The key to comfort and satisfaction, for me, is to be free to think about and do things without compromising my personal integrity or my standards or having to play politics for as large a part of my life as possible. You might be familiar with this:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Except, I do not think these truths are self-evident to very many anymore. Those rights are now more like privileges. My creators, which in a wider sense is my parent’s generation, the baby boomers, certainly have not set up a society where liberty is a prime value. Happiness is not a prime value, unless you count the happiness of the prozac variety. But material goods is a prime value as is consumption of services. And people work themselves to death to get those. So much for life.

Granted, it is often said that modern people live better than kings of old age. What they mean is that the average man has more stuff and better stuff than most anyone in any previous generation. However, in terms of liberty, I say the average employee has as much effective freedom as a slave; while his body is no longer in chains, his mind is. He can not leave his job for long—the very idea of leaving employment is crazy to him. He goes to college, not to learn, but to get a good job. He is not free to express his opinion—if such an opinion is disagreeable to his career prospects. He has to please his masters, that is, his employer. Not only does he depend on institutions, that is, the aristocracy for shelter, he depends on them for everything else in his life, his food, his clothes, his entertainment, his meaning in life (ask anyone who they are, and most will reply with the job title). Modern man is a serf.

If you prefer material comfort to freedom, that is the default option and that is your prerogative. The privileges (unalienable rights) have to be earned, and few people choose to earn them. Yet, I did. In a capitalist society, you can pay your way out by saving enough money and become a capitalist. [In a socialist country, you get a government job; you still have to show your face, but you don’t have to work very hard.] Capitalists, the owners of capital (producing assets), are the modern aristocracy—you no longer need to be born to the title, in fact being self-made, new money, is now considered more honorable than inheriting your way to wealth, old money. I am a modern day aristocrat (call me an elitist snob if you well), but I am one nevertheless even if it is a very poor one.