Enough

By James Kwak

A friend passed on this article in The Motley Fool by Morgan Housel. It begins this way:

Enough.

“That’s the title of Vanguard founder John Bogle’s fantastic book about measuring what counts in life.

“The title, as Bogle explains, comes from a conversation between Kurt Vonnegut and novelist Joseph Heller, who are enjoying a party hosted by a billionaire hedge fund manager. Vonnegut points out that their wealthy host had made more money in one day than Heller ever made from his novelCatch-22. Heller responds: ‘Yes, but I have something he will never have: enough.’”

The rest of the article discusses the cases of Rajat Gupta and Bernie Madoff, the former accused (but not criminally) and the latter convicted of illegal activity done after they had already been enormously successful, professionally and financially.

Housel asks, why do people push on — legally or illegally — when they have more of everything than anyone could possibly need? He summarizes the happiness research as follows:

“Money isn’t the key to happiness. What really gives people meaning and happiness is a combination of four things: Control over what they’re doing, progress in what they’re pursuing, being connected with others, and being part of something they enjoy that’s bigger than themselves.”

Of course, even if that’s true (and I think it is, except for the first sentence, on which more below), that doesn’t mean that people realize it. And if people don’t understand the relationship between their actions and their personal outcomes, we have no reason to believe that they will behave in a utility-maximizing way.

That said, renowned economist Justin Wolfers was recently on Planet Money saying that money does, indeed, buy happiness. He was discussing a paper he did with Betsey Stevenson looking at datasets covering many countries over many years. They find a positive relationship between income and subjective well-being, whether in the form of life satisfaction or happiness (although the relationship appears somewhat weaker for happiness).* In particular, they find that there is no satiation point, at least when making cross-country comparison (that is, the positive relationship persists even when you look only at countries that are at least moderately wealth).

At one point in the Planet Money interview, I believe Wolfers did say that when it comes to happiness, someone (Kahneman, I think) had estimated that there is a satiation point at around $75,000 per year. But, he went on, the issue is that we may want subjective states other than simple happiness. So, for example, we may want the subjective feeling of power, whether or not it actually makes us happy in the moment. And those other subjective states may not have satiation points, or they may have little to do with income.

But ultimately I agree with Heller. It is a great thing to have “enough,” and to know you have enough. And that is a feeling that for some people, apparently, no amount of money can buy.

* The difference, put simply, is between whether you feel happy at this moment and whether you feel satisfied with your life as a whole. For more, see this fantastic TED Talk by Daniel Kahneman (which I have recommended before).

87 responses to “Enough

  1. And if people don’t understand the relationship between their actions and their personal outcomes, we have no reason to believe that they will behave in a utility-maximizing way.

    That may be true. But it is also true that they are far more likely to make decisions maximizing their own notion of “utility” than if someone else (e.g., you) makes those decisions for them.

    You know, once upon a time the word “liberal” had some relationship to “liberty”. What happened?

  2. This is not about people making a connection between their actions and possible outcomes; it is a primal problem of experience. If being rich has value in itself to you, the world is probably all together lost on you.

  3. Housel misses a crucial motivation of many (angry, neurotic) people, a condition without which they cannot feel happiness: the desire for a sense of superiority and dominance.

    Without an appreciation of that basic Nietzschean/Freudian drive, the behavior of these would-be Ubermenschen is unintelligible on their own terms.

  4. I think u are over thinking this James. What are humans? We are an evolved form of mammals. Animals do nothing all day except provide for their own needs; food, shelter, water, air. And there are a finite amount of those basic resources which also requires a never ending struggle to amass them. Humans are just another extension of this. So people that endlessly pursue wealth and power are just doing that to control a finite amount of resources.
    Fortunately we can provide enough for everyones needs to be met. Yet that human drive to amass more resources takes over in some people. It’s an instinct that drives them to collect more than another person so that their DNA will be assured to carry on.
    Also, I know we all don’t get too religious on this site but consider one of the ten commandments. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s….whatever. To me, I have always considered that a very important commandment for how it applies to our materialistic world. If I have a boat, and my neighbor is jealous and envious, I develop a heightened sense of pride and arrogance. So what happens if the neighbor buys himself a boat thats a little faster, bigger, newer? I become the envious one and something drives me to outdo the neighbor. I think we all have this instinct to have the biggest and best just as a survival instinct. We are still upright walking hairless apes. We haven’t evolved to the next stage, if there is one.

  5. Sumitra Shah

    Other missing and important factors for not having “enough” are envy and the relative status of persons vis-à-vis others in the group to which they belong. I remember reading research which shows that the unhappiness quotient grows at higher levels of income when the differential increases, more so than at lower levels. And Adam Smith emphasized envy as a strong motivation for persons wanting to improve their lot.

