Jewish scholars hundreds of years B.C. met to exchange insights and discuss what it was to be a good person, what it meant to live a good life, to live well. Greek philosophers, names familiar to us all, did likewise centuries later. While not placing myself even close to in their company, I have also pursued such truth.
Necessary, though not sufficient, to living a good life, one worthy of human capabilities, is understanding what that means. While I can neither prove nor even be assured that my truth is correct truth, the exercise at least provides for me both a target and guidance. Purpose. My method was systematic and orderly rational and logical analysis of what can and cannot makes sense of the observable world in which we live.
Truth #1 is that each human being comes to Planet Earth subject to others, usually parents, who are responsible to guide and develop. After sufficient period and effort to develop capability, each human being then becomes sovereign, so subject to no other without explicit permission. I am incapable of making sense of a truth that no one is sovereign or that some come sovereign while others come subject to them.
Given Truth #1, then, Truth #2 is that each human being is “equal” – i.e., human as opposed to animal, plant or mineral – while unique (like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike). From those truths, then, I conclude that Truth #3 is that each human being comes endowed with rights, unalienable and from a Creator or Nature’s God. These rights are to life (the sovereign one, the equal one, the unique one), to liberty (the right to choose and do whatever the heck one wishes . . . just as long as not infringing on others’ like rights in the process), and to property (first, self, then ideas, talents and skills, later what produced and acquired in trade with others; and from whence comes the pursuit of happiness. This last is now approaching “eudaimonia”.
After deducing and accepting Truths 1-3, I can then only make sense of Truth #4, that no one – not a sole soul – has any right to what others produce, not groceries, not shelter, not transportation, not a job, not a “living wage”, not so-called (misnomer) “healthcare”. If there were such right, then there would be no sovereignty, be no liberty, be no right to property, but there would be slavery.
From this point – in pursuit of eudaimonia – there are only truths (lower-case t) from what we can generalize about human nature, laws of economics, etc. For example, people in the aggregate care more about themselves and their families and closest friends than others whom they know less or not at all. So they are motivated by enlightened self-interest. And that seemingly turns out to be a good thing. And as corollary, the oft-lauded being selfless is a bad and self-destructive thing.
When sovereign and employing one’s property and liberty – while avoiding infringing on others’ like rights – it turns out that the way to increase wealth, to care for self and those closest is to produce what lots and lots of others really need and want and value. When those lots and lots value what you produce more than a handful of money they own, your wealth grows and grows. Said another way, if you improve others’ lives through productivity and free-will exchange, you will benefit even more.
Interestingly, it makes sense that those with little wealth are relatively-more-generous charitably than those with more. Makes sense? That’s the best the less-wealthy have to give. The more-productive, thus more-wealthy, serve others better by investing in more production. I’d rather Ted Turner have used his genius to produce more innovation like cable news than give money to the U.N. Rather have Bill Gates invent something else new than give his money to “the needy”. The most-generous, of course, are progressives/liberals who eschew any and all of the above Truths and truths, albeit with other peoples’ money, not their own.
Anything that de-links the relationship between productivity and wealth creation hurts everyone. Anything that de-motivates producers from inventing, innovating, working smarter, working harder, pursuing enlightened self-interest hurts everyone, currently-rich, currently-poor, and those currently-between. Wealth- and achievement-envy are both unattractive and self-defeating. Taxing productivity and regulating productivity are everyone-defeating.
Bemoaning the income and wealth gap between rich and poor is stupid. In the countries with the most economic freedom, the poorest of the poor have more than ten times the wealth as their counterparts in the countries ranked lowest in economic freedom. Free markets benefit all. Statism and its top-down-central control hurts everyone . . . except those in charge, and, unlike with free markets and capitalism, statism violates individual sovereignty, liberty and private property rights.
The Greek word “eudaimonia” has no easy translation to English, but it is to be pursued and cannot be delivered. It is, I think, what the Jewish scholars and Greek philosophers struggled to understand and, indeed, some of America’s Founders sought as predicate to forming a constitutional republic. It is something like the happiness which comes from achieving the most and best possible with the snowflake you are and can become. It is, in my almost-always-humble opinion the essence of human life.
Below is what I find a good example of eudaimonia, but there are of course many. This one takes 6 minutes and 33 seconds. Full-screen, volume up.
Hat tip to the person known hereon as Cream of Wheat for not only introducing the Greek word and concept to me, but spending a couple hours in discussion seeking the translation.