The man ought to tell money what the value of a thing is, and never vice versa. We should not get an impression of the value of a thing from the price tag on it. This is because money, the means of exchange, is actually of little value in and of itself. It takes on the value of what it could purchase, or be exchanged for. The value of money is not intrinsic but imparted. Without things to market, money is without value, but without money, things still retain their intrinsic worth. A tree is a tree, a rock a rock, a diamond a diamond, and an education -an education.
If I paid a certain amount of money to educate my child, I would not equate the value of that education to the fees paid. I won't say my child had a 40 million or a 60 million education. The value of my child's education cannot be expressed in monetary terms, even though it was purchased at a particular amount. Educating my child has a value of its own that is very different from what it cost. And so it is with everything of value in life. Money represents an accurate estimation of COST, but a rough estimation, and sometimes quite so, of VALUE.
Cost and value bear a certain relationship, but there is sometimes a whole world of difference. They are related to the extent that the more valuable a thing is, the costlier it should be. However, 'value' is an intrinsic quality that has several determinants and characteristics which money cannot accurately measure. Consequently, something may bear the heavy cost and be of little value and quite useless, whilst another thing may bear the light cost and prove invaluable. Money, therefore, has a certain poverty when it comes to value, by virtue of its own lack of value, and the key here is to separate these two, in the pursuits of life.
The lesson, therefore, is to put 'value' where value belongs, and money where 'money' belongs. Money is useful, therefore, not valuable. Certain things are valuable, but money is not one of them. Money is used to mobilize those things, and there it should end. It should not be at the centre of our endeavours nor the reason for rising early or sitting up late. Although it is very useful for the exchange of value, we must not get carried away to the point where we defocus from things of actual value and usurp their place by making money itself the reason for everything. That always turns the course of society upside down. That is the lesson.
And it is a very important lesson. It makes us never give up something of quality for the sake of money; something like honesty or a calling. It is the difference between ambition and vision, between making money and serving a purpose, between unhealthy rivalry and healthy innovative competition, between the need to meet up with status and the simplicity of personal satisfaction: a thing which if understood, will change the world, one person, one business, one society after another.
It requires us to go for what is expedient, not what is imminent and pressing on us, with or without real value. It requires us to go for what will outlast us instead of what will announce us. It gives us the freedom to make choices of what actually is, rather than of what only seems to be. It considers posterity as a true measure of prosperity, by placing personal aggrandizement secondary to economic and socio-cultural legacies. We are safe where 'value' is the primary reason, but where money is the reason…..everything falls apart. In slow motion.
Placing value on things that are actually valuable, and letting money serve those things gives rise to a value system. However, when on the other hand, 'value' is placed on money, having money, and making money; the values of things that actually have value decrease, sometimes to the point of insignificance. That is called a money system. In a money system, I could sacrifice honesty or integrity, the goal is to make money. I could buy beauty, or seek to sell sensitive information. It is the reason for every dirty and unsavoury cut-throat event that occurs in the business world.
The reason why we have a failed state is that it operates a money system instead of a value system. Say politics and money come to mind. A friend who gets a political appointment is perceived as one connected not to leadership, nor nation building, but one connected to money, and one who would soon become very rich. At the back of the rush for government projects and contracts is little to do with the passion for nation building. The main deal is that at every junction along such business is the opportunity for money to be gained. That is a money system. While it may be obvious that such a system is partly the reason for a failed state, it mightn’t readily be seen that on a personal level, it equally gives rise to failure.
If one wants to have a lot of money and it is to be meaningful eventually, one would have to have a lot of value and get money to work it. Like a business with one worker, which as it expands gets more workers. Or a house with servants. The truly wealthy men today, and from time, get to a point where they give out almost all the money they have and make even more in no time. They operate, not a money system, but a value system. Like a servant, they send money around; and it comes back. On the other hand, those who have obtained riches otherwise, even though they now have the means to make wealth, find it extremely difficult because they do not understand value. They have to hold on to what they have rather tenaciously and are afraid to lose any of it. By the second generation, all is wiped out and forgotten.
Money is needed (yes, it is needed) as a means of exchange for value, but itself is not worth much. It is not worth living for, and it is not worth dying for. It is not worth your family, friendships, esteem, or your health. It is a means of acquiring value, transferring value, transporting value. Value is the substance, money is the means. So if at the end of the dance, one is left holding on to cash, and only cash, it has been a pointless exercise, and a waste of good music. Set up a value system that money can serve, as it exchanges value from one level to another, instead of setting up a money system, where the main point is to make money and then make some more. It destroys people, families, legacies, and nations -eventually.
What is the cost of a plot of land? Can you tell me? You'd say it depends on where. It could be 400 thousand here and 40 million there. And the latter may not be as good or well situated as the former. Actually land, like the best things in life, is both free and priceless. The price tag on it does not tell us its value, but its (man-made) cost. That is a simple example of the thought behind the economy of value, but the scope goes beyond real estate. It does not merely acquire land; it mobilizes value and improves the quality of life for the next generation. It makes the world a much better place to live in. Such a thing is achievable only where money is removed from the reason-for-all-things position in the equation of life, and placed where it should be, as one of the parameters in the service of value.
- Ebele Uzo Peters
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