Decoding Mammon: Money as a dangerous and subversive
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"THE love of money is the root of all kinds of evil," according
to St Paul. But it is not enough, Peter Dominy believes, to blame
our financial troubles on the love of money. In this compelling
book he sets out to show that money in itself is equally to
Money is a means by which we exchange goods and services; it
measures value, and is a store of value. Jesus warned about its
dangers - "You cannot serve God and Mammon." But society has come
to believe that there is nothing wrong with money itself. The
author seeks to show that money is a deeply flawed instrument that
suits those in power rather than meets our needs.
He begins by looking at money, debt, and interest. Debt has long
caused suffering, but there has been a huge increase in debt in the
past 30 years, and it is the poorest who pay the highest rates of
interest. The author rightly points out that an interest-free
economy would be much more equitable than the one we have
He sets out four compelling reasons why money creates enormous
problems. Money "almost inevitably" produces injustice and
inequality. It is held by individuals, or by corporate bodies, who
use it for their benefit rather than for the community. Inevitably,
it falls into fewer and fewer hands.
Second, he writes, money value "has increasingly come to
displace all other measures of value". Money determines what we
consider is valuable. Christian values have much to contribute to
the "reformation" of money.
Money and desire comes next; and the author quotes Jesus's
reference to the "deceitfulness of wealth" in the Gospel of Mark.
Finally, the danger of money is seen most clearly, says Dominy, in
the power relationships that it encourages and fosters. It
exercises over us a power that cannot be justified in Christian
The author does not argue that money should be replaced, but
that the roots of its power should be cut. He calls for debt to be
regulated, for interest to be tackled, and for public regulation so
that money is shared on the basis of justice. In this prophetic
book, Dominy warns that if the problems are not tackled seriously,
"it could dissolve the whole fabric of our society."
John Madeley is a journalist and writer who specialises in
economic and social development issues.