Money. Scholarly

Tara Smith, "Money Can Buy Happiness"

Executive Summary

Tara Smith is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin and a well-known Objectivist scholar who specializes in moral and political philosophy. She published this essay in Reason Papers, a scholarly peer-reviewed journal, in 2003.  


  1. Smith challenges some common clichés such as “Money is the root of all evil” and “Money can’t buy happiness.” She responds that money can, in fact, buy happiness. 

  2. Happiness is (or should be) the “overarching goal of one’s life” and is an emotion that accompanies realized life values. This does not mean the hedonistic satisfaction of any desire one happens to have—for example, the craving-desires of those addicted to drugs.

  3. Money is in fact “underrated” in that many people feel underserved guilt for possessing wealth or desiring material goods, and that undercuts their legitimate enjoyment of it. 

  4. Yet human beings are not ghosts or disembodied spirits. We all have material needs and, properly used, money ought to be an instrument by which we fulfill those genuine needs. 

  5. Money can also buy happiness psychologically by enabling one to lead a less precarious life and thus feel more secure. For example, money buys insurance: the risk of injury or illness is not as grave to one who has the money to pay for the medical expenses. 

  6. Further, Smith argues that “the ability to exercise one’s will—autonomy” is a prerequisite for happiness. Money can “buy” individuals time and the power to spend their time on what is personally meaningful—e.g., reading, writing, painting, or traveling. 

  7. None of this means that money will necessarily provide happiness, only that it is a means to happiness if “intelligently pursued and intelligently spent.” 

Read Professor Smith’s  ”Money Can Buy Happiness” here. Summary by Anthony DiMauro and Stephen Hicks, 2019.

See Next:

  1. Money Memes Gallery

    • See our collection of philosophical memes on the issue of money

  2. Stephen Hicks, "Money's Truth and Money's Health"

    • Dr. Hicks's review of Leonidas Zelmanovitz's book The Ontology and Function of Money

  3. Ayn Rand, "Francisco's Money Speech"

    • Classic Ayn Rand's presentation of the morality of money from Atlas Shrugged

The Atlas Society Newsletter

Get updated first

© 2019 By The Atlas Society. Proudly created by

  • Grey Instagram Icon
  • Grey YouTube Icon
  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon