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Money: A Myth

The word “money” is believed to be derived from Moneta, an epithet for the Roman goddess Juno, because the ancient Roman Mint was established in the Temple of Juno Moneta.

Money is often described as the medium of exchange. If a man exchanges his labor for money, and exchanges the money for food, he is in effect exchanging his labor for food. The money intervenes as a means or medium, received only to be parted with; the end is the food.

The purpose of this chapter is to give you a true concept regarding the unreality of money. One will strive so hard for money, when in reality what he is really seeking is the end result—what money obtains: security, food, shelter, clothes, etc.

We look at money as something real. We take a dollar bill and hold it in our hands and feel we have something substantial. In reality, as far as its stable value is concerned, a piece of money is as flexible as a rubber band.

To illustrate: suppose potatoes were sold at $1 per bushel. Your dollar would be worth $1 as far as a bushel of potatoes is concerned. All right. Imagine potatoes rising in price to $2 per bushel; your dollar would be only 50 cents compared to the price of potatoes. This applies to the purchase of everything. The worth of your dollar depends entirely upon the value which is placed on the commodity you buy.

As to money being a myth, let us consider this illustration:

Suppose there were ten people in a room and no one had any money except one person, and he had only $1. We will call him Man #1. All right, Man #2 has a pocket knife he is willing to sell to Man #1 for $1, and this man buys it, giving his dollar to Man #2. Man #3 has a book which Man #2 wants, and he buys it, giving his dollar to Man #3. This goes on until finally Man #10 has the dollar, and even he does not keep it. He buys something from Man #1 for a dollar. In this room, $10’s worth of cash transactions have taken place with only $1 in money.

This same principle holds good in commerce. In the United States many, many billions of dollars change hands each year, with only a fraction of the amount in real currency.

United States money is backed up by gold. For all the money printed or minted there is an equal value of gold stored in the government vaults. The value placed on gold is man made. It is not decreed by nature. At the time this is being written, the value of gold, I believe, is $35 per ounce, and $35 worth of currency can be minted for each ounce of gold in storage.

Suppose, for example, the lawmakers in Washington wished to declare a value of $40 per ounce on our gold, then $5 more of currency could be coined for each ounce of gold being stored.

Imagine that, in some mysterious way, the gold reserves of the United States should disappear, and no one knew about it. We would continue to carry on with our buying, with our money having the same value it has now. But, if the theft should become known, then at once our money value would drop to nothing.

It is not my intention to enter into a discussion of economics; I merely wished to make a point regarding the unreality of money. If you have followed the reasoning given so far, you will agree with me that money is not a material thing at all, but a means of exchange based on a nationally accepted idea.


The only thing money ever pays for is labor. Right now many of you are ready to take issue with me.

Consider an automobile, for example. You may think of the metal, rubber, cloth and glass which enters into its manufacture: you reason that all of these cost money. The fact is, however, that all of the raw materials contained in an automobile were given without cost by nature. The metal used to make the body, the motor, and many other parts were first embedded in Mother Earth. Nature did not put a price on the metal-bearing ore. A cost came into the picture to compensate the miners who extracted the ore, and to provide a profit for the mining company.

This same condition holds true with all of the other elements entering into the manufacture of a car: the glass, upholstery materials, rubber, etc.

In thinking of the food we buy, we can agree that what we pay for corn and potatoes, etc., is not paid for the products themselves, but for the labor involved in growing and cultivating the foodstuffs.

The price you paid for the house in which you live covered nothing but labor: labor for felling trees and reducing them to lumber; labor for making concrete from materials removed from the earth; labor for building the house.

We now reach the conclusion that the only thing we can buy with money is labor and that the value of labor is not stable.

When I was a child a laboring man was paid as little as $1 per day. Now, the average rate of pay is $2.80 per hour. Fifty years ago, if you had $1,000 saved up, you could make the down payment on a substantial home and have money enough left with which to make an initial payment on the furnishings. Today, it is risky to attempt to buy a home unless you have at least $5,000 on hand, and even with this amount you would have to be exceedingly careful in the way you handled it.

