Under Microscope

It's another world under the microscope.

Is All We Need Love?

It is commonly said that everything is about money, or everything is about power. Some will say that everything is ultimately about sex. Why do we always want to explain life away in such simple terms? There are many men and women who have well past the age of sexual desires or sexual desirability, yet they still work hard to gain more money and power. An eighty-year-old billionaire could not possibly enjoy the utility of their additional wealth. While I am in no way suggesting some redistribution scheme where the money should be taxed or taken away from these old wealthy people, it is clear that their search for additional wealth proves somewhat comical and absurd given their limited life expectancy. One might argue that their offspring or other beneficiaries would be the ones to enjoy this additional wealth and the knowledge of this will make the billionaire happy. This is obviously a valid argument. It is, however, difficult to argue that more money will make their beneficiaries even happier if the numbers are absurd to begin with.
Clearly the relationship between money and happiness is not linear. A billionaire is not a thousand times happier than a millionaire and certainly not a hundred times happier than a multimillionaire. Some argue, and in my opinion wrongly, that happiness and money are at least directly proportional, meaning as one increases the other increases too, albeit nonlinearly. However, can we honestly say that richer people are always happier and poorer people are always sadder? This is demonstrably wrong as well.
Do we get happy when our wealth increases with time instead? A time derivation could have been the hidden connection between wealth and happiness. If a billionaire spends their entire life slowly losing their wealth until they die as a mere millionaire(!) they would be unhappy. This is a supporting observation for the time dependent relationship argument. This argument also explains the desire to increase wealth even when utility is no longer relevant. While acknowledging this relationship, we cannot help but recognize the common phenomenon where newly acquired wealth is leading to absolute misery. Why would this be? An asymptotic increase in wealth through a short time should have resulted in great happiness. At this point it becomes clear that we are missing another parameter affecting the happiness of individuals.
Going back to our miserable fresh millionaire, let us consider other changes that take place in their life. People are clustered in social groups. These groups can be established and reinforced through work, school, neighborhood, religious congregation, etc. All these channels also indirectly filter people based on their income level. If you have a neighbor and you become friends, it is quite unlikely that you will be members of significantly different economic classes. The same argument can be made about school, work, etc. The newly acquired wealth can disrupt the social connections of this individual. Therefore, their new wealth can have an isolating effect. Their misery is not at all related to their wealth or what they do with it. It is a direct consequence of their new social isolation. New millionaires who have not changed their social circles and converted themselves into a philanthropic power for good have always remained happy and lived fulfilling lives. The key is always social connections.
On a small island with just a few people, one would not be unhappy living a tough but similar life with everybody else. People who do not know about certain luxuries do not feel their absence either. Our happiness is absolutely and entirely related to social connections. People feel sad about poverty because they are worried about their worth in the eyes of their friends and relatives. As it has been said by many philosophers everything is not about money, power, sex etc. It is about our desire for recognition. Sometimes this recognition can come through other channels. A Nobel laureate would not feel threatened, embarrassed, or insecure if they were not a multimillionaire. They have already achieved the social recognition they desired. An ultra rich individual could easily dismiss certain visible luxuries as unnecessary, since their wealth is already a well-known fact by the public.
What is the takeaway here? Is there a way of countering greed and income inequality through this understanding? This issue has proved itself to be much more difficult than it seemed at first. Unfortunately, and more so tragically, the public is unable to value themselves or their friends and relatives independent of their financial means. As long as they focus on these financial metrics, they will remain oppressed by them and ironically punish each other for not being rich enough. The definition of sufficient wealth depends on social circles and is ever changing and therefore, impossible to completely satisfy. Even the richest man on earth will remain worried that they will become the second richest man at some point if they cannot shed the weight of these metrics off their shoulders. At least, this bleak picture is not a binding predicament. We can simply remove ourselves from this hamster wheel and be happy. All we need is the love of our family and friends. Their love will make us happy, regardless of the external conditions. We must, therefore, focus on acquiring their love outside of these metrics and we must present our compassion, care, and affection completely independent of these metrics as well.