOMERSET MAUGHAM

Of Human Bondage 1915.

The point is, we all need a nest egg to fall back on, but not while wearing a good suit. Finally let us bear in mind that it is easier to spend two dollars than to save one. And for God's sake don't invest money with any brokerage firm in which one of the partners is named Frenchy.

WOODY ALLEN

Without Feathers 1976.

Money is a creature of law, and if laws do not create enough money, then there will not be enough in circulation. If you want more wheat, you can go out and raise wheat; if you want more of any kind of manufactured goods, you can produce them; but if the people want more money, they cannot bring money into existence.

WILLIAM JENNING BRYAN

1897.

Money, in a word, is the most universal incitement, iron the most powerful instrument, of human industry; and it is very difficult to conceive by what means a people, neither actuated by the one nor seconded by the other, could emerge from the grossest barbarism.

EDWARD GIBBON 1776.

A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry; but money answereth all things.

ECCLESIASTES 10:19.

High prices and heavy taxation will destroy a society just as effectively as war. Can you recall when amid howls of fury the English income tax reached a shilling in the pound?

RAYMOND CHANDLER

Selected Letters 1981.

If you want to write a book about me, then there is one thing you must put in: money. The cinema is all money but the money figures twice; first you spend all your time running to get the money to make the film, but then in the film the money comes back again, in the image.

JEAN LUC GODARD

1980.

Money has become in all civilised nations the universal instrument of commerce, by the intervention of which goods of all kinds are bought and sold, or exchanged for one another.

ADAM SMITH 1776.

Every society that is based on an ancient structure, and opens its doors to money, sooner or later loses its acquired equilibra and liberates forces thenceforth inadequately controlled. The new form of interchange jumbles things up, favours a few rare individuals and rejects the others. Every society has to turn over a new leaf under the impact.

FERNAND BRAUDEL 1973.

Put all your eggs in one basket: and watch that basket.

ANDREW CARNEGIE.

qThe Oxford Book of Money was edited by Kevin Jackson, and published by Oxford Univeristy Press.

It costs £17.99.

Comments