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A fundamental belief of the modern world, which explains a lot of our anxiety around
failure, is that we are what we earn. When we say this, we mean something very particular:
not just that it’s nice to have a lot of money but that our income is the source of
information, crucial, decisive information, about our character, our intelligence, our
moral fibre: in short, money is the key indicator of our worth in human and not just financial
terms. The more money we make, the more we deserve to exist. By extension, it feels impossible
to imagine ourselves as good, decent – and still poor. But can this really be true? Must
we hate and deem ourselves despicable beings because our salary is not elevated? For an
answer, we must look to economics and in particular, to the technical way that salary is determined. Here
we find something striking: wages are not decided by the extent of someone’s human
worth or social contribution per se. Wages are simply the result of the intensity with
which certain people want a job done relative to the number of people who happen to be able
to do it. If many people can complete a task, however humanly important it might be (holding
a hand on a cancer ward), little money will be offered for it. And if there are very few
people able to do it, however trivial it might be (kicking a ball 60 metres into a goal),
if there’s intense demand, salaries will be elevated. Money is in fact no accurate
measure of the human worth of the work in question; the determinant of wages is just
the strength of demand in relation to supply. We may not be able easily to change how much
people earn, but we can change how we judge earnings. This isn’t an issue of politics;
it’s an issue of appreciation. We can change how we assess what a modest wage means. We
can use our imaginations to remember and hold in mind all that is not quantified in a salary
– in our lives and in those of others; all the degrees of intelligence, care, dedication,
empathy and creativity that may be present, undetected by the blunt aggregated marker
of a wage. However tempting it might be to settle the question of the value of human beings
in stark financial terms, the truth remains beautifully and redemptively more complicated
as we must realise as soon as we’ve spent some time around a person at work and
got to know what sides of their character their labours will call on through an average
day. We’ll then have no option but to reach a dauntingly complex conclusion: we are not
what we earn.
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賺多少錢,能定義我們多有價值嗎? (You Are Not What You Earn)

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韓澐 發佈於 2018 年 2 月 22 日   Kyle Huang 翻譯   Stephanie 審核
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