Money can't buy happiness - is this a "neo-liberal con" ?

While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery, the acerbic Groucho Marx said, highlighting the neo-liberal trap associated with this phrase. This fridge magnet mantra, as wisely coined by Ruth Whipman in the Guardian article, is nothing but an adapted message from those who barely cast a thought to the lack of choice arising from financial paucity. 


The mantra of “money can’t buy you happiness” is bandied about as a panacea to a life of inner peace. While religious, philosophy and pop psychology experts vie with one another to offer solutions against the discontent caused through economic austerity, solutions to changing thought processes, NLP galore, meditation and some sort of transcendental relinquishment of the desire to earn money, is espoused almost everyday. As if inner calm and peace can pink-tint the daily economic struggles endured by people, through images of crystal clear water or rays of sunshine!

We buy into this sacrificial ideal, knowing full well that a train ride to work would free up precious time but a long bus ride would cost less; that cheap frozen food is unhealthy but feeds the family after frenetic long working hours that precludes cooking fresh food; the lack of brain space to plan, let alone bake a Mary Berry cake (that looks so easy on TV); a basic holiday that never materialises or if it did, could easily add to personal debt; the clothes from second hand shops, the relentless lack of leisure time or just time to be and so on. Money does give choice, frees up time and enables happiness

I am not against frugality and understand that one can choose to be content with what one has. But take time to speak to a person who has very little and ask them if additional money or enough money would make them happier. My conversations with people whose lives are made impossible through austerity confirmed that they would grab at any chance to have marginally more money, just to get just a little breathing space. Not a lot, but a little more. Camilla Anderson, a writer on LinkedIn understood this quite well and said "the real beauty of wealth: It buys freedom and choice".





Shuba Rao