  6. Bayard Waterbury

    James, this is a great philosophical, biological, moral issue. Philosophically, money only has importance beyond its ability to sustain us in a society where one must generally buy what one can’t make or grow within societies. Biologically, once we exceed earning the money necessary for necessities, we are destined by our genes and endocrine glands (dopamine, testasterone, etc.) to view life as a competition (akin to the reason why we are destined to overeat, if we can afford to do so). Morally (the constraint on the first two effects), we are constrained in our retention of money beyond necessities, to the extent we have a strong moral compass (i.e. using our ability to earn to help improve our society beyond our own needs). Surely, those who are in the top 1% of human population in terms of wealth and earnings, suffer from a fate which may actually be more corrosive to their ultimate ability to find true happiness in life, which is far more detrimental to their quotient than those of us who have “just enough” (to live on).

    The very happiest times in my life were the times when I was earning just enough. To the extent I earned more than that, I found that my happiness deteriorated to the extent (proportional with) of the excess. To many this may seem strange, especially those who concern themselves with all of the things in life that are material and imperminent.

  7. I have this really great button. It says:

    “You can never have enough of what you don’t need.”

    From my mother and grandmother, my daughter and I learned “Enough is a feast.” How wealthy are we!

  8. Bayard, I should have been responding to you, but hadn’t seen your comment yet when I posted.

    Anyway, thank you for your remarks. I am so grateful to my family who taught me what really counts in life.

  9. I’d guess what happened is the meaning shifted from “OUR freedom” to “MY freedom.”

  10. Good point. Superiority and dominance.

    I wonder how many of these motivations are programmed into our DNA . . As tribal animals, we have been jockeying for position in the pecking order for millennia. And that position was crucial for producing offspring, especially among males — perhaps even more crucial than the ability to avoid predators or hunt. The first four motivations could arise from our deep history as well.

  11. Reginald Tanty

    From Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974):

    Jake Gittes: How much are you worth?
    Noah Cross: I have no idea. How much do you want?
    Jake Gittes: I just wanna know what you’re worth. More than 10 million?
    Noah Cross: Oh my, yes!
    Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can’t already afford?
    Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future.

  12. if you don’t know what “enough” feels like, that is where the problem begins.

    most people apparently think more money will give them “enough.”

    sounds like a marketing issue to me.

  13. Ep3, your comment about the significance of coveting is excellent. If infected by that disease, one could never have enough.

    I think there is a next stage, and we are evolving it now. Rene Girard says this mirroring effect of coveting (mimetic desire) gives rise to increasing friction within the group, until eventually their ability to cooperate is eroded. When negativity builds up in this way, it seems to them that bad luck has overtaken them, and then a scapegoat incident occurs — somebody is discovered to be a “witch” for example — and that unfortunate person is accused and killed, and the group is restored to harmony, thus proving they were “right” about the victim.

    Not to get religious . . but Girard says what Jesus did on the cross was to end this process, by showing that the sacrificed victim is innocent, and causing us to identify with the victim — something unimaginable to the classical world. Identifying with the victim ushered in this age of compassion for the “least of these” and eventually “human rights.”

    But, Girard says, the ending of the sacrifice leaves us with no simple way to discharge the negative effects of reified covetousness. No way but love.

    It is scary to think our super-rich and powerful overlords may be more infected with this disease than ordinary folk are. No wonder we are addicted to war.

  14. Marketing issue. Like, advertising is a social disease.

  15. From a conversation with a former co-worker, they and a number of fellow CPAs discussed how much money would it take for them to break their ethical code, try to steal it, and move to somewhere outside of US jurisdiction to avoid prosecution. Their ballpark was the 3-7 million (1 time) range.

    We then discussed the fact that the heads of our then company were each pulling down 5-10 million annually, and didn’t have the ethical base that her CPA friends did. We decided not to discuss what their business plan for the company entailed.

  16. How comfortable one is in one’s existence rests primarily on how comfortable one is with one’s own emotions, and that in turn depends on how one’s feelings have been received by others throughout life, but primarily as children – and by friends and/or therapists later on. In particular, those who are comfortable with sorrow naturally and peacefully move through their losses, coming to terms with them. They relate to their world largely through feelings, most often spontaneously. Those who never have enough are not at peace with themselves and try to prove they are OK through use of intellect, by keeping score with income, for example, or whatever other objective factors they have been taught to see as measures of one’s OK-ness. We need to realize that contentment is not a matter of simply deciding to be OK with where one is (one does not have control over that), but depends on the emotional state one lives in. That in turn can be made healthier by a process of emotional healing (which one can have control over). If one cannot find richness in one’s sorrow, one cannot be at peace with oneself. (As the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn would say, one needs to embrace one’s suffering.)

    For those who find this all rather mystical and assume it has no basis in hard reality, I feel compelled to add that I although I have been a psychiatrist/therapist for decades, that came after MIT engineering and math degrees, and a stint at the RAND corporation. I’ve since worked as a therapist with many folks who initially live in their intellects, in much psychic pain and struggle. As they learn to embrace their feelings, they come closer and closer to having “enough”.

  17. Herbert Wetherby

    On the other hand, can your grandma, mother, you, and your daughter, by yourselves, get enough of what you need to say, pluck an onion? This can be passed along but could you ever live with one another?

