Why do people view making money as evil?

I have always been puzzled by the fact that so many people today – more than ever before – view making money as evil.

My personal opinion?

1. I believe people who cannot themselves make as much money by living honest and hardworking lives often feel that the only way so much wealth must have been gotten is by evil means.

2. I believe there was a time before capitalism took hold when everybody didn’t have too many opportunities to make vast amounts of money without resorting to illegal or evil ways. It was a time when the government (or before that the monarchy) controlled everything. Actual freedom to run with your ideas and build companies is a recent development. It happened in the US first. In other countries, it’s even more recent. So even when capitalism took hold, initially it wasn’t fair. There was a lot of what is now referred to as crony capitalism. In the US this was the time of the “robber barons”. In India, Russia, China, etc….people are still living in this “robber baron’s” age. This has enforced the idea in the common man’s mind that making money is evil. It will take some time before enough people will be able to earn significant amounts of money through honest means before this idea changes.

3. I believe because with money – or Freedom – you get to do everything you want; for lots of people having those freedoms can sometimes be evil because they are blinded by the stereotype created by the society that doing what you always want and not caring about what others say is evil. We ALL do evil things every day. But with money in your hands, those evil things escalate without you even knowing it.

4. I believe people tend to view the wealthy between us through two different lenses.

· Inventor/creator who deserves to be rich: Few, for example, would argue that Steve Jobs or Bill Gates don’t deserve their money. People have a tangible link to products that they see and like and the people who created them. Even if people don’t like Microsoft as a company, few would say that Bill Gates is an evil man, especially, since he is dedicated to giving most of his wealth away through the Gates Foundation.

· Paper/money shufflers who aren’t adding ‘value’ to society: this is where a lot of the animosity and suspicion lie. If you say the words Banker or Lawyer, the negative connotations are around this group. They don’t really “create” anything, and they seem to make money by shuffling paper or other people’s money around.

Even though people in the first group are fabulously wealthy, society deems it as ok as there is a visible value exchange taking place. They’ve created things that you can see and touch and have made a difference in the world. The fact that they have billions of dollars in wealth, as a result, is deemed to be well deserved by most.

It is when the value exchange is not so clear-cut that the people’s suspicions arise, and that’s where most of the second group falls into. If a hedge fund manager makes tens of millions of dollars a year, what did society get in return? He may in fact not have even made that much money for his clients, and got paid just from the cut of the funds under management.

This is an overly simplistic example, but I think it accurately describes the gut feeling that people have today … and because most of the people who are wealthy aren’t the Steve Jobs types, most are lumped into the second group. This suspicion and distrust of the money types is nothing new. Thomas Jefferson had a distrust of the cities and liked the agrarian ideal where the ‘real’ people lived. It is sad we have simply carried forward this ancient prejudice to this day.

It is maybe high time to start changing this long embedded view of money to a much healthier and creative one.

After all is said and done, I believe there are only 2 paths to happiness in life. Utter Stupidity or Exceptional Wealth. No need to even guess which path would any reasonable person choose.

What do you say?

Please share your thoughts


Written by

Ziad K. Abdelnour, Wall Street financier, trader and author is President & CEO of Blackhawk Partners, Inc., a private family office that backs accomplished operating executives in growing their businesses both organically and through acquisitions and trades physical commodities – mostly oil derivatives – throughout the world.