Our relationship with money is much more complicated than immediately becomes apparent. Yes, we need money, but to some extent we also need to be outside of it.
Every day people are giving something away for free. Everywhere in the world, and right here in Vienna. People are giving away their time. Their knowledge. Their expertise. Their physical power. Their money. Their belongings. For free.
This is something that classical economic theory, as it is thought in schools all over the world until today, can’t explain. Assuming that everyone acts on their own self-interest, it just doesn’t make sense.
Yet it happens. And it does make sense.
In fact, I would say sometimes people are even more likely to do something for free than for money.
Why is that?
People do things because they sympathise with someone else. Because they enjoy it. Perhaps because they like to brag. Or because they are hoping to receive something back. But mainly, people do things to achieve the sense of being a good person.
And the latter can only be created through unambiguous activities. In other words, when there is no money involved.
Imagine you are volunteering your time to cook dinner in a shelter for the homeless. And now imagine someone giving you five euros for every time you do this. It would create the feeling you are doing it for the money. You wouldn’t technically volunteer anymore, because you are getting paid. Peanuts, of course – but still paid. There would not be the sense of being a good person and eventually, you may stop and move to a more unambiguous activity – one that truly enables you to volunteer.
On top of this, money exchange changes relationships. It increases social distance. Creates a business transaction. Therefore, we need to be outside of it. Not always, of course. But at times. And not for anyone else, but for us and in our own best self-interest.
Obviously, we are quite happy with a business relationship at other times. We need money to pay our bills and we might enjoy having as much of it as possible. But for now, let’s cherish that part of us that wants nothing to do with it; that enjoys giving and not getting anything back. In other words: Let’s share, Vienna.
By: Shirin Reuvers