We’re caught in a vicious circle: The more we’re concerned with money, the less time we have for others (making and managing money takes time). When we’re mainly concerned with money, others are our adversaries — we’re all competing for limited resources.
From the essay:
But wealth is not the central ingredient of happiness, and happiness has been on the decline. What does bring real happiness? What truly benefits people and the planet?
‘Hierarchy of needs’
Even though there’s much new research on happiness, it’s interesting to look at the work of Abraham Maslow, who, in 1943, explored what he called our “hierarchy of needs.”
First is the need for survival: We need air, water, food and shelter.
Next comes safety needs: We need to feel safe and protected.
Next are the social needs. We need family, friends, community and the public good.
Then come esteem needs: We need others’ respect, as well as our own self-respect. We need to use our own unique abilities for goals and a sense of challenge.
Finally, self-actualization — becoming the self you truly are. This involves a commitment to a higher purpose, finding a way of making the world a better place.
Maslow called these needs because if they are not fulfilled, there are negative consequences. Obviously, if a baby doesn’t get food, it will die; but if it doesn’t get love, it will grow into a violent, cruel person. If we don’t have respect, we will lack faith in ourselves and treat others with disdain. If we don’t find a purpose, our lives are diminished, and we become selfish and greedy, not caring about the common good.
But Maslow’s pyramid is a little deceptive. Each of those levels have something in common: social ties. Without other people we can’t survive, feel safe, feel respected or even feel actualized. It all involves people. But as I’ve said many times in this column, social cohesion has been severely undermined. Trust has declined dramatically; incivility haunts us.
There are many reasons — in particular, we work too many hours, and we don’t have time to come together. But probably the most important reason we’re so isolated is that we don’t understand the great need for social connections. We have always been a culture that admired self-reliance and individuality.
And because we do not realize that true security lies in other people, we have turned to wealth and possessions for a false security.
No religion, no God. The goods are external goods; there is no sense of happiness as an activity as in Aristotle's eudaimonism, except in the last good, "self-actualization," which is rather vague. Are inauthentic forms of self-actualization? Yes. Do we need rules to aid us attain true self-actualization? Yes. And is God more than a higher purpose? Yes.
Would liberals ever go back to the ancients (or the medievals) to see if they could learn from them? Probably not.
The author's website.