Do Things Even Matter?

Improvement of the human condition implies the creation of things, but do those things even matter?

I spend a great deal of my time worrying about the future.  I know that the present monetary policies pursued by the Fed will destroy the American economy.  I know that similar policies pursued by nations such as AngolaArgentinaAustriaBelarusBoliviaBosniaBrazilChinaFranceFree City of DanzigGeorgiaGermanyGreeceHungaryKrajinaMexicoNicaraguaPeruPhilippinesPoland, 1921–1924Poland, 1989–1991Republika SrpskaRoman EgyptRomaniaSoviet Union / Russian FederationTaiwanUkraineUnited StatesYugoslaviaZaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Zimbabwe have all ended in disaster for the citizens of those states.

But there is a part of me that looks at the mess we are in and says “good.”  It is time to end the materialism and greed that has dominated western thinking since the inception of the United States.  With the inevitable failure of the dollar will come the collapse of the largest and most expansive criminal empire in the history of the world.  The debate between Keynesianism and Austrian school economics is largely pointless, given that the fate of the US economy is sealed by the people who support its government and the economic laws that govern it.

Whether people believe the theories espoused by Krugman or Bernanke is besides the point.  Whether the theories espoused by Krugman or Bernanke are even correct is besides the point!  The market does not care if Bernanke or Krugman are right or wrong.  The market will not change the governing laws of its behavior to suit an academic theory.  The market will do what it always does, and in the end, the market always wins.

Printing money has not, nor will it ever,  increase the prosperity of a society.  It’s not like this is some kind of new lesson to be learned.  Paul Krugman recently accused Paul of wanting to set us back to where we were 150 years ago.  Paul responded by saying Krugman wants to set us back to where we were several thousand years ago under the Emperor Diocletian.  Paul should have also mentioned this nation’s earliest encounter with the printing press just a few hundred years ago.  The destruction of the dollar will not be the first time this nation has underwent a hyperinflationary currency implosion, but this time it will be the largest such implosion in recorded world history.

Returning to my original point; the printing of money as a mechanism of wealth redistribution is borne entirely out of greed for material goods.  The scarcity of goods incites fears within people that they will somehow not have enough of whatever it is they need to survive.  Their fear drives them to do the same self-destructive things that people have always done throughout history. In order to overcome fear, one must have a supreme confidence in their eternal self; their consciousness, also called the soul.  When a person does not fear death, there is nothing that can make them afraid.  When a person realizes that their awareness is not the product of bio-chemical reactions, but rather a fundamental component of the universe, death becomes a mere transition rather than an end.

Wars are borne out of fear.  Hyperinflation is borne out of fear.  The state itself is borne out of fear.  Fear that some other state will tax us.  Fear that some other state will take our “things.”  Fear that some terrorists will tear down our mercantilist edifices.  Fear that poor people and the elderly will go without food, housing, clothing, or education unless violence is used to redistribute wealth.  All of these fears have the same underlying cause of scarcity.  It is ridiculous to think that the state can take away the scarcity that pervades our physical universe through the creation of laws or the printing of money.

The greater question of “why are we here?” must be addressed in order to make some headway in overcoming our irrational fears of scarcity that lead us to do insane things like print money or nuke cities into oblivion.  When people come to understand that it is OK to be poor, it is OK to go through life living simply, and it is even OK to die, the irrational fears, that ultimately manifest themselves into reality, will disappear.  Does anyone actually think that the state is necessary for society to create the material goods necessary to simply support each person’s own existence?    Does anyone think they will never die?  Does anyone think that they can take their toys with them after they die?  Does anyone think that transferring hundreds of billions of dollars a year into the pockets of Big Pharma and the health care industry, through the use of force, will prevent them from meeting their maker at some point?  If not, then what is the point of it all?

Can some people have “too much” while others have “too little?”  What is too little?  Starving to death or dying from exposure?  What is too much?  Owning a palace and a super-yacht? Is the guy with the palace somehow immune from the laws of nature regarding his ultimate fate?  Would the starving man live forever if he was given food and shelter?  Perhaps the yacht owner will die a horrific death from cancer a few years down the road.  Is that death somehow less worse than starvation?  From this perspective, isn’t it pure greed that causes us to label someone as having “too much?”

