The Hidden Costs of Money

PRINCETON – When people say that “Money is the root of all evil,” they usually don’t mean that money itself is the root of evil. Like Saint Paul, from whom the quote comes, they have in mind the love of money. Could money itself, whether we are greedy for it or not, be a problem?

Karl Marx thought so. In The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, a youthful work that remained unpublished and largely unknown until the mid-twentieth century, Marx describes money as “the universal agent of separation,” because it transforms human characteristics into something else. A man may be ugly, Marx wrote, but if he has money, he can buy for himself “the most beautiful of women.” Without money, presumably, some more positive human qualities would be needed. Money alienates us, Marx thought, from our true human nature and from our fellow human beings.