Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Interesting Thought

There's an interesting take on the economic crisis on Dangerous Intersection (drawing from a Harper's Magazine article), based on the fact that more (money, fun toys, options in the toothpaste aisle) doesn't necessarily make people happier.

I've certainly read this idea before, and it makes sense. Basically (here's an old-ish article on it), having money makes you happy to an extent, because it's hard to live comfortably in our society without money. But once you have enough to provide for your needs, having more money doesn't cause a corresponding increase in happiness, because, well, once your needs are provided for, you can only be so much more content. 

This relates back to the current financial situation because it follows that less money will not automatically result in misery. People might not be able to afford as many things, but they may not be, overall, measurably less happy in an economy that is not growing constantly. 

This is a somewhat hopeful thought. Once we got used to living with less, toning down our expectations, we could be just as happy as we are in more prosperous times, even if the economy go into a prolonged lull. 

On the other hand, that optimism does still assume the bit about the "basic needs being met," which could be difficult for people close to the edge now (we hear enough about problematic healthcare costs already), and it still promises to be pretty tough for a lot of people getting to the point where we get used to the lowered expectations.

I liked seeing this post's take, though, because it's often interesting and useful to see ideas that are a bit contrary to the prevailing opinion. Definitely something to think about.

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