Monks around the world live in poverty by choice, with most subsisting entirely on voluntary donations from the public around them.  Do you think the fact that they have overcome their greed of material things is why governments imprison and persecute them today?  Perhaps it is because the monks point out the greed that is in the hearts of those who support the state which makes people hate them so much.  They don’t need the state to do anything for them.  They fear nothing, not even death, as is evidenced by them lighting themselves on fire to prove a point.  I like to think that they overcame their fear and greed by realizing what their true selves actually are.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that we turn the world into some kind of global impoverished monastery!  I’m simply pointing out that what we actually need in this life is far less than what we think we need.  We don’t need violent wealth redistribution, organized by a state, to ensure the poor have a roof over their head and something in their stomach.  We don’t need violence to fund our health care system.  We don’t need violence to fund our defense.  We don’t need these things because the awareness that is your consciousness doesn’t need anything other than to simply be.  We will all eventually die and experience the transition of consciousness into the non-physical, and whether this occurs sooner rather than later is of no real consequence in the grand scheme of things.

The goal of our existence should be to relieve suffering; however, I contend that suffering cannot be relieved through violence!  Violence is simply the transference of suffering, not the elimination of suffering.  To eliminate suffering, we must create and we must love one another.  Only through love and the creative process is suffering put to an end, rather than simply being transferred on to others.

  • Akagaga

     A nice, thoughtful piece, Michael.  I discovered what “I need” about thirty years ago when I started backpacking.  Everything I really needed (and some things I didn’t) fit neatly into a pack that I could carry anywhere.  That was a revelation that made material things far less important, and I learned to be in the world but not of the world.

    We do disagree on a couple points, though.  While some wars are born out of fear, some are born from an evil desire for power.  Evil and good do exist in this world, and I cannot write off our souls as a “a fundamental component of the universe” rather than a reflection of the God who created us.

    “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O  DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

  • Nelson007

    very zen Buddhist of you Michael!


  • Cmcmahon

    I would say many of the “things” people peruse these days are not needed. However at the same time many “things” could make life much easier for the common man. I see the establishment deny inventions to people just because it doesn’t work for the government. Look up 78MPG cars in Europe. They exist now but are not sold in the U.S.

    I think most of the problems we are facing are created by spoiled children, masquerading as grownups, in positions of power. They want to socialize the wealthy and capitalize the poor. The idea that made this the greatest country in the world was in a word competition. If you want to stay on top you have to constantly innovate. We have become a nation that stifles invention in favor of the status quo.

    The only way to fix our current situation is peace. Without war the establishment looses all power. That that one to heart.

  • PKP

    I’ve been silently watching with interest MS’s philosophical journey from plasma cosmology and economics into ontology and meaning of life. I can see you headed towards the teachings of Buddha. There is a lot of similarity between the teachings of Buddha and Jesus (not mainstream Christianity which are man made religions, but following Jesus which is a way of life). However, there are some huge differences that become apparent quickly. Buddha tried to answer the question of “why is there suffering” and said that it is because of selfish desires. Hence the Buddhist monks were prescribed mendicancy, but beggars are actually dependent on others in society or the state to provide for them. Notice that all Buddhist societies devolved into totalitarianism or Communism. Hinduism (the root that spawned Buddhism and Jainism) answered the same question with the answer that suffering is caused by man not knowing his inner divinity and when he does he stops reincarnating. Notice that Hindu societies have castes, people under repression, superstition, backwardness, etc. which exist today in India (my home, mostly impoverished) and Nepal (the only Hindu nation which is very impoverished and also has a sizeable Marxist uprising) and this came about after the periods of initial debauchery and hedonism of ancient Hindu kings led to their decline, leading to foreign takeovers. Both of these religions claim there is no truth (which invalidates their own statements) and that everything is a “maya” illusion. Notice that this is an epistemic condition for economic and scientific backwardness.
    However, Jesus is the only one who proclaimed that there is truth, that we can know the truth, there is meaning and purpose to life, value for human life and practiced proactive love for one’s neighbors. This and other epistemological foundations provided only by a Christian worldview is why the Reformation gave rise to the Scientific Revolution in Europe. You may already know Max Weber’s thesis “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” (which describes how the Reformed church “invented” capitalism.) If you would like to do a comparative study of the religions, their ontology and epistemology, then please check out the works of Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi at He wrote a book entitled The Book That Made Your World: How The Bible Created The Soul of the Western Civilization. You can listen to his mp3s or read articles on these subjects for free at the above site. It will be worth your time. Peace. (John 14:27) Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

    • Thanks for the great information.

      I’m no theological expert, I simply call it as I see it.  It’s nice that you provided some additional background for contemplation.