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June 29, 2020

Money Can Buy Happiness

An essay defining money as a tool of exchange, the purposes it can rationally serve. Discussed is also the need to define the ends that one wants to actually attain; and how the act of making money can become gratifying in itself in some specific instances. 


(0) Intro

  • Conventional wisdom woefully minimizes the value of money.
  • The relationship between money and happiness is not one of simple, seamless cause and effect.

(1) Money

  • Definition of money as a “token of exchange that facilitates trade.”

(2) Happiness

  • Definition of happiness: “the psychological condition that results from the achievement of one’s values.”
  • Distinguishes particular incidents of happiness from a more global one, i.e., “with his daily activities, as he is engaged in them, as well as with what they all add up to, when he steps back to survey the totality,” which requires “knowledge that his time and energy are being spent in worthwhile ways and that he is efficacious in acting for the things he cares about.”
  • The happy person “comes to see his life as value-achievement; the experience of satisfaction becomes characteristic.”

(3) How Money “Buys” Happiness

  • Material Beings Have Material Needs
    • Per the title
    • People often expect more of material goods than they can deliver, investing in wealth per se rather than in the ends that make wealth meaningful
    • Material objects transform from neutral to good only when they offer a positive contribution to a person’s survival and flourishing.
  • Money is Time
    • “Time is money” and the reverse is true also. 
    • The more a person has produced, the less he needs to produce in the future. 
    • Without money, a person must concentrate on the tasks he must perform to meet his basic needs; with money, a person can contemplate what he would like to do and indulge more of his preferences. 
    • Money empowers autonomy, i.e., greater independence from the demands of necessity means greater discretion over one’s activities. 
    • The value of labor does not consist entirely in labor’s ultimate products: work itself can be one of the things that a person finds most deeply rewarding. 
    • Much value can be reaped in the process of creating wealth.
    • Productive work itself can be profoundly gratifying: witness many wealthy people who continue working long after they’ve attained sufficient wealth to accommodate their needs quite luxuriously, e.g., Warren Buffet, Michael Dell. 
    • Both the production of money and the consumption of money can enhance a person’s happiness. 

(4) Clarifications

  • Money can buy happiness

(5) Conclusions

  • The truth in the cliche that “money can’t buy happiness” is that happiness isn’t easy.

Posted in Book Summaries