The saying that the love of money is the root of all evil is both very useful and very misleading. It is a specific case of a principle that one can easily generalize: The love of means over the ends they were meant to achieve is, more accurately, the root of most evil. Money is a form of power, and power is meant to achieve goals: meant to fix problems, meant to acquire necessary resources and negotiate necessary transactions. It is reasonable to want power in order to achieve these ends. However, if we crave power for its own sake, the machinery of transaction becomes clogged. We stockpile something that is of no intrinsic value. We enjoy having this power over each other. Thus: One person isn’t given enough to even survive, while another has more than they will ever need, because it is merely having more of a necessary thing than another that they get pleasure from.
We live in a world of conquerors because it is taken as given that taking is better than giving.
It’s odd how many of the seven deadly sins start to look like one sin with many aspects. Greed, the want for money beyond what it can buy – Gluttony, the insatiable hunger past serving the needs of the body – Wrath, the fury that seeks only itself instead of justice. These become sin, in practice, not because money or food or anger are wrong or harmful, but because indulging in them for their own sake quickly becomes a path to depriving fellow humans of that which they need to survive.
Love of money – or its generalized case, love of power – is, in this way, intrinsically cruel. Why are we are so willing to strip each other of the resources we need to survive just so we can look down on each other as inferiors? To those who never had to struggle, the smug superiority of social predation is perhaps the only way they can feel relevant or engaged with the world.
Those who love power and seek it endlessly tend to be those who find more and more of it: This is the shape of our unfolding disaster. We select for terribleness when we elect leaders. The only way we avoid catastrophe, most of the time, is that the shallower and rawer the lust for power is, the more overtly incompetent and grotesque the person seeking it evinces themselves to be. To desire power above what it can achieve is a symptom of a lazy and ineffective mind, and lazy and ineffective minds rarely do well within the directly competitive atmosphere of politics.
Nevertheless, sometimes these people find themselves at the right time and place to actually seize power.
It is not pretty; it can keep getting less pretty. As corrupt as most governments become, they usually at least buy into a fiction of serving the populace underneath them, or serving God, or serving some greater purpose. Rarely do governments actually regard themselves solely as a consolidation of power for the sake of consolidating power. Never do they do so without publicly pretending towards a greater purpose, such as winning an endless war or eliminating impurities or… whatever.
If a government ceases to believe its own stated rationale for power, if the rulers determine that their rule is solely about accumulation of power, then we have essentially the scenario presented in George Orwell’s 1984. The war never ends and can never be won, the proles all live marginal existences just scraping by, and the elites ensure that any attempts at revolution dead-end into one of a million false leads (the FBI is already fond of operations like these). The elites actually lead pretty terrible lives as well, in this scenario: It just doesn’t feel that way because everyone else has it worse.
That’s the end that the love of power leads to: We all lose, and the happiness you cling to is that you’ve managed to lose a little bit less than everyone else – but, still, we’re all losers in the end.