The Fight Against the Rule of Money in American History

The Fight Against the Rule of Money in American History
“On the one side, there is the rule of money with a set of secular values”

Throughout American history, two sides, two economic outlooks, two lifestyles have long opposed each other as if engaged in constant combat.

On the one side, there is the rule of money with a set of secular values, which include quantity, function, efficiency, and utility. This rule tends to reduce everything to terms of self-interest, matter, and production.

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On the other side is another rule with its own set of values that opposes that of money. This rule is the rule of honor which conveys the definition of an authentic esteem given to all that is excellent in a social atmosphere of respect, affection, and courtesy. It defines a lifestyle that naturally leads men to esteem and seek after those things that are excellent. It introduces into the market square a set of values that includes quality, beauty, goodness, and charity.

The fight between these two rules in early American history can be found in the following quote from American statesman Gouverneur Morris:

“It would appear that at a certain period of their development there exists in human societies a natural tendency towards the rule of money, and where this becomes uppermost it ruins and destroys the aristocracy. This takes the form of diminishing respect for virtue, because in reality, whatever may have been the origin of the great families, certain of their members have shed over each one of them a splendor which makes virtue an imperative duty. Moreover, I think that this assertion is justified by experience, and that such families are generally more distinguished and lofty in their conduct than the others. It matters little whether this is the fruit of education, or the example and respect for their ancestors, or whether it results from the affluence of wealth which places them above temptation; conduct such as this should inspire a feeling of respect in others. But when the influence of wealth becomes great, the maxim ‘Be rich, honestly if you can; but be rich,’ becomes a general one. From that moment I think we may date the decline.”

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(Taken from Frantz Funck-Brentano, The Old Regime in France, New York, N.Y., Howard Fretig, 1970, p.115.)