Never discuss politics or religion, many of us have been told. But what about money? To some, money shapes their politics, and it can easily become religion if we allow it to.
Most people I know refrain from discussing money in crude, numerical terms. In American culture, finance is considered personal and private. It is rude to ask people about their salaries, the price of their homes, or even the cost of their child’s tuition. We hate to divulge, so we also hate to ask.
And yet, we somehow love to talk about money– just in indirect ways. We can rarely discuss commerce without commenting on price; we’re constantly referencing what we can or can’t afford; we are, after all, living in the legacy of the leisure class and conspicuous consumption. We put rich people on television, and we somehow find their squandering of wealth entertaining.
So what’s the big deal? Why does money occupy such a strangely powerful position in our personal lives?