Tyler and I chatted this past week in my office, and in that discussion, a few really important questions came up. I’d like us as a class to chew on these questions and see what wisdom we might be able to produce or share. First the set-up.
We talked this past week about what sorts of ‘dreams’ or futures we imagine for ourselves, and several of us shared them. Rachel laid out a common dream, which is to acquire a little more than our parents — from a tw0-story house and two cars to three stories and a three-car garage, for example. I think her description is accurate.
But making money and acquiring stuff can’t be our chief goal, right? Making more money can’t be the goal or even a priority of pursuing a good life, or can it? I ask because there is no reason to have money other than to spend it, and we can’t “spend” our way into meaning or goodness or significance. Growth, even financial growth, ultimately fails to make us happier. Oh, and it’s environmentally destructive, even disastrous. It’s senseless as a goal in and of itself, and even as a means to other goals unless it is achieved at some point on the way to those greater “good”s.
The banking crisis of 2008 (and since) showed us that our economic system relies on the motives of greed and acquisitiveness, which are morally bankrupt. Our best hope? To do what we’re doing. To figure out what a ‘good’ life looks like, and how to pursue it. To un-do our society’s distortions of ‘good,’ and to pursue a morally good life that is sufficient unto itself. (Some of these distortions include ‘competitive spending,’ or acquiring to keep score; ‘snob goods,’ or goods acquired simply because they differentiate one from the less-well-off; and ‘bandwagon goods,’ or goods we want simply because others have them.)
So, my questions for you, and I think they are just critical to what we’re doing in the course:
- What is wealth for?
- How much money do you need to lead and pursue a ‘good’ life? (a moral, virtuous life in community and where exemplars ‘flourish’)
Deadline for your comments to this post: noon, Tuesday, March 12
CREDIT for many of these ideas goes to the new book, How much is enough? by Skidelsky and Skidelsky.