My wife and I were talking the other day about money and how we use it. She said something like “What in the world do people spend their money on if they make a million a year? House payments, car payments, clothes, jewels, vacations, …? I mean, if you made a million a year wouldn’t that just about pay for anything you’d need or want? So why do people need more than that, aren’t there people who like CEOs who get 50 or 60 million a year? What do they spend it all on?”
I couldn’t help remembering a story by Dorothy Parker about two young shopgirls who spend their lunch hour daydreaming about being rich as they walk along New York’s Park Avenue. “What would you buy if you had $10,000 says one?” The other replies by pointing at something on display inside one of the posh store windows. As they walk they take turns playing the game. One day they decide for some reason to go in a Tiffany store and actually try something on. Within minutes they are back on the street and walking in a sort of stunned silence. Finally, one of them says, “What would you buy if you had a million dollars?”
And so it goes.
I don’t really know how to answer my wife’s question. Why do people need so much more money these days? Why, as we become more and more proficient at providing everything anyone could need to survive, do we keep looking for more things to own and symbols to display that show who we are and what we are worth? Why are the beings that live in future of Star Trek so capable of living free of that concern while we who have had the benefit of the insights provided by this and other science fiction futures stay still stuck in a consumer driven economy?
It doesn’t have to be this way does it?