Money, Greed, and Capitalism

According to the Guidelines of the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities, RC teachers are required to examine and discharge on patterns of greed and the irrational use of money. Greed, and confusion and powerlessness about money, are prevalent under our current economic system. The Guidelines emphasize the importance of reclaiming our full rationality and power in regards to money.

The difficulties many of us have with money are not simply our own personal problems. They flow directly from the capitalist economic system. We cannot successfully address our own money issues without also putting our attention on the destructive nature of the capitalist system and the associated class oppression and internalized class oppression.


Capitalism is the dominant economic system of our times. It is about profits and the ownership of those profits. The owning class obtains profits by exploiting poor and working-class people. On a global level, First World countries obtain profits by exploiting the people and natural resources of Second and Third World countries. Capitalism continually redistributes the world's wealth so as to create poverty for the many and vast riches for a few.

Capitalism is destructive to every human. All of us, no matter what role we play in the capitalist system, are hurt by participating in a system that has at its heart such vicious class oppression. We all see the effects of the capitalist system every day. It's essential that we not pretend that it’s good. It is not good, not even for the few that seem to enjoy the economic benefits. Capitalism and classism are destructive to all humans.

We all participate in the capitalist system, no matter where we live or what we do for a living. While it is easy to identify the "Wall Street executive” as a capitalist, each of us, every day, plays a role in the capitalist system that allows it to continue. Almost every purchase we make (for example, each roll of toilet paper) generates profits that go directly into the pockets of the owning class. We may be committed to ending economic exploitation, but we also need to look at the contribution we make every day to the capitalist system. One counseling direction I've found useful is, "I am a capitalist." It has helped some clients acknowledge the full impact of their participation in the capitalist economic system and discharge the associated embarrassment.

There is also an "upward trend" in human societies. Many things are better now than they were in the past. The capitalist system has played a part in making changes that have improved the living conditions of human beings. Many of us have come to believe that capitalism itself has brought about[1] these improvements. We can ask each other, "What do you love about capitalism?" As I have listened to people's responses to this question, I have seen that what people often associate with capitalism (tall buildings, hopes of opportunity, meeting people from different cultures) actually has nothing to do with capitalism itself.


Money was invented as a vehicle for facilitating the exchange of goods and services between people. Money therefore is quite useful. It is not, in and of itself, hurtful.

We have all accumulated distresses about money. This is not by accident. The current economic system oppresses people, deprives the majority of their basic human needs, and keeps people confused about money. Capitalism and classism make us feel bad about ourselves, about other people in our class group, and about people in other class groups. We are made to feel bad about ourselves in relationship to money.

Because of the rampant confusion about money, it is often restimulating to counsel people on their current money distresses. One reliable and effective method of counseling people on money distress is to counsel them on their earliest money memories. This is similar to counseling people on their earliest sexual memories. We can ask, "What is your earliest memory connected in any way at all to money?" A client will have a first thought, which may seem only tangentially connected with money. As counselors, we can use all of our counseling skills. For example, we can ask the client to repeat the memory, or we can identify the distresses imbedded in the memory and provide effective contradictions to them. Sometimes the memory is itself a contradiction to the client's money distresses.

Many of our distresses about money were installed when we were young people. Therefore, young people's oppression is often a part of our earliest money memories. We may have experienced 1) confusion based
on lack of information, or misinformation, about money, and
2) powerlessness, because young people are systematically denied the opportunity to earn or get money. Many clients work on early memories of stealing money to make purchases. I think these were often attempts to take power and try to get what they wanted.

When counseling someone on his or her earliest money memories, we can remember everything else we know about that client and his or her identity groups. Men and women; poor-, working-, middle-, and owning-class people; Jews, Catholics, and Protestants; and so on; have different varieties, based on their oppressions, of the common patterns associated with money.

Counseling on our early money memories is often an excellent path to finding perspective on and appropriate directions against our chronic distresses about money, but it is not sufficient. We also need to counsel on the class oppression and internalized class oppression in our lives. And we need to take steps to live our lives outside of our money distresses and make rational decisions about money.


Greed wants more than one needs. We all have greedy patterns. We may not all be greedy about money. There are many other things to be greedy about-like food, affection, or information. The oppressive economic system manipulates our wants and our early experiences of not having enough. Our societies are set up so that most people have inadequate access to food, housing, and health care. This early deprivation creates frozen needs[2] that we attempt to fill by trying to get more than is necessary. I have seen it be useful for clients to simply acknowledge that they are greedy ("I am greedy"), to contradict pretense and denial, and discharge the associated guilt.

How much does one need? In RC we have made a distinction between reality and pseudo-reality. In a similar way, there are real needs (for food, closeness, and so on) and pseudo-needs (false needs based on distress). People's patterns run in different directions. For some of us, it would be useful for our counselors to take us to the shopping mall and make us spend money on ourselves. For others of us, one of the most useful things our counselors could do is take scissors to our credit cards to interrupt our buying tendencies. How much do you need? You can use your sessions to think, discharge, and identify your real needs. Achieving a clear and rational picture of our real needs is a long-term process-we will make, recognize, and correct many mistakes along the way.

Recently I have been experimenting with an understatement to help people discharge their greed recordings: "It sometimes happens that someone has enough." I have counseled people of all class backgrounds with this understatement and found it consistently useful. For myself, I have modified it to, "It sometimes happens that everyone has enough." These understatements seem to provide bedrock from which to discharge and think about real needs versus greed.

