There are a lot of sayings, truisms and clichés when it comes to money. There are those that refer to the fact that it is the supposed root of all evil. There are others that try to point to the narrative that is discussed in this report. That would be that money cannot buy happiness. It is true that many people that are rich and powerful are also miserable. It can also be said that money is most certainly a factor when it comes to people that are barely getting by, are unable to pay their bills or are having other such problems. There is certainly a wide amount of opinion and conjecture. However, it would be useful to look at some reputable analysis and opinions when it comes to the subject. While money does not buy happiness, having less of it does seem to amplify stress and misery in many instances.
One person is that is quite outspoken when it comes to income, wages and whether people have enough money would be Elizabeth Warren. The senator from Massachusetts has recently announced that she is running for President. In an essay she wrote not all that long ago, she referred to the middle class as “vanishing”. What she meant was that she felt the data revealed that the average income is going down. This would stand in contrast to what is happening at the same time when it comes to the rich. She admits that the average family makes more money than was happening in the past.
However, she also notes that a large part of this is because more homes are two-earner households. Indeed, when looking at how much a man brings home nowadays as compared to what the same man would have made some years ago, there is a disparity of about $800, even when adjusting for inflation. In other words, the average family is having to work more hours to get the same amount of wages per hour. The graph that is shown on the top of the second page of her essay shows the overall trend. Males by themselves are flat. When adjusted for inflation, they only make about $40,000. This is even though average household income has gone up by more than fifty percent since 1970.
There is something to be said for the fact that middle class families are making more money. However, they are not making it at the same clip as before. One might think that the overall rate per hour should be higher (or at least flat) and that the rise in family-wide income should be even greater. This would mean less time that parents would spend with children. Even if they have more money, this would tend to be a drain on happiness. If this data is any indication, then money cannot buy happiness. This is true even if working more hours leads to more income coming into the average household. Of course, not all households are dual-earner. As such, single-parent and single-earner families would lag (Warren).
Charles Murray takes a different approach. He asks a rather pointed question. Indeed, he asks what is so bad about being poor. He drives the point home even more when he says “to be poor is not necessarily to be without dignity; it is not necessarily to be unhappy” (Murray). There is a lot of truth to that. The cliché sayings mentioned in the introduction are simplistic, stereotypical and mostly void of any substance or fact. It is true that a person that is secure financially will tend to be happier than someone that struggles to get by, all else equal. However, that is the key…all else equal. It is true that people that struggle to pay the bills will tend to be less happy than those that do well in terms of income, assets and so forth.
However, Murray drives the point home that this is by no means absolute. To suggest that money is the only factor when it comes to whether someone is happy or how happy they are is simply not true. There are plenty of people that have relatively little in terms of wealth and power. However, they find a way to be happy. This speaks to the idea that it is more about being happy with what one does have. It speaks about the fact that the moral and other makeup of a person has a lot more to do with happiness and what people tend to value. Someone that is shallow and superficial, for example, will be more prone to center on how much money they have, what kind of car they drive and other things like that. The people that Murray is clearly talking about would not be like that.
One thing that is revealing about Murray is discussed in the abstract of his treatise. Within that section, it is communicated that he is a libertarian. While there are some stereotypes and other misguided assumptions about libertarians, it does seem to make sense that someone focused more on liberty and living a mindful lifestyle will tend to focus on things other than money. In short, it is true that someone with money might be happy, at least for a time. However, it is also clear that the money alone will not create or sustain happiness. Further, the money is not required for the happiness to be present (Murray).
A final source for this brief literature review comes in the form of a report by David G. Myers from Hope College. His abstract also gets to a point. It is a very good point. He refers to something called “subjective wellbeing”. Of course, wellbeing would be another way of referring to happiness. The fact that it is “subjective” wellbeing would mean that what defines that feeling would be subject to opinion. How one person defines wellbeing or happiness and what comprises the same will obviously be different than what someone else says about the same subject. For example, one person might feel that they would only be truly happy if they became as famous as Kim Kardashian. However, another person might be just fine with a safe home that has the mortgage paid off and the other needs of life in order.
Myers talks about one detail of life that can greatly complicate these matters. That would be that life is often associated with tragedy and struggle. It is something that gives some people meaning. It gives them a reason to exert effort, continue trying and so forth. However, that tragedy and struggle can also weigh people down. If the struggle is thick and prevalent enough, it can define a person’s whole life. It can destroy any idea that they could ever be happy or content with their life. When it comes to the subject and thesis of this report, it must be asked what amount of money could resolve such a challenge. If the cause of the problem is huge debt or something like that, then there is a chance that that money could “buy” some happiness.
However, if the lack of happiness and presence of struggle is due to untimely death or other tragedies, just to name one example, then money would not do a whole lot of good. Beyond that, there are people that can define themselves as happy or that associated themselves with the subject in some way despite being in very challenging situations. Indeed, Myers talks about how 9 in 10 people in Detroit would pick a “smiley face” when asked to choose an expression that defines their life. There could be some sort of deflection and concealment going on. Some of those choices might not be genuine and truly accurate. Even so, the people involved are ostensibly trying to put on a good face and look at life in a positive light (Myers).
The short answer to the question posed for this assignment is that money cannot be happiness. It can impact and modulate happiness. However, money alone cannot create or sustain fulfillment or any sort of life’s purpose. If used well, money can facilitate goals and planning. When used poorly, it can make life extremely difficult. This would be similar to other things like power, influence and so forth. These things are just routes and tools in life. If the overall goals behind these tactics is poor, the results will also be poor. The same is true if the tools and conduits are used for noble pursuits and ethical ventures.