  18. Herbert Wetherby

    What are humans? We are an evolved form of mammals. Animals do nothing all day except provide for their own needs; food, shelter, water, air. And there are a finite amount of those basic resources which also requires a never ending struggle to amass them. Humans are just another extension of this. So people that endlessly pursue wealth and power are just doing that to control a finite amount of resources.

    Your sentences are accurate, but left out are the sophistications of humans. The human brain was added onto the brain of the ape during the evolution process. Most humans could never escape the fact that they still have some prehistoric properties within themselves. And it is these qualities which give the human the drive to strive or steal the endless persuit of wealth and power. Which is why we have good and evil, that can be plainly seen from the eyes of the ones who were able to escape the chains of their past.

  19. I have seldom met up with such a subversive
    posting; and from a bastion of the capitalist
    system yet. What would happen to us, to
    U.S., and to the rest of the world, if there
    weren’t people out there buying a new car
    every year, paying $XYZ for mansions, hungry
    for that Lear jet? Ready to destroy and
    defoliate for that extra $500K bonus?

    This prospect has been scaring me for
    decades. And not only me. Look at the
    enormous increase in advertising, the
    fortunes earned by Sergey and Larry by
    selling yet new ways to get your name
    and product before the public. We are
    even selling off the facades of our
    great Temples of Athletics; think
    Fedex Field, Qualcomm Stadium. Those
    advertisers are desperate, they see
    the danger of letting consumerism flag.

    Gotta keep the demand up somehow, folks.
    Please ignore Mr Kwak’s subversion. You
    _don’t_ have enough, not nearly. Get
    out there and shop! our prosperity
    depends on it.

    Alan, about to go out to a farmer’s
    market and sell some more buttons

  20. Actually, HW, animals do more. They play. Especially at the end of the day, birds enjoy a time of play. Many times I have watched, in a winter sunset, as seagulls dance together above mall rooftops before landing there to pass the night. I have seen, late in the day, a rooster engage in gentle mock battles with his small chicks. And mammals are more playful than birds.

    I wonder, for some people is the acquisition of wealth just a form of play?

    What is the root of the gambling impulse? Is it primordial? Does it come from the same place as the need to be excessively rich?

  21. To me, the question isn’t “what’s the baseline income to create happiness?”

    The question which puzzles me beyond anything is why some people love money more than all else in this world.

  22. Of course, money in and of itself does not “buy” happiness, but for those with the capacity to generate a sense of satisfaction in life from activities they enjoy participating in, money sure does afford the latitude to pursue those activities.

  23. I agree. A number of years ago I inherited money unexpectedly, and it certainly was a wonderful feeling, as it relieved all my money worries and allowed me to do some projects I had been wanting to do. Yet never in my life did I make choices with the intention of making more money.

    And I never could understand what makes people want to gamble. That has been on my mind since the terrible NY bus crash. Can anyone explain it to me?

  24. The satiation point of $75k mentioned in the article is an important point. That is still 20% or so above the median household income.

    Focusing on raising most people’s income to the satiation point or above would result in a greater increase in income to be spent on things that concetrating wealth in the hands of a few who will not be spending it.

    Therefore, our current tax and subsidy programs geared towards funneling money to the wealthy is actually reducing our ability to increase GDP.

  25. It would take a lifetime, and would need to be done on another internet site that is discussing the dogma and thongma of a religion other than this blog’s religion which is devoted to the god particle of $$$

    to present the case opposite of your interpretation of how society has benefited from crucifying the innocent,

    “mollyrose” and your thinker-for-you – “Girard”.

    Now we all know why it always gets down to pitchforks to get them off stage…

    no point to ANYTHING when seeking justice is tossed out as a “concept” in psychobabble land

    PURE Nihilism – god that’s an ugly mind…

    Repeat after me people, “They are NUTZ”.

  26. How old are you, James?

    10?

    Didn’t watch Masterpiece Theatre’s “The Way We Live Now”?

  27. I don’t think that a “satiation point” of $75k makes much sense, particularly for a family with children in a major metropolitan area.

    That having been said, the concept is on the right track. There is definitely a point where money becomes a scoreboard rather than a mechanism for acquiring desired goods and services. It’s at that point where people who seemingly have whatever anyone could want will still be willing to behave unethically/illegally to keep up.

  28. Have a look at Wilkinson & Pickett’s “The Spirit Level”, which makes a very convincing epidemiological case that wealth on an absolute scale has little to do with well-being — neither physical health, nor social function, nor happiness. What matters is the degree of income disparity in a society: the more economic inequality, the worse off humans perecive themselves to be, and the worse off they are in objective terms. Societies that are less well-off than the US, but with more ewquitable income distributions, have healthier and happier people.

  29. Annie, you are the living embodiment of the scapegoating urge, with your rage and your blame smoking up all of your comments.

