I was reading this morning about how GNP has finally been de-bunked as corollary to fulfillment/happiness. The article in part on CNN and in full on CRF seems to state the goddamned obvious. There is no quantitative link between your usefulness to the states use of you (GNP in this case) and your level of contentment. Realistically, did anyone ever think that? We are raised from our youth to repeat the mantra ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’ and we’re then surprised when it turns out that we are spot on. All respect to Stiglitz and his Bro-conomists, “Duh!”
I vaguely recall reading ‘ Anarchy, State and Utopia” by Nozick, although much of the information contained in my sieve like brain has sadly fallen through the holes in my cerebrum, one clear point of his remains. Taxation makes me a slave to the state. Now without going to an extreme let’s quickly point out a couple of things: taxes are necessary to keep roads in good condition, to keep public services running, and to generally ensure that those who cannot fend for themselves (the ill, infirm, unemployed, young, and crumblies) are not executed summarily on street corners. However, it does mean that if I my monthly paycheck is $5 before taxes (thank god it’s slightly more after taxes), and I want something that costs $10, and the government charges me $2 taxes on each paycheck, I will need at least three paychecks to achieve that. Now without the states intervention I would only need two paychecks, so the state is forcing me to work for it an extra month to achieve my goal. For 30 days the state enslaves me. Now yes the idea is somewhat flawed. Nozick’s idea doesn’t mention that the state is providing me with security (or at least supposed to), it pays the Emergency services, city maintenance, and other costs that all encourage my life to be slightly better than it would be living in a swamp surrounded by gators… BUT I still feel like the state is coercing me to give up my money. Even though I know money doesn’t equal happiness, I feel I should be given the opportunity to be the exception to that rule.
I digress; my point is, in truth, that saying money does not equal happiness is tautological. We know that money, utility to our nation, and productivity do not make us happier, but they are necessary to get money and to be a normal member of society. Being a part of society, whether it is just your family, friends or the wider society, makes us feel like we belong. AND MONEY!!! Money is not happiness, but it is a happiness facilitator. Money means you can go see your folks more often, it means you can visit your best buddy who has gone off to an obscure province in central India to become a swami or ended up in L.A. as a waiter/actor. It enables our desires. And I am all for enabling of happiness. So money as the root of all evil, yes I can see that. Like with everything taken to an extreme, it ends up impacting everyone in negative ways. I love tea, but if I drank 20 gallons of it a day I am relatively sure there would be consequences, nasty, jittery, diuretic consequences.
My point, I suppose, if I am being brief: Money obviously doesn’t mean happiness, but it does help us acquire happiness.
Like a ladder helps me acquire tallness.