A Minimalist Income

What if instead of asking ‘How much do we need to be happy?’ we ask, instead, ‘How little do we need to be happy?’

Human consciousness seems to bequeath unto us a timeless curse: we can always imagine a point in the future when we will not have enough. This threat — the prospect of being in need one day — seems to induce us to constantly pursue more. More, indefinitely. No matter how much we possess, it is as if we are predisposed to stockpile more than we need. Even in abundance, we are wired for scarcity.

Suppose that we managed to circumvent our compulsion for more?

Imagine that your New Years resolution is to make less money this year than you did last year.

Instead of working harder to make more, what if you sat down and figured out how little you need?

How would you even go about determining the minimal amount of an income you need to sustain a meaningful life?

These are some of the ideas my friend Adam Fearnall and I recently discussed — an idea encapsulated in the notion of a ‘minimalist income.’ (This conversation serves as the basis for this week’s podcast.)

Instead of asking how much more income do we need to be content, we ask: how little money do we need to be content? This thought project leads to wondering how we can determine a figure or metric for the least amount of money we actually need to live the kind of lives we really want to live.

Suppose we abandon the construct of time as money. If all time is free, is the time we spend making more money than we actually need not a waste of our lives? What if money — more ‘security’ — actually exacerbates our chronic fear of scarcity?

If, indeed, all time is free time, then perhaps, as Clytemnestra laments, we are “buying what we most detest with what we hold most dear.” (Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis 1170)