The best things in life may be free. But, if you ask me, I would much rather live in a posh Bel Air mansion with a seven-figure bank account than live off the "fat of the land" with barely enough moolah for a decent existence. In a world where people want the best of everything, I can easily equate money with comfort, security and luxury. Having the buck stop in my pocket means getting whatever I want, when I want it, and how I want it.

Many of you are probably shaking your head as you read this while wearing your fine terry cloth or silk robe over breakfast, or while sitting in your $1,000 tuition college lecture. You cringe at the idea that the world is superficial and that the buck is the ticket to ride. Money is hardly just a medium of exchange, but a necessary asset for those who not only want to live a decent lifestyle but also want to have some social control.

If happiness means just living a normal life, then breathing the fresh air here in Los Angeles carries a heavy price for existence. According to the ACCRA Cost of Living Index, Los Angeles is ranked at 147.7 with the nation's average being 100, and Yahoo! Real Estate states that the average 2000 square-foot house soars at $320,000. True, every shelter has its price, but keeping up with the mean cost of living in the City of Angels has become a sight for sore wallets.

Money also seems to be the key element in educating the young ones, where expensive private schools shine as some of the best primary and secondary educational institutions. President George W. Bush let America know that he preferred parochial educations for the nation's future when he announced his school voucher program. While he was stressing quality education, he failed to recognize that the $4,000 vouchers he was offering to families that applied for a voucher could not possibly fund the $20,000 yearly average tuition for such a school.

He also ignored the fact that the program would strip funds from less affluent public schools. That's our Bush! Too bad for those who cannot afford this expensive breed of education; a good education never came cheap. In the business world, money is just as influential a force. If you do not have a lot of money to back your business, you will become victim to those who do, namely the giant corporate competitors who are ready to take you down immediately.

Just last fall, Westwood Video, a small store on Gayley Avenue, fell victim to its neighborhood competitors, Blockbuster Video and Hollywood Video, after being in business for 20 years. Money talks in the business world, and so small businesses usually have too small a voice to be heard.

Though unique venues still scatter Westwood, corporations dominate. Coffee chains like The Coffee Bean and Starbucks have monopolized the Westwood coffee market, setting two locations of each store all within a half mile of each other so that you will not be able to miss them.

Money definitely talks for corporations like Borders and Barnes and Noble. These two businesses recently settled a lawsuit brought on by the American Booksellers Association, who represented itself and 20 independent booksellers. In the April hearings, evidence was revealed that the two book giants received special discounts from publishers, incentives, rebates, as well as preferential billing deadlines over smaller venues.

Money played a big part in the success of these larger venues, as well as in the settlement of this dispute. The corporate defendants paid $4.7 million dollars to the ABA, silencing their cries for justice and again using the power of their pocketbooks to take charge. Big movie budgets also seem to fuel the success of motion pictures. The year 2000's top five grossing box-office hits were The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Cast Away, Mission Impossible 2, Gladiator and The Perfect Storm, all flicks with budgets well over $100 million. Moviemakers know that they must spend hoards of money in order to make profits.

Even looking at the all-time highest grossing movies, 20 out of the top 30 were films made in the 1990s when the $100 million-and-over budget for movies was born (with 1994's True Lies). These recent big budget films have toppled the box office records of 70 years of film, making you question the influence of a film's budget in successful ticket sales. This financial trend of course bleeds into politics too. The figures spent for the campaigns of the 2000 presidential election candidates are almost unbelievable, showing that money is directly linked with power or the pursuit of it.

Al Gore spent over $120 million for his campaign while his opponent and victor, Bush used over $185 million, spending more than any presidential candidate in history. Without the ability to raise all the big bucks and thus build up their worth in dollars, these presidential candidates would fail. Money for campaigning has become an out of control factor in elections, suggesting that these excessive dollar sums are just as important as the verbal promises these running mates offer to voters.

Of course, if you disagree with me on any of this, send some money my way – cash preferred – and I just might reconsider.

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