Acton Institute Powerblog

Surplus = Happiness, Deficit = Misery

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Wilkins Micawber from David Copperfield art by Frank Reynolds (2)
Wilkins Micawber, the namesake for the Micawber Principle.
Joe Carter points to a Lifehacker article that sums up two basic equations that lead to the creation of wealth (with what I consider to be a clarifying correction applied in the first formula):

Income > spending = surplus

Surplus x time = wealth

Likewise, Wilhelm Röpke, in his A Humane Economy, points to two equations arising from classical literature that connect surplus with happiness and deficit to misery (the Micawber Principle).

According to Mr. Micawber from Dickens’ David Copperfield:

Annual income £20, annual expenditure £19.975 = happiness

Annual income £20, annual expenditure £20.025 = misery

Now it is true, of course, that material excess does not guarantee happiness any more than material want guarantees misery. This is particularly true of happiness and misery in the most important sense, that of eternal, spiritual felicity or calamity.

But as human beings, with both material as well as spiritual concerns, the state of our body and bodily does have implications for our happiness here below. This is in part why the Bible describes the relationship between the borrower and the lender in such stark terms. And as Röpke argues, this holds true for at both the level of individuals as well as institutions.

Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America and How We Can Get More of It

Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America and How We Can Get More of It

Arthur C. Brooks explodes the myths about happiness in America.

Jordan J. Ballor Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty, where he also serves as executive editor the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is author of Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action) (Wipf & Stock, 2013), Covenant, Causality, and Law: A Study in the Theology of Wolfgang Musculus (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012) and Ecumenical Babel: Confusing Economic Ideology and the Church's Social Witness (Christian's Library Press, 2010), as well as editor of numerous works, including Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology. Jordan is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary. He has authored articles in academic publications such as The Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, and Journal of Scholarly Publishing, and has written popular pieces for newspapers including the Detroit News, Orange County Register, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2006, Jordan was profiled in the book, The Relevant Nation: 50 Activists, Artists And Innovators Who Are Changing The World Through Faith. Jordan's scholarly interests include Reformation studies, church-state relations, theological anthropology, social ethics, theology and economics, and research methodology. Jordan is a member of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and he resides in Jenison, Michigan with his wife and three children.

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