Through "The Veins of Wealth" run John Ruskin's critical opinions on the economic lifeblood of society. Whether political or monetary, Ruskin displays the many powers of wealth through detailed anecdotes. Moral power, when held in knowledgeable hands, can be more valuable than economic power, but still retains a monetary value. Ruskin extends his financial consult to political leaders as well as the common businessman, both who need a lesson in basic economics. A persuasive and self-assured tone compliments Ruskin's argument, as his consciousness of the reader clouds it.

It has been shown that the chief value and virtue of money consists in its having power over human beings; that, without this power, large material possessions are useless, and to any person possessing such power, comparatively unnecessary. But power over human beings is attainable by other means than by money. As I said a few pages back, the money power is always imperfect and doubtful; there are many things which cannot be reached with it, others which cannot be retained by it. Many joys may be given to men which cannot be bought for gold, and many fidelities found in them which cannot be rewarded with it.

Trite enough, — the reader thinks. Yes: but it is not so trite, — I wish it were, — that in this moral power, quite inscrutable and immeasurable though it be, there is a monetary value just as real as that represented by more ponderous currencies. A man's hand may be full of invisible gold, and the wave of it, or the grasp, shall do more than another's with a shower of bullion. This invisible gold, also, does not necessarily diminish in spending. Political economists will do well some day to take heed of it, though they cannot take measure.

Ruskin wishes his points concerning what one can buy with money were commonplace, labeling moral power as his new more effective currency. His focus changes from political power to a morality that has more monetary value than gold. Power over others, when obtained without the persuasion of riches, holds a massive influence over society, and can itself breed wealth for those who possess it.


1. Why does Ruskin explicitly tell the reader what he or she thinks? What purpose does it serve in his argument if any?

2. Through the essay, Ruskin changes the category of political power to moral value. Does he mean the same thing by them, or has he created a third category?

3. The first sentence breaks the fluidity of Ruskin's argument and makes the speaker very visible to the reader. Why does Ruskin interrupt himself by breaking his pace?

4. Ruskin seems to back away from his arguments in the last two sentences of the selection. His language is less persuasive and assured, with a vague reference to moral value not necessarily diminishing in its economic value. Does Ruskin's diminished interest in his point make these paragraphs seem like an added after thought or his central point? Does he try to use it as both?


Ruskin, John. The Genius of John Ruskin. Ed. John Rosenberg. Various editions (orginally Riverside).

Last modified 16 October 2006

6 May 2019