    Scapegoating a victim to discharge social discord — it is a universal among human groups, incidentally, and therefore is a legitimate phenomenon begging to be scientifically understood. Should we not inquire into social dynamics just because they come in the trappings of religion?

    Since Girard says reified covetousness is the root source of the discord, mollyrose’s comment was appropriate in this discussion.

  30. Thanks for the comment, Jake.

    When I came across that research, it blew me away. It confirmed my deepest democratic impulses — and showed in a convincing way that our material needs are simple, and our need for justice and dignity is profound.

    Anyone care to guess which nation has the most equitable income distribution? It is not in Europe.

  31. It is truly sad to witness a person in fast decline in health angry that his wealth cannot buy him a cure.

  32. and by the way, I learned of it from a comment on this forum.

  33. @ mollyrose & mondo

    I concur…

    “there is nothing like a ‘wakening call from mother nature’ that makes our being all the more precious

    whereas vanities opaque veneer of exogenous covetousness metastasized characteristics are hastily shed

    the defining gene as developed only in humans is that of a unique altruism for the salvation of others

    why only a loving ‘God’ knows our Freudian slip for redemption”

  34. Bruce E. Woych

    The 19th Century British anthropologists used a gross “comparative method” based upon associations of traits and perceived cultural values. The method was largely utilized to justify an evolutionary ranking system (with civilized Britain on top of course). Later studies introduced controlled comparisons where variables were measured among similar contexts and cultural conditions against a primary invariable.

    Despite the sophisticated statistical methods that cover the data, there is still a spurious comparitive method based upon generalized perceptions of variables against a questionable notion of GDP as a true standard across diverse cultural subsistence factors.

    Rather than get too complicated, simply ask yourself it the data collected and utilized might just as readily bae analyzed to indicate that happier people make more money…up to a point …(especially since beyond that point of common acceptance, wealth causes inequality and disjointedness in the cultural community and unity of social cohesion. Indeed, there are many studies that indicate “leveling” mechanisms that keep the disequilibrium of excess in line (ritualized redistribution brings prestige over wealth accumulation).
    The conclusions are merely complex tautology. The fallacy of composition, suggested by the previous “Easterlin Paradox”, is still a stronger deductive conclusion.

  35. Herbert Wetherby

    Does it come from the same place as the need to be excessively rich?

    No, it comes from the need to be excessively comfortable with yourself, in every respect. And then guide the willing to see the light, and if need be, force the others to see the light of day. Too often we are only concerened with Mr. feel good and that has negative consequences when coming down off the high. Roots, gambling, and the rich are for part timers to dance in the night. So you can wonder, but it all behind you when you do catch on.

  36. Herbert Wetherby

    Gambling is a form of play you mention earlier, it should be available in most every town so folks would not have to travel so far to play a game. But in order for the rich operators of casinos to make the most money, you have to travel.

  37. Bruce E. Woych

    Perhaps we should simply ask the Koch Brothers about capital consumption and the question of satiation and enough?
    Perhaps this is just a Motley Fool’s way of perceiving their observable environment of addiction to greed?

  38. Yes… People that are ambitious enough to actually do what it takes to accumulate wealth are not generally normal personalities.
    Taking this one step further, when one has all the material wealth they will ever need but still has ambition in overdrive, power becomes more valuable than wealth.

  39. edit: I was referring to vast megafortunes, not simple wealth.

  40. If it is addictive, and it is, surely it must tap into some need more primal than play.

    I can’t understand how it is a need to be “excessively comfortable with yourself” as you said in your prior comment — unless it is that feeling “lucky” makes you feel safe in the universe, instead of anxious. I could get there, sort of. I know I feel oddly comforted when I find a parking space just where I need it, or find a dollar on the ground.

    Is there a payoff when you lose at gambling too? Is it a win/win game emotionally?

    Thanks for answering my request for enlightenment. If you can explain it to me further, I will most certainly be grateful.

  41. Herbert, “anonymous” above is me, responding to your kind answer to my questions. Forgot to put my name on it.

  42. Bruce E. Woych

    http://www.ethicsandglobalpolitics.net/index.php/egp/article/viewFile/1937/2186

    Ethics and Global politics
    Vol. 2, No. 1, 2009, pp. 23-39

    Hermeneutics and inter-cultural
    dialog: linking theory and practice
    Fred Dallmayr*

  43. @ Bruce E. Woych

    Ref: “Casino Gambling is Back!”

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2011/03/02/casino-capitalism-is-back.aspx

    Thankyou James and Simon :-)

  44. Herbert Wetherby

    They are 2 totally different realms, one is elimanating discomfort within the body, achieved by only a few, or 2 1/2 . The other is a 50/50 chance at winning money, this is more a matter for the mind for those are your best chances, and more often than not you will walk away emply handed. And I don’t consider the latter an emotional payoff either, usually its the person I am gambling with, that rides in that seat.

  45. nemo: “You know, once upon a time the word “liberal” had some relationship to “liberty”. What happened?”

    1) People started lying about liberals.

    2) Prominent liberals started ignoring the liberty of other people.

