The article in the url below discusses the relationship between wealth and happiness:
"In America (and also in other countries), an impressive postwar rise in material well-being has had zero effect on personal well-being. The divergence between economic growth and subjective satisfaction began decades ago. Real per capita income has more than tripled since the late 1950s, but the percentage of people saying they are very happy has, if anything, slightly declined."
The reasons for this, the article argues, are twofold. First, happiness depends on your day-to-day context:
"According to World Bank data, the share of the world's population living on less than $1.90 a day (inflation adjusted) declined to under 10 percent in 2015 from 44 percent in 1980, an astounding achievement. But ordinary people's well-being depends mainly on their immediate surroundings."
In other words, if you are a coalminer in West Virginia, or a steel worker in Pennsylvania, or an automaker in Michigan, you may be less enthralled with the rise in living standards of workers overseas when it has been at your own expense. It matters more that you are absolutely worse off than you were previously. The second reason is that happiness depends on how you are faring relative to others:
"Although moral philosophers may wish Homo sapiens were wired more rationally, we humans are walking, talking status meters, constantly judging our worth and social standing by comparing ourselves with others today and with our own prior selves."
In other words, even if you are doing better than you were ten years ago, that is little consolation if those around you are doing much better than you are. The only exception to that is if individuals see potential in their own future to rise:
"Absolute standing is not irrelevant, and people will tolerate and sometimes even embrace inequality if they believe the system is fair and lets them get ahead. Still, the witticism (frequently attributed to Gore Vidal) that 'it is not enough for me to succeed; others must fail' is uncomfortably accurate."
The human element of all this is that we are not very good at being content with our own situation and are quick to evaluate our progress in terms of relative perception, rather than objective reality:
"Inequality, in short, is immiserating. One could cite more evidence in the same vein. Places in the United States with more inequality have higher stress and worry, more political polarization and lower social connectedness, even among the wealthy. Moreover, what counts for subjective well-being is not just reality but also perception. If social media and reality TV disproportionately depict millionaires and amazing homes, or if talk-radio pundits insist that government takes from hard-working whites to subsidize lazy minorities, resentment grows, never mind what the statistics may say."
The author discusses these attributes of happiness in the context of rising nationalism across countries, today. It could just as easily explain the headwinds facing the development of a more sustainable economic system.
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More Wealth Has Not Made Us Happier
By Jonathan Rauch
August 22, 2018
The New York Times
Late Edition – Final