“In God We Trust”: Especially When Money is Our God

I wonder if it is irony that America places the words “In God We Trust” on our dollar bills but not on congressional or senate bills?  The world’s greatest capitalistic nation, trusts money and economic growth as if these things were an all good God.  At times we don’t seem to distinguish between wealth and God – they are an equal good in our experience, and we will trample on a lot of ethics, and look away from a lot of morality, in order to pursue the ominpotent dollar and the divine prosperity we believe it gives us.   For example greed, one of the seven deadly sins, is seldom railed against in prosperous America and sometimes is euphemized as “profit”.

Marketplace commentator Robert Reich in his 6 August 2008 “A Contest Between Two Capitalisms” offers us something to think about as he compares and contrasts the phenomenal and unprecedented growth of the Chinese economy and its “authoritarian capitalism” with the faltering U.S. economy’s democratic capitalism, using the Olympics as a metaphor:  the Chinese Olympic games versus the American Olympics: our upcoming presidential election.

For years, American policy toward China assumed that trade and economic growth would generate a large Chinese middle class, and this middle class would demand democratic reforms. … We thought capitalism and democracy went hand in glove. They don’t.  … But when it comes to civil and political rights, China today is where it was almost two decades ago at the time of Tiananmen Square.

Authoritarian capitalism works wonders if all you care about is getting ahead economically and being able to afford more stuff. … Democratic capitalism should win in the end because it responds far better to what people want — not only as consumers but also as citizens. Yet right now it’s not so clear. The Chinese economy is booming while we’re in deep trouble. Eighty percent of Chinese are optimistic about the future but only 20 percent of Americans say this nation is on the right track.

In terms of this big contest, you might think of our upcoming presidential election as our own Olympic games. It will showcase to the world how well democratic capitalism still works.

Maybe a question Reich should ask is whether Americans themselves are not so addicted to getting ahead and getting more stuff that they will be willing to trade the freedoms democratic capitalism affords for the wonders authoritarian capitalism delivers?   Will Americans sacrifice their ethics and religious beliefs to embrace philosophies that can deliver greater economic prosperity?   Have profit and wealth in fact become our gods?  Maybe atheists do not have to fear “In God We Trust” on money, for maybe the money itself is our God.

One thought on ““In God We Trust”: Especially When Money is Our God

  1. Two things, sort of off topic:
    1. The trust we put in our money is really in God’s hands, as there is no gold standard.
    2. David Bowie co-wrote a song with Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) called “I’m Afraid of Americans” in which he says “I’m afraid of Americans. I’m afraid of the world. I’m afraid I can’t help it. God is an American.” I think his statement goes beyond that Americans think God “sheds his light on thee.” The world views Americans as some country with a God-complex trying to right everyone else’s “indiscretions.” The US frequently does this by forcing embargoes or tariffs on countries that don’t fall in line, but it seems that developing economies in other nations may finally be the great equalizer.

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