The Value of Life

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Nope, I’m not talking about abortion or euthanasia (perhaps another time). Scientific American magazine recently published a study about the effect touching currency has on us, particularly on youngsters. When it comes to the almighty dollar, it seems that people will forget about morals and manners. The prospect of getting our hands some cash usually brings out the worst in us.

Greed is one of those concepts that falls under the nature vs. nurture debate. Granted, we need to take care of ourselves to survive, so making money is a necessary “evil” and a simple fact of life. However, the intensity of our desire for money or valuable items such as diamond rings is likely formed through the values we learn during childhood.

Think about it: we live in a capitalist society where the buying and selling of goods and services are considered to be positive contributions to our society. We spend a great deal of our life earning money, saving money and purchasing goods and services. Our children often begin “fundraising” for social activities as early as preschool.

Are we valuing too much of a “good thing” in our capitalist lifestyle? That’s exactly what some scholars and activists believe; in fact, some are calling for an entirely new economic system. You have probably heard the ominous warnings of the liberals’ desire to enact socialism in the US, but that is not an entirely accurate portrayal at all.

In truth, we have been living in a social democracy for quite some time now. Conservatives love to villainize “public welfare,” yet they use it as much as everyone else does. If they really wanted to have a purely capitalist society, they would abolish all social security  and medicare benefits. There would be no need for taxes because there would be no public utilities and no transportation infrastructure.

As a nation, both political parties agreed that we must utilize some social programs for the best interests of our country and the people who live in it. Public health is another great example – we vaccinate, screen for communicable diseases, and try to protect the general population. As long as we agree on the need for public health, we are all safer from bad news bugs, as is the rest of the world!

The challenge at hand is how we continue making progress for the country and its people within a social democracy but without adequate political support. Doing so will require us to consider the value of life in addition to the value of money. A great way to begin is by teaching our children to value people as well as money.

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