Do not become discouraged with the facts I am now giving you, which appear to be devaluating the dollar. This information is being given for a purpose as you will understand when you read further. In fact, what you are now learning will help to make it much easier for you to gain what you want in life.

In the United States, money consists of silver coins, nickel and copper coins of small denominations, and notes secured under legal provisions. The need of a medium of exchange was felt by the earliest peoples and money took many and curious forms. In ancient Syracuse and Britain, tin was the first money. Sparta used iron. Rome and Germany made cattle their media in trade. Carthage used leather prepared in a certain way. Russia used platinum. Nails were currency in Scotland. Colonial Virginia used tobacco and Massachusetts, bullets and wampum.

Soap passed in ancient Mexico and shells on the coast of Africa. As civilization advanced in all countries gold and silver coins and paper money based upon them became the media current in domestic and foreign trade transactions. Metallic bases for money have been in some degree abandoned since the world business crisis of 1929, in favor of managed currency.


Most of us have a misconception regarding ownership. It is natural for individuals to say: “I own this,” or “I own that.” in reality, none of us owns anything.

You might buy a house and proudly proclaim: “I own this house.” It is yours to use as long as you pay the taxes on it. Fail to pay the taxes and it will be taken from you.

That car you drive may be fully paid for, but is it your property? It is yours to use as long as you pay the annual license and tax fee.

Among those items which you consider as your possessions, none of them is permanently yours.

The grounds surrounding my home are beautifully landscaped and present the appearance of a small well-kept park. Are they mine? They are, as long as I spend money for a gardener and water, without which they would soon become barren.

Your wardrobe may be most complete, yet the garments are continually wearing out and losing their style.

The lumber in your house is affected by the weather, or destroyed by termites. Without constant repairing and renewing, your house would disintegrate into a valueless mass.

In this life we own nothing. We have the use of various items as long as we pay our taxes and care for them.

What have we learned so far—and what good will this knowledge do us? Plenty!

We have learned that money buys nothing but labor and the amount of labor our dollars will buy depends upon the value placed upon labor.

We have also learned that in this life we own nothing, but merely have the use of material things. In fact, we do not even own our bodies. They are loaned to us and how long we keep them depends upon the care we give them.

A few years ago I gave a lecture on the subject of this chapter: Money, a Myth. Several months later I received an inspiring letter from one who was a member of my audience. Here is what it said:

Dear Ben Sweetland

The lecture you gave regarding money was the turning point in my life.

My business was in a precarious condition; bills far exceeding income. It looked very much as though the sheriff’s notice would soon be on the door.

Money—money—money was all I thought of. I thought about it so much—as well as my inability to get it—I became almost mentally paralyzed. My mind was blocked from sane thinking.

After hearing your sensible talk, my business looked altogether different to me. “Money isn’t what I want,” I reasoned, “It is business I need so that I can pacify my creditors.”

Prior to my awakening, I had been visualizing my creditors as demons wearing sardonic grins, with arms stretched, waiting to crush me.

I changed to where I saw them as friends—because hadn’t they trusted me? And, as friends, I knew they would still prove to be friendly.

I phoned each creditor, and in the friendliest manner, thanked them for their extreme patience—and told them I had finally awakened to the real cause of my trouble—and that I would soon be out of the woods and meet my obligations fully.

Not one of my creditors failed to cooperate. This gave me a free—and happy—mind, and it was not long before I had satisfied all of those I owed and was enjoying a growing business.

Thank you so much for waking me up.

As soon as one can realize that money is merely a means to an end and not the end, that it is established as a convenient means for barter, then it will be easier for him to gain a broader perspective on the many facets of life.

A workman, in reality, is not working for the government-engraved certificates (money) which he receives on pay day. He is working for food, clothes and shelter. The money provides a handy means of evaluating the commodities and services he buys.


Are you thinking in terms of hoarding dollars? Or are you making plans for a finer home, the best form of education for your children, the ability to travel at will, future security?

