Fear of Money

So I choose not to accept that giving is tax-driven. Instead I subscribe to the law of attraction tenet that generosity begets generosity, and figure that fear keeps it from working better, or at least keeps people from believing that it works in the first place.

Fear is pretty strongly linked with money when you think about it. We fear that:
  • wealth will change us.
  • we won’t be able to make ends meet.
  • we will make less than our spouses.
  • people will judge us if we don’t own stylish things.
  • people will judge us if we do own stylish things.
  • the love of money is the root of all evil.
  • money is used to keep the oppressed, oppressed.
  • if we spend all of our money we will never get any more.

There are a lot of fears about money, and they can be contradictory. It’s not easy to have a healthy relationship with the stuff. Obsessive love and revulsion are par for the course, rather than peace and understanding. Money is given the same sense of exotic naughtiness as pornography and recreational drug use – we crave the stuff but hate what it does to us. Not a healthy relationship at all.

The fear and loathing we link to money is what keeps the law of attraction from working well, or from working in more mysterious ways. Maybe we need to have government-encouraged charitable giving, not because people aren’t generous, but because the fear of poverty otherwise impedes charity and the government moves in to fill the void. Perhaps it’s not a fear of poverty at all the stays our hand – maybe some people are afraid, deep down, that being too generous will bring too much abundance into their lives!
Money’s a scary thing, no doubt about it. Maybe it’s so scary because it can be solid, which makes us feel like we understand that stuff. I’m sure we didn’t actually “invent” money; we tapped into the laws of the Universe to find a way to turn a day’s work on the farm into a tankful of gas. It may look very mundane, but there’s something very magical about a force that powerful.

Is Giving Tax-Driven?

“. . . the wealthy in fact respond to tax incentives for donations. If the after-tax cost of charitable giving goes down, the wealthy give more; if it goes up, they give less.”

This lies at the heart of concerns about President Obama’s plan to cut charitable tax deductions for the wealthy; what if the deduction really is the only thing propping the donation rate up in this anemic economy?  I really hope that this isn’t the case, for a few reasons:

  • It would shake my faith in the free market economy.  I wholeheartedly believe that all of our economic crises were at the very least exacerbated by inconsistent regulation.  The only reason a free market economy doesn’t work is because nobody’s ever seen one.  I’d like to think that, given no cattle prod or carrot whatsoever, people would give some of their money to charity.
  • It would shake my faith in wealthy people.  The amount that one is allowed to deduct comes from the amount of money one made for the year.  Giving it away, even with a tax break, means you have less money than you did when you started.  Unless the amount of giving would drop you into the next lower tax bracket, of course – but that’s more a problem of the graduated tax system, so in that case I’ll let it pass.
  • It would shake my faith in a flat income tax, or at least any hope of getting one in my lifetime.  Our graduated system creates a disincentive to become so wealthy as to be too highly taxed – at least on paper.  The only reason powerful, wealthy people haven’t changed this system is because it isn’t really to their detriment at all – the deductions and legal tax dodges shift the tax burden back onto the rest of us.  The gleeful tone taken in the Nonprofit Law Prof Blog post is popular, but it’s counterproductive.  A flat tax, fairly written, would get everyone paying their fair share.

"Error Check System" spreads through Facebook

Thanks for helping me deal with this glitch!

That was Selena Fox’s comment to me this morning after I warned her that she had gotten lured into a new phenomenon: a genuinely malicious Facebook application. I had already gotten several notifications that my friends “experienced errors” while viewing my profile, and inviting me to view them with something called “Error Check System.”

I clicked the link and found an official-looking page that wasn’t like most other application pages on Facebook . . . no real information about the app itself. Suspicious, I clicked the “about” link at the bottom of the page – this is added by Facebook, so app developers can’t get rid of it. First thing I saw was the phrase, “This application was not developed by Facebook.” Bingo. Praise Caffeina for making me sharp enough to spot a scam!

A Google search showed me a great warning page about this Facebook malware, complete with screen shots, that confirmed all of my suspicions. But then I got another notification about errors, this time from Selena.

Now I posted the above link to my profile and sent it to my friends that had already installed this app, but I know that Selena Fox is a special case. She has hundreds of friends and a dial-up connection, so she can’t always respond quickly online. I envisioned Pagans around the world spreading this malware, which may have more sinister intentions than just replicating itself. I shot her a quick chat, and we got on the phone so I could help her make sure her profile was scrubbed of the thing and her teeming army of friends were notified.

This is my first encounter with a really malicious bit of code on Facebook – I guess it’s now more like MySpace than it would like to admit! Selena pondered the possibility that it was created as a reaction to the Facebook TOS controversy of late, and knowing how vindictive coders can be, I’m inclined to think she’s right.

Pagan celebrities have an interesting challenge on Facebook, one that may be unique. Since they connect so well to people personally, their Facebook profiles often get overwhelmed by adoring and caring people. I suppose other famous people also have hundreds of friends (if not thousands), but they probably have a staff member to manage the profile. I can’t imagine how time-consuming it is to get the number of invitations Selena must receive – and she’s on dial-up! Luckily, she has a Facebook page, which is really a better way to communicate with fans that admire you but don’t necessarily know you personally. It’s a suggestion I also gave to Margot Adler – what Pagan wouldn’t want to be the friend of the author of Drawing Down the Moon? But how much time should she be expected to respond to requests on Facebook? Pages allow two-way contact with fans in a manageable way; updates that go out to all fans, and a Wall and discussion boards as well. Kirk White has one, and I believe he uses it to advise fans of upcoming appearances, something else that can easily get lost in the Newsfeed if you have many friends. Heck, even I have a page – although I’m not a fan of me yet. I just wanted to justify my article on FB pages.

Moral of the story? I got a very nice chat on the phone with Selena Fox, which is a great way to start your day. After the crisis was averted, we chatted about my handfasting pictures and I told her how I Foolishly crashed the gate at PSG – but that’s a topic for another post.