Those fortunate to control sufficient wealth not only have the luxury of easily satisfying basic living necessities, they also have a superior sense of agency. Agency is the capacity a person has to act in any given environment. Human agency is the degree to which people can make choices and have conditions enabling them to act or exert power. Wealth, even moderate wealth, is pure power and control.
The poor, disadvantaged masses do not have the same level of agency as those with the power to affect their lives and the lives of their family. The moderately rich function at a significantly higher level of cognition because they need not think and make decisions in an environment of scarcity [see my 11/17/15 post]. Their lives are more fulfilling because they are in control – not Government or a stingy employer or a family member upon which one is dependent.
My clients are surrounded by people, very much like themselves, who are well off, and professionally ambitious but with enough leisure time to pursue passions and interests outside of work. We share similar values concerning the importance of a strong work ethic, friends and family. We work long hours but in jobs that are challenging and satisfying. Those with healthy agency live a life of comfort but also a life of purpose and community.
Everyone wants to live this “good life” of the high agency active, working rich (not the pathetic lives of the silver spoon, idle rich). People value personal ambition, self-reliance and responsibility. Everyone wants to have control over their lives and contribute to society and the well-being of our families. Unfortunately, resources are limited and high agency cannot just be handed out to everyone. It requires luck, hard-work and perseverance.
Politicians and businesses exploit human desire for this good life in order to gain political power and to sell stuff. But the “good life” cannot be shared broadly because of competitive capitalism and private property rights. Our economic system has undergone a recent tectonic shift due to 1) globalization, 2) technology, 3) immigration, and 4) “consumerization” [see my 8/9/16 post]. The 1950’s middle class idyllic lifestyle is a fading memory and was always the advertising industry’s hyperbole.
There is no more middle class – just the mass affluent, the mass poor and the elite wealthy. It’s naïve to think that Government can change this economic reality. Count your blessings. If you are in the wealth demographic that my law firm serves, congratulations – you enjoy a higher sense of agency than most. High level agency states of minds are the fruits of laboring and saving to build a good economic War Chest.