The rules of money are precise and invariable. Money attracts money, money seeks to accumulate in the same places, money is naturally attracted to scoundrels and those who are entirely bereft of any talent. When, by an exception which proves the rule, money finds its way into the hands of a man who, though wealthy, is neither a miser nor has any murderous proclivities, it stands idle, incapable of creating a force for good, incapable of even making its way into charitable hands who would know how to employ it. One might almost say that it takes revenge for its misdirection, that it undergoes a voluntary paralysis whenever it enters into the possession of someone who is neither a born swindler nor a complete and utter dotard.
When, by some extraordinary chance, it strays into the home of a poor man, money behaves even more inexplicably. It defiles immediately what was clean, transforms even the chastest pauper into a monster of unbridled lust and, acting simultaneously on the body and the soul, instils in its possessor a base egoism, not to mention an overweening pride, which insists that he spends every penny on himself alone; it makes even the humblest arrogant, and turns the generous person into a skinflint. In one second, it changes every habit, upsets every idea, transforms the most deep-seated passions.
Money is the greatest nutrient imaginable for sins of the worst kind, which in a sense it aids and abets. If one of the custodians of wealth so forgets himself as to bestow a boon or make a donation, it immediately gives rise to hatred in the breast of the recipient; by replacing avarice with ingratitude, the equilibrium is established again: a new sin is commissioned by every good deed which is committed.
But the real height of monstrosity is attained when money, hiding the splendour of its name under the dark veil of the word, calls itself capital. At that moment its action is no longer limited to individual incitations to theft and murder, but extends across the entire human race. With a single word capital grants monopolies, erects banks, corners markets, changes people’s lives, is capable of causing millions to starve to death.
And all the while that it does this, money is feeding on itself, growing fat and breeding in a bank vault; and the Two Worlds worship it on bended knee, melting with desire before it, as before a God… Either money, the master of the soul, is diabolical or else it is beyond explanation.
– J K Huysmans, Là-Bas (1891)