  46. Mondo,

    “Scapegoating a victim to discharge social discord — it is a universal among human groups, incidentally, and therefore is a legitimate phenomenon begging to be scientifically understood. Should we not inquire into social dynamics just because they come in the trappings of religion?”

    That is the most ludicrous belief in your own made-up crap that I have ever heard.

    HISTORY – the crucifixion of an innocent TEACHER was the last straw for the Roman Empire.

    They took over “law” in Jerusalem after that “scapegoating” – leveled the place first as was their “style”

    and the irony of it all – the RELIGIOUS teachings of the crucified teacher were well received in the beginning in Rome…

    Rome 1, Pharisees 0.

    To reduce the HUMAN IDEAL of justice to “scapegoating” – well, go ahead and keep doing it – serving up MadeOff didn’t do it, throwing Martha Stewart in jail didn’t do it, hundreds of Teutonic Knight’s public torture and hangings didn’t do it, female mutilations and cutting off hands didn’t do it

    so the LAST resort is keeping Jesus on the cross, a 2 thousand year tradition among PSYCHOTICS and SOCIOPATHS.

    The science has already clarified *WHO* – what particular type of ABNORMAL mind – believes in “scapegoating”.

    Let me guess who is going to be out a couple of billion when the stupid idiotic USA people “call” the bluff of the cheaters – the Rethugs.

    Just to be clear, Mondo, you and I are at war. Fair enough? I’m not “raging” – I’m being civilized in telling you WHY we are at war…

  47. It’s just like inheriting wealth – getting something for nothing…

    Gambling is most widespread at those moments in history when honest wealth is unprotected by “government”.

  48. None of this is new – Charles Handy wrote about the moral quandaries of capitalism and reconciling with what counts as Enough in life … back in 1999

  49. He is rich who knows how much is enough.

    – Tao Teh Ching

    :)

  50. markincorsicana

    semper avarus eget. Man will not change until it is too late. Tools of war and of finance are both tools of fear and greed.

  51. @ James Kwak, oh here we go again with your hypocritical moralizing. A satiation point at $ 75K? Really??? That satiation point would have been far exceeded when you were at McKinsey ($150K to $ 200K, easily for junior people) and while your paying clients were INVESTMENT BANKS, ACCORDING TO YOUR OWN WEBSITE, at Ariba and at Guidewire where the salaries were most likely in a similar range PLUS STOCK OPTIONS.

    In fact, your compensation would have probably far exceeded Simon Johnson at any point in *his* career.

    @ James, you are at best a hypocritical liar.

  52. Uhm, Canada?

  53. could you ever live with one another?

    Well, HW, we certainly have.

  54. Japan, according to the gini experts.

  55. DakotabornKansan

    When it comes to happiness, there are other states of simple happiness that have little to do with income.

    “I have the most kindly temperament. My wants are modest – a hut, a thatched roof, a good bed, good food, milk and butter, all very fresh; flowers at my window, a few beautiful trees at my door. And if the good Lord wants to make my happiness complete, he will give me the pleasure of seeing six or seven of my enemies strung up on those trees. With all my heart I shall forgive them, before their death, all the evil they have committed against me while I was alive. Yes, one should always forgive one’s enemies – but not until they are hanged.” – Heinrich Heine, Gedanke und Einfallen

    Nietzsche, who held Heine in high esteem, once quipped, “To see somebody suffer is nice, to make somebody suffer even nicer.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morality

    Now those are feelings that no amount of money can buy.

  56. Herbert Wetherby

    I am real glad about that, but you know me, I won’t believe it until I see it.

  57. Annie, neither Mondo nor Girard are advocating scapegoating in any way.

    They are saying it is an ancient social REALITY which the Old Testament reveals and Jesus overturns. Girard identifies it as a Satanic lie. Your rage clouds your understanding.

  58. Not the typical post for this blog however, I have enjoyed reading the contributions/philosophical leanings of those posting above.

    I will offer a small contribution from my life experiences. Spending innumerable hours caring for patients in ICU or the ER whose lives were completely and forever changed in one instant, has daily altered my own perspective of what I need to be happy in the moment in which I breath.

  59. Thanks, Cedar. What is “enough” from your life-and-death perspective ?

  60. @ D B K….Nietzsche – “Hell on Earth?”

    “ones mind takes its own revenge
    an aborted succor of past truculent transgressions shows no savage blood lust on its face
    as the echo chamber of gilded inequity transcends its closed end writhing hell
    where every conscious thought makes death a pleasurable celerity towards an immaculate catharsis
    the final supplicate for redemption embraces capitulation”

  61. If any of you are interested, try reading the Beatitudes. Here’s a good place to start.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatitudes

  62. Housel’s quote hit home for me. I learned through just such an experience (working toward something with others that became bigger than all of us) that some people will never have enough. They will defraud, lie, cheat and steal, in order to have more.

