Posted by Peter Lawler
...until we we reach about $20,000 a head per year. After that point, it doesn’t make much difference.
This just points out the utter inadequancy of "rational choice theory" so beloved by economists. The fact is, the greatest motivator for human beings (besides sex) is prestige...beyond subsistence, our "tastes" and "marginal utility" are driven by status hierarchy. Thanks for posting this, Peter.
It also raises the question of what is "fair" in life, "fair" being such so subjective. People think they will be happy when they have achieved some level of "fairness" relative to the rest of society, as perceived. And it is NOT about money, but about comfort. What is a "fair" wage today as compared to fifty years ago depends on what seems to be required for comfort. I remember being puzzled by this when very young; my grandmother was trying to explain to me how much I had, relative to what she had owned when young. My parents had divorced and we seemed beset by want, relative to my friends whose families were more stable and had more things. Her perspective, also historical, was that I had more things than she would have hoped for when she was my age. Today, my kids have more things than I would have dreamed possible when young, and yet, relative to friends,...well. Some of my children are bothered by this and some are not, the former bunch being blessed with the sunny temperament, and the latter being as gloomy as Eyore on a rainy day.
It is very good that we only have a right to the pursuit of happiness, as the thing itself seems so problematic and elusive.
Since I’m in the habit of quoting Dennis Prager of late, I’ll offer this one that seems to be apropos to Kate’s remarks above. He said (quoting someone else, I can’t remember) that when your kid complains that something is "unfair" ask them why he only complains about life being "unfair" when he stands to gain something from the complaint. Yes, tell them, life is unfair. For starters, it’s "unfair" that you were born in this country while others were born in . . . say Ethiopia. You have enough food to eat every day--others have none. Is that "fair"? You have two parents who love you--some kids are abused. Is that "fair"? You get to go to school every day and learn things and dream about your potential as an adult--other kids work in sweat shops and have no hope for a better life. Is that "fair"? Anyway . . . you get the idea. These points were a little too abstract for my kids’ tender ages, but other more specific variations worked. It’s good to see the ways in which we are happy that life is not fair.
20k a year is the upper limit for happiness-buying? This is the best argument for socialism EVER.
Danny, have you ever looked at the Soviet Union’s GDP per capita just before the collapse? The fact is, you don’t get anywhere near 20K per year with any system other than capitalism. Sorry to disappoint you, comrade ;)
Ah, but Dain, that merely suggests that the USSR was underfunding. Had they spread the wealth better, they’d all have been happy as clams.
Please understand I’m playing Kruschev’s advocate here. I think socialism is an unworkable system and most people are happy or unhappy regardless of their income level. The real determining factor is access to Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches. Truely the opiate of the people.
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