“Nothing has ever given us as much pleasure as our pocket money when we were 12,” observes A. A. Gill in a recent article for Vanity Fair. (“Perfection Anxiety,” by A. A. Gill, Vanity Fair, May 2014 pgs. 120-122.) I would add, that as for the 12 year-old, the link between money and happiness remains throughout our adult years.
We know the connection is false. What is money compared to good health, love, a close knit family, or personal achievement. The myth holds because we live in a consumer economy and refusing to be a consumer seems almost unpatriotic. Each quarter of the calendar year, for example, publically traded American companies report their financial standings, comparing last year’s quarter to the current one. If no growth has occurred and none predicted, the company’s stock plunges even though the enterprise is doing well and we know, intellectually, that limitless expansion defies the most basic laws of physics.
Still businesses are expected to grow their profits and to do that they must entice consumers to want and spend more. The result is a super-sized nation that must inevitably implode as we did during the great depression and the recent housing bubble.
Knowing money can’t buy happiness, we continue to pursue it, like gerbils on a gerbils wheel. Does it bother me enough to give up my new car? No. My brain can tolerate contradictions just like everyone else’s. But I like the touchstone the author provides so we don’t drift too far from reason: “If you want to know what God thinks of money, look at the people he gives it to.” (Ibid. pg. 122)
(Courtesy of wheelimages.com)