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Wealth And Happyness

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Autor:   •  November 11, 2010  •  1,366 Words (6 Pages)  •  346 Views

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Catalin Moscaliuc


Wealth makes people happy.

This is a statement that, for many centuries, people took for granted. And my thought is

that the majority of them still believe in it even now. One of the main reasons for that, at

least in the modern times, is the image of happiness that is promoted everywhere in the

mass media.

We are 6 billions of customers and that is why we �have to’ be persuaded to buy. And

what is the best motivator the advertisers use in order to make us purchase a certain

thing? �Buy our product and you will be happy’. Even though now this message is not

that explicit, it is not very difficult to infer it after watching the commercial/seeing the

newspaper ad. Suddenly, everyone starts smiling and enjoying themselves and every

frown and grimace disappears. They are happy. And all this thanks to the new brand of

orange juice вЂ" вЂ?with up to 20% pulp’.

When you put the words �buy’ and �happy’ in the same sentence and keep it in mind for

a while, it does not take too much time until you notice that in order to be happy you have

to have money. But still that is not enough - they’re quite useless if you just own them.

You’ve got to $pend them.

We can then conclude that, in a consumer society like the one we live in, people use this

correlation between wealth and happiness as their motivation to work more and to

acquire a big number of material goods, thinking this is the best (if not the only) way to

Catalin Moscaliuc


increase their subjective well being.

Previous findings have shown that rich people are, on average, not happier than the rest

(nor the poor are less happy) and consequently, material wealth is not such a strong factor

to influence people’s subjective well being.

Lately people have become more and more interested in studying the determinants of

happiness and how they could maximize their effects.

One of the most renowned researchers in this new field is Baron Richard Layard, a

previously well-known economist that decided to concentrate his attention on the study of

happiness, being one of the pioneers of what it is called �Happiness Research’

In his book, вЂ?Happiness вЂ" Lessons from a new science’, he looks at people’s вЂ?subjective

well being’ from a very practical perspective. The book is divided into 2 parts: �Part one

вЂ" The problem’ and вЂ?Part 2 вЂ" What can be done?’ and tries not only to identify the issues

people have while pursuing their happiness but also to give answers to those concerns.

Throughout the book, some of the chapters deal with the matters of economics or money

and wealth and their effects on happiness. Out of them, the fourth one, �If you’re so rich,

why aren’t you happy?’ is the most important from the perspective of the present paper. It

mainly deals with the matter of income and how its perception and variations influence

people’s happiness. The chapter is well structured, offering quite a number of examples

of real-world studies and surveys with empirical evidence for what the author is saying.

Catalin Moscaliuc


But we must not forget that this is a book for the masses and it aims at being easy to

understand by as many people as possible and that is why we cannot require of it to have

the rigor of a real scientific paper.

In the introduction, to illustrate the point he tries to make throughout the chapter, the

author asks the reader to choose between two imaginary worlds, one in which he could

earn more, on an absolute scale, but less compared to other people, and the other in which

exactly the opposite was true. The answer to this question is the key to making sense of

the whole first part of this chapter вЂ" people are happier when they earn more than

neighbors or friends. People compare themselves with their neighbors and their friends,

but also with what they are used to getting.

Moving one to the next part of the chapter, ’Social Comparison’ the author leads us even

deeper in the concept of relativity he began to illustrate in the introduction. Using very

inspired examples he shows how it is only our perception of things that determines

whether we are more or less happy.

It talks about reference groups and how a shift in this aspect of our life can change a lot

in our happiness, giving the example of East Germany after 1990, when instead of feeling

better because their wages went up, people started comparing themselves with


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