Surplus = Happiness, Deficit = Misery
Acton Institute Powerblog

Surplus = Happiness, Deficit = Misery

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.

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Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.