The Will of Money

Anh is a rising sophomore working at Legal Momentum in their National Judicial Education Program.

Free will does not exist.

There is no doubt that the flow of money shapes my life. From little things like food to big things like where I live and what school I attend. When it comes to Legal Momentum, a very similar situation exists. The money does constrain the extent to which it could implement projects and hire employees.

Here comes the cliché: Money cannot buy happiness. Or in the case of LM, effectiveness.

I consider that overused saying true. The happiness in my life comes from doing what I enjoy (like graphic designing, philosophy, and eating). The effectiveness of NJEP’s programs comes from Lynn and the other staff members that provide the training and projects.

Simply throwing capital at something would not get you what you want. Based on my observations of movie productions, to get the most profitable returns on your investment, you need to use the money to hire talent. So what you really need in the end is talent.

The obvious solution to the constraint of funding is to hire a few, but talented people that can think their way out of a very small box. However, the problem is that very talented people  want profitable returns for their skills. After all, the secret to success is finding what you’re good at and make people pay you to do it. Non-profit organizations might not be able to provide the same income as a for-profit company. In order to compete for effective workers, non-profits must be able to offer them something more valuable than money.

In this economy, I have no idea what  that “something” would be. However, given the amount of dedication and talents at LM, I am confident that that “something” exists.

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3 thoughts on “The Will of Money

  1. Anh – I’m not sure I completely agree with you here. In particular, if money can’t buy happiness then can you really say that free will does not exist? Aren’t we constantly making choices whether they are driven by money – or the lack thereof? And, isn’t a little too simple to say that talent equals effectiveness? I think you need more than talent alone and that, at some level, there is always money involved paying for the talent or driving it or inspiring it. There are definitely a lot of cases – US education is one – where throwing money at something doesn’t mean it will be better or more effective, but in a lot of cases, that actually is the truth. Talent at a non-profit that is richly funded sadly probably goes a lot further than talent at somewhere surviving on a shoe string. Not necessarily because the talent is any better or more talented but also because money buys more access and advertising and often a louder voice. I think the internet is leveling that playing field to some extent but I guess I still view the situation as a little more complicated than what you presented.

  2. Hey Christy,

    I’m certain that the situation is much more complicated that what I presented. Please don’t hesitate to disagree.

    I don’t believe that I can capture the complexity of the topic of free will or talent or effectiveness no matter how hard I try. Nevertheless, it is not a bad thing to just wonder about it or throw some thoughts around.

    Before I start, I think I need to make a point of clarification.
    My position is that money:
    1. is influential in our decisions
    2. is not main or sole determinant of whether or not we have free will
    3. does not buy us everything
    In short, I consider it a strong factor, but certainly not almighty.

    “In particular, if money can’t buy happiness then can you really say that free will does not exist?”
    It is possible that something else entirely out of my control is making me happy; it’s just not money. I cannot control the emotion of happiness that surfaces when that something comes into/occurs in my life. I probably cannot even control that fact that it exists or has influence.

    “Aren’t we constantly making choices whether they are driven by money – or the lack thereof?”
    Absolutely. I don’t think that money shapes all the decisions in life. Nevertheless, I recognize that its presence certainly does influence a lot of mine. Also, we must acknowledge that the financial crisis and the recession (recent and in the past) has definitely changed a lot of lives and shaped decisions. I can imagine that some things in my life may be a consequence of my ancestors’ decisions, money related or not.
    We are constantly making choices, but we are not always aware of what made us decide on it in the first place. (I had to read a couple of papers on this in my philosophy class and they were very interesting)

    “And, isn’t a little too simple to say that talent equals effectiveness?”
    Yes, it is an over-simplification. I chose the word and phrased my wordings the way I did because it made the equation look neater. For me, talent = skill, knowledge, ability, etc… I consider talent, in sense that I’m using it, a very crucial part of effectiveness.
    Money can be wasted if the person doesn’t know how to use it. Some opportunities might be more apparent while others may be latent. I think that it takes a certain ability to be able to marry money and opportunity, and that ability must be able to do it at the right time in the right situation. Effectiveness is very complicated because it is a combination of the perfect blend of various factors. I just like to think that talent is what connects it all together 🙂

    I hope this answered everything and wasn’t too long.


  3. Anh,

    You hit on a problem facing non-profits and government agencies throughout the country (and the world) right now–how to meet an ever rising need with an ever shrinking budget. Unfortunately, this means that so many places are understaffed and unable to be as effective as they might otherwise be–stressed, tired, overworked employees are typically not as effective as they could be, even if they have all the talent and the passion in the world. I completely agree that money doesn’t buy happiness and that you need to do what you love (as it sounds like you all heard from Amy Poehler this week), but a real dearth of money leads to problems and stress. I think many people coming out of school are faced with this conundrum, and it’s something to think about as you move forward with your career goals. How can we expect people, many of whom are coming out of school with great debt, to survive in a city like New York while making $40,000 a year at a non-profit? Though money doesn’t buy happiness, where we put our money often shows what we value and in what increments. While the answer is perhaps not willy nilly throwing money at any and all organizations, I think we need to reevaluate where we’re putting our resources and focus on enabling those who want to do the kind of work that Legal Momentum does to be able to do it and making a true living wage. Good luck in the coming week! Look forward to hearing more.

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