Recent Posts

Teacher Appreciation’s Weak

A while back, Dr. Greenlaw asked us if it is fair for him to get paid less as a professor than for working in the private sector. Everyone in the class, including Dr. Greenlaw himself, seemed to be in agreement that this is fair because […]

The Madness of Marketing

How many people know who Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is? Does the name Elizabeth Grant ring a bell? In a world with so many people and so much competition, it seems unlikely that you’ll ever be able to rise above the rest and stand out […]

Money & Happiness

A popular conclusion that stems from the field of positive psychology is that money cannot truly buy happiness. However, research has shown that income has a positive relationship with life satisfaction. While true that its added contribution to life satisfaction becomes smaller as income increases, it doesn’t just stop mattering after one meets his or her basic needs. I’m not a proponent of a materialistic society, but it isn’t sensible to pretend as if money doesn’t affect our daily decisions. Money is likely an enormous stressor in everyone’s lives at some point or another. Although it’s meant to be used as a tool that enables someone to try new things and purchase commodities, when people don’t have what they deem a substantial amount, money can become a weapon that restricts and governs one’s life. It’s also important to note that people who have been both rich and poor have stated that being rich is definitively better.

Throughout my life, I’ve frequently heard the phrase “money can’t buy happiness.” I always believed it when I was younger because I didn’t see why someone would spread something around that wasn’t true. However, when I got to middle and high school, I would see some of my peers throw lavish parties every weekend or wear a different expensive outfit every day. I wasn’t impressed by these specific things because I didn’t particularly want to host a party, and I didn’t see the point in spending outrageous amounts of money to become a walking advertisement for Abercrombie & Fitch. Yet, there was something about their freedom to do seemingly anything and everything that I associated with happiness.

While it may have been more difficult for my impressionable middle-school self to grasp, I’ve realized more and more over the years that people who have money still have a lot of issues. It’s easy to blame unhappiness on a lack of money, but how does one explain people who appear to “have it all” and still end up feeling empty? Money is crucial in providing our basic needs like food and housing, but as we gain and spend more money, we adapt to a richer lifestyle that we view as the new normal. There is so much conflicting research out there that it’s difficult to know the extent to which money impacts life satisfaction. I would surely choose wealth over poverty. Though, looking at the many instances of miserable lottery winners, it’s clear that problems don’t just disappear with an influx of wealth. A shift in socioeconomic status would result in the same person as before only with a different set of issues to deal with.  

The Effect of Implicit Prejudice on Economic Inequality

In my psychology class, we have been exploring anti-social relations, including the differences between explicit and implicit prejudice. Explicit bias is easy to spot as it takes place at the conscious level, is deliberately formed, and is easy to self-report. Implicit bias, however, is formed […]

Breaking the Barrier of Tradition

I find it interesting that some people believe that women choose to pursue lower-paying career paths than men. There’s an argument that women should not complain when their paychecks are noticeably smaller than their male counterparts because women are aware of this upon entering certain […]

Attribution Theory in Practice

In my psychology class, we have been discussing attribution theory which is the tendency to give causal explanations for someone’s behavior, often by crediting the situation or the person’s disposition. My professor noted that there are distinguished political effects of attribution in which conservatives tend to credit the person’s disposition while liberals tend to credit the situation. I believe that this clearly relates to economic inequality in that, when observing someone of a low socioeconomic status or a beggar in the streets, chances are that the two would have different reactions. Conservatives would be more likely to think that someone is poor due to laziness or incompetence while liberals might reason that a person is poor because he is at a generational disadvantage or because he got laid off work due to the state of the economy.

It’s important to factor in psychology when addressing economic inequality, particularly regarding the political side of the issue. This is because psychology helps explain why people think the way they think and why people’s viewpoints and  proposed solutions differ. Recognizing the political differences in attribution theory strengthened my understanding of why conservatives don’t believe that economic inequality is as grand an issue as liberals perceive it to be. This brings about another important dimension, or piece, to the complex puzzle of economic inequality that I haven’t found in any of my research so far.

 

A Conservative Take on Economic Inequality

Up until now, I have mainly discussed the liberal viewpoint regarding economic inequality. This is because I have seen income and wealth inequality as well as stagnant economic mobility in action. It’s easy to blame people for not doing enough to solve a problem or […]

Accountability is Key for a Successful Economy

There have been many times throughout my entire school career in which I have found myself taking on a disproportionate amount of work in group projects. In preparing for the group presentation on economic inequality from the conservative perspective, I was reminded of the lack […]

Transplanting Our Resources

In the context of Mankiw’s Defending the One Percent:

The person with both kidneys is healthy, the person with one kidney is vulnerable, and the person with no kidneys is dead. Who wants to give away something that keeps them safe? Don’t you have a responsibility to yourself to put your health first? Or at least keep a safety net for your family? I would argue yes.

But there is a line between a safety net and a hoarder’s nest. The argument that you should be able to keep what you earned is one that I would agree with in a society where its members are valued justly. For example, as a firm supporter of quality education and educators, I’m a proponent of raising teacher salaries. Generally, educators go into the profession acknowledging that they will not make as substantial an amount of money as their peers with similar education levels. Although they enter the field under these conditions, I believe that teachers hold much greater value to our economy than the amount that is placed on them.

Our society is selfish. On a whole, we are interested in only ourselves and extensions of ourselves. Kidneys are necessary for our bodies to survive, but money is vital to surviving society. The difference is that you don’t need more than a certain amount of money to sustain a comfortable standard of living. The extravagantly wealthy are valuing their futures – their abilities to travel across the world in first-class in retirement or pass down hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to their children – over the more immediate needs of the working or middle class. It’s perfectly understandable not to want to relinquish a kidney. But is sacrificing a better experience at Disneyland by renting a disabled person (yes, it actually happens) to instead support a disabled person financially really so difficult? Why spend resources on frivolous things and/or be a parasite to our society when you could contribute something good?

I envision a scene like this: say there’s a grocery store that has food that can support the whole population if distributed equally. However, not everyone can fit into the grocery store, so the strongest members in each community volunteer to bring back food for everyone. They get to the store and pick up the rations for their neighborhood. But then they question why they should have to give it up. After all, they are the ones who did the work and sacrificed their time. So, instead of distributing the goods equally, they save a disproportionate amount for themselves for a feast now while ensuring enough for the future. This leaves a smaller amount for everyone else in the community that won’t be sustainable. The people in the community feel betrayed, but since they aren’t the strongest members in the neighborhood, they don’t have any power to do anything. And all that the strongest have to do is wait for everyone else to starve to death. However, this wipes out a lot of other service-based talents. Gone now are many teachers, doctors, engineers, botanists, etc… all because one trait  – physical strength – at a very specific point in time held all the value in society. And this isn’t something that can be sustained in the long-term. Evolution of society has a tricky way of turning the tables and changing what we place value on. So it’s important to value and reward a variety of skill sets because something that may not sound particularly useful today could be in high demand later on.

It sounds poetic to say that the organ we most need for our society to survive is the heart. It’s true that humanity could benefit on a whole from being more empathetic. However, it’s also very important to use the neocortex of the brain. After all, if the wealthy are able to plan for the future, they might as well learn how to be good at it.

Ants Have Monopolized My Dorm

Brought on by my exasperation at the ant infestation in my dorm, I desired to make a connection between these resilient little creatures and human beings in regard to economic inequality. Not expecting there to make any real association, I was surprised by the extent […]