Money is a part of human nature and has an intense addictive quality. It is no surprise that people want money and their success in earning money directly relates to their behavior in our society.
Though economists argue that money is the most useful tool to attain power in the business world, they fail to explain people’s behavior before and after acquiring this tool.
Why does a person who is already a billionaire want more? Why are they obsessed with money beyond rationality, beyond any easy explanation? what makes these people whose lives are already comfortable make sacrifices in other areas of their lives – family, friendships and their own sanity – just to get more cash?
Behavioral experts argue that people’s actual behaviour towards money can’t be explained solely by the fact that it is useful. There is something more that provokes people into all sorts of bizarre behaviour that can’t easily be explained in terms of its function purely as a tool.
Money as a necessity for survival literally looms large in our minds – we seem to imbue it with a special status. People respond to the face value of money irrespective of its real worth. The introduction in recent years of the Euro across Europe has shown the power of this illusion. Many Europeans have suddenly been faced with a new currency whose face-value is quite different to their old currency.
People are attached to the actual form that money takes and will often resist when innovations are introduced. British people have strongly resisted the introduction of the Euro and Americans continue to reject the introduction of a dollar coin to replace the dollar bill. Not only are we particular about money’s form, we also have an emotional relationship with it. The special kind of relationship people have with money is underlined by the times when it can’t be used. Money is often not acceptable as a gift and almost never in sexual relationships; talk of money is also frowned on in high art, religion and education. Similarly there is a taboo about money buying political office (although it clearly does buy political office indirectly).
Thus it is clear that people’s behaviour and attitude towards money reach beyond its actual utility. So how can we understand it?
Perhaps by equating money to drugs. Like drugs, money changes how we feel. Drugs act on the central nervous system to create mental states that go beyond logical reasoning. Part of the benefit people derive from acquiring money – e.g. making us feel good – does not lead to some actual benefit in the world, it is just chasing money for the sake of having money.
But if money is like an addictive drug, then where did we acquire this addiction, when did we pick up the taste for money? Perhaps because we have now learnt that it the only most potent catalyst for growth and power.
While money is certainly useful, human behavior towards it can’t be explained just by its utility. The drug metaphor helps demonstrate how the motivation for money often extends past its actual utility. Culture on its own is not powerful enough to explain the human motivation for money. But thinking of money as a drug highlights the biological perspective that money addiction might be built on our drive to trade and play.
Experts are trying to explain that our culture on its own is not powerful enough to explain the human motivation for money. Money, they argue, whether for good or evil, is part of human nature.