Can happiness be bought?

Isabel Valencia

Can happiness be bought?

Is it possible to buy your happiness?

Our society is constantly evolving with technology, law, and many other things, but one thing has remained constant: our need for material items. This society believes that material abundance and wealth can be placed in the same category as happiness. We can take my story of moving to the United States of America as an example. We moved here for the “American Dream” which is opportunities of working and becoming wealthy in the US because you wanted to provide your family with a better life in the long run, but the point of the move was so that we could become financially stable and happy in a new place we call home. Aristotle, a philosopher, reminds us that true happiness does not come from a place full of wealth, but a place of virtue which can be found in his book the Nichomachean Ethics.[1]

Many people have always been curious as to if there is a correlation between happiness and wealth and Forbes did a study in 2013 that proved that the wealthier you were the happier you were.[2] They came to a paradox when they tried this study out between a poor and rich country and came to realize that many countries have their point of wealth where is levels out. One country is wealth or happiness point may be equivalent to 8,000 to 25,000 thousand dollars will in the US it could be anywhere from 35,000 to 500,000 thousand dollars. There is a big gap between the differences due to people reaching what Forbes calls the “satisfaction point”. The satisfaction point is where they do not mind how much they earn every year because they believe they are satisfied with what they make and are happy with that. Although in the US, only 35 percent people would say they were happy earning 35,000 thousand versus 100 percent who earned over 500,000 thousand would say they were happy. Aristotle would not agree with this because happiness does not have anything to do with how wealthy you are, but with how virtuous you are throughout your life.

Aristotle states that a happy man is “one who exercises his faculties in accordance with perfect excellence, being duly furnished with external goods, not for any chance time, but for a full term of years…and who shall continue to live so, and shall die as he lived”[1]. Aristotle takes note that “good fortune is needed to complete a man is life,” but that it is not a need to live a happy life[1]. You are incapable of being happy through material items that are purchased with your wealth and many people will argue that happiness is bought with the material items because they give you instant satisfaction, but satisfaction and happiness is not the same thing.

In today is society we forget that not everything in this world has to do with money, but that is not our fault. Society has taught us that without riches we will become nothing in this world because if we do not have riches, we will not be able to live in this world. It is almost as if without an abundance of wealth we cannot have anything. Society blocks us from our “true riches” as Aristotle would call our virtuous experiences.[3] If you were to do a study yourself of the question “can you buy happiness” most people will answer that money cannot buy happiness, but if you were to ask if buying a new Michael Kors bag or a new car made them feel happy most would answer yes. This contradicts what they say; in their minds they truly believe that they cannot buy happiness, but then turn around and buy something that makes them happy. This is what society as a whole has taught us, money equals happiness, that you want to grow up to have a job that will produce large amounts of income so that you can live in a big house, have nice cars, and be able to take vacations to exotic places all to be happy with their lives, but will take our time and our entire life away because we as children truly believe that if we grow up to have these amazing jobs then will we be truly happy and that is not what Aristotle had in mind for us. Aristotle believes that once someone reaches what is truly “true riches” which are the means to live a full life, chasing after happiness, and desiring to reach the final end, then they will have true happiness and until then they will live a life of instant satisfaction or a make believe happiness.

In the end, money will never be able to buy someone happiness because they are two completely different things, there is no correlation between the two. There is a correlation between wealth and instant satisfaction which people think is happiness, but truly just a short lived feeling. That Michael Kors bag or that new car will not always make you feel happy, you may at some point look at that bag and think, “why didn’t I just save those 300 hundred dollars for something else that could be useful” or you will look at that new car and think “what a drag to have to keep filling you up” or when it breaks down and all you want to do is kick yourself for buying it in the first place. You felt the happiness in that moment, but it will not cause you happiness for the rest of your life as an end goal. Many people seem to not know the difference between instant happiness and true happiness because of the distorted image that society has provided us, even as children, and that is why we seem to contradict ourselves when people ask us,” can happiness be bought?” The answer will never become clear to us as long as we still believe that materials can cause us happiness. We must learn to differentiate instant happiness and long term happiness to be truly happy with ourselves. When we learn how to separate the two we will be able live a virtuous, happy lives. “Can happiness be bought,” will continue to be a question that no one can answer because we do not know what true happiness is in our lives. Once we finally realize the difference, we will be living an Aristotelian life and can truly be happy with a virtuous life.

[1] Nichomachean Ethics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.

[2] Adams, Susan. “Money Does Buy Happiness, Says New Study.” Forbes, May 10, 2013.

[3] Politics. Bernardo Aparicio, 2015.


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