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The Money Obsession

May 8th, 2010

"This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and powerful, and to despise, or, at least neglect persons of poor and mean conditions, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments." (Theory of Moral Sentiments 1759)

Our society's glorification of money and hatred of the poor was identified as far back as 1759 by the economist Adam Smith. With more and more research pointing to the fact that ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ is detrimental to your happiness and even your life; it is amazing why we continue to seek to catch a little Affluenza. Commentary like ‘Don't celebrate these billionaires, be horrified by their existence’ fails to dampen our appetite for worldly richness.

Maybe we need to take a little more interest in statistics. One commenter in his article Forbes rich list is Slim pickings came up, based on his analysis of the Forbes rich list, a ‘recipe for billionaire success: get born into a rich family, invent something and sell it to Americans. Win.’ Based on evidence such as this if your dependence on being happy is the achievement of richness, you are probably on a hiding to nothing.

I am always struck by the fact that many people are surprised when they visit ‘poor’ countries at how happy the people living there are. The lesson seems to be that as long as you do not perceive yourself to be poor, as long as you have met your basic needs, then you need not look any further to feel good about your life.

May you find the balance.

[First published on my Talking2Myself blog on specified date]