A Penny for Your Thoughts

I was reading Adam Smith today for some improbable and incomprehensible reason when I came across this great quote on happiness from the founder (more accurately, the first intellectual defender) of free-trade and Capitalism:

The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another… In all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.

– Adam Smith, 1759

In other words, unbounded ambitions and unbounded fears lead to unclear goals, gross excesses, and no satisfaction.

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2 responses to “A Penny for Your Thoughts

  1. Actions by which we deliberately aim to make ourselves look bigger (or smaller, for that matter!) than other people, are doomed without any exception. That is, if the purpose of these actions is to become a happier person (and that is almost always the purpose). The ego- and immortality-song again. With all the wealth, power, looks, fame, luxury, fans, good reputations, physical comfort, connections and respectable enemies in the world we will not become a fraction less mortal or more spiritually safe. NOT.

  2. Timeless and relevant. We’ve let greed and worship of wealth get the better of us and the hubris has nearly ruined us. Odd that nearly destroying the economy earns one massive golden parachutes despite often deliberately misleading investors and regulators and knowingly taking outsized risks to line one’s pockets. We condemn the corner crack dealer for ruining a handful of lives and the punitive measures for such a transgression are grave indeed. Why then does ruining tens of thousands of lives and threatening the very bedrock of our economy not result in these treasonous fucks being stripped of all of their assets and marched off to Guantanamo or it’s future equivalent. It makes no sense that they should not only get little to no punishment but actually get paid handsomely for their greed. It’s time to root out corporate malfeasance like we’re back in the Inquisition; shining the light of day in every dark corner and punishing transgressions so harshly that the risk outweighs the benefits.

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