More Than Money
Issue #29

Money Changes Everything

Table of Contents

“The Ethics of Wealth”

by Bob Kenny

The transformative power of money--how it changes us and our world--is a recurring theme in this issue. It is also a recurring theme in our lives. Each time we enter a new stage in our own development--getting married, having children, retiring from work--we are confronted with a new set of questions and dilemmas regarding money and wealth.

For most people, ethical questions about money manifest themselves in small ways during their everyday lives. For example, the decision to buy a second television set or a new DVD player is not typically regarded as a large moral dilemma. As a result, it is easy to forget that others are watching and learning from us as we make such seemingly innocuous decisions. And often, the more money we have, the more closely we are being watched.

When Dr. Coles's grandson started counting the number of television sets he owned, an innocent child's game suddenly became an adult's ethical dilemma: what do we do when we have more than we need? Thus begins a reflective process that, potentially, can have an impact far beyond the lives of a thoughtful grandfather and his curious grandson.

At More Than Money, we hear stories like these all the time. The story line is often the same: something triggers us to think about the power of money in our own lives and we quickly turn to thinking about how that power affects those around us. Clearly, money is not transformational in a vacuum. But money can be transformative when someone we love asks a simple question that leads us to wonder: why do we have more than we need? The impact money has on us and on the world occurs in and because of relationships. Money changes us precisely because it changes others.

As we are thoughtful about money, we come to make the connection between our personal well-being and the conditions of a larger society. Ethical dilemmas like Dr. Coles's will not allow us to think of the impact of wealth on just a personal level-because for every television we buy, there is a grandson right behind, asking questions like, "Grandpa, how come you have so many televisions?"

Bob Kenny, Ed.D., is the executive director of More Than Money. For more than twenty years, he has worked with individuals, communities, and organizations to identify and address the gaps between their stated values and the reality of their lives.