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Like muck, money needs to be spread

19 July 2013

If it isn't, this flawed instrument harms society, warns John Madeley

Decoding Mammon: Money as a dangerous and subversive instrument
Peter Dominy
Wipf and Stock £12

"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 blame.

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 today.

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 terms.

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.

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