The fourth pillar I would like to discuss in the Seven Pillars of Society series is the pillar of economy. The economy is any means that the society uses for the exchange of goods. This could be a rudimentary as a bartering system or a more complex arrangement of credits and debits. Or even in our modern era a system like bitcoins.
It is amazing to me how much the economy becomes are part of every aspect of society. The government needs and exchange system in order for it to have the means to fund itself. Religion require the benevolent (or sometimes forced) donations of it faithful in order to operate. Families often find themselves struggling over financial matters. The economy is really the blood of any society because it provides the system where things move through the society.
With the economy being such an important factor in the life cycle of a society, perhaps it should be at the head of all society. After all it plays an almost hidden but essential role in that society. However, I believe that it is impossible for an economy-ruled society to exist.
To understand why, I would like to look at a fictional society. Normally at this point I would refer to at least one example from history where a the pillar of focus (in this case, the economy) rules all the other aspects of a society. However, I don’t think one has ever existed. If you know of one, please tell me about it, I would love to research it.
The fictional society I would like to use is the planet Ferenginar which is the home of the Ferengi alien race in the popular Star Trek Series. The gist of the Ferengi society is that they put greed as the highest moral characteristic. Finance is the only subject taught in schools, and their sacred text is known as the Rules of Acquisition. Everything in their society (religion, art, education, family) center around one thing, money.
While some of my favorite Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes are those that center around the Ferengi culture, I have one huge reservation about such a society. If money is really the sole focus of a society, then how would they defend themselves? How would they feed themselves? How would they have teachers to provide an education?
Some might argue that the great experiment of the United States is an economy-centered society because it is founded in capitalism. But I would argue that capitalism is not the foundation of the United States. Capitalism is the results of the experiment. I would even be so bold as to say it is the blessing of the experiment. This may become more apparent as I wrap this series up, but our country is a success because of something completely separate from capitalism.
So, while the economy is the blood of any good society, it would not make a good master. Rather, it serve its society best when it is a near silent partner that allows goods to become open and freely traded between individuals in the society.