Keeping your mind on what you want will put the forces of your Creative Mind to work in guiding you in thought and action so that you will attain your objectives.

Here is a strange phenomenon regarding the attainment of objectives: When your goal is money only, there are so many different ways of obtaining it that you may become confused as to the avenue to take. But, if you become enthusiastically excited about a home—one which will make you ideally happy—your Creative Mind, with its reasoning faculties, will show you the way to obtain that which is necessary to secure the home.

Achievement is one’s greatest satisfaction in life. We think of great men and women not for the dollars they have accumulated but for their achievements.

Henry J. Kaiser, although a very wealthy man, is thought of as the man who performed miracles in shipbuilding; the man who created an empire of industries, any one of which would be considered a great accomplishment.

We do not think of Henry Ford in terms of wealth. We know him as the man who provided the world with low cost transportation.

Charles Lindbergh is a man of considerable means, yet, what does his name mean to you? You think of him as the one who pioneered in transatlantic aviation.

F. W. Woolworth amassed a fortune, but that fact has never been impressed on the public consciousness. The mention of his name brings to mind a nation-wide chain of retail stores.

Luther Burbank earned world-wide recognition for his new developments in plants through crossbreeding. We think of him in connection with his new varieties of plums, berries and lilies —but not the money he made in producing them.

Bert Ross, in early childhood, decided he would become rich. His frugality during his teens and early twenties enabled him to reach the state of matrimony with almost $3,000 to his credit.

After marriage he saved as much as he could from his pay checks, but because of his growing family and a few unwise investments, his original savings did not grow very fast. In fact, there were times when his bank statement showed a lower amount than he had at the time he became the head of his household.

One day Bert was given a lecture on the unreality of money, in fact, the same thoughts which are contained in this chapter. The first thing he decided upon was a comfortable home in the suburbs with grounds large enough to enable his children to enjoy themselves instead of being cramped in a city apartment.

The Ross family now lives in such a home. From the day he conceived the idea through the day he moved into the new home, he was guided in every step he took.

Through this same process of thinking, Bert Ross accumulated everything he needed to go with his fine home: a fine wardrobe of clothing for his family and himself, a new, late model automobile. One summer he took his family to Hawaii, and he is now making plans to take them on a tour of Europe.

Is this case an exception? Can it be called “one in a million”? No! It would not be possible to put enough pages in this book to relate the success stories of those who think in terms of deeds —not dollars.

Another story I should like to tell relates to Will Erwin who is located in a large mid-western city.

Will went to Chicago to be interviewed by the head of a large company which was giving out territorial franchises. The franchise was one Erwin wanted very badly. In fact he became so enthusiastic about it he could not think of himself doing anything else except promoting the product being franchised.

“Now, Mr. Erwin, this franchise will require an initial investment of $2,000. Are you in a position to put up this kind of money?”

Will emptied his pockets and produced less than $2 in small change.

“This is all that stands between me and the poorhouse,” Will exclaimed, without any evidence of self-pity. “In fact,” he continued, “I even borrowed the money for fare to come to Chicago,” he added.

“But save the territory for me,” Erwin implored earnestly. “I’ll raise the money within two weeks.”

Will Erwin kept his word. In a day less than two weeks he had air mailed a cashier’s check for $2,000 for his franchise. During those days after his interview with the president of the company, Will’s mind was not on the $2,000. It was on the franchise. His mind started to flow with constructive ideas as to how he could possess the franchise.

There is another point regarding this story I would like to emphasize. You will recall that I said Erwin had become enthusiastic about the idea regarding the franchise.

I like to think of enthusiasm as thought aglow. When enthusiastic, one never has to force himself to do things. He tackles all sorts of projects—big or little—because he wants to. There is an inner urge which gives him a thrill as he sees ideas becoming realities.

Do not give up your quest for dollars but seek them in connection with your objectives. Your progress will be greater and you’ll have far more fun in life as you see your objectives coming into being.

Visit Grow Rich While You Sleep for more articles from this book by Ben Sweetland.