Monday, September 27, 2010

Olet vel non olet? That is the question.

There's a Roman saying: Pecunia non olet! Money doesn't stink. Where does it originate? Well…

Once upon a time, before Christianity plunged the Western world into the Dark Ages, there was a Roman emperor we call Vespasian (Titus Flavius Vespasianus). Good old Tit Flava, as his friends might have called him if they were contemporary rappers, had his own ideas about money. He's the guy who initiated construction of the Flavian Amphitheater, aka the Colosseum, along with other huge, expensive public works. He's also the guy who imposed the vectigal urinae (piss tax) on Rome's populace. For the record, piss creators did not pay this tax, the people who bought the collected piss for use in tanning, laundry, and other chemical businesses paid it.

When his son, who later became the emperor Titus, complained that it was kind of a disgusting idea, Vespasian held a gold coin under Titus' nose and declaimed, "Non olet!" But this post is not about Vespasian, or his son Titus, or even about piss or a tax thereon, it's about money and whether or not it has, for lack of a better descriptor, provenance.

I have friends from all across the various spectra of life, political, philosophical, religious, etc. and I'm sure there's a complete spectrum of opinion on this topic. I'll state directly here, in diametric opposition to Vespasian, that I firmly believe that money does have provenance. For example, back in the dim time at the dawn of history when we did programs on punch cards, I worked for Boeing Computer Services. I was working with the commercial airplane division when I was offered a position with a military project. Woulda been good money (and pretty easy work) but I declined. I would not work for and take money from a military project. Like I said, I firmly believe that money has provenance and some money does stink.

But that's just my opinion and I'm curious as to your thoughts about this topic. Olet vel non olet? (It stinks or it doesn't stink?) Whatcha think?


  1. Allow me to Haiku for $$

    Money is filthy
    Things people might do for it
    is what really stinks.

  2. Money (coins and bills) can be convenient to oil the machinery that is society. I have nothing bad to say about the idea. But it's like anything.... what you do with convenience and what it's convenient for can matter (DO matter imo) more than one might first imagine.

    It's just like freedom: what is the purpose of a specific freedom? What does it do? What might it do?

    I don't want to be free to cuss out little babies or children or just whoever ... just so I can say I have that freedom. It would lead to stuff I don't want, that would be weird for anyone to want.

    So what is the convenience of payment or gain for? I think that's an excellent question, Frank.

  3. Holly was downtown today, because the girl she takes care of had a dance class. The car wouldn't run, when they came out to leave. Keith is off getting it towed to a repair shop. Holly and Clare were safe, and were walking to a cool coffee shop down there to get some ice cream, and I'm sure Clare wasn't afraid, and I'm sure within a few days that car will be running again and Holly will be driving Clare around again. I think it's really sweet that Holly is taking care of someone whose recently lost a parent.

    Keith works for Honeywell and they do government contracts. Sometimes aeronautical stuff, but sometimes weapons stuff, or military logistics (resupply), or other related things.

    Can intent and usage clean money up again? I get to stay home (or travel sometimes) and write about unschooling and parenting because Keith is willing to support that. I have a computer and a printer.

    I think "money" has been going around in the form of trade-outs and deals for a long time and will continue to do so. I just finished a second viewing of all the Star Trek TNG episodes in order. They talk about there being no money, yet they play poker. And some people have nicer quarters than others. :-) I saw them shoot up some other ships, too.

  4. Thanks for playing, Sandra. I think your secondary question is as significant as my initial one: Can intent and usage clean previously "dirty" money?