One of my favorite film characters is Gordon Gekko played by Michael Douglas. In the film “Wall Street” (1987, directed by Oliver Stone), Gekko is characterized as a malicious money-hungry tyrant who’s willing to step on anyone for the green.
In perhaps the most famous scene, Gekko gives the famous “greed is good” speech.
He states that “greed,” for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”
Generally speaking, if anyone values money like Gekko, he is usually perceived as evil. That is, while some values are deemed morally good and respectable, others (such as the value of money) are often times portrayed in a villainous way. Though Gekko broke a few laws to gain money, if he hadn’t broken any, would his love for money be accepted as okay?
Through experience, I’ve come to believe otherwise. One example I can point to is my journey to become a lawyer. So far, I’ve taken a fairly legitimate route. But, when it comes to explain why I am doing this, my main reason is probably money. I’m interested in law, and I enjoy arguing, but $125K as a Duke Law grad is far more appealing.
Yet, many people would contend that such a reason is morally reprehensible and irrational. However, a response as such is erroneous. And it points to the closed-minded (and often subjective) value system that people share. In what follows, I want to argue that valuing money as a means or an end is not morally wrong.
The first argument is that values are relative. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Money is the root of all evil”? The phrase has given money a really bad name.
People tend to shy away from the “making money” reason to do things. In the Western world, people that want to just make money are often depicted as evil and morally reprehensible (i.e. Scrooge).
Yet this is unfair. Why are things like love and family placed at such a high regard, while money is not? Are values not relative to a person?
If I wanted to spend the rest of my life trying to build up wealth, then what is the big deal? I think it is possible for a person to value money just like a person values love or family.
Thus, I would argue that since values are relative to a person, one is not warranted to argue that a person is wrong if he values money. If that is accepted, then one could easily argue that valuing family is equally wrong. The value of money is not wrong, but the actions that people commit are.
The second argument is that money makes people happy. When people have money, they’re able to do all kinds of things. People with more money tend to be healthier, more educated and overall happier people.
Now, money doesn’t make all people happy, but it is clear that when financial burdens are alleviated, life seems easier. Hence, it seems reasonable for a person to want to make more money in life because it invariably leads to a better life. Thus, I would argue that my value for money is, to the contrary of what others believe, a morally good thing. In fact, I would put it on par with raising a family, getting married or graduating college; because in the end, they all make us happy.