Freeman

ARTICLE

How to Live Well

JANUARY 01, 1980 by JAMES C. PATRICK

Mr. Patrick holds a Master of Divinity degree from Yale and has filled many lay offices as a churchman. A former chamber of commerce executive, he now is an officer in a group of small-town banks in Illinois. The message here is from his broadcast of August 1, 1979 as a volunteer commentator, radio WSOY, Decatur, Illinois.

We hear and read so much about money that it is a good thing occasionally to put things back in perspective. In the final analysis, money is a means, not an end in itself. Money is a medium of exchange. What we really need and want are the things for which we can exchange money—the goods and services that we must obtain from other people.

In order to get those goods and services, we must produce some goods or services ourselves because ultimately, people exchange goods and services for goods and services.

To be sure, some people are not required to produce but are supported by the rest of us. For example, small children, some of the elderly, and the helpless members of society live by our productivity. But somebody must produce, in order to support such people. We don’t eat or wear money; we eat food and wear clothing, and those things must be produced.

Through the years people here and in certain other countries have been able to live better because of improving productivity. In 1770, we are told, a laborer had to work five days to buy a bushel of wheat, but his grandson could get a bushel for two and a half days’ wages in 1870. And in 1970, the typical American worker could purchase two or three bushels of wheat with one hour’s pay.

A few years ago the president of an insurance company at Rock Island, Illinois, made a telling point. He said that some people are “beginning to conclude that our present standards of living, production and accomplishment have been reached as a result of . . . Social Security, unemployment insurance, public housing, price controls, poverty and welfare programs, farm price supports, and aid programs to this and that . . . . One is reminded of the rooster who noticed that every morning when he crowed the sun arose in the east. Before long he concluded that the sun arose because he crowed.”

No, it is not government programs that improve human well-being; nor is it money. Rather, it is human effort, intelligence, and productivity. What is needed is more of these elements if people are to live well.

ASSOCIATED ISSUE

January 1980

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Unfortunately, educating people about phenomena that are counterintuitive, not-so-easy to remember, and suggest our individual lack of human control (for starters) can seem like an uphill battle in the war of ideas. So we sally forth into a kind of wilderness, an economic fairyland. We are myth busters in a world where people crave myths more than reality. Why do they so readily embrace untruth? Primarily because the immediate costs of doing so are so low and the psychic benefits are so high.
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