    Over many years of friendship and partnership and the daily workings toward our mutual goal to succeed, we experienced births, deaths, marriages, divorces, joys, and miseries, holidays and celebrations together – but those decades of caring and loyalty and partnership meant absolutely nothing when compared to all the lovely money that could be stolen out from under me.

    I think this article helped heal the wounds a little, because now I understand. It wasn’t personal, it was psychopathy.

  63. “Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”
    –Thoreau

    “That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.”
    – Thoreau

    “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”
    –Mahatma Gandhi

    “The be-all and end-all of life should not be to get rich, but to enrich the world.”
    – B. C. Forbes

  64. All the more reason we need:

    1. Massive defaults on debt, and let the bondholders/lenders take the hit.

    2. Massive claw-backs of all the wealth “stolen” (doled out by politicians) to the financial terrorists.

    Unfortunately, the U.S. government is “owned” by the interests that need to be contained for the economy to move in a positive direction for “the small people.” Thus, IMHO it will likely take a violent revolution to bring about more equitable monetary wealth distribution in the U.S. But first, more people need to wake up to the Kleptocracy.

    p.s. I can just see “the small people” swarming the mansions at Palm Beach, the Hamptons, etc. That will be a day to celebrate!

  65. Nice!

  66. What happened is the bamboozlers identified liberty with unrestricted rights of predation, monopolization and conspiracy.

  67. I wish you peace, anon, and hope you can forgive so you can let it go. I have been there, wounded almost to death by a betrayal in my own family, and have learned how to forgive. You can love someone when you cannot trust them. There is no other way — it is love or slowly die.

  68. @”barrie” – I try to be FAIR-minded – allowing for a lot of SIMPLE misunderstandings in a roiling melting pot like northeast USA…so I asked some very level-headed people to read the conversation up to your accusatory “rage” pronouncement – and here’s the thing – none of them agree with your interpretation of what Mondo or Girard were saying – not even Mondo who lays bare that YOU are wrong with this post below about “forgiveness”:

    “I wish you peace, anon, and hope you can forgive so you can let it go. I have been there, wounded almost to death by a betrayal in my own family, and have learned how to forgive. You can love someone when you cannot trust them. There is no other way — it is love or slowly die.”

    But, don’t despair at being oh-so-wrong – everyone had a good laugh at how YOU are definitely accusing me of being a raging witch. LOL Good one and thank the lord we all laugh at the attempt at “inquisitions” – fully armed, though, just to make sure YOU get the boundry…

    So, sincerely, thanks for the laugh of the day!

    The wiki article on “Rene Girard” also does not agree with your interpretation.

    You all ARE seeking to replace hard-earned experiential JUSTICE with scapegoating.

    The facts are what they are – a 3 page stick up note handed to the USA taxpayer by Hank Paulson for what ended up being TRILLIONS of dollars.

    Now, there definitely is a connection between the rise of mega-evangelical “churches” and the ability of kleptocrats to pull off that absurd over-the-top schtick…

    Any theories on what that connection could be?

  69. However desirable it is for that to be true, that money cannot buy happiness, or even how true that still may be in situations of controlled isolation (which likely are expensive to create), raw capitalism as an influence not just on the body politic and the subsequent policies that emerge as a result, but on civic society as a consequence of the class advantages created by those capitalistic and corporatist policies disenfranchise and marginalize entire ethnic groups, cultures and demographics to the point that civil society and citizen solidarity become suspicion and jealousy, bigotry and hatred, both in politics and in civil society as seemingly unavoidable practice, almost as though under tight control in a double -blind experiment.

    On this side of the 21st century, there is no happiness in poverty or financial oppression, except perhaps in fleeting moments among the unfortunate children of those victims. Modern advertising does not spare the materially humble or the growing numbers of “withouts”. One cannot escape the drumbeat message of modern consumerism to even begin to contemplate the true meaning and measures of happiness, except perhaps, in that age old practice of reminiscence, where we ponder the fate of those “good ole days”.

  70. Maybe the real class divide is between those who are satisfied with Enough (if they can get it), and those who always want More.

  71. @jake chase — what a great summary — Thanks!

  72. songstarter71

    ok, i’ll bite. which country is it?

  73. It’s Japan. Who knew?

  74. thanks much dbk. I think I saw that once, but had forgotten it. a very hearty laugh to brighten my day.

  75. cutely put. that’s exactly the problem with executive compensation.

  76. Herbert Wetherby

    I relize we have been wallyed to death but someone just created money from thin air and added it to the M2 supply. Its going up at an astounding rate and I would like an expert opinion as to how a thing like that could suddenly occur. The Fed also increased its holdings dramaticly as the treasurys remained stable or the same. Did the patient go into cardiacc arrest and need a booster?

  77. Herbert Wetherby

    Here’s part of my answer.

