The More We Have, the Less We Care

Album Cover: The Future

"Love's the only engine of survival."
Leonard Cohen / The Future

Posted on May 11, 2008 4:01 PM in Miscellaneous
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

As my wife and I were brushing our teeth before bed last night, I suggested to her that we should throw out our toothbrushes and open up our recently purchased ten-pack of toothbrushes from Costco to find new replacements. She quickly pointed out that neither of our toothbrushes was ready to be replaced, the blue bristles clearly showing only about 20% wear at best. While thinking about that brief exchange this morning, something probably very obvious to others occurred to me for the first time (or at least it was the first time I consciously accepted it as a truth): the more we have of something, the less we care about each individual item that makes up the set.

The toothbrushes were a perfect example; I knew we had a surplus of brushes awaiting us in one of the bathroom drawers, so I was not compelled at all to make use of my current toothbrush as long as I typically might, given no surplus. The idea carries over to other bathroom items as well. For example, I often use bars of soap until they are nearly vanishing in my hand, but when our cabinet is fully stocked with new bars, I'm not nearly as likely to wait so long to find a replacement.

I think the idea extends beyond the boundaries of the bathroom as well. For example, consider a young child who experiences the death of a pet fish. Is she more upset if the fish was the only goldfish in a small tank, or if it was one of a dozen tropical fish in a twenty gallon tank?

If you are living on the street, begging for change every day, every precious coin you encounter is a big deal. You're likely not to waste a single penny on something that isn't incredibly important to you. On the other hand, if you are making thousands of dollars a month, that extra $1.50 you're paying for a handful of chopped green peppers on the pizza you had delivered is about as noticeable as the taxes your wireless company is tacking on to the end of your phone bill.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and certainly a teenager with more acne than his friend probably cares about acne a whole lot more than his friend does, but in general, I think the following is blatantly clear:

The more we have, the less we care.


Ryan on May 12, 2008 at 11:16 PM:

Bernie, you sound like you are becoming an economist.

I'm just glad that we are so fortunate to live in such material wealth that we can even consider throwing away barely-used toothbrushes. How lucky we are!


Bernie Zimmermann on May 12, 2008 at 11:51 PM:

Me, an economist? Now there's a scary thought ;)


aiqnhbrn on May 15, 2017 at 5:23 AM:

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