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02 March 2007

Love 2 Lead Question 8

"Can Money Buy Happiness?"

It depends what you mean by Money and how much. It also depends on which side of the fence one is viewing it from so I know there will be people who will argue fiercely against my views. I accept this and they may be right.

When I initially thought about this question I was going to post any answer in the ‘No’ camp but having studied my argument and looked again at the exact wording of the question I had to switch sides. You will see why. The article below is as I wrote it, I just inserted this paragraph afterwards. Remember as you read it I was trying to prove a ‘No’ answer.

Money is just a possession that has no value in itself. It has to be converted into something useful. Money to someone stranded on a dessert island would be completely useless.

There are two types of possessions. Necessities such as food, shelter and clothing; and luxuries anything else that is not either essential to survival or necessary to help us obtain the necessities. I.e. a car is not a necessity as we cannot eat it (although I guess you could use it for shelter) but it may be necessary to have for providing transport to work so we can afford the necessities. In this example it would not be a luxury but a second car probably would.

Happiness depends on us having the necessities in sufficient quantities to keep us healthy plus also having love and companionship of friends and family and sufficient rest. If money provides these things then you could argue that money has bought happiness but not all culture use money.

Having a large excess of money after providing for the necessities will not provide a large excess of happiness. It seems to me there are plenty of miserable rich people in the world. I would guess the percentage of miserable rich to the percentage of miserable people (above the subsistence level) generally is about the same. It’s only when people cannot provide for themselves or their loved ones that the levels of misery really increase and this is normally due to either drought or war, not a lack of money although these people are often poor.

But…can giving money away not bring happiness?

Many people gain a feeling of happiness by giving money to needy charities such as Oxfam or directly to people they know are in need. Doing this certainly gives me a warm feeling of happiness until I then realise that there are thousands of needy causes and should I not give to them all? I can’t afford to give to them all so then I start to feel despondent again. The more I have to give the more inadequate I feel about my ability to give. Shindler never felt truly happy about his ability to save Jews in the war because he always knew there were more that needed his help. His own selflessness caused his unease. I am not trying to place myself with such a great man but if he didn't gain happiness through his amazing acts of charity then I have no hope by donating a few pounds here and there.

OK so what about the recipients, are they not receiving happiness?

Certainly to a degree, but why were they in that position in the first place. Giving money frequently only treats the symptoms and does not provide a cure. Of course, if it is to get someone out of debt it can be the cure provided they are then able to stay out of debt. If on the other hand it is money given to help feed victims of famine then it only treats the symptoms and unless the money is used to find a sustainable source of food there can be no real happiness only starvation or constant need.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying giving money to charity is a waste, it’s just not always the solution to unhappiness.

Some forms of unhappiness can only be eased by companionship and no amount of money will help. Loneliness or grieving for the loss of a loved one for example. Depression caused by a loss of self worth can effect both rich and poor equally. There are many such examples but you get the idea.

I guess the answer to the original question is not so easy to define. I have already shown there are instances in which it can provide happiness to a degree so the answer has to be ‘Yes’, but I don’t think it is necessary for happiness and it certainly can’t guarantee it.

PS My response to the previous question (7) earned me a 3rd place so I'm well chuffed.

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