A brief experiment for the reflective: consider your three most valuable physical possessions. When deciding their relative value, consider their personal worth to you rather than the material worth to society. Next, decide what percentage of each item's value comes from its function, and what percentage comes from the status the possession affords.
Now, drop the two possessions that you just spent the most amount of time thinking about. These things are not important. Consider what is left. You didn't have to choose between function and status in order to recognize that it was important. You chose it because it had greater personal worth. Hopefully this item was already at the top of your list after the second instruction.
Function and status are both important... it would have been difficult to evolve as a society without them. But possessions and the relative advantages that they bring are not nearly so important as the things that you hold dear on a personal level.
Relative to our peers, our neighbors and our ancestors, there will always be, as Socrates said, those who are superior in some way. The right tools, or decorations or memorabilia are only valuable in so much as they reinforce one's sense of self, and even then they should only be a booster, and not a crutch.
At the end of the day, one's possessions are only a means to an end. Whether you belief in an afterlife, a silence, or something in between, nothing can be taken with you. (Unless you are seriously oldschool, in which case hopefully you have a nice spot under a pyramid, pre-paid).
DeLong vs. Krugman on globalization
3 weeks ago