Saturday, January 23, 2010

I found myself having a heated discussion the other day about whether money can buy happiness.  I've had this conversation before, and I always seem to be on the opposite side of whomever I'm talking to.  I'm not sure if this is because I'm exceptionally argumentative, or I know a really diverse array of people, or what.

The particular form of the latest argument was whether, given one has a crappy job, being paid more money can make one less unhappy about it.  To me this sounds trivial, and the answer is "yes".  I mean, yes, there are jobs so dehumanizing and awful that one will be miserable no matter how much one is paid - but that isn't most crappy jobs.  Most crappy jobs - particularly of the variety held by people I actually know - are just boring and inconvenient and stupid.  And, yes, that sucks, and maybe most people would be happier with a job they liked that paid less than with a job they disliked that paid more, but that's not the question.  The question is whether having money makes life with the crappy job more palatable.

The woman I was arguing with, who is my friend and a very nice person, claimed that this was not true, because she has a crappy job and works incredibly long days, and is miserable, and when she comes home she has absolutely no desire to spend money so having more of it would not help her.  But she said this while sitting on her leather sofa with her designer puppy in her 800-square-foot apartment with its own washer and dryer and real art and a walk-in closet.  I am pretty sure - although I could not seem to communicate this to her nicely - that she would be less happy if she came home to a tiny, dingy place at the far end of a subway line in the boroughs and had to share her bedroom with two other girls and couldn't afford to get takeout every night.  And she seems pretty sure of this too, because do you know what she is going to do about her unhappiness?  She's asking for a forty percent raise.

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