Wealth creation and accumulation drive our human activities and we spend time to accumulate wealth beyond our human capability to judiciously utilize the accumulated wealth for our benefit.
For those obsessed with the accumulation of wealth, it becomes the drive and reason for living.
The obsession for wealth accumulation may lead to impairment in appreciating the need and importance to contribute to the common good. Indeed, some people with very high propensity to accumulate wealth do so at the expense of common good of many people resulting in the tragedy of the commons.
People that live by the principle of massive accumulation of wealth that end up creating lasting destructive legacies for current and future generations live on the philosophy that money has no smell and that good and bad wealth smell the same. In effect, they care very little about how their desire to accumulate wealth to support their extravagant and opulent lifestyles may deprive future generations access to a clean and healthy environment, sustainable employment and meaningful existence.
Living on the principle of a zero-sum game where the prosperity of a person is made possible only when many people have to live miserably is an example of individualistic lifestyle as against a lifestyle that promotes the common good.
The resulting question is, how much wealth do we need for a healthy and satisfying lifestyle? There are as many answers to the question as to the number of people hosted by the planet earth.
Despite the difficulty in seeking answers to the question of how much material accumulation does a person need to live happily with satisfaction, the fact that nature limits us in how much wealth we can use or consume serves as a guide for a balanced life.
The assumption that an increase in wealth accumulation triggers a corresponding happy life may be a fallacy. In most cases, the enjoyment of accumulated wealth leads to overindulgence and violation of healthy lifestyle principles and eventual death.
So in effect, we are destroying nature, creating poverty for many people and promoting dirty businesses that deny current and future generations the opportunity to meet their needs.
We spend our efforts, destroy nature and the hopes of current and future generations to accumulate the wealth we don’t need.
The Guardian reported that Billionaire Chuck Feeney, an Irish -American businessman has achieved his objective of giving away all his fortune worth $8billion to charity.
The Guardian reported Chuck Feeney as saying that “ Wealth brings responsibility. People must define themselves, or feel a responsibility to use some of their assets to improve the lives of their fellow humans, or else create intractable problems for future generations.”
According to the Guardian, the 89-year-old businessman Chuck Feeney achieved his goal by setting up the Atlantic Philanthropies, the foundation which he set up in 1982 to achieve his objective of “ striving for zero ...to give it all away”. The publication of Guardian on 19th September 2020 on the signing off, reported that Chuck Feeney enjoyed saying that, how many yachts or pairs of shoes do you need? What is it all this wealth accumulation about, when you can look about you and see such tremendous needs.”
After signing off the last bit of his wealth away recently, Chuck Feeney who is in poor health and live in a small apartment in San Francisco, says that he is satisfied with completing the process of dispossessing himself of his accumulated wealth in a period of 38-years whilst alive. Chuck Feeney believes that the super-rich should be encouraged not to give just 50% of their wealth to society in areas of need but as much as possible.
Rupert Neate reported in the Guardian of 19th September 2020 that Chuck Feeney had signed papers to formally dissolve the foundation he set up in 1982 and transferred all of his wealth into the foundation until the foundation has run out of money.
The Chuck Feeney story provides a useful lesson that we concentrate our efforts on accumulating wealth we don’t need. Sometimes, the method of wealth accumulation goes against the ethics of common good. There is the need to balance our individualistic drive for wealth accumulation with the ethics of common good.
The guiding rule should be that, our private accumulation of wealth should not destroy the capacity of our society from meeting the needs of the general good. Chuck Feeney regards the control of wealth as a responsibility which should be exercised to benefit society especially future generations.
The satisfaction of Chuck Feeney to complete the distribution of his accumulated wealth to areas of need in society whilst alive gives credence to the fact that pursuing the common good agenda serves the interest of the larger society and our individual interest.