Aristotle’s Earth Was a Lot Different

Katie Smithson-Stewart-Econ-HB

Why do I feel like the younger United States citizens are, the less they do things strictly for themselves?  Why do I feel like people my age, just under voting age, are more invested in the country than any adults I know?  Do the adults know something we, the bright-eyed idealistic youth do not?  Are they resigned to the fact that they probably will not make a significant impact in their lifetime?  Are they tired of working for others and want to spend the rest of their lives helping themselves?  Are they not concerned for the future of their children, their children’s children, their country?

I personally do not have the answers to these questions, but I bet Aristotle does.  Aristotle tells us that humans can only be truly happy through the exercise of virtue.   In today’s culture, more importance is placed on the ‘happy’ part of Aristotle’s view than the ‘virtue’ part.  People associate happiness with bettering themselves, which is a great thing to do, but can be detrimental in some circumstances if one is not careful.  To me, it seems like more older people in the media and on television and in movies, at least in what I watch and see, play the role of the money-maker who will do whatever it takes to make a profit.  Obviously, a big problem with my reasoning is that not all the un-virtuous are unhappy people—they do not have to be horrible people either.  Aristotle makes a pretty general statement by saying that virtue is necessary for true happiness, but can we really apply that idea to today’s world?  Aristotle lived in the 300’s BC.  The population of the entire world at that time was only 200 million people.[1]  That is over a hundred million less people than in the United States today, which is not even the most populous country.  People back then also lived much shorter lives.  Basically, what I am trying to say is that Aristotle may not be as relevant as we want him to be.  He was a brilliant thinker and his writings really do make a lot of sense, but the world is fundamentally different from what it used to be.

I realize that literally nothing of what I have questioned and proclaimed makes any sense—such is the nature of economics and the government.  With seven billion people in the world, there are going to be a multitude of different views.  It is very likely that I only think adults care more about themselves than the youth because their beliefs stick with me more than the others.  It is also very likely that I have severely overestimated my abilities as a voter.  There are so many variables that can influence any single thing that happens at any single given point in time, and it’s really incredible how anyone—economists, politicians, Aristotle—are able to make any sense of it, because I sure can’t.

[1] Le, Georges Minois.  “Too Much Life on Earth?”  The New York Times.  July 14, 2011.  Accessed June 26, 2017.


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