In a tribe, status is determined by individual deeds and attributes. Let’s imagine a tribe where the best hunter gets the best cuts of meat, the best women, the best of everything. He enjoys the rewards of being the most effective at helping his society survive. The social order is kept strong.
In a nation of anonymous millions we require money as an abstract standin for tribal status and reputation. It’s how we organize in economic groups far larger than our monkey instincts can handle. If I walk into walmart and grab a bunch of bananas, there’s no way the cashier can know if letting me walk out of the store is a net benefit to society or if I have social value and credibility greater than the value of the bananas. So we all default to money.
Money is a good behavior points system. In 1st grade there were gold stars, as adults, there’s dollars. Money measures how valuable we are to society. How many dollars you have is how much every other holder of dollars wants you around. If you can’t be valued enough in money points to survive, you’re effectively “voted off the island.” Ideally, it’s equivalent to being exiled from a small tribe because you hurt the group or just didn’t contribute enough. Because money is an abstract construct in place of the real thing, it is in practice naturally vulnerable to abuse.
If I can steal a dollar from someone and get away with it, society values me a dollar more for my ability to do it. If I could get away with selling illegal drugs or human organs, I would be making big money enjoying society’s best luxuries while actually hurting the abstract mass tribe. It would be the equivalent of a small tribe richly rewarding a traitor.
Or imagine someone who gets the best rewards merely by gaming the money system within the letter of the law. Maybe he just shuffles around securities producing no value for others. Maybe he buys up drug patents and charges hundreds of dollars per pill to desperate dying patients. Or spends 4 decades grinding in a cubicle. It doesn’t matter how he gets money so long as gets it. In a small tribe he’d be like a guy who just pretends to work all day yet gets the best rewards! Worse, each dollar gives the traitor or the scammer more gravitational pull, more votes over what shape society is to take. Once the defector-parasites are powerful enough to reprogram society’s immune system in their own interests everything good is finally drained and used up.
Worst of all, seeing defectors rewarded destroys group morale. Why work hard to do things the right way, when parasites get ahead? When people see the unproductive are most successful they eventually will want to join them. A society that rewards unproductive or harmful people doesn’t deserve anyone’s dedication or loyalty anyway. Once athletes, entertainers, and financiers are in the top levels of the hierarchy, that society has lost its mandate of heaven. In a small tribe where a traitor was rewarded best everyone would eventually become traitors.