What’s the definition of wealth and what’s the utility of excess wealth? Would having more wealth than we need offer us a real value or only a perceived value?
Wealth isn’t just how much money I have in the bank or how much I have in my investment accounts – that’s a limited view. My home equity is part of my wealth. My ability to earn an income, therefore, my skills are also part of my wealth. Anything that has resale value would be included.
Wealth also includes my health, my social status, my support structure, my skin color, and my sex (because of current disparities).
Definition Of Wealth
We live in a world run by massive corporations called governments. They protect their borders and pass laws, print money, and collect taxes in return for keeping your rights protected.
The only things we can barter with are either money or assets. Money can be obtained by trading our time or intellect/skills. It’s tough determining the value of many and most of us greatly overvalue it.
Assets are either passed down from a previous generation or accumulated over time by purchasing them with money from our income. Assets, on the other hand, are a bit underappreciated and less often used for wealth accumulation.
Wealth essentially allows us to afford a lifestyle in this world. Without it we would have to live on the margins of society, at subpar standards. Without wealth we wouldn’t afford healthcare, dental care, quality foods, not even freedom.
Each country has determined what their poverty level is. This is the level below which you would live a substandard lifestyle. The amount of wealth you need to live above it is clearly defined in most countries or figured out by researchers.
Living With Excess Wealth
My studio condo in Portland covers my housing needs with a bathroom, a bed, and a kitchen. I have access to electricity, internet, heat, and a fan.
I even have a washer/dryer and an oven. These aren’t necessary but nice to have. I could still live an incredible life without them.
In Portland a car isn’t really necessary. It would be a display of excess wealth to own a car. Perfectly fine, mind you; this isn’t a judgement on my part but a statement of facts.
I have 2 laptops, 2 cell phones, multiple travel bags, numerous books, wireless headphones, multiple headphones, an expensive folding bike, and a gym membership. All are forms of excess wealth.
Living Without Excess Wealth
Before addressing the utility of excess wealth I need to figure out what my life would be like without my individual expressions of excess wealth.
I would have fewer clothes, less gadgetry, a cheaper bicycle, fewer bags, no oven, no gym membership, no books of my own, and no washer/dryer.
If I didn’t have the above my quality of life wouldn’t decrease. I know this for a fact because I’ve lived with those things and adjusted quite well.
Without those luxuries, those displays of excess wealth, how would my position change in this world?
- I would have more money
- I would have more wealth sooner in life
- I would have fewer things to worry about
- I would have fewer things to maintain
- I would have more free time
The rest I am not sure about. For example, would I be a more giving person because I need a lot less and have a lot more to give away? I wish I could say yes but so far it doesn’t seem that I’m doing that. Then again, is there value in giving money away to others, would they value it or appreciate it or waste it?
Or would I get stingy because I’m living on so little that I get appalled by seeing others live with excess and still be unhappy or not be able to live a financially healthy lifestyle?
Would the world be better off because I am using fewer resources and creating less of a drain on the world?
Utility Of Excess Wealth
So, more wealth means more resources. But it doesn’t equate to excess happiness or a better quality of life. It does however offer an easier lifestyle though a more complicated one. It affords more conveniences. I’m pretty sure that I’d be pretty fucking uncomfortable if I had to bend over the tub scrubbing my feculent underwear. Uncomfortable, but not unhappy.
To obtain excess wealth I’d have to trade more of my free time in order to spend on excess things.
Looking at the first question people ask me when I tell them I’m retired I would say people place very little value on their free time. So perhaps having more conveniences, more luxury items, and more wealth is worth it for the average person in trade for their free time.
The problem with accumulating excess wealth is that it in this world it’s a finite resource. Not just in the simplistic sense of more money in my account means that there will be less money in someone else’s.
When I have excess wealth it means that I will have excess possessions and this invariably leads to a new standard of the affluent lifestyle. Governments carter to this through politicians and so more and more gets taken away from the less affluent.
Healthcare Professionals And Excess Wealth
I don’t think most healthcare professionals intentionally try to live lifestyles of excess wealth. It’s a natural byproduct of a high income, too little time, and too much debt.
Through the harmless concession of student loan debt, we accumulate a respectively higher mortgage debt. Because we are already in debt we continue to accumulate more debt. And spend our remaining years paying them off.
By the time we master the practice of medicine, little of which was taught to us during our training, a decade or more will have gone by and we’ll barely know what the fuck happened.
We have spent 2 decades getting accustomed to a hectic professional lifestyle and a decade getting used to a very luxurious one. There is no turning back from this for most of us. And it doesn’t come at a cheap cost – to maintain such a lifestyle it takes a ton of effort and a lot of ongoing income.
If it wasn’t for our desire to consume more we wouldn’t have hundreds of new companies popping up every year in the economy to sell us more shit. There is always a reason to get a better blender. For that we’d have to work more, trade more of our free time. If we don’t have any utility for that free time than spending it on excess wealth seems certainly worthwhile. The problem is that the more we accumulate and the more we spend, the less there is for others to go around and this broadens the wealth gap.
I guess the next proper question pertains to the utility of excess free time.
Interesting read: Two Surefire Solutions To Inequality (Marginal Revolution)