Finger-wagging moralizers say the love of money is the root of all evil. They assume that making a lot of money requires exploiting others, and that the best way to wash off the resulting stain is to give a lot of it away.
In Why It’s OK to Want to Be Rich, Jason Brennan shows that the moralizers have it backwards. He argues that, in general, the more money you make, the more you already do for others, and that even an average wage earner is productively "giving back" to society just by doing her job. In addition, wealth liberates us to have the best chance of leading a life that’s authentically our own.
Brennan also demonstrates how money-based societies create nicer, more trustworthy, and more cooperative citizens. And in another chapter that takes on the new historians of capitalism, Brennan argues that wealthy nations became wealthy because of their healthy institutions, not from their horrific histories of slavery or colonialism.
While writing that the more money one has, the more one should help others, Brennan also notes that we weren’t born into a perpetual debt to society. It’s OK to get rich and it’s OK to enjoy being rich, too.
- Shows how the desire to become wealthy in an open and fair market helps maximize cooperation and lessens the chance of violence and war
- Argues that it is much easier for the average for-profit business to add value to the world than it is for the average non-profit
- Demonstrates that the kinds of virtues (e.g., conscientiousness, thoughtfulness, hard work) that lead to desirable personal and civic states (e.g., happy marriages, stable families, engaged citizens) also make people richer
- Argues that living in small clans for most of their history has given humans a negative attitude towards anyone acquiring more than her "fair share," an attitude that’s ill-suited for our market-driven, globally connected world
- In a final, provocative chapter, maintains that ideal economic growth is infinite.
Table of Contents
1. The Root of All Evils
2. For the Love of Money
3. Is Money Dirty? Does Money Corrupt?
4. It’s OK to Make Money
5. Rich Country, Poor Country
6. Give it Away Now?
7. Riches, Repugnance, and Remaining Doubts
Jason Brennan is the Robert J. and Elizabeth Flanagan Family Professor of Strategy, Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy at the McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University. He is the author of fourteen books, including In Defense of Openness (2018) and Why Not Capitalism? (2014).
"Is it OK to want money? With his trademark blend of philosophical analysis, social scientific data-mining, and norm-busting verbal pyrotechnics, Jason Brennan argues that it’s more than just OK. Wanting to become rich is how we make our world a better place and, along the way, author lives that are genuinely our own."
–John Tomasi, Brown University
"Do you own a BMW? Are you already in business school? If so, then maybe put this book down and instead consider getting into something a bit less comfortable by Marx, Fanon, Foucault, or Elizabeth Anderson. But for the rest of us, Why It’s OK to Want to Be Rich is an exhilarating, illuminating, mildly terrifying ride. Provocative and challenging at every beautifully-handled turn, drawing on a wealth of economics and psychology, this direct little book sets out the moral case for money—making it, spending it, even luxuriating in it, and not feeling bad about it. Many of us raised in the wealthiest, most capitalist, happiest societies in human history have been taught to react to such ideas with a complex mixture of rage and guilt. You might already want to throw this book across the room. Fine, fine. But read it first. You might learn something—about money, about markets, about economics, even about yourself. If nothing else, I know of no better, faster introduction to the moral case for capitalism. It is the kind of book that enriches all of us, even if—and perhaps especially if—we are inclined to disagree with it."
—Alex Guerrero, Rutgers University