Christian Long

Benjamin Wallace: The Price of Happiness

In TED Talks on May 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Extra credit reflection by HAGEN F.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Benjamin Wallace: The Price of Happiness

“Money can’t buy happiness” is a common saying in our society and has been for quite a while. Wallace experiments with this idea when he travels around the world to discover the truth about that saying. He tries the most expensive of items in a certain aspect of life to see if the most expensive is really worth the money, and if the most expensive item brings the most happiness.

Money brings people to do crazy or boring tasks in order to attain more money. People will place all their money in a certain investment or sit behind a desk all day just to get money in order to buy the more expensive things in life. Yet, are the most important and best things the most expensive and costly? Do the costly investments that some make on items really outweigh the cost? Wallace and I agree that certain things are not worth the high prices that we, as consumers, but in order to have ‘happiness.’ Happiness cannot be measured through the expensive items that we have and have bought. These items may be the best possible for people to attain, but are they worth the money because some of the time, they are not even the best. In the example of the olive oil that Wallace describes in the video, the oil is $33.50 for a small bottle. Wallace and a random group of people did a blind taste test and actually this bottle was not even the best according to the testers, in fact, the olive oil placed last. This proves that the most expensive item does not win over the less expensive, more readily available item all the time. Then, again, with the Kobe beefsteaks Wallace remarks that the steak was good and filling, but not worth the money. The expensive food, are a little more tricky then say a super fast, barely street legal car. Foods are different because you indulge in them and then they are gone. A car can be used again and again, only until it breaks down, while food is eaten and your joy is only short-lived. This may be true with the car because after a while, the rev of the engine just does not satisfy the ‘hunger’ that you felt for having a fast car. To indulge in overpriced food is an investment that none should undertake. Sure the food is better, but it ultimately has the same function that all food has, and that is to ‘fill up’ the eater.

Yet, are super fast, expensive cars really worth the money either? The speed of the car is superfluous because no one is going to need to drive so fast that a barely street legal car can achieve. Does the car need to be expensive because ultimately we are looking for the “fun factor” and there are many cars out there that con boast a pretty fast engine and a nice, sleek body style, but they will not break your budget like the Bugatti featured in the video will. Most things that inspire happiness and provoke a person to have fun do not require anything, but space and other people. Kids can have a multitude of fun with just other kids and a place to run around, and I can tell you this is true; I have experienced it. There are other people out there that can dance to have fun, and they only need themselves and a rather small area in order to do this. This begs the question that is fun really need a big wallet in order to attract people?

Then Wallace also mentions items that will improve your livelihood. For instance, he speaks of the most comfortable mattress that guarantees a great night’s sleep. This is a costly investment, but one that actually may be a smarter buy for consumers. Sleep is important and we spend a lot of each day catching “Zs.” Why not make that experience even more satisfying so that when you wake up, you are not sore and you are well rested having not woken up in the middle of the night. Then Wallace talks about the very expensive hotel room that he got a tour of. Now, not many people like to be away from home, but to have a hotel room that provides all these services is a little unnecessary in my opinion. First of all, isn’t the primary reason for needing a hotel is for a place to rest after the day in a foreign place? So, why would we need anything but a bathroom and a nice bed? When you are vacation you are most likely spending your time to experience the ‘newness’ of that area, not staying in your hotel room. If you are on business that is what you are doing, not staying in a hotel and getting luxury treatment. A pricy hotel room is something that I will never understand; just simply give me a nice mattress and a bathroom. Finally we arrive at the fancy and ‘intelligent’ toilets. Now, again, I do not see the point of these inventions. First off there is the MP3 capability for your toilet, an attachment that is very unnecessary. Most likely if you can afford to waste money on a ‘singing’ toilet, then you can most certainly buy a normal MP3 player to listen to when you are in the bathroom. Then there is the analyzer of the waste that is in the toilet. Now this may come in handy for doctors to use to analyze your health, or maybe even for you to analyze your health, but it is a little superfluous. You most likely have to be a health ‘nut’ in order to want this.

In conclusion, I would have to say that spending too much money on something is not always the best thing to do. Most likely the item you are buying is not even worth that much, and you will not enjoy the product. In some cases, this is not true, but for most cases it holds its validity.

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