There’s a popular saying that “Money can’t buy happiness”. This statement most times brings about arguments. Some argued for, with statements like, “The rich also cry”, or that wealthy people have committed suicide because they were unhappy. Others argued that it is better to cry in a Benz ( Mercedes Benz – a luxury car brand) than to cry on a bicycle. I mean, these people think the tears of the rich are less significant because wealth equates to happiness.
At the Lagos Business School, I am taking a course named – Nature of human beings. This course teaches how humans behave from a real-life perspective and not through the use of economic models of man. One of the topics I found interesting is – Man’s fulfilment.
Man’s fulfilment talks about how humans can live a fulfilled life. There are a large number of different good things that are worth having or doing which can lead one to an ultimately fulfilling life. These things will differ for different people depending on preferences, opportunities and circumstances. To easily help us think straight about how to orientate our lives, we will look at these good things as either “extrinsic goods” or “intrinsic goods”.
Extrinsic goods are those good things that are worth having but do not by themselves bring happiness or fulfilment but can be used as a tool to solve problems. For example, money does not have value in itself until you use it as a tool to get that (intrinsic goods) which will bring you happiness. Examples of extrinsic goods include money, power, status and so on. Please note that fulfilment or happiness is not only about the absence of problems.
Intrinsic goods on the other hand are aspects of the well-being of human beings. They are good things that have value in themselves and are not just a means to solve problems. Examples are knowledge, life, intelligent control of one’s life, love, religion and so on. Please note that intrinsic goods are things that cannot just be picked up or readily bought, they are things you have to invest effort and pay your dues for you to have them. I mean, you don’t just get knowledge by buying a book, you will have to put in effort to earn the knowledge. With intrinsic goods, you are not in competition with others to have them like – I won’t lose my knowledge if I teach something.
It will be silly though, for anyone to say that money does not matter as anybody who has had to go hungry or is unable to get proper health care for lack of money will not agree with this. However, if such a person eventually gets little money that can solve part of his problems, he is liable to make the mistake of thinking that if only he could have enough money, he will be happy.
Back to the phrase, “Money can’t buy happiness”, Both arguments at the beginning of this post are valid as long as we are clear that even though money is desirable, it doesn’t bring man fulfilment.
To conclude, money can’t buy happiness but it can serve as one of the tools that can ease the process to achieving ultimate fulfilment.