Money isn’t Everything — But It Could Buy a Lot of Happiness
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“All I ask is a chance to prove money can’t make me happy.” –Henny Youngman (1906-1998)

So you didn’t win the genetic lottery of excellent health, old money wealth, and physical beauty? Neither did I.

We aren’t models of health

Yep, we aren’t models of optimal neuro-electrical brain cell function, or children’s role models for athletic excellence, and especially not underwear models. Nor, for that matter, are we finalists for the MacArthur Fellowship Genius Grant. But we are in good company. Thomas Edison wasn’t a recipient, either, though he did have wealthy backers for his numerous experiments in a tireless, years-long search for a functional light bulb with commercial application potential. For example, J. P. Morgan, the legendary 19th century investment baron, bankrolled the Menlo Park/Manhattan lighting project. If it hadn’t gone over, you and I would be surfing print media MS group meeting ads by gas light.

But what does that mean for us?

Morgan and Edison both made a pile of money from it, of course. Investment bankers aren’t empaths, goodness knows. Just as important, however, Edison was astutely business-minded and ambitious, too, and largely made his own luck rustling up backers for his numerous inventions. But what does this have to do with us? We who are comparatively low-voltage and not exactly profit-minded? After all, Edison wasn’t disabled. Well, it depends on how you define that. He was so poor in his young productive years that a friend gave him free room and board so he could work on his experiments. We could easily add poverty to the long list of deprivations that killed our youthful dreams.

Nowadays, pharma companies are the billionaires that fund R&D for continuously-flowing electrical current that will ultimately (we hope) restore the broken connections inside our brains. And the same stipulations for a big pay day still apply: Big pharma will earn far more dollars selling the resulting treatment than they spent on global R&D–in excess of 245%, in fact.

To fit Edison into that contemporary scenario as, say, a molecular biologist or neuroscientist, if he wasn’t interested in being a Biogen employee and hump in the lab for no percentage of the profits, he could always run his own company and sell supplements ads on the internet, make some infomercials on television and self-publish books on Amazon.

Funny money

But let’s put cynicism aside. We can’t do much about the backroom wheeling and dealing between insurance companies, big pharma and healthcare providers. We’ll still have to sit in the kitchen at the kids’ table eating hot dogs and baked beans with plastic forks while the grown-ups eat off vintage china and argue about the bottom line. It’s all funny money anyway, I keep telling myself. It isn’t real—until I get a bill for a very tangible radiologist fee of 90 dollars. Watching my checking account shrink from $100 to $10 within 48 hours is very real—and I’m not laughing. I silently implore all those visionary medical researchers slaving away in pharma labs to please, please turn up the voltage and AC/DC those trial subjects in larger controlled studies, tout suite.

Stretching a dollar

But then I remind myself that even if “the cure” were delivered as soon as yesterday, it still wouldn’t solve my insolvency. Once again I’d return to my daily dilemma: How do I stretch a dollar into anything approaching happiness? I can pay my monthly bills and make big payments on my loan debts, even save a bit from each pay if I don’t need to buy clothes and my car doesn’t break down. If nothing bad happens and I don’t have a stroke, I can hold steady. I could have a little peace of mind–if I only had more money. But happiness?

I was never very materialistic anyway

Yes, some moments of it. It isn’t that tragic because I was never very materialistic anyway. I’m good at entertaining myself. I have the great good fortune of being able to take a walk whenever I get bored sitting in my apartment. My happiness is tied to striving towards a goal and accomplishing it. Reading a book. Writing a book (yes, I’ve done that). Laughing is a big one, too.

I do have one surefire way of evoking instant mirth in myself. I go to youtube and pull up Mickey Katz singing Yiddish parodies of pop songs. He kills. Even if I’ve heard it a hundred times already. Humor makes happiness. Henny Youngman never needed proof for that. He cashed in every time he made us laugh.

view references
  1. R & D Costs for Pharmaceutical Companies Do Not Explain Elevated US Drug Prices, by Nancy Yu, Zachary Helms, and Peter Bach. Health Affairs Blog, March 7, 2017. http://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20170307.059036/full/
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