Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Welcome to the Matrix of materialism

  • 27 January 2018


A visitor from before the 20th century would be stunned to see the extent to which the world is now dominated by materialism. It has many dimensions.

One is scientific materialism — considering everything, including the human mind, to be just matter. Another is financial materialism, assuming money to be what defines everything else.

That visitor from an earlier time would be stunned to see how much we understand the world using monetary measures. Finance has come to be considered the first reality, not defined by, or reflecting, reality. The cart has been put before the horse.

To see how this creates distortions, consider the measure Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is taken to be a reliable measure of national wellbeing. GDP is a measure of transactions, how fast money changes hands. It is not a measure of quality of life. For instance, there tends to be an increase in GDP whenever there is a natural disaster because more money changes hands to pay for repairing the damage. A disaster does not improve quality of life.

GDP does not address health, crime, poverty, family breakdown, the state of the environment or the state of civil society. It also does not measure the effect of technological innovation, which is what has the greatest impact on quality of life.

Some of the technology now available in a car, for instance, would have been extremely expensive 30 years ago, if it was even available. That technological advance does not appear in the price, however, because the car companies absorb any cost because it is the price of being in business. It means the technical advance does not appear in the monetary exchanges.

The massive efficiencies produced by technology over the last few decades tend not to be measured in the monetary system. For example, in the 1950s, to be a poor child often meant your parents could not afford to buy you shoes. To be poor now rarely means that, because, as with most consumer goods, the cost of production has plummeted. Those efficiency gains are not evident in the transactions.


"We are being imprisoned by our own creation, and those who control the system, financiers, increasingly rule us."


Another instance of how financial materialism distorts our view of the world is the claim that the poor in some countries live on less than five dollars a day. What this indicates is that the poor in these countries are outside the