Two Countries Struggle to Provide the Same End: Happiness

Peyton Steiner- Period 5

Virtue, Excellence, prudence, wisdom, pleasure: all words used to describe happiness, but which one truly defines the meaning of happiness, or life of contemplation? None. A poor man might consider happiness to be wealth, and the rich man might consider happiness to be appreciation, so where do we find a common ground, if there is one? Aristotle states that happiness is the end to a good, meaning that one’s happiness is the final goal in life, to live in accordance with reason and contemplation. (1) Consequently, not until one has completed their life do we truly know whether this idea of happiness was met and executed. Besides the contradicting views, Aristotle tells us that happiness, the end goal, is attainable for all, but only if the individual works and benefits from the polis, also known as the state. (2)  Moreover, how does the state or society help one another to reach the feasible objective of happiness?

The United States of America, one of the richest countries in the world, strives to be the best in the world because of their competitive mentality and independence. Without these two components working in unison, the United States of America would become inferior to other countries. On the other hand, the Republic of Congo, a poorer country in comparison to the United States, uses the diversity of their culture to maintain a stable government. By becoming more urbanized and uniting their people they aim for superiority. So how do these two societies, although they are financially different, support their people to reach the same desire for happiness by accordance with reason? The answer being that they do not. These two states do aid their citizens with resources and opportunities, but because their different make up of political communities, the diverse cultures benefit in alternative approaches by the state.

One of these approaches is kinship, or family, affiliation to an individual and their role as a participating member of the whole. As Aristotle states “man is naturally a social being” (3) concluding that we as a human race need other men in order to be the finest and live a life of contemplation. The Republic of Congo believes in a close knit unit and capitalizes on the advantage of close relationships with one’s family, derived from a philosophy engraved in their ancestry. Family is not viewed as a partnership but a bond and spiritual relationship with one another. The people of Congo do not believe in an immediate family, but consider their extended family as their nuclear family including relatives, grandparents, etc. Women on average birth five children sometimes twice that, emphasizing that family is not for the sole purpose of reproduction, as most Americans view kinship, but the purpose of families is to support and guide one another to live a happy life. (4)  Aristotle believes that a good that contributes to the final end, happiness, is self-sufficing, but not without the contribution of the family. The individual makes life desirable and not lacking in any area; allowing happiness to fill this desire because happiness again is the most desirable thing anyone can want. On the contrary, the United States lacks this key principle of family as a means for strength and encouragement, but views kinship as a means to an end. Recent studies have shown that “broken families earn less and experience lower levels of educational achievement.” (5) Not only do they not achieve money stability, but they leave the instability to their children, inducing the inability for their children to achieve prosperity and a never ending cycle of distress. The state, keeping in mind their intention to assist their citizens to achieve happiness, neglects this reoccurring issue and even in some cases promotes separation in their policies. (6) Americans, as a society, are independent and determined, excelling in areas of profit. However, according to Aristotle, money and valuables do contribute to temporary happiness, but in viewing happiness in the sense as the final end, wealth hinders an individual’s strive for a contemplative life. Therefore, the polis of the U.S. does not provide self-sufficing as a benefit to help live life in accordance to reason.

Aristotle refers to man as a “political animal” (7) inferring that man’s natural motive is the desire to profit and consume as much as possible, however, this desire contradicts the nature of man. In fact, according to Aristotle, the “money-making life,” (8) the excessive inclination to make the greatest income, is solely used for a means of something else.  The two extremes of wealth and poverty precludes man from the ultimate strive for happiness and a contemplative life.  Even though the United States does not utilize the benefits of self-sufficiency and a family to achieve the final goal of happiness, the United States challenges ambitions to want more than necessary when it comes to wealth by using the system of minimum wage. For the majority of the states, the minimum wage is either $7.25 per hour or greater, neglecting to include the few states that do not have minimum wage. This allows emphasis on the ability of equality for everyone, no matter race, gender, sexuality, etc. By bestowing individuals with an alternative option for wealth, this provides opportunity for citizens to allot time to live in accordance with reason. Within the paper written by my fellow classmates Tuesday West, Claire West, Sarah Santillian, Kelsey Gwinn, and Wendy Bustamante, a study conducted by Card, Krueger, and Katz exhibits that minimum wage not only decreases the number of unemployed in the United States, but also increases the motivation and efficiency of an employee. (9) Concluding the fact that man is not concerned with survival, favoring more time for leisure and contemplation. On the other hand, the Republic of Congo lacks proper execution of financial stability, and continues to fail to implement a minimum wage policy for all varieties of work, to grant individuals with the security and safety of wealth. Referring to the paper written by my classmates above, countries that do not implement the minimum wage, for instance the Republic of Congo, struggle to balance their society, making them the poorest countries in the world. (10) T. West, C. West, Santillian, Gwinn, and Bustamante concluded that without a minimum wage, the lower class drops to poverty, allowing the upper class to take advantage of them, consequently failing to live life in accordance to reason. (11) The polis as a whole fails to supply the citizens the tools to allow leisure time, due to a lack of resources, in this case, the absence of capital. Although, they attempted to institute a technique similar to that of the U.S.’s minimum wage, the inability to provide a high enough price floor for wages functioning simultaneously with the government’s budget failed, inducing  hurt to the larger majority of their people.

