Friday, August 28, 2015

Is There A "Wealth Threshold" At Which Most People's Lives "Head South?"

Dear P,

Thanks for your B'day greeting.

Same back at ya!

And thanks for your article on well-being. 

Good work.

As you know, subjective measures are always dicey, especially when analyzed with scientific quantification.

On the other side of the coin, objective criteria may not be as unambiguous as they seem.

You've probably seen the following work, but if not it's worth a look:

Pax on both houses: $50,000 May Be the (New) Happiness ...
May 8, 2012 - Beyond that threshold, however, more income doesn't translate into morehappiness. On average, an American earning $575,000 isn't likely to  ...

Pax on both houses: Princeton Study Finds $75,000 Enough ...
Nov 27, 2013 - Before employers rush to hold — or raise — everyone's salary to $75,000, the study points out that there are actually two types of happiness.

As I watch the challenges of aging -- in myself and my friends -- I increasingly wonder at the reflexive assumption that more money will contribute to well-being, or at least provide a "rainy day fund," without which I could "easily end up" challenged by abject despair.

I've been taking notes for a "guide book" tentatively titled "Independently Poor: Thriving Through Thrift."

What if "less is more" to the point where crossing some definable "material wealth threshold" is demonstrably less conducive to well-being than staying on the "poor side" of that same threshold?

E.F. Schumacher: "A Guide For The Perplexed"

The "psycho-social afflictions" resulting from "inherited wealth" -- and the frequent personal debacles that occur after "winning the lottery" -- are widely discussed but as far as I know have not been subjected to statistical analysis. (Social Science seems unusually reluctant to conduct research that might disprove dominant socio-economic beliefs.)

Inordinate attention to money is reductive.

Once we learn how to "get it," its accumulation tends to become "the only game in town"... if not an obsession, at least a leit motif.

"The merely rich are not rich enough to rule the modern market. The things that change modern history, the big national and international loans, the big educational and philanthropic foundations, the purchase of numberless newspapers, the big prices paid for peerages, the big expenses often incurred in elections - these are getting too big for everybody except the misers; the men with the largest of earthly fortunes and the smallest of earthly aims. There are two other odd and rather important things to be said about them. The first is this: that with this aristocracy we do not have the chance of a lucky variety in types which belongs to larger and looser aristocracies. The moderately rich include all kinds of people even good people. Even priests are sometimes saints; and even soldiers are sometimes heroes. Some doctors have really grown wealthy by curing their patients and not by flattering them; some brewers have been known to sell beer. But among the Very Rich you will never find a really generous man, even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egoistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it."    

G. K. Chesterton  

A 20th century Chippewa poet (I forget his name but recall that he committed suicide) said "Money is important but not as much as you thought it would be before you had it."

By way of conclusion, I will note that my "cross-border" "life-style" keeps me in contact with the knowledge that wealth is essentially insulating while economic constraint obliges us to "be out there." 

In general, I would venture that "the insulation of wealth" fosters rugged individualism whereas economic constraint conduces to communitarianism.

Here is an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke written by a Greek physician, one of only two New Testament authors who was not a Jew. This particular translation was done in the 1990s by a Seattle minister/professor named Eugene Peterson.  

Almost always, Peterson "opens my eyes," not enough for the plank to come out but shaking it loose enough that I have some peripheral vision.

Best wishes to V and S

Pax vobiscum


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