    FORT LEE, N.J., March 11, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — The National Inflation Association (NIA) – http://inflation.us – today released the following economic update article:

    China this morning reported 4.9% price inflation for the month of February, exceeding analyst expectations of 4.8%. With China now mimicking the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and taking steps to artificially manipulate their consumer price index (CPI) numbers as low as possible, it is likely that real price inflation in China is now closer to 10%. China was at least smart enough to raise interest rates last month by 25 basis points to 6.06%, while the Federal Reserve continues to leave interest rates near zero with there being absolutely no talk of the Federal Reserve ever raising interest rates again. China will be successful at containing inflation, as U.S. inflation spirals out of control and becomes the greatest economic crisis in American history.

    China this week reported a $7.3 billion trade deficit for the month of February, its largest trade deficit in seven years, which surprised many global economists. NIA believes China’s trade deficit is temporary and that China will quickly return to having a trade surplus. The Federal Reserve’s QE2 along with China’s destructive monetary policies, which artificially devalue the yuan, have led to a massive rise in China’s raw material costs this year. NIA believes that in the upcoming months, Chinese manufacturers will raise the prices of their products that get exported to the U.S., to counteract rising commodity prices. With most products used by Americans today having been manufactured in China, this will mean Americans will soon see massive price inflation in just about all consumer goods they use. NIA projects that by the end of 2011, we will begin to see the U.S. CPI increase by 4.9% or higher on a year-over-year basis, with real U.S. price inflation rising north of 10%.

    The mainstream media is proclaiming that China’s trade deficit will silence calls for the Chinese to allow their currency to strengthen against the U.S. dollar. The fact is, China’s government has for long been making the major mistake of printing too many yuan in order to artificially prop up the U.S. dollar. Their fear was, if the U.S. dollar was allowed to decline too rapidly, prices of Chinese goods would rise in terms of U.S. dollars and Americans would no longer afford to import them.

    The truth is, if China allowed the yuan to strengthen, the Chinese would have enjoyed a much higher standard of living. Sure, prices would rise in dollars and Americans would import less, but the Chinese would have the ability to consume more of their own products. Now, as a result of China expanding its own money supply in order to keep the yuan pegged to the U.S. dollar, Americans will be forced to pay a much higher price for Chinese goods anyway. The same higher prices Americans were going to pay as a result of exchange rate appreciation, Americans will now pay as a result of inflation. For the Chinese, the exchange rate appreciation route would have been a much better route to take than the inflation route, because now the Chinese will also be forced to pay higher prices. In the very short-term, China might actually suffer more than the U.S. because they lack the social safety nets that have been implemented here in America.

    The U.S. government has been successful at temporarily paying off Americans into not rioting in the streets like in Arab nations. It was just announced a few days ago that the number of Americans on food stamps in the month of December of 2010 was a record 44,082,324, up 13.1% from one year earlier and 1.1% from one month earlier. That is more than 14% of the total U.S. population! Combined with President Obama extending unemployment benefits up to 99 weeks, American citizens are too busy and distracted playing with their iPad 2s and gossiping on Twitter about Charlie Sheen, to have any time to protest in Washington, DC.

    NIA believes the U.S. government’s entitlement spending is currently having the unintended consequence of making Americans dependent on government. It is like when you take wild animals into captivity and you feed them, teach them to do tricks and take care of them for a period of many years; if you just dump them one day back into the wild, it will be very difficult for them to survive. Americans who have become dependent on unemployment checks and food stamps will likely soon abruptly find out that they must begin to fend for themselves without any help from the government. The result will be many Americans turning into wild animals and becoming so desperate that they will have to rob and burglarize their fellow neighbors who were smart enough to prepare, or else they will risk starving to death.

    As a result of QE2, the Federal Reserve is now buying 70% of U.S. treasuries, up from previously only buying 10% of treasury bonds. Foreign central banks are now buying just 30% of U.S. treasuries, compared to previously buying 50% of treasury bonds. The U.S. budget deficit in the month of February reached a record $222.5 billion or $2.67 trillion on an annualized basis. With the Federal Reserve now monetizing our debt in full swing, a complete and total loss of confidence in the U.S. dollar could be imminent.

    Just like how nobody in the mainstream media was calling for the collapse of Egypt’s government a few months ago, almost nobody in the media believes a collapse of the U.S. dollar could possibly take place anytime soon. NIA members are educated enough to see that the writing is on the wall. The Federal Reserve can deny all it wants that the U.S. is experiencing inflation, but with the cost to print a single U.S. dollar paper note rising by 50% since 2008, massive inflation is here right under Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s nose. Every day that goes by, China is quietly implementing more and more steps that expand the yuan’s use in cross border trade, in order to position the yuan as the world’s next reserve currency.

    So few Americans are presently preparing for hyperinflation that if hyperinflation broke out today, approximately 90% of Americans won’t have the means to put food on the table or put fuel in their automobiles. During the upcoming hyperinflationary crisis, food stamps will no longer have any value at all and all U.S. entitlement programs will come to a complete halt. Americans will take to the streets like the world has never seen before.