Today we use the term happiness loosely, in terms of excitement over a good grade or joy that you have a cookie for lunch; however, Aristotle challenges this emotional thought and instead puts happiness on a pedal stool and proclaims that this so called emotion is not an emotion, but the end goal of every human being. Happiness cannot be reached by earning the most money, receiving the finest education, or sinning the least; this final end of happiness can be attained with the comprehension and proficiency of living life in accordance to reason and mastery of the contemplative life. Yes, everyone can reach this final goal, but whether one attains this extreme or not is unknown. True happiness, according to Aristotle, cannot be measured during your life or after a good deed, but assessed after you have lived a full life and only then will the attempt to attain happiness be evaluated. In a perfect world, with the assistance the polis provides to their citizens, and with effort of the individual to utilize these benefits to the utmost ability, man, as Aristotle taught, can obtain the ultimate final good, happiness.

  1. Ross, W. D. The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford (Oxfordshire): Oxford University Press, 1998.
  2. Barker, Ernest. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  3. Ross, W. D. The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford (Oxfordshire): Oxford University Press, 1998.
  4. Matuskey, David. “Countries and Their Cultures.” Culture of Republic of Congo. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Republic-of-Congo.html.
  5. Fagan, Patrick. “How Broken Families Rob Children of Their Chances for Future Prosperity.” The Heritage Foundation. June 11, 1999. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1999/06/broken-families-rob-children-of-their-chances-for-future-prosperity.
  6. Policy Debate: Does an Increase in the Minimum Wage Result in a Higher Unemployment Rate?” Economics Resource Center. January 1, 2006. Accessed October 16, 2014.
  7. Barker, Ernest. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  8. Ross, W. D. The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford (Oxfordshire): Oxford University Press, 1998.
  9. “20 Poorest Countries In The World.” The Richest. May 27, 2012. Accessed October 13, 2014.
  10. Treanor, Jill. “Richest 1% of People Own Nearly Half of Global Wealth, Says Report.” The Guardian. October 13, 2014. Accessed October 16, 2014.
  11. Fagan, Patrick. “How Broken Families Rob Children of Their Chances for Future Prosperity.” The Heritage Foundation. June 11, 1999. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1999/06/broken-families-rob-children-of-their-chances-for-future-prosperity.

Works Cited

“2010 Human Rights Report: Republic of the Congo.” U.S. Department of State. April 8, 2011. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/af/154341.htm.

“20 Poorest Countries In The World.” The Richest. May 27, 2012. Accessed October 13, 2014.

Barker, Ernest. Politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

“Embassy of the Republic of Congo in Washington DC About Congo People & Culture People.” Embassy of the Republic of Congo in Washington DC About Congo People & Culture People. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.ambacongo-us.org/en-us/aboutcongo/peopleculture/people.aspx.

Fagan, Patrick. “How Broken Families Rob Children of Their Chances for Future Prosperity.” The Heritage Foundation. June 11, 1999. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1999/06/broken-families-rob-children-of-their-chances-for-future-prosperity.

Matuskey, David. “Countries and Their Cultures.” Culture of Republic of Congo. January 1, 2014. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Republic-of-Congo.html.

“Minimum Wage Laws in the States – Wage and Hour Division (WHD) – U.S. Department of Labor.” Minimum Wage Laws in the States – Wage and Hour Division (WHD) – U.S. Department of Labor. April 1, 2014. Accessed December 11, 2014. http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm.

Ross, W. D. The Nicomachean Ethics. Oxford (Oxfordshire): Oxford University Press, 1998.

Treanor, Jill. “Richest 1% of People Own Nearly Half of Global Wealth, Says Report.” The Guardian. October 13, 2014. Accessed October 16, 2014.

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