Income inequality is a hot button issue that will only gain traction in the months leading up to the November elections. There will be a call for our elected officials to close the gender gap, the wage gap, the talent gap and lots of other “gap-isms.”
Aren’t gaps natural? I don’t have the knowledge of a rocket scientist, nor do I have the athletic talent of a pro golfer on the tour. And sadly, my paycheck is not equal to that of a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Dang, that makes me unhappy.
Instinct tells us that wealth brings happiness. Yet, loads of data proves that money doesn’t buy happiness. Scholars like Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman have found that once people get beyond a certain amount of money to provide for their family’s well-being, more money doesn’t yield much increase in happiness. Lottery winners know that.
So if not the big brass ring, what makes people happy? The key is the ability to earn our success. The ability to create value with your life or in the lives of others. It’s the right to define and pursue your happiness as you see fit, and work with all our might to attain it. Work brings dignity and purpose to lives.
I may not have the knowledge to build a rocket, or have tour level golf talent, but what I have is the freedom to pursue creative achievement, chase excellence, or find the joy in earning a paycheck. Dang, that makes me happy.
In our national dialog about equality and fairness, we’ve all but rewritten the moral promise of the Declaration of Independence. Our nation’s Founders didn’t guarantee happiness. They didn’t even say people have the “right to happiness.” The Declaration of Independence states that we have the right to pursue happiness. How lucky we are that our nation’s Founders opened a path for people to pursue an unlimited future. How fortunate we are they did not immorally guarantee happiness by seeking to close a wage gap or a talent gap, but instead created the conditions of liberty and opportunity so we can open windows, let our spirits soar and be masters of our own destiny.
That should make us all happy.