    The biggest question NIA has today is, will the U.S. government resort to firing at its own citizens, if major riots take place in Washington, DC. On Thursday, police in Saudi Arabia shot and wounded three protesters. The price of oil rose by a few dollars per barrel as soon as this news hit the wire, which shows just how nervous the world’s financial markets have become in recent weeks. The fact that the Dow Jones has declined significantly in recent days, in our opinion means that the odds of QE3 being launched as soon as QE2 is over, are now much higher than they were several weeks ago.

    The other big question NIA has today is, if in the unlikely event there is no QE3, who will fill in for the artificial buying demand currently coming from the Federal Reserve. After all, with no QE3, the Federal Reserve will go from buying 70% of treasury bonds to being a seller of U.S. treasuries. NIA is 100% sure that foreign central banks aren’t itching to jump back in to fill the hole. While in the past, the private sector may have picked up the slack, we believe individual investors will now be more reluctant to jump into government bonds, especially with bond king Bill Gross reducing the government bond holdings in his Pimco Total Return Fund down to zero. The bottom line is, no QE3 means interest rates will fly sky high and destroy the phony so-called “economic recovery”.

    From April to August of 2010, the last time the Federal Reserve allowed its balance sheet to shrink, the Dow Jones fell by over 1,000 points. If Bernanke doesn’t soon begin to leak out the strong likelihood of QE3, we could see the stock market decline by 1,000 points or more, which will force Bernanke into launching QE3. If we see a major sell off in stocks, NIA doesn’t necessarily think that precious metals prices will follow. In fact, we could see gold and silver rise along with the Dow Jones falling. NIA projects the Dow Jones to gold ratio to decline to 6.5 in 2011. This means even if the Dow Jones fell to below 11,000, we still believe gold is likely to rise to around $1,600 to $1,700 per ounce this year, with silver soaring to around $42 to $44 per ounce. NIA believes the worst decision any American can make is to sell their gold and silver and go long U.S. dollars, hoping to buy their precious metals back at a lower price in the future.

    It is important to spread the word about NIA to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, if you want America to survive hyperinflation. Please tell everybody you know to become members of NIA for free immediately at: http://inflation.us

    About us:

    The National Inflation Association is an organization that is dedicated to preparing Americans for hyperinflation. NIA offers free membership at http://www.inflation.us and provides its members with articles about the U.S. economy and inflation, daily news stories and blog updates, and important charts not shown by the mainstream media. NIA is the producer of economic documentaries that have received a combined 10 million views including the critically acclaimed ‘Meltup’, ‘The Dollar Bubble’, ‘End of Liberty’, and ‘Hyperinflation Nation’. NIA provides unbiased reviews of the major online sellers of gold and silver bullion and also offers profiles of gold, silver, agriculture, oil, and alternative energy companies that could prosper in an inflationary environment. NIA is the creator of ‘NIAnswers’, the world’s most comprehensive database of questions and answers about inflation, currencies, debt, and precious metals.

  78. “Poverty consists, not in the decrease of one’s possessions, but in the increase of one’s greed.” – Plato

  79. Great thread, I’m desirous of a second cup of coffee, now. Y’all the best.

  80. OFF Topic!!!, but relevant concerning the cost of the countries “Energy Program” and it’s profound negative effect to our GDP.
    Ref: “Thorium, as a Nuclear Fuel”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium

    Key Benefits: “with a thorium nuclear reactor the possibilities of a “Meltdown” are “nil”- cost effective – very little nuclear waste to dispose of, whereas plutonium, and uranium are the only waste components that can provide “The Suit-Case”?
    It is by far the best realistic alternative fuel having less devastating impact of a “God Forbid Disaster”!
    Just thought worth mentioning :-)

  81. Herbert Wetherby

    Thoughts well taken, especially concerning the similarities to the vicksburg packet, which has yet to be settled in any reasonable fashion.

  82. Actually, it’s not. Anyone who has more than a rudimentary understanding of mammals knows that animals are far more complex than the caricature of them that the OP was premised upon.

    Take elephants. They have feelings. They can suffer from mental-illnesses, like post-traumatic-stress-disorder, depression, etc. They do more than fight over hierarchies, reproduce and forage for food. They have societies, they care for each other when they’re sick, they mourn the dead, they will bring food to a hurt herd member.

    They are, in fact, a complex and rich species. Nothing like the shallow ‘basic needs’ biological machines implied in the OP…

  83. I’m surprised no one reacted to the fact that Heller and Vonnegut were having a chat at a Billionaire’s party. The only thing better (and I use that term loosely) than being a Billionaire is being invited to his parties. Nay, that might actually BE better. All the lavishness and excess and no need to worry about paying or organizing it. By attending the party they endorse the imbalance.

  84. Your post is about contentment. When you know you have enough or more than enough, it is more noble to share these blessings to others who need them most.

  85. KeenObserver

    “Money doesn’t buy happiness” can be construed as a culture-based phenomena. In the US, a sufficient amount of money certainly will buy peace of mind.

    I spent some time with the Yanomamo Indians of South America. They didn’t even have the concept of money (they couldn’t count). As the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon observed, they are an “Affluent Society” as they have everything they want/need.