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One does not need to be schooled in eastern philosophy in order to notice the counter-productiveness of many things we do. One of them is owning things. I recently watched a video on this topic, which got me thinking not only about my experiences gained during my time in the US, but also about how our intuitive, system-one approaches to fulfilling our personal goals read like a repetitive column under the rubric “law of unintended consequences: this just in”.

The core message of the video is that what many people strive for is freedom, which encompasses the freedom of choice. A standard answer to the freedom of choice in pretty much all industrialised countries (and not just them) is owning stuff. But owning stuff does not necessarily increase once freedom of choice; most frequently it does the opposite, it bogs us down.

In his talk, Adam Baker walks the listener through the main reasons of why this is so: the opportunity cost of earning the money for getting stuff. I’d ad the opportunity cost of having the cost (cleaning, maintenance, updating, …), but I concur that earning the money for buying stuff is a major shackle. Things get even worse when loans are available, then we extend the opportunity cost of earning the money into the future. We surrender freedom of choice in the future by gaining -illusive- freedom of choice in the here and now. In other words, we become hostages of our desire for freedom.

I know this insight is as old as philosophy itself, but it is definitely worth revisiting.