in Stuff I learned

Why I’m not sure it’s a great thing to make a lot of money

Common sense says “earning more money is a good thing.” There are few folks in our lives who have ever told us differently. It is the thread of Americanism that binds us, is it not?

We’ve already looked at what Einstein says about common sense, but let’s look at why that whole “earning more is always a good thing” notion might not be ideal.

I waded through a terrific New Yorker piece by Elizabeth Kolbert recently and had one lingering thought about something that was said at the end.

Here’s Kolbert on the difference between a wealthy man and a common one:

 Suppose that a Walmart clerk and a hedge-fund manager both decide to take the afternoon off to attend their kids’ baseball game. For the clerk, a half-day’s forfeited pay could come to less than forty dollars. For the hedge-fund manager, an afternoon’s worth of lost trades may cost millions, which is a lot to give up to watch little Billy strike out looking.

And what goes for the baseball diamond also applies to the school play, the anniversary dinner, even the annual family skiing trip to Vail; the disproportionately compensated have a disproportionate motive to keep on working.

That’s heavy.

The argument, I suppose, is that that $40 means a lot more to the Walmart fella than the million does to the hedge fund fella. I argue that it depends on where your margins are.

The hedge fund fella might be floating a life he can barely afford and the Walmart fella might have a 20 percent margin in his financial existence. Now who does the money matter to more?

There’s always a cost involved.

Make sure it’s one you’re willing to give.