How Much Is Enough? – Robert and Edward Skidelsky. 

From their book: How Much Is Enough? The Love of Money and the case for The Good Life. 

It is not just that we want more but that we want more than others, who at the same time want more than us; this fuels an endless race. Human wants are insatiable because they are relative. And the more goods we want, the more we have to work to earn the money to acquire them. Economic insatiability is as old as money itself, but it has been greatly exacerbated by the institutions of capitalism.

Today, it is the business class which determines the earnings, hours, and conditions of work; it is the state which, largely at the behest of the business class, decides on the post-tax distribution of wealth and income. This is not Marxist ideology, but a reasonable observation of the way the capitalist system actually functions in today’s global environment. This is an environment in which the countervailing power of trade unions and democracy has been greatly curtailed in the interests of profit maximisation.

Capitalism, especially in its modern ‘turbo’form, has released the expression of insatiability from its previous restraints. Capitalism promises us the moon – provided we work hard! It brings an increasing range of goods and services under the sway of money exchange, thus inflaming the love of money itself.

Leisure can overcome money only through an ethical understanding of the purposes of life.

Money is essentially a means to the good; to treat its accumulation as an ultimate goal is to fall victim to delusion.

What money is for is, we argue, ‘the good life’, which can be broken down into the seven basic goods of health, security, respect, personality, harmony with nature, friendship and leisure.

The political problem is to organize our collective existence so as to make it easier for people actually to live the good life. The collapse of 2008– 9 does offer a unique opportunity for thinking about the long-term future of capitalism.

There is no reason to think an active leisure leads inevitably to boredom. On the contrary, it looks like the best remedy against boredom. Many, perhaps most, people are bored out of their minds by the jobs they do. It seems to us that the onus is on our critics to show why the leisured way of life hitherto enjoyed by a minority should not in principle be available to the majority once their struggle for existence has been eased by technological progress. Many of the most enjoyable leisure activities – reading, conversation, making music, making love, many kinds of sport and hobbies – cost very little or nothing at all.

We distinguish work as extrinsically motivated, from leisure as intrinsically motivated, activity. Work is what is done as a means to an end. Leisure is what is done for its own sake. It seems to us that, historically, inventiveness has not been at all closely tied to the money motive, but is an aspect of inherent human restlesness and curiosity.

The current rhetoric of growthmanship sees economic activity as a competitive race, in which there must be no slacking off. This is a bad metaphor, because it makes no sense to go on racing for ever and ever.

Someone too fat to walk is objectively unhealthy, and remains so even if he belongs to a society in which this condition is normal.

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