Written for Operation Werewolf by Joshua Buckley
For Marxists, economic relations are believed to shape and maintain virtually every other aspect of human life. Capitalists, on the other hand, have a different view of what economic relations should look like, but share the Marxist conviction that the economy represents the highest ordering principle in society. The idea that every other value should be subordinated to the primacy of economics—which is often referred to as economism—is anathema to us. Like our ancestors in Indo-European Antiquity, who relegated the mercantilist classes to the lowest rungs of society, there are any number of things that we value over and above strictly financial considerations. The shortlist would include virtues like courage, brotherhood, loyalty, and honor, but it would hardly end there.
Nevertheless, there is a tendency for people on “our side” (and I use this designation very loosely) to equate the rejection of economism with an attitude that almost seems to idealize poverty. They will attempt to make a virtue of their own financial failings by acting as if they’re somehow too noble, or too “spiritual,” to even bother thinking about money. When someone else succeeds in carving out a manageable living (or, as is more often the case, some small pittance) by making music, writing books, or creating art that these people purport to care about, they will respond by declaring that said individual is now a “sell out” who “only cares about money.” Of course, this behavior is partially motivated by resentment. Tell a few friends about your trip to Europe, or that nice bottle of bourbon that you and your wife/girlfriend just finished, and at least one of them will respond with the reliably cringe-worthy “must be nice!” Yes, it is nice, asshole. It is all the more ironic when this sort of thing comes from people who claim to be “pagans” or “heathens,” because it smacks so much of Christianity (as Nietzsche observed, ressentiment is the driving force behind the Nazarene’s slave morality). A pagan is comfortable with all of the “worldly” things that the Christian rejects, and there is nothing quite as worldly as money.
But what is money, really? Gold bugs will decry the modern monetary system as a fiat currency, not backed by a physical commodity like silver or gold. The argument for the gold standard is based on gold’s historical track record as a reliable source of value. There may be some truth to the claim that gold holds its value better than an arbitrarily-issued government currency, but the idea that gold has any more intrinsic worth than paper money ignores the fact that, in the end, a Krugerrand is just a hunk of metal that has value only because people have decided that it has value. Of course, we all understand that this “value” is a stand-in for something else, and that something else is power. This is not to say that money is the highest form of power, but it is a reasonable barometer of worldly success. And, as in other power relationships (and let’s face it, all relationships are power relationships) money can make us sovereigns or it can make us slaves.
When you don’t have adequate access to money, chances are you’ll find yourself in one of two situations: either dependent on the generosity of others (or worse, dependent on the State) or working yourself to death at menial jobs just to get by. In the first instance, you have clearly abdicated your own power. If you are completely dependent on someone else (and especially someone outside of your own immediate family or tribe) for your personal upkeep and maintenance, than there is a certain sense in which that person owns you. In the second instance, you are literally working like a slave. Slaves are fed, clothed, and otherwise provided for by their masters. If you are spending all of your time working just to pay for basic essentials, than how is your situation really any different from that of a slave? Furthermore, low-paying menial work is, quite literally, soul-crushing. In my early twenties, I worked on a framing crew during the day and in a shipping warehouse unloading trucks at night. I told myself that I could get up early, or stay up late, to read, write, or do the other things that I felt were meaningful. Sometimes I managed to pull it off. Mostly, I was just too tired. My time (the most valuable asset that any of us has) was being siphoned off by people I couldn’t have cared less about.
Ironically, high-earners often fall into a similar trap. The danger here is that money will become an end-in-itself rather than a means-to-an end. One of the tricky things about money is that the more you make, the more it will seem like you need. I have often marveled at the phenomenon of extremely rich men who spend their entire lifetime building up a fortune that vastly exceeds their own, or even their children’s, ability to spend it. This kind of behavior resembles nothing so much as a junkie vainly chasing after the rush that first got them hooked. As you become more affluent, a similar pitfall involves buying “stuff” that only has value as a signal of status. But pursuing recognition based on material possessions is the ultimate fool’s errand. That’s because there will always be someone with a bigger house, a fancier car, or a trophy-wife with higher-end cosmetic modifications than yours (I am being facetious, of course). What’s more, the kind of people who are impressed by this sort of thing really aren’t worth trying to impress. All of this is greatly exacerbated by the fact that the dominant culture (notice I avoid calling it our culture) is constantly encouraging us to take on debt. By going deeper and deeper into debt, you can acquire the appearance of wealth without necessarily having any. Soon you will find yourself working just to service your debt, and you will be no better off than the poorer man who works at things that he hates just to satisfy his basic needs.
Whether you’re working just to get by, with no time for anything else, or whether money has become like a drug that you pointlessly consume, the power that money represents has become a power over you. The first step in breaking this power—and in putting it to work for you instead—is to start thinking about what money is for. In slaveholding societies, it was a common practice to allow slaves to buy their freedom; basically, the slave could pay a set amount of money to reclaim ownership of himself. This should be our goal as well: to use money intelligently to free ourselves for the things we really care about. Essentially, there are two ways to do this. The first, and probably the ideal way, is to figure out how to monetize the activities that you want to be doing anyway. This might involve opening a restaurant or a gym, a tattoo studio or an auto-repair shop. Many of you are writers or musicians, and it has never been easier to self-publish and sell your own work online, often with little to no start-up money. The important thing here is not getting rich (although it’s certainly possible), but rather to figure out how to satisfy your basic needs without wasting your entire life in the process.
The second—and perhaps more ambitious—way to buy your own freedom is by creating passive income streams that leave you with plenty of non-working hours. This might involve accumulating rental properties, or buying small businesses like self-service car washes or Laundromats that generate money without requiring full-time maintenance. My own personal long-term strategy involves a mixture of these options. I hope to build up my small publishing business into something more financially viable, while continuing to manage real estate on the side (instead of the other way around). Of course, all of these strategies involve acquiring at least some capital to get started, which means having a financial plan you can begin to implement now. Although I don’t endorse everything he says (you will have to ignore all of the Jesus-talk, for example), the popular financial writer Dave Ramsey is not a bad place to get started. That said, one of the biggest practical steps you can begin taking in the near-term is to always live below your means (this is the exact opposite of what the average American does). Do not buy the biggest house or the most expensive car that you can. Do not status-signal by acquiring “stuff” which will only get in the way of your greater goals, and never buy “stuff” using credit.
Finally, if you get to the point where you have extra money to spend, spend it on things that will increase your real status as a free and powerful human being. Spend money on books and education, jiu jitsu and boxing classes, gym memberships, tactical training, and travel that broadens your personal horizons. Whenever possible, avoid giving your money to marketers and corporations. They are the Enemy. If it’s feasible, buy books, clothing, music and other products from friends and fellow-travelers. One of my personal indulgences is buying artwork, and I never begrudge the money I spend on art because I know it’s going to support people who are trying to live their own dreams, outside the produce-and-consume economy of the System. Encouraging a network of mutual financial support that will help all of our comrades to buy their freedom is one of the first steps we can take toward building a nation.
Money is neither the Highest Principle—as the overlords of the Inverted World would have it—nor is it the “root of all evil.” Like a gun or a knife, money is neither good nor evil, but a tool. Although he was speaking about war, the words of Heraclitus ring just as true about cold, hard cash: “some it has made gods, and some men; some slaves and some free.”
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