Of course people use money to procure the necessities of life, but even this involves choice. Nutritious food and reasonable accommodations can cost more or less depending on other factors that are not matters of necessity. I am thinking, however, about how we spend so-called discretionary funds.

People play with money, using it in various kinds of games. Competition involves risk, so dollars become stakes in trying to win and often losing. This is a very popular way to use money, as casinos, lotteries, and stock markets attest.

The popularity of these games depends on the idea that money gives the winner prestige and power. In big amounts, the opposite is true. Winners of lotteries often suffer physical and emotional strain. Many rich people have to spend money and time protecting their wealth and what it bought.

Instead of playing with one’s extra cash I promote using it to help other people. To get charitable donations some groups hold contests, marches, and other entertainments. They blend a bit of the game psychology into altruistic benevolence. If that’s what it takes, okay.

Our tax system used to make giving money to worthwhile causes tax-deductible. It still is but only at much larger amounts. So that incentive to use money for good has been diminished. I guess we’ll need more government lotteries and taxed betting regulations to get dollars for civic welfare.

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