Eleanor Grindinger-Honorbound- So often you hear people say, “If I was wealthy, I would be so much happier.” Merriam Webster defines happiness as, “the state of being happy” (…not very helpful). Aristotle, however, puts happiness into perspective for the reasoning mind by saying, “for happiness is defined as a certain kind of exercise of the vital faculties in accordance with excellence of virtue.” I believe that those who seek to be wealthy are not looking at the big picture. People overlook the fact that wealth can come with lost opportunity cost, negative incentives, fear, and a false sense of virtue. Wealth might bring a happy feeling, but it will not buy you happiness.
Everyone differs as to what happiness is. “The [masses] take it to be something palpable and plain, as pleasure or wealth…” Ask any person on the street if they would be happy having more wealth, and most would answer yes. However, wealth comes with a price tag. Economically speaking, that price tag could be lost opportunity costs. If you are seeking to be wealthy by working as much as you can, your lost opportunity costs can be as simple as missing your favorite movie when it comes out in theaters because you are busy working or as serious as never seeing your family. If this is how you choose to pursue wealth as your end goal, you will realize very high opportunity costs: no time to see your friends or relax.
Some people choose to become wealthy by marrying into wealth. Here is where negative incentives can play a role. With this wealth comes rules. The family may only want you to shop at Gucci; Chanel will never see any of your money. The family may say that Sundays are “their” days, so the man who married into this wealth will never be able to see his own family on Sundays. But the economy could also win from a situation like this. The sister of the man that married into wealth is jealous. She, then, goes out and gets a paying job so that she can afford some of the things that her brother has, so she, is therefore, helping the economy. But are either of these people happy?
Fear is another negative part of being wealthy. Everyone wants your money, and will go to great lengths to get it from you, even begging. Many wealthy people fear this burden of choosing the right people to give their money to, so they hold onto it. The economy and society as a whole could greatly benefit from their donations to charitable organizations. The virtuous wealthy individual finds happiness in helping others by donating money to needy causes.
Aristotle says, “As 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.” To a person in poverty, the idea of wealth may seem like it will bring happiness, but just having wealth does not give happiness. It is what you do with the wealth that brings actual happiness. Everyone agrees that good is happiness, but everyone differs as to what that happiness is.
Merriam-Webster. Accessed June 21, 2016. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/happiness.
“Online Library of Liberty.” The Nicomachean Ethics -. Accessed June 21, 2016. http://oll.libraryfund.org/titles/aristotle-the-nicomachean-ethics.