What Do I Desire?

watts-wisdomofinsecuritycoverAlan Watts was the Joyous Cosmologist, as the title of a book he wrote claimed. He was a major philosophical figure in the 50s and 60s, the writer of many books, and a popularizer of Asian religions and philosophies.

Here he gives a Ted Talk that long predates Ted, and gets to one of the key questions about life. He does it artfully, uses the word retch in a memorable phrase, and you can listen here.

Link: Addicted To Wealth

A young man who earned his way into insider status in the financial industry, compares the compulsion to acquiring money as an analog to other addictions, an attempt to compensate for or avoid some other deeper pain inside.

It’s a cool story, but I doubt it is universally true. But there is something else he realized as his eyes opened that is certainly true:

I’d always looked enviously at the people who earned more than I did; now, for the first time, I was embarrassed for them, and for me. I made in a single year more than my mom made her whole life. I knew that wasn’t fair; that wasn’t right. Yes, I was sharp, good with numbers. I had marketable talents. But in the end I didn’t really do anything. I was a derivatives trader, and it occurred to me the world would hardly change at all if credit derivatives ceased to exist. Not so nurse practitioners. What had seemed normal now seemed deeply distorted.

We need banks and investors, as a way to pay for real things, but the notion that credit “products” like credit default swaps are anything more than a way for the sharps to skim their percentage off the world economy is a sham.

I’m not qualified to know where to draw the line here, but I’m sure that one great injustice we can all line up behind is the fact that income derived from this mostly-worthless churning of money should be taxed at the same rate as income that is earned by labor. At least.  It should certainly not be taxed at a lower rate, as it is now.