Money, they say, is the root of all evil. Yet money is but a currency, and human beings are the ones who attach meaning to any form of transaction. Money can be used as a medium for exploitation, yet it can also uplift those living in poverty and give them a better life. Without money, we will still be stuck in the Middle Ages, haggling over how many pieces of wool to trade for a bag of wheat.
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If money is not the cause of all evil, then the perennial question remains - what is? A common response is human nature. After all, it is in our nature to be selfish, and it is also in our nature to segregate ourselves and enjoy domination over others.
However, I would argue that evil is simply a manifestation of the physical laws of our universe. The immutable laws governing the conservation of matter and energy gives us no room for charity. Unless we benefit from an act of charity, be it a direct material benefit or an indirect emotional one, there is no incentive in our nature to be charitable.
If matter can be created and destroyed at will, then much of our problems today can be solved. Hunger can be eliminated, poverty can be eradicated, and all the waste we create can be removed with the snap of a finger. Alas, this is not the case. One plus one will always equal to two. We do not have infinite resources, and thus we are forced to choose between serving ourselves and others at every turn.
Scarcity, therefore, is the root of all evil. If we were able to eliminate the problem of scarcity, we would no longer have the incentive to be self-serving, to value our needs over others’. What would greed look like in a world with infinite resources? If matter can be created at will, then hoarding them will be a borderline psychotic thing to do.
Perhaps this is not a conclusion that many will come to, given our penchant for self-loathe. However, I am a strong believer in physicalism, and the idea that there is any inherent guiding force such as a soul governing our human nature does not sound credible to me. I believe we are at our core no different from any other forms of living creatures, following the same rules that gave birth to us and dictate our actions today.
The best way to tackle evil is therefore to tackle the problem of scarcity. Technology, I believe, is the answer. Even though we will never completely eliminate scarcity, being able to create more with less, to eliminate waste, and to improve efficiency will alleviate some of the pressure. Global inequality may have been on the rise for the past few decades, but over the same period of time, more people have been lifted out of poverty than any other time in history. As technology improves, so will people’s lives.
We will never be able to get rid of evil. Some forms of evil may not even stem from physical scarcity but rather emotional scarcity, and no amount of physical posessions will ever bridge that gap. However, to see evil as a systemic problem that can be solved rather than being some inherent part of our human nature will put us on the right track to tackle the problem of evil.