[FOUNTAIN]Happiness is . . .Charles Dickens had long realized the relationship between money and happiness. In his 1850 novel “David Copperfield,” he wrote, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds six pence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds and six pence, result misery.”
Two thousand years ago in China, it passed almost as common sense that money equals happiness. People would go to all lengths to chase money. Sima Qian lamented the materialistic tendency in Shiji, or The Records of the Grand Historian. “Everyone wants wealth, regardless of how much education he has. Youngsters would rob a grave or counterfeit currency to get rich. Dancers would seduce old men for money, and government officials would be tempted by bribe money and forge official documents.”
Those studying the measure of happiness use a scientific approach to prove that happiness is not necessarily proportional to money. Professor Ed Diener, a pioneer in the field, interviewed the very rich Americans on the Forbes 400 list. On a scale of one to seven, with seven being the happiest, the average happiness index of the wealthy was 5.8. The level of happiness was not much different from that of the nomadic Masai in the Kenyan desert or the Inuit in freezing Greenland.
The Times in London reported a similar result. Money was ranked at 14th place in the factors that contributed to happiness, far lower than love, liberty or humor.
Despite the theories, the reality suggests differently. Money and happiness seem inseparable. Why do we feel that money and happiness are so closely related? Economist Richard Layard explains that tendency in his book, “Happiness: Lessons from a New Science.” Money can give people happiness in comparison to others. Economists at the University of Warwick surveyed 16,000 British workers. When asked to choose between getting paid 100,000 pounds ($185,000) when a close co-worker makes 250,000 pounds and getting 50,000 pounds when a co-worker is paid 25,000 pounds, most of the respondents chose the latter.
On July 3, the Washington Post analyzed Warren Buffett from the point of money and happiness. Why did he make a gift of more than 30 billion dollars? The answer is he wants to be happy. He has been quoted, “There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way.” He must have known better than anyone that the size of wealth is not proportional to happiness. Maybe he wants to challenge the biblical impossibility of becoming a camel that goes through the eye of a needle.
by Yi Jung-jae
The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.