For some time now, I’ve been trying to assess the point of one’s human life. What makes you (or me) important or meaningful. I think a lot of people are trying to do the same thing. I was thinking about this last night, and I think that I have narrowed it all down to a very few factors. These are:
- Achievement. This means accomplishment of something meaningful to you, your community, or your society. You might give birth to a child, or bake a lovely cake, or make a beautiful drawing, or take a lead in a choir. The achievement could be something you do yourself or as part of a relationship. It doesn’t have to mean something that has financial value; it could just be something that you or others admire.
- Relationships. A relationship with one person, a group, a community, a nation, a planet. Yours could be a relationship of love (a marriage), as a part of a team, or even a larger group. Your relationship makes you feel part of something and brings meaning to your life.
- Understanding. This is knowledge and acceptance of a religion, a philosophy, a science, and tells you the why and wherefore of your existence and of our individual lives.
- Basic physical needs. You have sufficient means and amounts of food, clothing, shelter, health care, transportation, communications, personal care, water, oxygen, and sleep. And so do the other persons who have an important relationship with you.
- Power and command. You have sufficient political power, political power, physical power and command to make your life meaningful. You may attain this power personally or through relationships.
- Love. This may actually be a basic physical or emotional need. Includes simple hugging, kissing, caressing, and sexual connection.
- Happiness. Comes from an appropriate balance of the foregoing.
A Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has been said to include:
1. Biological and physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, etc.
3. Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
4. Esteem needs – which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige).
5. Cognitive needs – knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning and predictability.
6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
7. Self-actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
8. Transcendence needs – A person is motivated by values which transcend beyond the personal self (e.g., mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences, service to others, the pursuit of science, religious faith, etc.).
I hope that you ponder these categories because they tell us why we want to live and what makes living joyful. They are also a social guide. Notice that money is nowhere a goal. All that money does is assist us in acquiring things that are necessary for a happier life. Which is why wealth in itself does nothing, except provide safety (if you have enough of it) and the ability to acquire what you need and want. You can certainly acquire the things you want if you have several million dollars. You don’t need fifty million dollars or a billion dollars to do it. Which is why a wealth tax makes sense, because it spreads excess wealth throughout the society and thereby makes it possible for more people to have joy and fulfillment.
One might say that making fifty million dollars is an achievement of which one can be proud. And it is. But just storing away forty-eight million really does nothing and deprives others of a way of enjoying life. It would be best if the very wealthy were philanthropic, because this would share the wealth. But statistically, we know this isn’t happening.
The total national wealth of the United States in 2014 was $123.8 trillion (wealth minus all debt). There were 318.6 million people in the U.S. in 2014. That makes $387,947 per person. A family of four would be worth $1.55 million. Do you really think that most families have this much money? Of course not. Most of that wealth is being held by the truly wealthy – which is why we have so much poverty. Median wealth in 2013 was $63,800 (meaning that half of the people had less than that and half more.) Comparing median with average shows you that the wealthier half has a lot more. https://mises.org/wire/median-household-wealth-america-going-nowhere
Spreading the wealth would mean more for the poor half of Americans and would take away little from the very wealthy.