Acquiring Riches And Living Extravagantly Is Reasonable?

Posted by on Nov 29, 2007 in Philosophy | No Comments

In these modern times we can see how the development of personal computers and the Internet has swept Western capitalism throughout the world. Every day when we the turn on the TV or computer or open a newspaper, we read about which rich man build an enormous house in India, or which rich man bought an Airbus A380 for his private airplane. It is as if becoming rich and spending a lot of money to exhibit that wealth has become one kind of truth in the world.
I read two news articles from the Internet several days ago. One is from The Mirror UK. The title reads: “Billionaire, 84, Swaps Bride, 23, For a Younger Woman!” The gist is: “They said it wouldn’t last… and it didn’t. Joe Hardy, an 84-year-old billionaire is divorcing his 23-year-old manicurist wife – for an even younger model. In the end it seems the 61-year age gap was too much for Kristin Georgi and, despite a billion reasons for giving it another go, she went home to Mum after just 107 days. Not that Joe Hardy III was brokenhearted for long. He’s now stepping out with 22-year-old Danielle Golden who is, according to relatives, “smitten” with the old man.” In the same article was also mentioned that this girl mysteriously calls herself “Dirty D” on her MySpace page and that her favourite quote reads: “The best things in life are free… the second best are EXPENSIVE”. So I wonder what she is “smitten” by; this old man or his money?
The other article is from The New York Times from an interview with the director Ang Lee. The title is: “A Chicken Coop, But No Tigers”. It says, “The director Ang Lee, whose films have won eight Oscars out of 27 nominations, does not have a screening room in his four-bedroom home in Larchmont, N.Y., and rarely uses a computer or a cell phone. And instead of a fancy swimming pool in his backyard, he has a chicken coop…“I don’t lead a Hollywood lifestyle,” said Mr. Lee, 53, who bristled at the thought of living either in Los Angeles or his homeland of Taiwan.” From what Ang Lee’s was saying I think he is someone who doesn’t need to spend lot of money to manifest his status. Warren Buffett is another example of someone who is fulfilled by simply accomplishing his intentions.

As Western capitalism sweeps the world I can feel it start to change the customs in Asia. There is a saying in Chinese “Scorn poor people, don’t scorn prostitutes.” This translates as the phenomenon of people scorning the poor but not scorning rich people who do bad things. The “new money rich” behavior is everywhere in Asia. It’s just making more poor people break the law to become rich.
Same with organic food: in theory, everyone should eat organic food. But the real situation is more complex. The basic cost of producing organic food is higher than that of conventional food (with genetically modifying crops to increase yields, using fertilizer to boost growth, chemicals to destroy pests and other plants competing with the crop, picking unripe fruit and chemically ripening them, adding preservatives to lengthen shelf life etc.) This usually makes organic food more expensive to buy. At the same time there are still one billion people who don’t get enough to eat everyday. Therefore even eating organic food with the sole intent of promoting a healthy lifestyle has strangely become a type of extravagant spending that only wealthy people can do.
As we see Capitalism sweeping though the world I think it is starting to run into a dilemma. In the past three years the price of oil has been rising crazily. This is largely because of the economic growth of previously undeveloped nations, like China, India. A lot of energy is needed to sustain such rapid growth, escalating the world’s energy crisis. Some countries are looking into moving away from fossil fuels by developing “biomass energy” from plants. They hope that because it’s clean and renewable that it will be cheaper too. But one large problem is cropping up; arable land capable of growing food is fixed, the world’s population isn’t. The number of humans on Earth is constantly growing, mostly in less developed nations. As the people of these nations get richer (live longer, have more children survive, keep healthier etc.) they need more food as well as more energy. Reallocating crops to producing biomass energy means less food.

The Earth’s natural resources have limits but human’s desire is an abyss that can never be fill up. Just imagine what will happen if all the people in less developed countries want to live in American’s lifestyle when they become richer? How many planets full of natural resources will we need to support this kind lifestyle? Maybe one day people will discover that, though they have money, they can buy nothing because all our resources are depleted.

–Danny

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