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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Argument Of Happiness

Critics level two charges against capitalism:  First, they say, that the possession of a motor car, a television set, and a refrigera­tor does not make a man happy. Secondly, they add that there are still people who own none of these gadg­ets. Both propositions are correct, but they do not cast blame upon the capitalistic system of social cooperation.
People do not toil and trouble in order to attain perfect hap­piness, but in order to remove as much as possible some felt un­easiness and thus to become happier than they were before. A man who buys a television set thereby gives evi­dence to the ef­fect that he thinks that the possession of this contrivance will in­crease his well‑being and make him more content than he was without it. If it were otherwise, he would not have bought it. The task of the doctor is not to make the patient happy, but to remove his pain and to put him in better shape for the pursuit of the main concern of every living being, the fight against all fac­tors pernicious to his life and ease.
It may be true that there are among Buddhist mendicants, living on alms in dirt and penury, some who feel perfectly happy and do not envy any nabob. However, it is a fact that for the immense majority of people such a life would appear unbearable. To them the impulse toward ceaselessly aiming at the improve­ment of the external conditions of existence is inwrought. Who would presume to set an Asiatic beggar as an example to the av­erage American?  One of the most re­markable achievements of capitalism is the drop in infant mortality. Who wants to deny that this phenomenon has at least removed one of the causes of many people’s unhappi­ness ?
No less absurd is the second reproach thrown upon capital­ism—namely, that technological and therapeutical innova­tions do not benefit all people. Changes in human conditions are brought about by the pioneering of the cleverest and most en­ergetic men. They take the lead and the rest of man­kind follows them little by little. The innovation is first a luxury of only a few people, until by degrees it comes into the reach of the many. It is not a sensible objection to the use of shoes or of forks that they spread only slowly and that even today millions do without them. The dainty ladies and gentlemen who first began to use soap were the har­bingers of the big‑scale production of soap for the common man. If those who have today the means to buy a tele­vision set were to abstain from the purchase because some peo­ple cannot afford it, they would not further, but hinder, the popu­larization of this contrivance.*

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