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Standard of Living


To John Stuart Mill, the definition of "pleasure" is "the absence of pain."

To a fly, the definition of "pain" might be "the absence of carrion."

To a condor, the presence of carrion is probably the ultimate in fortune.

Fortune, to an Ethiopian, is probably a pound of rice. To Imelda Marcos, it might be another 3,000 pairs of shoes.

In much the same way, the term "standard of living" is defined by each person a little differently, yet everybody knows what is meant by it.

We define "standard of living" according to our priorities. An individual standard of living is set according to what the individual believes is necessary to his/her life.

"Maintaining one's standard of living" has to do with earning enough money to pay for almost all the things one requires in order to exist. People refer to this maintaining as their "struggle for survival," and we all "survive" on different scales and levels.

A person receiving a dole, especially one who has always lived very meagerly, considers few things as necessary to survive. It may be food, clothing, and shelter. That person's standard of living is having a place to live, something to eat, and enough clothing to be decent and warm. When a working person tells the aid recipient that he has a difficult time maintaining his standard of living, the aid recipient replies to the effect that he understands, and that he has the same difficulties.

The working person requires more things, and of better quality than the necessities of the aid recipient, and therefore, neither party means the same thing by "standard of living," but they don't know it.

"Standard of living" has to do with the way the individual has lived for most of his/her life. One who has experienced great wealth and for some reason lost it, must re-assess the priorities of that previous living and eliminate that without which one can actually survive. Thereby, this person lowers his/her standard of living.

Similarly, when one who has struggled becomes more prosperous, that person's standard of living is raised. Some other and different items of realty or personalty become "necessary," and they are acquired, usually accompanied by statements of justification.

A person of very low income (earned or granted), upon receiving an increase in income, might improve his/her "standard of living" by using the raise to purchase a little better grade of marijuana, while a professional person in similar new fortune would upgrade his/her standard of living by the purchase of a larger home or perhaps investigate the wonders of cocaine. These newly acquired bounties soon become necessities and do, in fact, belong in the list of necessary accoutrements to the lives of these individuals.

In my opinion, morals and ideals are integral parts of "standard of living;" however, there do not appear to be many who would agree. Honesty, decency, and prudence, among other morals/ideals, are important to the maintenance of my standard of living.

An habitual thief may consider a limitless array of things to steal and places from which to steal as necessary to maintain his/her standard of living. A lecher may set priorities based on the number and types of bodies after which (I use that pronoun advisedly) to lust.

I conclude by suggesting that "standard of living" can only be defined in individual terms, but in general, can be defined as follows:
A compendium of priorities deemed as basic necessities, which can be acquired and held by the expenditure of grossly 20% more than one's income, and (2) of those mores which one is strong enough to extend to and demand from his/her associates.


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