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Money Talks

An Analysis of Money Talks
Robert R. Felder
Liberty University
Dr. Cliff Kelly
January 31, 2016
The phrase “money talks” is ubiquitous and used in a variety of occasions. The older
detective might be overheard saying to the younger, “follow the money because money talks.”
The mother of an incarcerated son might explain his conviction and another’s acquittal with the
phrase, “money talks.” The phrase is not restricted to the criminal justice arena. Churches,
political organizations, even booster clubs might hear the phrase when making decisions or
determining budgets. Because the phrase “money talks” can be used in so many contexts, it
seems reasonable to consider whether there is a single theory that explains the phrase and if there
is a communication theory or theories that explain how it is used. This essay intends to address
those two questions.
Money Talks as Theory
Definition and History
In order to determine if the phrase “money talks” embodies a theory, it is prudent to
consider first the concept of money. Money is defined as “an asset that is generally accepted as a
medium of exchange” (Money, 2006). It is a symbolic representation of value. The first recorded
medium of exchange was the cowrie shell used by the Chinese more than 3,000 years ago
(Barter, 2013). By 500 B.C.E., those in Lydia and afterward in Persia, Macedonia, Rome, and
Greece began using money in the form of coins but only the wealthy could afford them and
peasants continued to use the barter system (Barter, 2013). So money talks might be understood
as theory as a modern innovation.
Socio-economic Theory
The phrase “money talks” can be considered a socio-economic theory. As a theory it
relates to social power and influence through economic means. Jacob and Slaus (2012) in the
Power of Money state:
In the measure that an ordinary bag of grain can now be converted into more education,
medical care, entertainment, travel, etc., it has acquired far greater value than the original
bag of grain produced by the subsistence farmer in the distant past. Money is a means for
multiplying the value of every human attribute and capacity.
Money has greater power than the individually bartered item in the past because of its
shared meaning in a society or between societies. The phrase, “money talks” can be argued to be
a theory, but how does it function as a form of communication.
Money Talks as Communication Theory
There are several theories that can be used in the analysis of the phrase “money talks.”
From a cybernetic tradition, money becomes the “object of common concern” (Littlejohn and
Foss, 2011, p. 91) around which the parties in the discussion must come to agreement. It could
also be understood from a sociocultural tradition. Money, from this perspective, is an object that
is understood through social interchange in “the process of negotiating the world” (Littlejohn and
Foss, 2011, p. 99.) It might also be able to understand the phrase “money talks” from a rhetorical
view. From this perspective, it could be argued that money can be understood as an “ultimate
term,” as Littlejohn and Foss (2011) describe it, since it is laden with cultural value (p. 108.)
This essay has attempted to show that the phrase “money talks” can be understood as a
theory. It has developed as a socio-economic theory in the shadow of the expansion of money
into society. The essay also attempted to show how the phrase can be understood from a variety
of communication theories. Interestingly, “money talks” is often heard, but it also might often be
misunderstood since it can be analyzed from so many different views.
Barter. (2013). In Encyclopedia of World Trade: From Ancient Times to the Present. Routledge.
(2014, September 3). Retrieved February 1, 2016, from Credo Reference.
Jacobs, G., & Slaus, I. (2012). The power of money. Cadum, 1(5), 68-73. Retrieved from
Littlejohn, S. W. and Moss, K. A. (2011). Theories of human communication (10th ed.). Long
Grove, IL: Waveland Press.
Money. (2006). In Collins Dictionary of Economics. Collins. (2007, January 9). Retrieved
February 1, 2016, from Credo Reference.