Make It Rain
Money, money, money. With money everything is possible, right? You can own a fancy yacht, a house that’s entirely too big, and of course, be happy…right? That’s exactly what our consumerist society has taught us so well, but to most everyone’s surprise, money actually cannot do all of these things. According to Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, happiness lies within a man’s function. If a man has reached his true and absolute function, so shall he also posses happiness. But, why do so many people around the world believe money can bring happiness, when in fact the truth to finding this happiness is to discover our own function?
Simply put, everyone believes this because it’s what we’ve been taught to believe from a young age. Most consumers don’t even realize that they are being taunted by the consumerist culture every second of the day. Our world is bombarded with technology that allows information to reach our eyes and ears almost instantly. With this upper hand, companies can convince societies that what they really need is a new TV or a next generation phone. These commercials, ads, magazines, etc. all mask the true objective of the company. The main reason for the bombardment of ads is purely so you will buy their product. For example, take Calvin Klein’s new perfume Euphoria. The ad consists over a woman (wearing the Calvin Klein perfume) and a man that is completely infatuated with her. The ad tricks its audience into believing that if you buy this perfume, you can even obtain this man which will ultimately bring you to be happier because this perfume brought you a man which in turn brings you happiness. Wrong. The thought that happiness can be bought is a silly one.
While this is silly, most people in the world still believe it’s true. This brings us to the next misconception that the richest countries are happy while the poorest countries are not. Aristotle would firmly disagree with this statement “for the money-making life, it is something quite contrary to nature; and wealth evidently is not the good of which we are in search, for it is merely useful as a means to something else” (The Nicomachean Ethics). Money cannot bring a man into a contemplative life, the life that brings a man to happiness.
To expand on this issue let’s take two countries: Panama and Norway. Norway being one of the wealthiest countries in the world ranks #4 on the World’s Richest and Poorest countries according to the Global Finance Magazine. Much further down this list in spot #58 you find Panama, one of the poorer countries in the world. Norway’s GDP (PPP) per capita was roughly $52,000 in 2009 and has only risen since then. In comparison Panama’s GDP (PPP) per capita the following year was not even half of that at roughly $17,000 in 2010. But, is one of these countries necessarily happier than the other simply due to the size of their bank account? Probably not.
Panama is located in Central America bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific ocean (Geography). It proves to be one of the most beautiful and fertile countries in the world and has been successful in tourism in past years. In article by Christopher Helman of Forbes Magazine states that some of the happiest people in the world actually live in Panama. While it may not be the richest country in the world, it still proves to be one of the happiest.
In comparison we have Norway, one the the wealthiest countries in the nation. Norway locates itself on the Northern part of Europe and borders the North Atlantic Ocean (Geography). Like Panama, Norway is a beautiful country that brings in a good amount of tourism as well. Norway is full of rugged hills, rolling hills, and vast lakes. In the same fashion as Panama, Norway is also one of the happiest countries in the world. This past year Norway actually made the #1 spot in Forbes’ Happiest Countries.
Although it would be hard to tell which country is actually happier, we can tell that money does not factor in the comparison of both Panama and Norway. Instead, let us look at another factor of a person’s happiness in Aristotle’s opinion. Aristotle believes the state is one of the key factors of living a life of happiness. “Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest degree” (The Nicomachean Ethics). The best states are those in which help it’s citizens reach reach their ultimate goal; their function. In order for a man to find happiness he must in turn find his function. If a man is not a part of the state he “must be either a beast or a god…”(The Nicomachean Ethics). To apply this issue to current worldly issues let us again take Panama and Norway.
“Norway is a unitary constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government, wherein the King of Norway is the head of the state and the Prime Minister is the head of the government” (Norway Country Study Guide). Norway’s constitution was adopted May 17, 1814 and was inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence and French Revolution of 1776 and 1789. Similar to the system of the United States, Norway’s power is separated into the three main branches: legislative, executive and judicial. With this system intact, Norwegians can change their government democratically. (Freedomhouse) A study done by Freedomhouse states that Norway has the best freedom rating, civil liberties, and political rights in 2003. The role of the state in Norway gives its citizens the freedoms and opportunities they need to find their function, and of course, happiness.
Panama is a presidential representative democratic republic, in which the President of Panama is both the head of the state and the head of the government, and of a multi-party system (Politics of Panama). Like the United States and Norway, Panama uses a separation of powers through the three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. Each branch uses a system of checks and balances in order to make sure on sector doesn’t gain too much power over the other. Panama is an electoral democracy whose national elections are free and fair. The country’s media outlets are privately owned and freedom of religion is respected. Also, the freedom of assembly is respected and recognized. Freedomhouse rates Panama overall as a free country, but it is important to remember the civil liberties of the country are not yet completely perfect (Freedomhouse). The state of Panama gives it’s citizens equal and fair opportunity to reach their function and happiness, just as Norway has. Just because one country has more money than the other does not necessarily mean they are happier as a whole.
Both of these countries provide their citizens with a free state and government. With this being said, each country gives it’s citizen the opportunity to reach their function, so each citizen should be able to reach happiness. Have the citizens actually reached this point? It’s not up to anyone to say, but both the citizens of Panama and Norway have the resources to do so. It doesn’t matter whether a country is poor or rich, it is more so what the state offers up to it’s citizens. How the citizens are treated and the opportunities they are given will in turn judge the happiness of the whole of the society.
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Aristotle, W. D. Ross, and J. O. Urmson. The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford (Oxfordshire): Oxford UP, 1980. Print.
Norway Country Study Guide Strategic Information and Developments. N.p.: Intl Business Pubns USA, 2012. Print.