Author: Howard Feng
The age old question of whether or not money can buy happiness has become a mounting issue. Perhaps this is due to the rise in capitalism. Max Weber, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism traces its roots back to a religious answer; he views there to be an “iron cage” of capitalism. However, regardless of the cause, there is certainly the mentality of “make more money” for many people of this world. Even today, surveys and studies are constantly being measured, attempting to qualify, quantify, and eventually answer this question: “Can money buy happiness?”
When talking to friends, family, and even people you might not know, trust that the answers/responses to this question will be divided. Almost everyone’s answer will contain parts of both, explaining how it could help but how it shouldn’t be always true. Thus, most people’s answers are muddled and don’t show a clear cut “yes,” or “no.” This is also a great reflection on an important problem of many statistical surveys: response bias! In this sort of bias, the person being asked the question will answer according to what he or she thinks the interviewer would want the answer to be (read about other common bias in research tests). On Twitter, we were able to speak to a multitude of people who had varying responses (showing that this indeed is a difficult question). Holden Pierre looks at the destructive powers of money; he asked people to look at “Hollywood.” To clarify, Pierre believes happiness is tied closely to personal relationships, and (assuming) that money buys materials, these materials have a destructive potential to harm these relationships. However, this also reveals a problem, because can’t these materials also help personal relationships? Therein lies the problem both for and against money!
There are several reasons that people believe money can buy happiness. Eric Barker of Business Insider points to the fact that people stress materials too much. In fact, he says everyone derives happiness from experiences, not materials. And many experiences are able to be purchased, such as a cruise trip or that Disneyland trip with your children. Science Daily published an article about this very idea, stating that this “psychology study suggests that buying life experiences rather than material possessions leads to greater happiness for both the consumer and those around them” (read the full article).
On the other hand, there are also reasons against this. Against the acquisition of material wealth, studies have been performed by multiple associations, stating that the more materials one has is not correlated with their happiness level. Others understand this to mean that those who want more materials never stop wanting more, and thus are constantly under more stress and pressure. Furthermore, there is a belief that people can’t buy happiness because they lose more time trying to gain more money. Last year, the American Psychology Association published an interesting article that found that money can buy independence, which might be correlated to happiness; however, money can not be shown to be correlated with happiness. Thus, individualism is a stronger predictor of happiness than wealth (read about the results). Indeed, this is a question that still lingers in our society today.
Author: Howard Fang