Sunday, January 21, 2007

If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.

David Beckham really is worth $128 million over the next five years. Jade Goody's personal fortune of £4.5m is deserved. A qualified nurse is worth less than £20,000 a year.

Beckham's pay-packet can be justified in that someone out there is willing to pay that kind of money, presumably looking to make a profit on it too. David Beckham is worth $128 million (to a few rich people).

Jade Goody too. Some people with more money than sense keep wanting to hand it to her in return for branded perfume or a ghost-written autobiography. Jade Goody is worth small amounts of money (to lots of mainly poor people).

Nurses. That's when things get hard to explain. Everyone thinks nurses do fantastic work, way out of proportion with the above two individuals. Unfortunately there are two issues making their pay low. Firstly, there are lots of capable people willing to do the job for that money. Secondly, a lot of the people who say that nurses are underpaid would complain if we doubled the cost of the National Health Service to pay them more. Would be quite a tax-bump. Nurses are worth £20,000 a year (because they are).

Of course that's their worth in money we're talking about. Very little in life should be reduced to this level, because you get apparent paradoxes like the above. To me the current New Horizons space mission to Jupiter, Pluto and beyond is well worth $700m - others would definitely disagree, prefering to spend the money on something concrete and earthbound. My favour dissenter is The Onion .

Value is more than money, and people and projects have a value way beyond a dollar sign and lots of zeros. A narrow view of the financial consequences, the Return on Investment, can cripple a civilisation. I'm concerned by how many UK government decisions over the last thirty years have made purely on the things that can be measured - money and league tables. A concentration on money has produced some sensationally bad government which has damaged our civilisation and our values.

I'm with Ralph Waldo Emerson : "Money often costs too much"

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