It seems to me that most people in a position of wealth do not know what to do with that wealth. I include myself among this number, and realize that I have never been taught what to do with wealth. Up to a certain amount, I do know what to do. Rent, food, fuel, retirement savings – all these seem appropriate, and worth the money I spend. But beyond that point – which for some represents less than half their income – what should the remainder be spent on?
The question is deceptively simple, because it is the perception of everyone that “you can never make enough money.” But really, beyond acquiring objects for personal pleasure, what can constructively be done with excess wealth? Man is a social element as well as an individual, and the problem of wealth seems to span both sides. The first part is taken care of by a usually fixed sum of money from year to year, because realistically our personal needs do not fluctuate very much. If we do tend to consume money at an ever-increasing rate, perhaps it is the signal of an addiction, or energy being spent trying to run away from something. Otherwise, given moderate tastes (neither ascetic, abstemious, lavish or wasteful), the amount we need to maintain ourselves individually is economically constant (meaning that changes are more due to fluctuations in the value of the currency employed, than in the quantity or quality of the goods obtained).
Once the individual aspect is taken care of, the excess becomes a problem. In actuality, I haven’t a clue what to do with this money. I don’t mean that I can’t think of ways of getting rid of it (the Fund, cars, entertainment, etc.). What I mean is that I was never educated in terms of my role as a social element, and what role this “unused wealth” plays in the social context.
There are three options usually taken. The first, and most common, is to expend this additional sum on the individual aspect as well. There are certainly more ways of getting rid of wealth than can ever be exhausted. I have personally watch people buy new cars merely for the sake of getting something new.
The second is less common, which is to change the hands of this wealth, usually through philanthropy, or donating it to an organization. Then the problem of properly expending it socially is no longer the concern of the individual. This is probably the best course to take if one is not willing to understand the problem for themselves, and may even still be the best course to take after understanding the problem. But my whole question is not what to spend the money on, but what is meaning of social wealth. If I am going to defer all of my wealth to charity, I want to do so consciously with the understanding that I am not merely shirking my responsibility and handing the money off for someone else to deal with, but I have actually understood that by deferring I am fulfilling my responsibility.
The third is probably the least common, which is to do nothing. Just let the money accumulate unchecked. I have met some people who fall into this category.
In all three cases there the underlying thread that citizens are not taught what do with their “social wealth” (wealth that exists after all genuine personal needs and desires are taken care of).
Now, I do not understand this problem. What is the reality of social wealth? What can I spend it on? What should I do with it? If I just accumulate it, then society loses the benefit. If I spend it unconsciously, then I am just handing off the problem. Possibly I may be handing it off to the right person, but if I do so unconsciously, then I never really know.