Updated on 12.22.06

Five Essential Money Quotes And Related Thoughts

Trent Hamm

My head is full of quotes from various cultural figures and I often like to use them in conversation when appropriate. I like to collect good ones on various topics, and so here are five great quotes on the topic of finances. Feel free to pilfer these and use them wherever you feel appropriate.

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
– 1 Timothy 6:10

Most people just use a little piece of the first part (“money is the root of all evil”) without continuing with the rest for clarification. This quote is not saying that money is evil at all, just that people who covet money and place it at the center of their lives are the source of evil in the world. I think few people would really argue with that.

Lack of money is the root of all evil.
– George Bernard Shaw

Here is a trite version of the same principle, also often misinterpreted. At a quick glance, it seems to be saying the exact opposite of the Timothy quote, but they’re both saying the same thing: people who covet money and place it at the center of their lives produce evil acts. In this case, Shaw is nodding that people who think that they don’t have enough money as the source of that evil.

It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.
– Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde, for all his quirks, understood a lot of fundamental truths about humanity, and this is one of them. Money is just a tool that lets us live our lives how we want to live them, not at the whims of others.

He had heard people speak contemptuously of money: he wondered if they had ever tried to do without it.
– W. Somerset Maugham

I love it when liberal academics speak of money as some sort of taint on Western society, yet they make more money a year than my parents used to bring in in an average decade when I was younger. If you’re going to talk about poverty, you need to have experienced poverty.

So you think that money is the root of all evil? Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal wlth one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?
– Ayn Rand

Money is the product of hard work and is only a representation of other things. If you ever lose sight of that, your perspective has become greatly skewed, because every dollar is the result of hard physical and mental labor by someone.

… and here’s a final quote, not really financial in nature, but simply my favorite quote of all:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
– Benjamin Franklin

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  1. Keter says:

    You nailed it exactly: materialistic greed is the root of many evils, and is abetted by ignorance which feeds the greed on many levels.

    “If you’re going to talk about poverty, you need to have experienced poverty.” — This is a large part of what is wrong in government and public policy circles. Even the best motivated generally can’t solve economic problems because they haven’t had to deal with them personally.

    Worse, those in the position to be problem-solvers are usually disincentivized to solve economic problems because the same behaviors and systems (and those who perpetuate them) that create the problems also serve to put money in their personal (and campaign) pockets.

    The ignorance issue most directly afflicts the vast majority of consumers: they don’t understand, as Ayn Rand stopped short of demonstrating, that money no longer is worth anything…it is all faith-based. I work because I *believe* I will be paid something that I *believe* I can use to acquire things I need for my continued well being.

    A dollar is a piece of paper…or, more commonly, an electron or two…worthless unless the belief in its value is held by many — and you and I as workers and consumers have no real say over whether that will remain true. We could all wake up tomorrow and find our hard-earned money worth nothing if the money men so declare.

    The Benjamin Franklin quote is also spot-on and entirely appropriate here, because it addresses the question of “purchasing” something that cannot be purchased. Only a tangible thing — a work product such as a shirt or a meal — can really be purchased: safety is not something you can hold in your hand and its production cannot be described by a work process known to reliably produce that outcome, therefore it cannot be purchased at any price.

    Too many people are selling too many things that are intangible (insurance, for example) — and getting rich off of it because consumers don’t know they’re buying snake oil. This, BTW, is the same fallacy used to promote wars against ideas such as drugs or terror in the absence of an identifiable enemy (the enemy in both cases is a systems problem too big to have a nationality or face). The common identifier for this sort of snake oil is that it is usually sold via FEAR, as Franklin hinted.

    Closing chuckle: I love Ben Franklin, too…wish I had more of him. ;o)

  2. Mihaï says:

    I agree, my way to say it is: “I want to have enough money to not have to think about them.”

  3. thomas says:

    My favorite:
    The best way to keep money in perspective is to have some.
    -Louis Rukeyser

  4. It’s interesting to me that the Ayn Rand quote, though it’s meant to shore up her idea that how much money you have is a reflection of how you rate on her zero-to-Howard Roark scale of ideal man-itude, also perfectly describes the alienation of the workers from the means of production that underlies Marx’s idea of commodity fetishism.

  5. Terry says:

    Money is the product of hard work? I know idle rich and I working poor, who works harder?

  6. rodgerlvu says:

    I agree, my way to say it is: “I want to have enough money to not have to think about them.”

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