In Defense of Unhappiness


Are we suffering from "affluenza"? Does more wealth do anything to make us happier, or are we doomed to be envious and unhappy no matter how well off we are?

There is no "paradox of prosperity" says Daniel Ben-Ami:

Coveting what the rich have should not be dismissed as unhealthy envy. On the contrary, the fact people are dissatisfied with their lot can be seen as a healthy motive for change. Humanity has historically progressed by constantly trying to improve its position. As a result people are better off than ever before. In this sense unhappiness should be welcomed. It is a sign of ambition and a drive to progress rather than one of inherent misery. In contrast, the essentially conservative message of the happiness gurus is that people should be happy with their lot.

From here it should be clear that there is no paradox of prosperity. The rise of mass affluence is an incredibly positive development. It has bolstered the quality of people's lives enormously. But there never was any guarantee that such progress would bring happiness. One of the most positive qualities of human beings is that they often want more than they have got.

Read Will Wilkinson writing in reason on the happiness wars here.