The color of money: Chesterton teaches us about the mysticism of money and why it is not the only thing that makes the world go round.

Author:Trevino, Joseph


In 1920, G.K. Chesterton, possibly the 20th Century's greatest writer wrote The fallacy of success and The worship of the wealthy, two astonishing essays that seem tailor-made for our current Finance issue and for that matter, for any magazine or media today.

Chesterton denounced that the media, even back then, had a horrible way of fawning over the rich and successful not only for all the wrong reasons like being a hypocritical sycophant, but of trying to overly lend credibility to crass materialism like if the mere practice of it was a virtue.

Being a child of the 1980's, I can hear Michael Douglas's character, Gordon Gekko, saying his famous phrase from the movie Wall Street, "greed is good." Yes, my generation all grew up groveling over ponytailed yuppies and power-suited women who drove BMW's, dined at opulent French L.A. restaurants like L'Orangerie and dove headfirst into a spending orgy that inspired generations of followers and led to our current economic and spiritual depression.

I should know. I was there. Chesterton, with his incredibly clear vision, wrote that whereas in ages past common folk would often overpraise rich people to their face, thus revealing in some sort of way their adulation was untrue, helping the rich ground themselves in reality, today we pretend we exalt an entrepreneur's or CEO's business style or his alleged "humble" clothing (funny, I always thought there was something hypocritical about some the new politicians who instead of wearing suits now walk around in shirts pretending they are everyday Joes), while feigning we don't extol them for their moneymaking arts.

"We see quite clearly what is really at the bottom of all these articles and books. It is not mere business; it is not even mere cynicism. It is mysticism; the horrible mysticism of money," wrote Chesterton, about a writer from his era who adored the Vanderbilts, the prominent family of the Gilded Age.

"He merely wished to prostrate himself before the mystery of a millionaire. For when we really...

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