Johan Baez – Conversation 5


For my argument this week, I chose the article "You Try to Live on 500K in This Town" By Allen Salkin and the TEDTalk's "The Paradox of Choice:" by Barry Schwartz.
Allen Salkin's article explains that earning a lot of money makes you spend a lot. According to Allen, bank executives earn millions of dollars, but their high spending means that money will not be enough to live on. Allen argues that these executives take at least two vacations a year, have their children in private schools, have chauffeurs and sword guards, go to several charity events a year where they spend a significant amount of money to be able to look good at those galas, have summer houses and many other luxuries that make their expenses high. Despite earning high salaries, these executives have to live up to the society and culture they find themselves fitting in. Therefore, they must assume the effects of what defines that culture where spending a lot of money is a sign of success.

On the other hand, TEDTalk's "The Paradox of Choice:" by Barry Schwartz says that nowadays, we have many more options, but we do not necessarily have many options that make us feel free and satisfied. Schwartz tells us its disadvantages and how it affects us psychologically, making us less happy and more paralyzed. Schwartz gives us simple examples to support his argument, such as the case of patient autonomy, where when we are sick. We go to the doctor and ask which treatment is better. He tells us that we have options A and B, both with benefits and risks, for us to choose, but all these options don't make us happier. They confused us. Likewise, Barry used as an example that thanks to the power of technology, we can be connected anywhere in the world, whether at work or on social networks, but that situation of knowing that we have that possibility means that we do not enjoy the experience that we are living at the current moment. Barry also tells us an example that a colleague of his discovered when people were presented with options to choose investments for a voluntary retirement fund. The more options there were, the lower the participation rate. Fewer people felt able to choose because they were overwhelmed by so many options and were afraid of choosing one that was not appropriate. It shows that having too many options overwhelms people and encourages them to make erroneous or inconsistent decisions. In conclusion, more options mean less and less satisfaction. The secret is simple: less is more.

I agree with Allen and Barry. The increase in spending results from lifestyle inflation but that doesn't give you happiness; the more you earn, the more you spend because you have more options and want to fit in, but this does not provide us with joy because our expectations will be high and less will always be more. One of the reasons people spend more money when they have more available is their mentality of wanting to fit in. It is not uncommon for people to feel that they have to match the spending habits of those close to them, so they try to buy more material things, but in the end, they feel dissatisfied because it is never enough. If we buy a new phone every time the latest model is released, then every year, we will be dissatisfied with the phone we have because we will want the newest model just to fit in. The variety of phone options does not make us more free but rather more dissatisfied because we always want more. The secret to happiness is not material things but rather having low expectations and focusing on one's well-being, not what society requires.

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