Money Has Been Making People Crazy Since King Midas

What do the sacred scriptures of various religions say about money? How has it evolved as a means of social control since the days of Ancient Mesopotamia? Bestselling author Kabir Sehgal talks big chunks of history and even bigger chunks of change.

Kabir Sehgal: Historically, money has been used as a way to control other people. For example, in ancient times, ancient Mesopotamian times, it was illegal to sell your family, your wife, your son into slavery unless you were settling a debt. So what does that show us? It shows us that money can make us act very irrationally, but also very dangerously. What is slavery? Slavery is but a type of debt of controlling other people. And so what's happened over the years, over the generations, over the civilizations — the people who issue the money, they like to control the money because they realize if they can water down the value of it or they can increase the value of it, they can change people's behaviors. So as a business person it's important to realize that money is not the only thing coming to relationships, meaning that you shouldn't just value all your business leads or business contacts in terms of money because money makes us do irrational things and often selfish things in the business context.

So, in part of researching this book, I wanted to look at the idea of religions; what do different spiritual masters same about money? I mean 80 percent of what Jesus says in terms of his parables in the book of Matthew are about money. There are over 80 verses in the Koran having to do with money or wealth in some way. In Hinduism, there's four aims of life, but two of them really matter to this topic of money and one of them is called artha. Artha; what does artha mean? It means that you have to go out and make material wealth. It's okay to make wealth. It's your duty to make wealth because you have to take care of your family; you have to make a living. But the pursuit of artha, the pursuit of money will leave you yearning for more. It will leave you empty. And that will mean you'll need to go for the fourth aim of life, which is moksha, liberation from it, detachment from it. So it's the pursuit of artha that leads you to the liberation of it, which is a very nuanced and sophisticated way of looking at money. This corresponds to periods of your life. For example, when you're young and early in your life you should be trying to make money; you should be trying to take care of yourself. If you're working on Wall Street, if you're a stockbroker, it's okay to make the money. But as you leave this world, you should start to renounce from it and detach it because you certainly don't take it with you.

This could also correspond to periods of your day. In the morning you go to work; you make a living; you make some money. But when you come home, you should unplug from it. You should detach from moneymaking pursuit and try to balance your life in that way. So there's a reason across all the faiths that talk about less is more. So many of us are driven by more is better, but it's important to realize that sometimes less is more.

Is money mostly a mechanism for the powerful to control the weak? How do major world religions treat money -- in particular, the pursuit of it -- in their sacred texts?

New York Times best-selling author, investment banker, and Grammy-award winning jazz producer Kabir Sehgal returns to Big Think to chat about lessons in his book COINED: The Rich Life of Money and How Its History Has Shaped Us.

In researching his book, Sehgal traveled to 25 countries, researching the historical roots of money; our behaviors around money (just saying the word "money" stimulates different regions of our brain); and many other surprising facts about the art of money, gifts as a currency, the psychology of money, the future of money, and the rituals/customs around the world money.

The two main topics of this video are money as a tool for social control and money in religion. He explains how, ever since the days of ancient Mesopotamia, the rich and powerful were able to use money to protect their social standing. Sehgal then draws from Hindu examples to detail a common doctrine of money ethics: It's okay to pursue it, but you must liberate yourself from it.

Malcolm Gladwell live | How to re-examine everything you know

Join Radiolab's Latif Nasser at 1pm ET on Monday as he chats with Malcolm Gladwell live on Big Think.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo

Keep reading Show less

Study: Private prisons result in more inmates, longer sentences

The Labour Economics study suggests two potential reasons for the increase: corruption and increased capacity.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • After adopting strict sentencing laws in the '80s and '90s, many states have turned to for-profit prisons to handle growing prison populations.
  • A new study in Labour Economics found that privately-run prisons correlate with a rise in incarceration rates and sentence lengths.
  • While evidence is mixed, private prisons do not appear to improve recidivism or cost less than state-run facilities.
  • Keep reading Show less

    The art of asking the right questions

    What exactly does "questions are the new answers" mean?

    • Traditionally, intelligence has been viewed as having all the answers. When it comes to being innovative and forward-thinking, it turns out that being able to ask the right questions is an equally valuable skill.
    • The difference between the right and wrong questions is not simply in the level of difficulty. In this video, geobiologist Hope Jahren, journalist Warren Berger, experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats, and investor Tim Ferriss discuss the power of creativity and the merit in asking naive and even "dumb" questions.
    • "Very often the dumb question that is sitting right there that no one seems to be asking is the smartest question you can ask," Ferriss says, adding that "not only is it the smartest, most incisive, but if you want to ask it and you're reasonably smart, I guarantee you there are other people who want to ask it but are just embarrassed to do so."

    Is this the world map of the future?

    A vertical map might better represent a world dominated by China and determined by shipping routes across the iceless Arctic.

    Strange Maps
    • Europe has dominated cartography for so long that its central place on the world map seems normal.
    • However, as the economic centre of gravity shifts east and the climate warms up, tomorrow's map may be very different.
    • Focusing on both China and Arctic shipping lanes, this vertical representation could be the world map of the future.
    Keep reading Show less

    Study links 'sun-seeking behavior' to genes involved in addiction

    A large-scale study from King's College London explores the link between genetics and sun-seeking behaviors.

    Credit: Grisha Bruev on Shutterstock
    Mind & Brain
    • There are a number of physical and mental health benefits to sun exposure, such as boosted vitamin D and serotonin levels and stronger bones.
    • Addictions are multi-step conditions that, by definition, require exposure to the addictive agent and have also been proven to have a genetic factor. Countless people are exposed to addictive things, but not all become addicted. This is because of the genetic component of addiction.
    • This large-scale study explores the link between sun-seeking behaviors and the genetic markers for addiction.
    Keep reading Show less