February 14, 2014

The Irrelevance of Money: Emotional Capitalism. ~ Jack Raifer


Yes, I am a capitalist.

I believe that independence, the freedom to do what we consider best for ourselves and the reward of success is an amazing driving force that has proven through history to engage creativity, scientific advancement and a general improvement of the human condition.

However, it has some serious flaws, and it seems to be close to reaching its limits. Although it is not yet irrelevant, the basic focus of it is deader than your next steak dinner—money.

Capitalism today seems to be all about money, how to make it, invest it, multiply it and spend it.

After all, it is supposed to make things better. Well, according to all the empirical data that has been gathered: it is not that simple.

How often do we see people who are literally rolling in dough, whose lives, although they claim are amazing, are spent in stressful situations, angry, frustrated, surrounded by meaningless relationships and no matter how much money they make, it never seems to be enough?

On the other hand, let’s look at people who are happy with very little, who are always looking for ways to better those around them and seem to live their lives filled with myriad of positive emotions?

So, what is happening?

Why does Bill Gates seem happier giving his money away and working for others than when he was building one of the largest and most influential companies in the world? Why do people like Carlos Slim, Warren Buffet and Donald Trump look angry most of the time, while people such as the Dalai Lama or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar cannot be seen without a smile on their faces?

Some light can be seen by reading the findings of great scientists like Daniel Kahneman (Nobel Prize in Economics) and Dan Ariely. Together with many other researchers they have discovered that we are not the economic animals Adam Smith thought us to be, but we are much more complex.

From hundreds of verified experiments across the globe, it seems we are emotional creatures. We base most of our decisions on our emotional state of mind at a particular time. From their research, and this is my personal conclusion, I gather that the only reason we are crazy about money is because of a deluded idea that it will make us happier.

Truth is, it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, we need money, it is important. Money to a company and to most people in the world is just like food, vital and necessary for us to function. But then let me ask: do you live your life for the sole purpose of eating? Is eating and finding food the driving force of your life? Unless you belong to the segment of the world that is starving, your answer is probably: no.

Money is the same, we love it, we chase it, we desire it, and all because we mistakenly believe that with it we will be happy.

So how about we start thinking about capitalism in a different way, in an emotional way. Instead of using money as the measure of success, why not use happiness. Instead of governments spending billions of dollars giving away food stamps and housing bonds, why not spend it in educating people on how to be happy, building purpose and developing self esteem.

Instead of a money over anything scheme, we would have a happiness over everything system, where the most successful are the happiest, not the ones with more stock, property and investments.

Once again, I am not against making millions of dollars, great if you can. But look at the data, at the world, at the reality. Whenever I see bankers, stockholders, high power wealthy politicians and most CEOs on television, they look like they have a donkey on their backs sticking it to them. I go back to Bill Gates—he looks a lot happier when I see him on television now doing philanthropic work than he ever did as the CEO of Microsoft.

I know capitalism works better than any other system we have had, but it is also time to make some changes, into a conscious capitalism, a capitalism in touch with who we are as human beings, an emotional capitalism.

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Assistant Editor: Heather Hendry / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Elephant Archives 

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