Follow the Money
Follow the Money
The money trail will always tell us what we value as a society.
Look to see where the money goes. Take a look at who gets it and what it is used for. That will tell you exactly what we value in our society.
This is true regardless of the type of political system. It is true regardless of the type of economic system. It is true for all economic policies. It is true for free markets.
The only exceptions involve people who are economic slaves. These are people who have absolutely no recourse in having their values reflected in the type of society that they are forced to live in. They have no economic power and they have no political power. They cannot vote (or they live in a society in which their votes don’t really count), they cannot hold a political office from which they can make a difference, and they cannot join forces in order to pool resources and gain political or economic power. They have had no say in the type of society that they live in, and they have no power to change this situation. These people are invisible when it comes to society’s values. The money trail reflects the cumulative values of everybody else.
What you choose to do with your own money reflects your values. What you buy with this money reflects your values. Where the money goes after you spend it is also part of the money trail, and if you are aware of this money trail when you spend it, the money trail will be a reflection of your values. Your values create this money trail and the money trail will lead to specific results in society. If you save or invest money, then what happens to that money in the hands of others will also be part of the money trail that you have created through your values. This money trail leads to specific results for you and for society. Only real results matter; theoretical outcomes do not.
You even make choices which determine where you get your money, and how much you get. This too reflects your values. How these choices affect other people in society reflect your values. Sometimes people make money in ways that benefit others, and sometimes people make money in ways that exploit others – these are results of values. There is a money trail that will determine these results.
Government policies that you choose to support or oppose also involve real results that affect real people and society in general. Theories and philosophy will not determine what these results are, but the money trail will. Each policy option will alter the real outcome by altering the money trail. How policies affect real people, and how potential policies would affect real people, as determined by how the policies alter the money trail, reflect the values of those who support these policies.
If you know that specific outcomes will result from your choices, and you are okay with those outcomes, then those outcomes become something that you value.
You don’t have to tell me what you value, what I value, or what we value as a nation. The money trail will tell me that. The only thing that matters is the end result. Don’t tell me that you value one economic or political philosophy over another, or which economic theories you subscribe to, or why. Don’t tell me that you value human life, or that you support the notion that “all men are created equal”, or that you have Christian values, or anything else using similar language about values. The actual results from the policies you support in the real world for real people will tell me what you value. The results matter and nothing else. If you support policies which cause pain and suffering, starvation, and even death, then those are real results that reflect your values. Theories and philosophy are irrelevant if the real world results tell a different story.
If you see economic injustice, do you ignore it, because it reflects your own values? Do you complain about it, but still support the policies that brought about the injustice? Do you excuse it, because it is a natural result of a system that you support?
Or would you support making changes that address the injustice? Would you be willing to spend more of your money to decrease injustice, or would you continue to spend your money in ways that contribute to injustice?
The way that your choices create real results for real people reflects your values. Follow the money, and you will be able to see these results.
What you say you value and what you claim are your political and economic philosophies, or even your religious beliefs for that matter, mean very little if your choices create a money trail that says something else entirely.
A version of this essay is included as a chapter in the book Common Misconceptions of Economic Policy by Jerry Wyant. You can purchase this book in paperback form from Amazon and other online book distributors. The list price is $12.99 (only $9.99 using discount code TA9GTK7E when ordering, depending on the distribution channel). Or if you prefer, you can download a digital version on your device (Kindle, Nook, etc.) for $4.99.
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