The Problems I See with Prosperity

Prosperity can be a blessing and a curse.  I have gotten caught up in chasing after prosperity and abundance in my life.  I think such pursuit has become quite the epidemic in many circles today.

There is nothing wrong with wanting a good life.  In fact, I am passionate about living life to the fullest.  However, it is through my quest for the best that I began to see how the prosperity we enjoy in our country has a cost that we don’t always take into account.

The prosperity I’m speaking of is the wealth of products, food, services, conveniences and labor being offered and even pushed upon us every day.  We have just been through a recession and still, there is no shortage of goods and services available.

Ten Problems I See with Prosperity

“Not what we have but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”
~ John Petit-Senn

Prosperity has many advantages, but it also has drawbacks.  If we truly want to realize the promise of financial freedom, then we need to deal with the problems prosperity creates.

These issues are fairly recent developments because the prosperity we enjoy has only been around for the last 50 years or so.  For most of history, scarcity has ruled.  People had to scrape to get by so these problems didn’t exist.

In the United States and in many other countries, there is an abundance of everything.  We have more than we could ever need.  Of course, as I said, this comes with a price.

1.  It seduces many onto the treadmill of constantly wanting more

“Whoever dies with the most toys wins.”  REALLY?!?  Are we still buying into this?  People have more material possessions now than ever before, but they aren’t any happier.  Yet, we still chase the lie.  We overspend and go into debt thinking that the next thing is going to be the thing that fulfills us.  Oh, how I have fallen for this one!

It is sad really that so many are on this never-ending treadmill.  Where will our consumerism end?  When will we have enough?  The abundance of items to buy and own is seductive.  I constantly fight against it.  Why can’t I just be happy with the house, vehicle and stuff I own?  People in other countries would kill to have what I have.  My prosperity often robs me of my satisfaction in life.

2.  It lulls us into a false sense of security

Have you noticed how skills like sewing, gardening, knitting and canning are dying?  What’s next?  It might be cooking, walking and conversation.  The prosperity we enjoy, especially in our urban sprawl, has lulled us into a false sense of security.  When I need something to eat, I hop in my car and speed over to Taco Bell.  When I need to communicate with a friend or co-worker, I send them an email or text.  I am losing my sufficiency to survive without having the essentials handed to me on a silver platter or plastic tray.

What happens when people are temporarily cutoff from the conveniences of modern society?  There is chaos and anarchy.  Take a look at what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.  Prosperity has made us dependent on the very systems that have made us so rich.  However, these conveniences are susceptible to interruption.  Our prosperity gives us a false sense of security that sometimes causes us to think we are helpless.  I hate this.

3.  It causes us to judge others harshly

We can easily start looking down our noses at other people that aren’t doing as well as us financially.  I’ve definitely caught myself judging others more harshly than I should.

If you are trying to live a debt-free lifestyle, have you ever caught yourself judging someone in the checkout line for using a credit card to buy a big ticket item like a flat-screen television?  I know I have.  Is this right?  Do I really know their circumstances?  Maybe the person has plenty of money to pay the bill when it arrives.  Perhaps they get additional warranty coverage for putting it on their card.  Isn’t it their choice?  It is easy to become a financial snob when we start to prosper.

4.  It is easy to start thinking that people owe us something

For some reason that I have yet to identify, my prosperity makes me start feeling entitled.  I think I deserve what I have and I start believing I am owed even more.  Only in countries like ours where there is plenty do we seem to be willing to forfeit our sufficiency and want others to take care of us.

Entitlement erodes the work ethic and discipline needed to create real financial freedom.  It makes us lazy.  Slowly, but surely this will cost us.  I look at how the unions have driven the automakers to the brink of bankruptcy.  Their abundant salaries and benefit packages have almost cost them everything.

5.  It makes us cold-hearted

When you have a lot, you have a lot to lose.  Therefore, I cling tightly to what I have.  I become afraid that someone might steal from me or abuse what I give them so I keep it all close.  It is a fact that rich people give smaller portions of their money to charities.  I am not rich compared to many, but I still find myself hoarding what I have.

You would think that out of our prosperity that we would want to help others, but the opposite is generally true.  Is it better to prosper if it makes us cold-hearted toward the needs of others?  I wonder.

6.  It creates isolation and loneliness

Do you know your neighbors?  I barely know mine.  Prosperity gives us the illusion that we don’t need anyone else.  Labor and goods are plentiful.  We don’t have to rely on our neighbors for their assistance so we never get to know them.  We open our garage doors and zoom away from our homes without even offering more than a cursory wave to the people that live next door.

In scarcer times, people had to work together as a community to survive.  They needed each other.  One guy couldn’t build his house all alone.  It just wasn’t physically possible.  He had to get to know his neighbor even if the guy lived a mile away.  In our prosperous society, many of us feel lonely and isolated because we aren’t compelled to get to know each other.

7.  It creates confusion and stress

I think we have too many choices nowadays.  Have you been down the cereal aisle at the supermarket lately?  Do we really need that many different cereals?  Prosperity creates confusion and stress.  It was easier and less time-consuming when there were fewer things to choose between.

Of course, it isn’t just cereal that’s the problem.  It is the same with everything from shampoo to automobiles.  Is it really necessary to have a hundred different kinds of toothpaste?  Only because of our abundance do we have to deal with these dilemmas.

8.   It is horrible for the environment

You have heard it said before that our society is a throwaway society.  We dump even what used to be considered durable goods like televisions and printers as soon as they have even minor issues.  It is usually more expensive to fix these devices than to replace them.  This is a side-effect of our prosperity.

I feel guilty about the amount of stuff that I chunk in the garbage instead of repairing or reusing.  There used to repair shops all over the place that fixed all kinds of things.  If you don’t remember them yourself, then surely you have seen them on T.V.  I wished these were still around.

9.  It wastes our time and space

We spend an inordinate amount of time maintaining, storing, rearranging and organizing all our stuff.  We have so much stuff that a whole industry arose to accommodate our extra stuff.  According to Wikipedia, “There is more than 2.35 billion square feet of self storage in the U.S., or a land area equivalent to three times Manhattan Island under roof.”

Why do we keep it all?  Why do we acquire it all in the first place?  It is a disease that keeps spreading as a result of the prosperity we “enjoy”.  I spend time every year helping my wife conduct a garage sale.  So, I not only waste time and money getting stuff, but getting rid of it too!  Senseless!

10.  It causes us to feel guilty

When you see places like Haiti, the prosperity we enjoy can create a sense of guilt.  At times like this, I feel guilty that I have so much when others have so little.  I’m appalled at the conditions I’ve witnessed on the evening news.  However, I’ll admit that I’ve done little to help.

These are all problems I see with prosperity.  I’m not advocating an Amish lifestyle by any means.  I enjoy my luxuries and creature comforts as much as the next guy, but where does it all end?  Are we letting the prosperity in our country ruin us and rob our lives of true pleasure?

I’m working hard to sort this out.  I want a life that’s sensible, enjoyable and fulfilling.  I don’t want to be a slave to my stuff.  I want prosperity without all the problems.

What problems do you see with all this prosperity?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

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