In counseling people on greed and early money memories, I have started offering this direction: "What's mine is yours, and what's yours is mine." From observing young people, I do not believe they start out with a concept of ownership. I think the attitude of "mine” is distress passed on by contagion and based on a false notion of scarcity. I believe that without that distress, we would be openly and joyously sharing things with each other.


Given this oppressive economic system, how can we think about and take effective action regarding money? Although we cannot be fully powerful until we succeed in changing the economic system, there are some things we can do to take charge and manage under present economic conditions:

  1. Accurately assess our economic situation-both our resources and our real needs. What are our resources (savings, income, income potential, assets, and so on)? What are our liabilities (debts, obligations, mortgages, loans, and so on)? In what direction are we headed (increased debt, reduced debt)? Are we living beyond our means, and if so, does it make sense to reduce our needs or to figure out how to increase our resources? What do we expect in the future, and how have we planned for it (health crises, children's future needs, and so on)?
  2. Become competent in handling money and understanding basic economics. Examples of handling money include balancing our checkbook, spending against a personal budget, implementing a savings plan, and computing our own taxes. Many of us struggle in these areas-if you do, you are not alone. Becoming competent in handling money will help our lives go better.

It is also important to understand finance and economic issues. We need to understand the impact of globalization and how the United States, through organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, exploits Second and Third World countries and takes control of their natural resources.

We need to understand inflation, the stock market, and price deflation. In order to do so, we may need to act outside of old distresses about math, business, and learning. One easy session is to read, with someone’s attention, the business/finance section of your local newspaper. You can discharge and think your way to a full understanding of the stock market and the economy. Here's an analogy: I grew up in the middle of a small city. Concrete and buildings surrounded me. Because my parents and others were not interested in nature and did not expose me in any active way to plants, woods, or anything else in nature, I grew up ignorant about, uninterested in, and in some ways antagonistic toward nature. When I tell this to my friends, their usual response is sympathy, telling me I'm missing out on a wonderful part of life, and offering to take me into nature so that I can see what I’m missing and learn to enjoy it. Their response to me about nature is exactly the same as my attitude toward you in regards to economics and finance. Economics and finance are inherently interesting and important for us to understand in order to think well about ourselves and those around us.

  1. Talk about and organize people to work on money and class issues. In many cultures, a veil of secrecy surrounds money, personal finances, and class. This veil is created by the economic system, to keep competition in place and hinder learning. As a client in sessions, ask all the questions you have about other people’s incomes, savings, mortgages, credit-card debt, inheritances, and so on, and tell about your situation. We need to discharge in order to have attention for talking about money with our families, friends, and co-workers. We can lightly go public about our money situations and create the conditions for others to be open and discharge about their money situations as well. Once we get people talking and discharging about money, we will be in a good position to organize them to support rational economic policies that will move us in the direction of ending classism and capitalism.
  2. See to our personal economic well-being. We are responsible for ourselves within this oppressive economic system. Our greatest security is in our principles and in building close, committed friends and allies. Many of us have chosen to be downwardly mobile. We may need to re-examine that decision in light of complete pride in our class backgrounds and the need to plan for and meet our real economic needs.

I am often asked about retirement and investments, especially socially responsible investments. There is no such thing as a "good” investment. All investments feed the capitalist system. Those of us who invest in so-called socially responsible investments need to acknowledge that they support capitalism. This is not to say, however, that we should not be saving and investing. We each need to make choices about how best to see to our own personal economic well-being, and saving and investing is one choice. Still, we cannot pretend about those investments.

  1. Take control of whatever wealth we have. Some of us do have some wealth. It is in the interest of our re-emergence that we do our own thinking about it, rather than give up control of it to someone else, whether it's a parent, spouse, or financial advisor. We can ask others for their thinking while retaining our full decision-making responsibility. Those of us who have more than we need get to think, discharge, decide, and act toward using our surplus wealth to help change the economic system. Those of us who are owning-class need to give back our unearned wealth, to regain our integrity as well as improve the lives of others. Each of us is fully capable of thinking intelligently about money.
  2. Be informed about how money is accumulated and used in organizations to which we belong. We are all members of civic, work, and governmental organizations. Do we know how money works in those organizations? For example, do we know how much of our government’s money is spent on various types of programs, or how much of the local YMCA[3] budget is allocated to community education? As responsible members of organizations, it is important for us to gather this information. If we don't, we are at a disadvantage in advocating for changes in budget priorities.

Handling this economic system is essential but alone is insufficient for creating the kind of world in which we all want to live. Completely eliminating distresses about money and greed requires a different economic system. Without dismantling the capitalist system, we will face ongoing economic exploitation driven by the profit motive.

What's the bottom line on[4] money, greed, and capitalism? The attitude I take into every RC event I lead on these topics is that we can completely discharge every last bit of distress we have about money, greed, and capitalism; we can have fun while we do it; and we can act to make the world right so that everyone's real needs are met.


Mike Markovits

Greenwich, Connecticut, USA

 [1] Brought about means caused.

[2] A frozen need is a term used in RC for a hurt that can result when a rational need is not met in childhood. It often compels a person to keep trying to fill the need in the present, but the frozen need cannot be filled; it can only be discharged.

[3] YMCA stands for Young Men's Christian Association, an international organization that promotes people's spiritual, intellectual, social, and physical welfare.

[4] Bottom line on means essential point about.

Last modified: 2018-04-25 17:23:38+00