For Richer or Poorer.

Shelly W. Period 6

Imagine walking down a busy street asking people what is the purpose of humans, you would most likely get the answer, “to live a good life.” If you were to ask that same person what defines a good life, they would most likely say, “happiness.” If again you asked that person the question what is happiness, they would say something along the lines of “having a good job, providing for their family, doing what you love, etc.” In The Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle analyzes what makes humans different from the other life forms on earth. He determines that “the function of man, then, is exercise of his vital faculties on one side in obedience to reason, and on the other side with reason.” In short, what makes us human is our ability to live in accordance with reason, in order to reach the final end of happiness. In order to achieve the final end of happiness, an individual must be given a sufficient amount of true riches. The way in which the government of a society functions, and allows its citizen to choose between right and wrong, is an essential part of providing these true riches and helping the individual achieve the final end.  In addition to the government influence in a nation, wealth is a determining factor in the happiness of the individual. In wealthy countries, like the United Kingdom, an individual’s happiness is greatly dependent on his or her wealth and social status. However, in poverty stricken nations, like Malawi, happiness is more dependent on personal relationships and basic necessities. In Malawi, people learn to be happy with the little that they have because they do not know anything different; however, in the United Kingdom, people are more distracted by material items. Basically, in the United Kingdom, people are worried about when the newest iPhone is coming out, where as in Malawi most people worry about where their next meal might come from.

The United Kingdom is comprised of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. The British government is run by the Prime Minister, currently David Cameron, and the Constitutional monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. The monarch is the official head of State as well as the head of the Church of England. While the monarch has very little official power in the running of the government, he or she has the power to declare war.  The Prime Minister, appointed by the monarch, is the official head of the Executive branch of the Government. The Prime minister’s main power is to create and institute government policy.  However, the Prime Minister is required to make changes of government policy in union with the rest of the cabinet in order to safeguard the rights of all citizens of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom does not have a singular constitution in which laws and basic freedoms are specified. In the United Kingdom, freedoms, laws, and traditions are stated in multiple documents. The United Kingdom also has a judicial system in order to ensure that its citizen are able to exercise the freedoms guaranteed by the government.

In Great Britain, most people are generally well off, the average annual income in 26,500 pounds or 44,789 U.S. dollars. The United Kingdom has the sixth largest economy in Europe and the ninth largest in the world. The United Kingdom has a GDP per capita of 41,589 U.S. dollars, and an estimated export of 503.6 billion U.S. dollars. In addition, tourism to the United Kingdom continues to boost the economy, as London has become the most visited city in the world. The United Kingdom is a member of the European Union, or EU, meaning, the the United Kingdom must follow trade market policies set by the EU. Because the United Kingdom is considered a developed country, the topic of poverty is in relation to relative poverty, or the idea that the people affected by poverty will not continue to be in poverty for generations. Poverty in the United Kingdom is earning less than 279 pounds per week for families of four. In other words, if happiness is based on wealth, than the people of Great Britain, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, should be some of the happiest people on earth.


Malawi is located in south east Africa, and is bordered by Tanzania and Mozambique. The government of Malawi is governed by the president who is the chief of state as well as the head of the government. The current president is Joyce Banda, and the vice president is Khumbo Kachali. The cabinet of Malawi is appointed by the president; these members are not required to be from the legislature. Malawi, like the United Kingdom, has an independent judiciary system in order to uphold the freedoms guaranteed to its citizen in the constitution. However, Malawi has recently struggled with violations of human rights. When violence broke out in North Africa in 2011, Malawi was struggling with corruption as well as high commodity prices and when the people of Malawi called for reforms, the government responded with violence. In addition, the president  passed legislation that allowed government officials to ban newspapers and other publications that were damaging to the public interest of the nation. On July 20, 2011 the police of Malawi killed an estimated 19 people who were protesting the economic conditions of Malawi. Any journalists who opposed the government and shared these views with the public would  sentenced to prison. The Malawian government has become increasingly oppressive and does not provide its citizens with the opportunity to fulfill their function as humans.

In Malawi, the average annual income is around 320 U.S. dollars and is one of the most undeveloped countries in the world. The main industry of Malawi is agriculture, which makes up 80% of the country’s economy. The economy of Malawi is highly dependent on economic assistance from multiple nations. The main export of Malawi is tobacco, which makes up 70% of exports. Unfortunately, other nations are putting pressure to limit the manufacturing of tobacco, as it causes health defects. In addition to tobacco, Malawi grows cotton, corn, potatoes, sorghum, cattle, goats, tea, sugar cane, and coffee. Malawi is facing major environmental issues such as deforestation and erosion, which will ruin the soil and will hinder the country’s ability to grow produce. Additionally, Malawi’s dependence on agriculture makes the economy extremely vulnerable drought and under production. Malawi does not have any oil deposits, so they must import all the oil and natural gases needed to run the country. This puts a large burden on the Malawian economy.  However, Malawi is basically self-sufficient when it comes to their food supply. Malawi produces enough corn to completely support the entirety of the population.  Unfortunately, the people of Malawi have traditionally lived in absolute poverty, or will most likely continue to live in the cycle of poverty indefinitely.

If Aristotle analyzed both the economic situation and the government practices of Malawi and the United Kingdom, he would most likely find that the United Kingdom provides the true riches an individual needs to achieve the final end of happiness. The United Kingdom has established economic prosperity for its citizens, as well as a government system that protects their basic human rights.  However, Aristotle might see the extravagant lifestyle of the people of the United Kingdom as a distraction from a life of contemplation.  In the case of Malawi, the government has abused its power and exploited its people, through its use of violence, and violated their basic human rights.  Additionally, Malawi’s economic situation is far from providing the individual with basic necessities, and true riches need to live Aristotle’s definition of a good life. This analysis of both Malawi and the United Kingdom shows that while neither society is ideal, the people of the United Kingdom are more likely to live a good life according to Aristotle.


278. J. Tyler Dickovick, Africa 2008, 43rd edition, Harpers Ferry, WV: Stryker-Post Publications, 2008.

33-41. R Carver, (1990). Where Silence Rules: The Suppression of Dissent in Malawi, Human Rights Watch.

3-7. R Kapindu. Malawi’s Constitutional and Legal system.

Overview of the UK system of government : Directgov – Government, citizens and rights.

46-51. Jonathan Cribb. Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2012. Institute for Fiscal Studies.

1-10.  Labour Market Statistics: the United Kingdom, November 2013. Office for National Statistics.


One thought on “For Richer or Poorer.

  1. This was a very interesting article. I really enjoyed reading it because I too chose compare and contrast the happiness of two drastically different countries while looking towards Aristotle’s words for guidance. I think this is a subject really worth contemplating since it affects all humans. At the root of it all I think we have to look towards our own life and emotions to find what happiness means to us, but Aristotle defiantly helps us fill the gaps.
    -Mary Hutti, Period 1

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